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They have a Sunday routine.

Every Sunday, Ronan wakes up around sunrise and winds himself around Adam’s body, kissing his neck, his shoulder, his head with all the quiet affection of the morning, until Adam stirs, sleepily tumbling over so they can kiss for a few slow minutes, before Ronan rises to get ready for Mass and Adam falls back asleep, splayed out across the mattress as he always does whenever Ronan’s not beside him.

Every Sunday, Ronan comes back from Mass and finds Adam in the kitchen or on the porch, and Adam eyes him, all done up, with appreciation, and Ronan eyes him back, all sleep-rumpled and soft, with the same, and they’ll sit and sip coffee and Ronan will complain about his brother and Adam will listen with all the patience of a saint.

Ronan’s not so much a creature of habit as he is a creature of Adam’s habits.

Which is why when Ronan rolls over, bright and early, on Sunday morning to smatter his lover in kisses—an affectionate term that Adam always complains about because it makes him sound like some rich guy’s paramour, Ronan, to which Ronan replies, you sound like Gansey—and gets next to no response outside of a soft grunt and a slight twitch of Adam’s work-worn fingers, he’s obviously concerned.

Despite the fact Adam’s work schedule has next-to-no consistency and his sleep schedule’s fucked when he’s not at the Barns, any deviation from routine is often a cause for worry. Of course, how much worry is warranted depends on the occasion; sometimes it’s a long week at work Adam needs to sleep off, or it’s the beginnings of pneumonia that will take over a week to recover from.

Adam always keeps Ronan on his toes.

It’s entirely possible that this occurrence is a result of the former, not the latter—Ronan’s hardly seen Adam this week due to the schedule he always thinks Adam should complain about (he won’t) or change (absolutely not). It doesn’t take much to remember the way Adam dragged his feet through the front door the night before, the oven clock flashing 2:07 as Ronan rose from the couch to greet him, their kiss short and sweet before he ushered Adam upstairs to shower and climb in bed.

So, with explanation succinctly self-supplied, Ronan loops an arm around Adam’s chest and kisses softly above his ear before he slips from bed, light soft as it filters through the gauzy curtains he’d put up a month ago, in love with the morning rays and how they filter into the room, half-blanketing Adam’s body until he’s golden.

Sundays are filled with worship, and Ronan spends the first minutes of his morning worshiping the sight of Adam’s body curled up underneath the sheets, reverent in his fixation on the soft twists of his hair, spell-bound by the curves of his fingers, the beginnings of summer freckles on his cheeks, faint but lovingly counted by Ronan in these heartbeats of unabashed admiration.

He pulls himself away from his worship to finish getting ready with some reluctance, dabbing cologne that Adam gifted him on his pulse points and behind his ears, and dresses just nicely enough that Declan won’t say anything, though Ronan expects the classic really? look that his brother’s perfected, thanks to Ronan’s expert toeing of the line between under- and over-dressed.

Adam’s still sleeping when Ronan exits the bathroom, so he creeps over to press a goodbye kiss to the top of Adam’s head, fixing the blankets where they rest over his waist, and then he’s down the stairs and out the door, peeling out of the drive to meet his brothers.

Ronan checks his phone halfway through Mass, resulting in an elbow in his side that he ignores and a hissed version of his name he blatantly ignores, only to find no text from Adam. It’s a little strange, since sleeping in for Adam doesn’t usually mean sleeping past eight, but it’s not uncommon—and it’s possible he’s wrapped up in dealing with an overly-clingy Opal or a cracker-hungry Chainsaw, both of whom would fight his focus being elsewhere for even a minute. Ronan loves his strange dream-creatures and is irritated by their imagined antics all at once, so he sends off a few quick messages before Declan attempts to snatch his phone up.

hey, sleeping beauty. hope the kids aren’t forcing you into ritual sacrifice on this of all holy days and that’s why i haven’t gotten a good morning text

—i kept my phone on during mass for you, parrish

—should be home around lunch, if declan doesn’t ask God to smite me first

Smacking Declan’s hand away, Ronan pockets his phone and sinks into the pew, sandwiched between a sleeping younger brother and a stoic, stick-up-the-ass older brother, and waits for the telltale vibration of Adam’s text against his thigh.

It doesn’t come.

By the time they get out, Ronan’s starting to get antsy because he hasn’t heard from Adam, but when he pulls out his phone, he realizes two things at once—Adam did text him, and his phone was on silent, so good job, moron, no wonder Ronan thought he didn’t get a response.

It’s a relatively brief message: sorry, told opal we have ritual sacrifice at home, and she threw a fit about it, followed by an image attached of a sleep-rumpled, smiling Adam in one of Ronan’s old sweatshirts, holding the coffee cup he’d gotten for Ronan but always steals that says ‘#1 Dad” in blocky blue letters, the porch a blurry backdrop. As Ronan’s reading the message, affection diffusing through his chest, another comes through: good morning, and don’t get smote when I’m not there to watch.

In the parking lot, Ronan bumps fists with Matthew and rolls his eyes when Declan tells him to drive safely, throwing him a remark about not driving like a geriatric as he slides into the driver’s seat of the BMW. Another glance at his phone shows two more messages from Adam; one is a drive safely that makes Ronan smile, and the other is a picture of Adam’s legs, covered by a blanket on their couch and Chainsaw nestled in his lap, followed by I’m trapped, it was nice knowing you.

Ronan sends back, good luck when your legs go numb. I’ll see you soon, and throws the BMW into reverse, peeling out of the lot before the Volvo can even move.

Despite the fact that Adam had sent him a picture of being trapped on the couch by their avian pseudo-child, Ronan anticipates a greeting once he’s through the door, but the house is suspiciously quiet. Ronan’s not sure what keeps him from calling out Adam’s name, but he holds off as he toes off his shoes to fill the space beside Adam’s, leaving his keys and jacket on the cluttered table by the front door.

When Ronan slips into the living room, he’s greeted with a gentle warbling noise from Chainsaw, still in Adam’s lap, but nothing from Adam—who, once Ronan gets around to seeing his face, appears to be fast asleep. It’s a sweet scene; Adam’s loosely wrapped in the gray blanket that resides on the back of the couch, lips faintly parted, face entirely relaxed.

The sight makes Ronan’s heart flutter, pleased beyond measure at Adam’s comfort, despite the pang of concern that accompanies it. Normally, a nap isn’t a big deal, but naps don’t usually happen this early on Sundays, and Adam’s mug, half-full, sits on the coffee table as another abnormality—Adam never fails to finish his coffee, especially not after late nights.

However, Ronan reminds himself, Adam’s had a hellish work week, and he had to drive over an hour the night before after a stupidly long shift to get to the Barns. It makes sense that his exhaustion might’ve exceeded normal limits, and it isn’t as if Adam couldn’t have refilled his mug after finishing the first cup.

There’s no need to jump to worst-case scenarios, Ronan tells himself, not when the break of routine is justifiable—still, he’ll feel better when Adam’s awake and can confirm he’s worrying for nothing. Kneeling beside the couch, Ronan slides a hand up and down Adam’s arm to try and coax him awake, a gesture he wouldn’t have tried six months ago.

“Adam, baby,” Ronan murmurs, giving Adam’s bicep a squeeze before sliding his hand back down, a little more firmly, until Adam slowly stirs below his touch. “It’s time to wake up.”

Adam’s slow to rise, and after a few sleepy, bleary blinks and a yawn that pops his jaw, Adam opens his eyes properly, though his brows knit with confusion—whether it’s due to Ronan’s presence or the fact he has to wake up to greet him, Ronan isn’t sure.

“Ronan?” His voice is husky, laced with sleep, and it sends a lovely little thrill coursing through Ronan’s spine at the sound of it. “You’re already home?”

“Already home.” Ronan confirms, smoothing back a few errant strands of hair from Adam’s forehead, and Adam presses into the touch drowsily, sighing as Ronan cups his face and rests his thumb gently against his cheekbone. The question, in and of itself, doesn’t warrant worry; Ronan’s fully aware of how time slips by so easily with a nap, but given the string of strange occurrences, he worries anyway.

“Didn’t realize you were going to nap without me,” Ronan continues, sliding his hand gently through Adam’s hair, “otherwise I would’ve tried to get out of government-mandated brotherly bonding sooner.”

Adam laughs, only for the noise to tumble into a few hastily-covered coughs he covers with the cuff of his sleeve.

“Sorry. I didn’t plan on falling asleep.” He admits, almost sheepishly, and clears his throat. “I was reading something on my phone and must’ve dozed off. If I’d known I was going to, I would’ve helped you get out of your government-mandated time first. Especially when you look like that.”

Adam gestures at him, in all his post-Mass glory, his eyes scanning over Ronan in a familiar, warming way. On any other day, Ronan would close the distance between them from a look like that and kiss Adam until they ran out of air, but the urge isn't enough to eradicate his growing concern, added onto by the sound of Adam coughing.

Brief though it was, Ronan knows from experience that things can go from brief to bad in a matter of hours.

With that in mind, Ronan drops his head back with a sigh instead of meeting his words with a coy smile, intentionally overdramatic to make Adam’s demeanor shift from interest into exasperation, which it does. Exasperation brings a crookedness to Adam's smile, a crinkle to his eye, an expression unrestrained and honest that never fails to delight Ronan when he sees it.

“I guess I’ll forgive you.” To cement the words, Ronan kisses Adam's forehead instead of his lips, only to find the skin warmer than he expects. He lingers for a moment, making sure he's not simply imagining it—he definitely isn't—before he sits on his heels with a frown. “You’re kind of warm, Adam. Are you feeling okay?”

Adam’s expression flickers, too fast for Ronan to parse, as he nods, capturing one of Ronan’s hands in his own.

“It's probably just from being under the blanket and in your hoodie.” He squeezes Ronan’s hand. “Don’t worry about me.”

“I’ll always worry about you.” Ronan counters, lifting Adam’s hand to kiss across the mountain of his knuckles. Adam has a point; cozy as he is, it only makes sense that he’d feel a little warmer than normal, but Ronan's going to keep an eye on him all the same. Pushing for further details now will only make Adam defensive, anyways. “Are you hungry? I can make us something.”

With a smile, Adam shrugs. “If you insist.”

An hour later, they’re back on the couch, wearing each other’s clothes, Adam curled up with his head in Ronan’s lap as they watch some movie they found on TV. It’s comforting, this easy slipping back into a known routine, and Ronan combs through Adam’s hair, teasing out the little tangles with his fingers, as Adam draws senseless patterns over his knee.

He could doze off like this if he let himself, Adam’s weight in his lap a steadying presence in the languid hours of early afternoon. Sunday afternoons are made for resting together on the worn, well-loved couch, resting in one configuration or the next, talking about everything or nothing at all.

Sometimes, Ronan will put on one of his dad’s old records and he’ll hum along, singing a bar or two to Adam before tugging him up to dance; sometimes, they’ll watch a movie like they are today, dipping in and out of sleep; sometimes, they sit in the quiet, listening to birdsong and the breeze, soaking up a moment to be still, together, instead of trying to use every spare second to its fullest.

Adam sighs as Ronan gives his head a little affectionate scratch, only to duck into his arm a moment later to cough, body jolting slightly with the motion. Just like that, Ronan’s drowsiness clears like he’s been doused with water, hand stilling in Adam’s hair—though Adam had seemed fine in the hour preceding this, it’s becoming more and more clear that something is going on.

“You okay, honey?” Ronan asks softly, once Adam’s resettled into his lap. “You’ve been coughing a lot since I got home.”

“I’m okay. Throat’s just a little dry, not a big deal.” Adam looks up at Ronan with a reassuring smile, not that Ronan’s particularly reassured—his boyfriend is a certified master of hiding anything that can possibly be hidden, illness included. “Had to yell after Opal this morning, since she was being wild, which probably didn’t help.”

Ronan snorts and resumes his playing with Adam’s hair, though he listens, watches, for a marker, another indication that this is, in fact, a big deal. “Isn’t she always wild?”

“Always.” Adam confirms, and Ronan watches his lashes flutter and eyes close in his appreciation of the touch; Ronan’s enraptured, briefly, by the delicacy of his face. “She’s been sulking in the laundry room because I wouldn’t let her tackle Chainsaw or eat the scraps in the compost bin. Obviously, I’m the worst parent in the entire world.”

“Worst parent of the year award goes to Adam Parrish. I should get you a trophy.” Ronan teases, and Adam laughs, only to wind up coughing in the crook of his arm, again, and these don’t stop after the first few burst out of him. Hand going to Adam’s back, Ronan rubs firm circles as best he can despite the angle, heart sinking at how rough they become as Adam struggles to get them under control.

He can feel Adam’s chest heaving once he does, trying to catch his breath, and Ronan’s worry cements itself like a stone in his chest as he slides his hand around to rub Adam’s chest soothingly, apologetically.

“Adam,” Ronan says his name softly, easily, the first word in a native tongue, but the words that follow are less certain, because to say them means acknowledging the answer, and he wishes for Adam’s sake they wouldn’t have to. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

A pause stretches, long and elastic, between them as Adam flattens his lips slightly and looks away, unwilling to admit anything but unable to lie.

”I might be getting sick.” He admits with absolute reluctance, as if he’s had to tug every word free in order to get each one off his tongue.

“You might be?” Ronan echoes, nearly incredulously, because they both heard how Adam’s coughs sounded, felt how his body was wracked by them, but he schools his tone quickly enough; getting Adam to admit he isn’t feeling well often takes a lot of wheedling or waiting until he’s too sick to hide it, and the last thing Ronan wants is to make Adam rethink his honesty, not when they’ve worked so hard to get to today, where he offers it himself.

“I felt a tiny bit off on Friday, didn’t think it was anything serious.” Adam rubs a hand across his face, catching his lower lip briefly between his teeth before relinquishing hold of it, gaze dragging back up to Ronan.

”I was kind of sore, kind of tired, but I’d spent the whole afternoon on Thursday at Boyd’s, so I figured it was from that.” It’s evident in his expression he’s well aware of his own deflection, and his voice quiets with the admission.

“When did that change?” Ronan asks; again, Adam pauses. Ronan yields the space and time to him willingly, occupying himself with combing Adam’s hair back from his face, twirling strands gently around with his index finger.

“Yesterday.” Adam looks away as he says it, and Ronan’s struck with a pang of guilt. Yesterday, Ronan had only seen Adam for an hour before he’d gone to work, and he hadn’t noticed anything amiss that morning—though, he’d been distracted by peppering kisses to Adam’s neck and trying without success to keep him in bed.

He should’ve noticed.

“Woke up sore, like I said, got to feeling achy around noon when I left Boyd’s, then by the time I took my break at the factory, I was coughing, and..” Adam trails off, glancing away. The thought of him coughing through his shift—long enough to likely make his chest hurt—makes Ronan feel all the more guilty for his lack of awareness. “Now we’re here.”

“Now we’re here.” Ronan sighs, sliding his hand back to Adam’s nape to gauge the temperature there—what had been excused as heat from the blanket-hoodie combination can be excused no longer. He’s felt a feverish Adam more than once, and the heat, instead of the warmth, that now radiates across his palm is a damning indicator of a climbing fever. “No wonder you dozed off.”

Ronan should’ve guessed as much, but he’d been hoping his instinct had been wrong—not that it usually is, with Adam, and with his thumb arcing across the downy hairs of Adam’s neck, Ronan tries to formulate a plan. Getting Adam to take time off is a certified non-starter; the only way he’ll convince Adam to request sick time is if things are dire, and as much as Ronan wants to keep Adam home, where he can keep an eye on him, he isn’t about to let anything go from bad to dire when they’ve already jumped from brief to bad.

“When’s your next shift, again?” Ronan asks, and Adam’s answering smile is dim, resigned.

“Tuesday morning. Early,” is the answer Ronan gets, and he almost regrets asking, since it’s nowhere near enough time for Adam to fully recover.They both know it, too—but they’re well-versed in making it work, and if Ronan stays on top of keeping Adam medicated, there’s a fair shot that he’ll be able to survive his shift on Tuesday morning.

Survive being the operative word.

“Then I’d better get you some meds.” When Adam doesn’t protest, Ronan gives Adam’s hip a gentle tap, and they rearrange so Adam’s laying back down, legs occupying the space that Ronan vacates.

After getting Adam tucked in, Ronan heads off to gather what they need: various medications and a bottle of cough syrup, kept well-stocked in their preferred flavors (cherry, grape as a backup) for this purpose; their thermometer, a bite mark near the output screen thanks to Opal; a bottle of water with a straw lid, not a twist cap, because they’ve spilled enough water on themselves and each other in the past.

When Ronan returns with his bounty and an offhand comment about how they need to go grocery shopping poised on the tip of his tongue, he finds Adam coughing instead of relaxing, his arm tightly pressed against his mouth to muffle the sound as he bows forward, beholden to his body’s whims.

Adam.” The sight before Ronan begs the question of how long this particular fit has had Adam in its grasp, and Ronan’s chest aches as he sets everything down quickly and sits by Adam’s hip, rubbing his hand across the breadth of his back in the hopes it helps Adam to breathe. “Easy, honey, you’re okay.”

Adam buries another few rough coughs into his sweatshirt sleeve before he sags into Ronan’s side with a quiet whine, head dropping onto Ronan’s shoulder. It’s an undoubtedly miserable noise, one that Ronan hates hearing because there’s so little he can do to fix it, aside from wrapping an arm around Adam’s body to draw him closer, lips grazing the side of his head, in the hopes of giving but a modicum of comfort.

“I know.” He murmurs, and Adam presses closer with a sniffle, another quiet whine, as if there’s any possible way to shrink the nonexistent distance between them on a couch that barely fits them both. “I’ve got you.”

They stay pressed together like that for a few minutes, bowed towards each other, until Adam’s able to catch his breath enough to quietly request some water. Ronan draws away to pass him the bottle, though he wraps an arm around Adam’s body quickly enough to keep him steady. When he’s finished, Ronan exchanges the bottle with the thermometer, and Adam slips it under his tongue as he drops his head onto the back of the couch.

“Do you want to stay down here, or go up to bed?” Ronan asks while they wait for the thermometer to beep, withdrawing to let Adam lay back as he pours out some cherry cough medicine, shakes a few pills out, and Adam pats the back of the couch in response.

“Down here it is.” Ronan’s in no hurry to dislodge him if he’s comfortable—though seeing 100.2 on the thermometer when it beeps makes Ronan nervous about his ability to scale the stairs later on.

“This just in,” Ronan says as he sets aside the thermometer, passing over the cough medicine and the pills for Adam to take, which he does with a grimace—either at the taste or the sensation, though Ronan suspects it’s due to both. “You’re officially hot, Parrish. You’re winning all kinds of awards today.”

Adam burrows down slightly on the couch and readjusts the blanket over his body, tugging it up this chest. “And here I was,” he grumbles, though there’s a shadow of a smile on his face when he looks up at Ronan, “thinking I’d already been given that award by you on day one.”

Ronan smiles, tucking the blanket more securely around Adam’s body. “From the second I saw you, I was ready to shove that trophy into your hands,” Ronan clarifies, then continues, “You want me to stick around?”

Adam shakes his head and shifts to get comfortable, arm wrapped around his body. He looks just as cozy as he did when Ronan had gotten home, only now Ronan notices the faint blotches of color on Adam’s cheeks, the faint, roughened edge to his voice as he says, “I’ll be okay. You should enjoy getting to move around before I try to use you as my space heater.”

As much as Ronan wants to stay close, he is restless, and knows he should use the chance to get the house ready for what’s bound to be a long 36 hours. He nods, ducking to kiss Adam’s forehead, lips lingering against too-warm skin.

“Sleep well, sweetheart.”

The nap lasts much longer than Ronan expects. He checks on Adam every fifteen, twenty minutes, in between loads of laundry and coaxing Opal out of her hiding spot next to the dryer to go play outside with Chainsaw and prepping food, where he defrosts broth and makes a pot of alphabets, two things Ronan knows he can convince Adam to eat.

He paces the bottom floor, replies to a text from Gansey he’d gotten four days ago (though he neglects to respond to Gansey’s text back, received less than a minute later), and folds the laundry by the time Adam coughs himself awake.

Worry gnaws at Ronan’s chest as he administers another round of medication once Adam stops coughing, his breathing markedly more congested than it’d been when he’d fallen asleep.

Ronan takes his temp again—102.6, damn—and manages to convince Adam to drink some water after a few soft kisses to his head and some unabashed pleading, though when he does, it’s with shaking hands, much to Ronan’s dismay. He tries to press Adam to eat something, too, to pad his stomach, but he looks so nauseated by the mere idea that Ronan doesn’t push it further.

He regrets not moving Adam to their bed earlier, but Ronan’s not willing to chance the stairs when Adam’s this weak, even if he’s carriable; the risk of him getting overly dizzy from the drastic change in position is far, far too high. Instead, he grabs another quilt from the linen closet and wraps it around Adam’s body despite the fact his sweatshirt is clinging to his skin, quietly shushing him when he makes a pained noise that pierces right through Ronan’s heart.

Once Ronan starts up playing with his hair again, drawing strands back from where they stick to his forehead, Adam’s back out in moments, soft snores a new accompaniment to the cadence of his breathing. Ronan settles himself in an armchair once he’s sure Adam’s going to stay asleep, and attempts to focus on his phone and on a Nat Geo magazine Gansey left here months ago, not that he’s particularly successful with either, eyes always drifting back to Adam’s sleeping body.

The sun drops from its zenith, Opal and Chainsaw finally patter inside, and upon seeing Adam curled up and snoring on the couch, join Ronan in his vigil. Chainsaw perches on the back of the armchair like a sentinel while Opal curls up equidistant between him and Adam, gaze sweeping between them with concern before she, too, dozes off.

Normally, Ronan spends Sundays relaxing under Adam’s body, arms wrapped protectively around him or finding himself stretched taut below his lips, his hands, but today, Ronan ends up nodding off in the armchair, his arms wrapped around himself to emulate Adam’s touch.

He wakes, dry-mouthed and stiff, as evening light slants through the windows, basking everything in its path—including a still-asleep Adam, his hair sticking to his forehead, quilt half fallen off his body and onto the floor.

Ronan rolls his neck with a grimace and untangles himself from the chair, shaking feeling into his legs without success before he crouches next to Adam, gingerly fixing the quilt so it lays properly over him. As loath as he is to wake him, Ronan knows Adam’s due for another round of meds, and the sooner he can get Adam up into bed, the better.

The moment his fingers brush Adam’s forehead in an attempt to check his temperature—still warm—Adam’s eyes flutter open, and he groans, scrubbing at his eyes as he tries to regain his bearings. He opens his mouth after a moment and out comes a cracked approximation of Ro, forcing Adam to clear his throat with a wince before he rasps, “Ronan?”

It’s a near-mirror of earlier, a reverberation of a similar note, only this time, when Ronan takes up Adam’s hand and presses kisses across his knuckles, the skin is clammy wherever his lips touch.

“Hey.” He murmurs against the skin, eyes cast up to Adam’s sleep-weary face, heart tight in his chest. “How’re you feeling?”

“Feel like someone hit me with a car and dragged me down the street.” He replies, and if it hadn’t been clear he’s congested before, it is now, then turns away to cough a few times, the sound of them as tired as Adam looks. The misery in his boyfriend’s expression has Ronan desperate to ease it, though he can’t help breathing a laugh when Adam adds, with a touch of grumpiness, “And ‘m sweaty as shit.”

“Think you can survive a shower?” It’s a risk, but if they both sit in the tub, Ronan’s hopeful they can manage it long enough for Adam to get some relief from the steam and wash the fever-sweat from his skin.

Mouth lifting in an approximation of a teasing smile, Ronan offers up a few pills and another cup of cough syrup to Adam. “Because, no offense, Parrish, you smell.”

“Cut the sick guy some slack, asshole.” Adam mutters with a roll of his eyes, swallowing down the meds with some water and rubbing gently at the sides of his throat once he does. “I’m pretty sure my fever’s risen and broken and risen again like, four times in the last six hours.”

“Let’s hope that the next time it breaks, it stays broken.” They could only be so lucky, but luck doesn’t often seem to be on Adam’s side, especially not when it comes to his health. With an exhale, Ronan closes the distance between them to rest their foreheads together, cradling Adam’s face.

“I’m sorry you’re sick, baby. I know it sucks.”

“It does.” Adam agrees quietly, pressing into Ronan’s touches before he twists away with a congested sniffle, massaging at the bridge of his nose as if to alleviate the pressure there. “But ‘s fine. Can’t do much about it, just gotta deal with it.”

Ronan wishes they could do more than just deal with it, wishes he could give Adam the week off to heal and recover properly, but the world doesn’t work like that—or, rather, Adam’s world doesn’t work like that, and it’s up to Ronan to work in the confines of what he’s given.

“I can get you some tea, at least, and then we can get in the shower?” Ronan offers, pushing himself upright as Adam sinks back into the couch, scrubbing lingering sleep from his eyes.

“That’d be nice.” Adam sniffles again with a little groan, grimacing as he looks up to Ronan. “Mind grabbing some tissues too, while you’re up?”

“On it.” Ronan gets the water boiling first, then brings out the box of tissues for Adam, who rests it on his chest and plucks a tissue from the box with a stuffy-sounding thank you. Kissing the top of his head and leaving him to tend to his nose without an audience, Ronan heads back into the kitchen, prepping a mug with an excess of honey Adam’s likely too congested to taste (and, subsequently, complain about the sweetness of).

He makes himself a mug, too, because while Ronan feels perfectly fine right now, he’s well aware he’s on borrowed time before he comes down with his bug, and he might as well enjoy some tea while he can still taste it.

When he returns, they shift positions so Adam can rest back against Ronan’s chest, laying between his legs, and Opal nestles herself by Adam’s feet, head resting against his shin. While he’s miles steadier than he’d been the last time he’d woken up, Ronan isn’t about to have Adam support himself fully quite yet, and besides, Ronan wants to hold his boyfriend for a little while, starved for constant contact.

He nuzzles against Adam’s shoulder, behind his ear, covering wherever he can reach in gentle smatterings of kisses, taking small sips of his tea while Adam sips at his own, pausing to blow his nose with increasing frequency after the steam starts to get to him.

Chainsaw joins them after a bit with a bright blue twist-tie between her beak, and she drops it into Adam’s lap, preening when he thanks her for the gift. Ronan’s heart sings as he peers around Adam’s shoulder, hands resting against his abdomen, and looks over his remarkable little family—partially made, fully found, perfectly rounding out the edges of his life.

He presses a firm kiss to the side of Adam’s head, incapable of releasing the swell of emotion any other way, and Adam’s hand covers Ronan’s where it rests on his abdomen, giving it a squeeze in a silent acknowledgement.

They can’t lay here forever, though, no matter how much Ronan wants to. Once it’s clear that Adam’s maxed out on his tea (Ronan’s long since drained, mug abandoned on the coffee table), Ronan reluctantly worms out from underneath him to take care of their mugs. Opal immediately clamors into Adam’s lap, arms wrapped around him as tightly as she can manage, and as Ronan heads into the kitchen, he can hear Adam’s soft reassurances as he smooths a hand over Opal’s back.

Dishes taken care of and a glass of water swiftly downed, Ronan heads back to the living room, and it’s only after he checks Adam’s temperature again (101, thank fucking God it’s gone down) that he helps Adam up.

It’s slow going—Adam’s unsteady with every position shift, and Opal, troubled by Adam’s abnormal behavior, slides from the couch and attempts to plaster herself to his calf with a worried intonation of Atom. Ronan tries to shoo her out of the way to keep her from being a tripping hazard, but she only moves out of the way, fiddling anxiously at the watch on her arm, at Adam’s gentle, “I’m okay, Opal.”

By the time Adam’s upright, he’s breathing heavily and fully supported by Ronan, arm around his waist, their hips firmly pressed together. Ronan’s done this enough times to know Adam will tell him when he’s ready; the congestion’s likely fucked with his balance, as has the lack of food, which is something Ronan plans to correct as soon as Adam’s showered and laying back down.

He’s about to check in when he feels Adam tense, and is seconds away from sitting him right back down for fear of him passing out before Adam twists away and sneezes twice, catching them against his bicep.

“Sorry,” Adam manages, congestion heavy in his voice as he straightens, sways, and rights himself. “Caught me by surprise.”

“Bless you.” Ronan squeezes Adam’s hip apologetically, sympathetically, and shakes his head. “You don’t have to apologize.”

Adam frowns to show his disagreement—after a lifetime of apologies, he hasn’t broken from the habit yet—but doesn’t verbalize it, instead taking another second to scrub at his face before gesturing vaguely to the stairs. Slowly, they make their way over, taking each step one at a time, Ronan’s arm a steadying bar against Adam’s low back.

They’re forced to stop halfway up so Adam can rest, unsteady breaths giving way into a coughing fit that bends him at the waist, and Ronan wonders how terribly it would go if he tried to scoop his boyfriend up while standing on the stairs. He’s a moment away from making the executive decision to carry Adam upstairs, but Adam manages to steady himself enough to continue, though his knuckles are white where he grips the railing.

The rest of the trip to the bathroom is without additional trouble but goes far more slowly, for Ronan’s sake as much as Adam’s. By the time they get to the bathroom, Ronan’s rethinking a shower with how out of breath Adam is, head dropping to trembling hands as Ronan guides him down to sit on the closed toilet lid.

“You still feel up to this?” Ronan asks softly, combing his fingers through Adam’s hair—it’s damp by his hairline, his skin covered in a thin sheen of sweat, and he aches in sympathy. “I can always get you a change of clothes and get you right into bed.”

The steam would do Adam plenty of favors, but risking him passing out isn’t high on Ronan’s list of sick day things to do. Adam shakes his head, leaning into Ronan’s touch, and says, breathlessly, “Still want to.”

He turns the shower on despite his unease at Adam’s condition, putting it as hot as he thinks they can stand, strips down, and then, as the room fills with steam, takes his time getting Adam undressed, endlessly tender as he eases the sweatshirt up and off, his sweatpants and boxers guided down with the utmost care. Kisses are pressed to Adam’s knee, his chest, Ronan’s hands moving to steady whenever Adam’s breath shudders with another round of coughs—and Ronan stands, Adam nearly immediately rests his head against Ronan’s abdomen with a miserable noise that breaks his heart.

“I know, honey.” Ronan whispers, running his hands through Adam’s hair, feeling Adam lean into the touch, and though he doesn’t lift his head, the rounding of his body suggests to Ronan that he’s in more pain than he’s been letting on. “I’m sorry.”

There’s a unique sort of intimacy in the vulnerability that Adam shows him, lays bare for him, and Ronan’s honored, always is, in the implicit trust of the action, to be allowed to be close when Adam’s not at his best—even if the sight of him, curled up and sick like this, makes Ronan wish he could snap his fingers and just get Adam feeling better.

Minutes pass, Adam leaning into Ronan’s abdomen, before he finally lifts his head to nod wearily, and taking the lead, Ronan helps Adam stand, making sure he’s steady upright before they move further. Another minute, and he guides them both into the shower, easing Adam down to the tub floor to rest under the water with back against Ronan’s chest.

Adam curls up, forehead pressing against his knees, and Ronan alternates between washing Adam’s body and massaging his sore muscles, kissing the back of Adam’s head occasionally with whispered check-ins, making sure he’s not too dizzy, too hot, too cold. Mostly, Adam’s quiet, aside from the congested pull to his breaths, though the steam triggers a few rough coughs or a few sneezes that Ronan rubs his back through, hoping to comfort in whatever way he can.

They linger in the shower until the water threatens to turn cold, and tired though Adam seems when he finally lifts his head, Ronan can hear that he’s breathing a little more easily, congestion eased to a degree from the steam—a victory sorely needed. Helping Adam stand, Ronan shuts off the water and wraps him snugly in a towel before sitting him down, and Adam curls in on himself, eyes drifting closed by the time Ronan wraps himself in one.

“Two seconds,” Ronan promises, snagging another towel to dry his hair as Adam sniffles and nods, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes, “and we’ll get you into bed.”

It takes ten minutes to get Adam dry, dressed, and into bed, and another fifteen to convince him to agree to try and eat something. By now, the sunlight that had bathed the interior of the Barns is all but gone, twilight melding into inky dark, room dimly aglow from the lamp on Ronan’s bedside table, though Ronan can’t tell what time it is and can’t be bothered enough to look.

Adam stares down at the bowl in his hands like the tiny alphabets have personally wronged him, and Ronan bites back a sigh, knowing better than to let himself get frustrated by Adam’s reluctance to eat. This is part of their sick-day routine, not their Sunday one, and it never gets more enjoyable for either of them.

“Three bites, Adam, that’s all I’m asking.” Ronan’s repeated the words at least six times—three before he went downstairs, three after settling back into bed, not that Adam seems persuaded by any of his repetitions. He hates having to coax Adam into eating, especially when he looks this exhausted, but if it keeps Adam from passing out, Ronan will do it every time. “Your body needs something, or you’re gonna feel worse, and I don’t think either of us want that.”

Adam frowns, but he picks up the spoon anyways, poking at the mountain of letters in his bowl before taking a small bite, and Ronan, cautiously optimistic, follows suit. He gets halfway through his bowl by the time Adam gets through three bites, each interrupted either by a few seconds of coughing or by a round of sniffles that force him to blow his nose, and Ronan pauses every time Adam does to run a reassuring hand across his back, his bicep, his thigh.

Ronan’s taken another mouthful of alphabets when the clink of Adam’s spoon draws his attention. The uneasy expression that’s tightened up his face is enough to make Ronan take the bowl from his hands, setting both bowls aside on the bedside table.

“C’mere.” Ronan murmurs, wrapping Adam up in his arms, and Adam melts into his side with a quiet noise of discomfort, head on his chest and leg slung across Ronan’s to draw them closer. While a few meager spoonfuls of pasta won’t fix anything, it’s better than nothing. His hand finds its home against Adam’s side once he stills, lips brushing across the top of his head in a fond, and equally apologetic, gesture, and Adam gives Ronan’s chest a kiss in return.

As he does most nights, Ronan admires the soft edges of his boyfriend’s face, despite the feverish flush there, and the shower-damp strands that cling stubbornly to his temples, and he is made steadier by the solid weight of Adam’s body against his own and the curl of his fingers into the fabric of Ronan’s shirt. There’s a sympathetic pang, too, that comes with every congested inhale, every shift in position because he knows Adam’s too sore to be able to find a way to lay that’s truly comfortable.

Their closeness also means when Adam tenses and breaks the silence with another coughing fit, muffled against Ronan’s chest, he’s prepared for it, hand already sliding up and down the length of Adam’s back. He does what he can to soothe him through it, murmuring reassurances he isn’t sure Adam even hears but says anyways, and Ronan grabs his water once Adam’s able to drink it, propping them both up until he gets a few sips down and his breathing steadies.

“You’re okay, honey.” Ronan whispers for what feels like the hundredth time—as if the words will stack on top of the meds and make things better, faster—and fixes the blankets over Adam’s body, anchoring his palm against the small of his back when Adam presses closer. “I’ve got you.”

The water bottle gets set aside, the lamp, flicked off, and night settles down over them with all the comfort of one of his mom’s quilts. In the dark, Ronan shifts down on the bed so they can tangle up in each other properly, and Adam’s congested breathing, steady but audible, has Ronan praying, for Adam’s sake, it won’t take him long to fall asleep.

Ronan knows Adam’s exhausted.

He can feel it in the heavy way Adam presses into him, in the way his breathing slows and resteadies as he dips in and out of a doze, his fingers loosening in increments in Ronan’s shirt. Most nights, Ronan would make a point to say goodnight, to give Adam a kiss—but he’s too worried about rousing him, so instead, he writes it out across Adam’s back, tracing the letters out with his index finger in the hopes the rhythm of it is enough to finally get him to sleep.

It takes time, and Adam coughs himself back into wakefulness more than once, but finally, finally, Ronan hears his breathing steady, slipping again into the soft pattern of snoring he’d had during his nap earlier that afternoon.

Despite this, Ronan has no inclination to let himself sleep quite yet. It’s entirely possible Adam will wake himself back up in a half hour, or shiver through a nightmare, and Ronan would much rather be awake for a bit longer to ensure his boyfriend’s sleep is peaceful. He busies himself with playing with Adam’s hair, checking his temperature with a soft brush of his fingertips against his forehead, fixing the blankets in incremental amounts. Adam continues to sleep soundly, undisturbed where he’s curled up against Ronan’s side—seeing the peaceful expression on his face is well worth the lost minutes of sleep.

There’s only so long Ronan can fight the urge to sleep, though, and he catches himself drifting off more than once, head bobbing towards his chest as more moonlight floods into their bedroom, painting the floors. Rousing himself, Ronan gives Adam’s forehead another check—warm, but not oppressively—and finally settles back against the pillows, fast asleep in seconds, arms wrapped protectively around Adam’s body.

Seconds or hours later, Ronan wakes abruptly to Adam squirming against his side, and he struggles to get his bearings, sluggish mind trying to piece together whatever the hell it is Adam’s doing. It takes another moment for Ronan to realize his shirt is sticking to his chest and the blankets have been haphazardly thrown off—or, Adam’s tried to throw them off, without success.

“Adam,” Ronan’s groggy as he reaches for Adam’s back, touching a sweat-damp shirt, and Adam stops his battle with the covers with a congested whine, only to try and resume the fight once more.

Adam,” Ronan repeats, scrubbing at his eyes as he tries to wake up, because Adam’s fever’s undoubtedly broken and his meds have absolutely worn off. “Honey, gimme—gimme two seconds, ‘nd we’ll get the blankets off.”

To his credit, Adam does give Ronan two seconds, and Ronan manages to kickstart his limbs enough to push the comforter down the bed, sheets following suit. Adam’s sigh of relief makes him cough, but it doesn’t launch him into a fit that leaves him breathing haggardly, thank God.

“Ronan.” Adam says his name with less of a rasp and more of a blunted set of syllables, one symptom usurping the other, and he sniffles, the sound uncomfortable enough to make Ronan wince in sympathy. “I don’t feel good.”

How Ronan’s heart just breaks. It’s a simple phrase, but the simplicity of it is what makes his emotions roil like the sea, and he scoots closer on the bed, careful to give Adam some space as he presses a kiss to his head, to his shoulder, arm sliding along his bicep.

“I‘m sorry, sweetheart. I know.” The way Adam’s shirt clings to his body makes Ronan consider another shower, only he discards the thought seconds later—it’s unlikely that Adam’s up to that much movement, and a washcloth will do the job just as well in the interim. “Promise, I’ll get you cooled down in just a second, okay?”

The moment Ronan shifts back on his hip in preparation to launch operation get Adam feeling less like shit, Adam grabs for his hand, and says in a small voice, “Stay. Just—for a second. Please.”

“I’ll stay as long as you want.” He promises without a drop of hesitation, rocking his weight forward back to where he was, and with another kiss to Adam’s shoulder, Ronan requests, “Can I get your shirt off, at least, so you can get more comfortable?”

Adam hesitates, taking a second before he nods, relinquishing Ronan’s hand with another sniffle that makes them both wince—meds are definitely in order once Adam’s upright. It takes a few minutes of cautious movement, Ronan ever-mindful of Adam’s dizziness, but he manages to peel Adam’s shirt off without major consequence, casting it off to the side.

“That better?”

“Better.” Adam mumbles back, turning away to sniffle, brows scrunching, though whether it’s in discomfort or irritation, Ronan can’t tell.

He can try and help it, however, so he sits back, resting a hand on Adam’s knee with the promise he’s not going far before he paws around the bedside table, shaking out meds after squinting at the labels in the dark.

Behind him, Adam sniffles again and sneezes twice shortly after, and Ronan wordlessly passes over the tissue box, waiting until Adam’s finished blowing his nose to pass over the pills and some water. Adam takes both without complaint, exchanging the water bottle for the thermometer when Ronan brandishes it at him like a wand.

“Want to make sure we’re not getting faked out.” Ronan explains, and while Adam doesn’t properly smile, the little uptick to his mouth is good enough. Before he can place it under his tongue, though, he has to twist away with another sneeze, groaning in irritation.

“If my body could make up its mind,” Adam grumbles, snagging a tissue to blow his nose again, all shame lost in the tiny hours of the morning, “that would be great, ‘cause the coughing was bad enough.”

Ronan makes a sympathetic sound in response, running his hand across Adam’s shoulders as he puts the thermometer in his mouth. It’s not unusual for Adam to not be able to catch a break when he’s sick, but it never makes it easier to see—if it’s not one thing, it’s another. When the thermometer beeps, Ronan gingerly takes it from Adam’s mouth and peers at the numbers, relief coursing through him the second he makes out 99.7.

“Officially under 100.” He informs, tossing the thermometer haphazardly onto the bed and out of the way. Adam sighs in apparent relief, even though it makes him cough, and scrubs a hand over his face afterwards; his fever may be broken, but his congestion doesn’t seem inclined to budge.

“Think that means we’re safe to get you new pjs?” Ronan inclines his head towards the bureau in silent request for permission to get up—he isn’t about to leave Adam’s side if he still wants him close, but Adam nods, head tipping back against the pillows.

It never fails to please Ronan to see Adam in his clothes—and vice versa—so he steals one of Adam’s faded t-shirts for himself to replace the one he’d been in, tugging it over his head before snagging one of his t-shirts and some sleep shorts for Adam to change into so he doesn’t overheat again. Setting the clothes in grabbing distance, he quickly goes to wet a washcloth, bringing it with him as he climbs into bed next to Adam, who eyes it curiously.

“Easier than a shower.” Ronan explains, and recognition dawns in Adam’s eyes, followed shortly thereafter by gratitude. “Scoot forward a little?”

Adam does as instructed and Ronan fills the space behind him, legs bracketing Adam’s as he puts a hand on his back in warning before touching the cloth to his shoulder. Immediately, Adam shivers at the cooler temperature, though after a second, he puts his hand on Ronan’s leg and gives it a squeeze, as clear a go ahead as any.

Similarly to their minutes spent in the shower, Ronan’s slow and deliberate in the way he guides the cloth over Adam’s body, moving in long strokes across his shoulders and back, his shoulders, his arms, his neck. Adam bows again towards his hiked-up knees, forehead resting there, with the occasional sniffle or noise of contentment, and Ronan intersperses each stroke of the cloth with a few kisses to water-damp skin, over top of little freckles and moles and the notches of his spine.

The cloth’s warmed up by the time Ronan eases Adam back to rest against his chest, but he reaches around him regardless to get to his abdomen, his sides, and Adam drops his head back to Ronan’s shoulder, lips grazing against Ronan’s neck with a contented noise.

“Feels good,” Adam murmurs drowsily, hand moving in slow lines up and down Ronan’s leg, Ronan’s dipping down his sternum, across to each hip. “‘m lucky to have you, Lynch.”

Ronan’s hand stops in favor of wrapping both arms around Adam’s body, lips pressed to the top of Adam’s head in a firm kiss as he whispers back, “Lucky to have you too, Parrish.”

Truly, he is—he gets to wake up with Adam at his side, gets to come home and see their shoes lined up next to each other by the front door, gets to love with an abandon Ronan thought only existed in horribly cheesy romance movies, and every day he gets to enjoy Adam is a day Ronan’s grateful for.

Distantly, he worries about the fall, when they’ll be states away, Adam pushing forward as Ronan tries not to stagnate, but he casts the thought aside to narrow in on the now, on the boy in his arms, the set of lips pressed softly against the crook of his neck, the hands covering his.

They stay like that, tangled up in body, in soul, breathing a two-part harmony, until Adam starts to doze off again, and then they part only for as long as is necessary for Ronan to help a drowsy Adam into new clothes. Once they’re back under the covers, Adam fits himself against Ronan’s side, head against his chest, hand splayed across his ribs—and as always, Ronan winds himself around Adam, filling in the gaps.

“Sleep well, Adam.” Ronan murmurs, making up for his lack of a proper goodnight earlier—it’s not necessary, really, but he hopes that by speaking the words, Adam will get a few hours of the sleep he so desperately needs. “Tamquam.”

“I will.” Adam’s arm tightens around Ronan’s body a fraction, and he nuzzles into Ronan’s chest endearingly, unselfconsciously. “Alter idem.”

Ronan wakes with the sun.

Like the morning before, he blinks his eyes open to the sight of their room lit in an elegant palette that he’s sure could only be replicated by dreaming it up, a set of watercolors made of shades incapable of being made by hand. His eyes close again, mind drifting over the concept as the rest of his body comes online, taking stock of the warmth of Adam’s body, unmoved from how they’d fallen asleep however long ago, of the softness of their comforter, the crisp scent to the sheets, the bend of Adam’s waist below his palm.

When Ronan opens his eyes again, he tips his chin to see Adam’s face, half-hidden, tracing over the line of his nose, the tip visibly pink in the morning light, and the plane of his cheeks, dotted with the beginnings of his summer freckles, the subtle curve to his cupid’s bow.

His mind strays again to paints, and he wishes he were capable of replicating this image in a tangible way, as his fingers begin a slow, lazy journey up and down the valley of Adam’s waist, not with the intent to rouse but the basic intent to touch.

Ronan dips in and out of a doze as Adam slumbers on, and Ronan’s nearly back asleep again when he feels Adam stir against his chest, body stretching out with a quiet, sleepy noise that Ronan echoes, hand slowly starting up its motions again to help ease Adam awake. His head tips with a sniffle, triggering a few soft coughs thanks to his still-blocked nose, but they’re nowhere near as awful as they’d been, and Adam settles quickly, breathing easily falling back into a steady rhythm.

“Mornin’.” Adam drops the g and Ronan’s heart flutters, forever endeared by the sleepy idiosyncrasies of Adam’s accent, his free hand rising to comb through Adam’s tangled, sleep-tousled hair.

“Morning.” Ronan murmurs back, letting his nails skim over Adam’s hair in a light scratch that has Adam making a contented noise, nestling closer against Ronan’s chest. “Did you sleep good?”

“Mhm.” Adam yawns (and makes Ronan yawn, too) and rubs at his eyes, stretching out arms and legs before he shifts positions, half-laying on top of Ronan’s body, leg between his. It’s a better answer than Ronan expects, truthfully—mornings and nights are often the worst, but Adam seems largely comfortable, and comfort is all Ronan’s striving for.

No matter how late it gets, Ronan will lay here with Adam for as long as he wants; all that matters today is Adam laying in his arms as they sip mugs of tea, going through movie after movie until they doze off, slotted together like they were made for it. As much as they try to fill every second of their time together when Adam has a rare day off, Ronan feels no pressure to do so today—today is for worship of a different kind, shown through attentiveness, through care, through the pancakes loaded with chocolate chips Ronan plans to make, because no matter how congested Adam is, he won’t be able to resist a bite or two if there’s enough chocolate in the mix.

Tracing his fingers over Adam’s cheekbones, his jaw, sliding them back to rest on the nape of his neck, Ronan plays with the downy hairs there, earning him a contented sigh from Adam, whose fingers creep up and down Ronan’s side, inclined towards touch just as much as Ronan is.

Birdsong joins the mix as the sun creeps higher, bathing their room in light, and despite the congested sound of Adam’s breathing, a stark reminder that sick-day status is still in effect, it’s simply… peaceful.

Nothing demands their attention, there’s no events to rush to, even if later, Ronan will get up and make them the pancakes he intends to, stacking them on a plate to share, as they sit on the couch, a blanket draped over their shoulders like an extra-big cape, and Adam will laugh as Ronan inevitably gets chocolate on his nose, leaving Ronan to try and smear chocolate on him in return.

But, that’s the later, and the now is this: Ronan, wrapped up in bed with the boy he loves more than he ever thought himself capable of loving, savoring a domesticity he never imagined he’d have.

“Are you feeling any better?” Ronan asks after a second, a minute, an age of quiet, hands stopping and starting as they come in and out of a shared doze, voice quietly irreverent, and when Adam lifts his head from Ronan’s chest to smile, Ronan smiles, too, incapable of doing anything but.

“Yeah,” Adam responds, and though his voice is still markedly congested, there’s a lightness to the word that makes Ronan’s heart sing—a reminder that whatever the day comes, it is manageable, because they will have each other and in the end, that is all that matters, and Adam presses a kiss to Ronan’s sternum, a tactile reminder of that fact, before he lays his head down and sighs, “I think I am.”