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It wasn’t the worst request Adam had ever gotten, but it was up there.

 

He and Ronan had fought earlier that week, over something stupid like Ronan opening his mouth and saying some asshole thing, Gansey was away in DC over the weekend, and Ronan had apparently managed to come down with a fever or something.

 

He didn’t know this because Ronan had told him, he knew this because Gansey called him from DC at Boyd’s where Adam was working at 6.30 that evening and asked if Adam could please go look after Ronan.

 

“He’s not gonna want me playing nursemaid,” Adam said into the phone - he had it pinched between ear and shoulder so he could keep fiddling with the knut he had been trying to get unstuck.

 

“No,” Gansey agreed, “he isn’t. However. He told me he’d go to the doctor today, and he hasn’t been, and I called him earlier and he actually answered.”

 

“Shit,” Adam said.

 

“He sounded awful, Adam,” Gansey rushed on, “I think it’s tonsillitis or something. He just needs someone there to drag him to the clinic and to make sure he actually looks after himself.”

 

“Matthew?” Adam suggested, because, the last time he’d seen Ronan, Ronan had pulled the finger at him and told him to get his head out of his ass.

 

“Someone sensible,” Gansey sighed. “Please, Adam. I’ll make it up to you.”

 

“Ugh.”

 

“I know it’s not the easiest thing for you to do,” Gansey said, “but you don’t have to go back to your… house afterwards. Stay the night at Monmouth. Your parents would be fine with that, yeah?”

 

“Kind of,” Adam admitted. He already knew he was going to do this, but he did kind of want to feel more cajoled into it.

 

“I don’t want him alone, Adam,” Gansey said then, very quiet, “not after… he’s so much more… I don’t want him alone while he’s feeling crappy.”

 

That was not the kind of cajoling he had wanted.

 

“Fine,” Adam grunted, “I’ll go over after my shift, and stay until he kicks me out. Ok?”

 

“Thank you,” Gansey said, relief flooding over the phone, “you are a Godsend. A prince among men. A gem.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Adam grumbled, “I’ll update you later.”

 

-

 

When he arrived at Monmouth, it was to dark rooms, and the front door unlocked. He thought at first, after stepping inside the main room, that Ronan wasn’t even here. His brain whirred anxiously about home invaders, kidnapping, Ronan forgetting how to be alive and going away again. He flicked on the light, and what he had thought was a duvet on the couch stirred.

 

“Shit,” Adam breathed, “Lynch?”

 

Ronan’s head appeared from underneath a pillow, and then his face. Which was fixed into a glare.

 

“Great,” Adam said, “good to see you’re not dead.”

 

“What the fuck,” Ronan rasped, “are you doing here?”

 

“Gansey sent me,” Adam said, not in the mood to be pleasant, “to take you to an after hours to get your damn throat looked at.”

 

“I don’t want to,” Ronan said, voice constricted and hoarse.

 

“You’re a child,” Adam said, “and we’re going to go the clinic, you’re worrying Gansey.”

 

“No,” Ronan said.

 

Adam dropped his bag by the door, crossed the room to the couch, perched by Ronan’s head and squinted down at him. Then he prodded him hard in the neck where his glands were raised.

 

“Fuck,” Ronan hissed, “the fuck you do that for.”

 

“Your whole face is swollen,” Adam said, “I’ll keep poking you in your swollen as shit face until we go to the clinic.”

 

“You,” Ronan said, “are a devil.”

 

“Sure,” Adam said dryly, “come on.” he poked Ronan again. “We’re going.”

 

-

 

After getting him up off of the couch, Ronan was surprisingly compliant. Grumpy every step, yes, but he did as Adam asked and they managed to actually make it to the clinic and get him signed in. It was probably testament to how much pain he must have been in to not fight it any further. He got his tonsillitis diagnosis, script for the antibiotics, paid the exorbitant fee that Adam didn’t want to even think about, and dragged himself after Adam to the pharmacy.

 

Adam had thought - overly hopefully - that now Ronan had evidence he was very sick, and had medicine, he’d calm down a little and maybe even appreciate what Adam was doing for him. Instead, as soon as they got back to Monmouth, Ronan stomped off to his bedroom and slammed the door.

 

“God,” Adam groaned, then went to fill a glass of water to take to Ronan.

 

“Oi,” he yelled through Ronan’s bedroom door, “you need water to take the meds. I’m coming in.”

 

“Fuck off,” Ronan replied as loudly as he could through tennis ball tonsils.

 

Adam opened the door, waded through Ronan’s junk laden floor, and handed him the water. Ronan took it begrudgingly.

 

“Take the pills,” Adam said.

 

“Fuck off,” Ronan repeated. Eloquent to the last.

 

“Take the pills so I can fuck off and let Gansey know you’re not dead,” Adam said, not bothering with pretending he wasn’t frustrated with all of Ronan’s shit. “Hurry up.”    

 

“Fucking prison guard,” Ronan said, took the pills, swallowed the water, grimaced in pain. “I’m sleeping,” he grunted, “fuck off.”

 

“Fucking off,” Adam snapped back, and did so.

 

-

 

Back in the main room, he swiped Ronan’s phone from the floor by the couch and called Gansey.

 

“He’s fine,” he said before Gansey could say anything, “or he will be so long as he takes  his medicine when he’s meant to.”

 

“Adam Parrish,” Gansey sighed, “you’re a champ.”

 

“Don’t rub it in,” Adam said, “he’s in bed right now, but I’ll let you know if he gets worse.”

 

“I appreciate it.”

 

“How’s DC?” Adam asked, “Having fun?”

 

“Please,” Gansey said, snorted delicately, “I’m here for a politics fundraiser and my parents have forbidden me from talking about Welsh history.”

 

“My heart bleeds for you.”

 

“Hey, keep being mean to me and I’ll revoke your champ status!”

 

“You’re going to have to come back here and take it from me face to face,” Adam said, grinning into the phone and rolling his eyes up at the ceiling.

 

“Yeehaw, cowboy,” Gansey said.

 

-

 

Once he’d finished his conversation with Gansey, he figured he ought to check up on Ronan again. There was no answer to his knock on Ronan’s door, so he pushed it open and stuck his head into the room. Ronan was bundled up under his blankets, snoring slightly. Very much still alive. Probably the painkillers he’d been given at the clinic had kicked in and tossed him straight to sleep. He didn’t close the door behind him, figuring it would be better to get more air flow in the room.

 

He had only meant to do homework/study for an hour at the most before crashing on Gansey’s bed, but when he heard movement from Ronan’s room - jolting him out of his study reverie, his wrist watch accused him of ignoring three whole hours sliding past.

 

He sighed, shut his book. He ought to go check on Ronan seeing as he was still awake. He had to forestall the thought for a moment though though because he had apparently been sitting badly for the last few hours and his leg had gone entirely to sleep. He couldn’t stand on it, and he was going to have to wait out the pins and needles.

 

He stretched his leg out on the floor and swore under his breath at the feeling of blood rushing angrily back into it. This moment of pause was actually probably a good thing, because, as he sat there on the floor, his leg buzzing painfully, the noises from Ronan’s room stopped being ‘shifting around grumpily in my sheets’ to ‘maybe I’m crying right now?’ and he wasn’t sure he was equipped to deal with a crying Ronan.

 

In the thirty seconds before his leg began working like a leg again, he decided that probably Ronan was just in pain, and needed a soothing drink and more painkillers. He could probably handle that. So. He crept to the bathroom/laundry/kitchen/horrifying room to check out their range of soothing drinks. The range was limited. At best. He had been hoping for, maybe, some juice. He knew Gansey liked to buy very fancy organic juices, but, the only liquids in the fridge was an expired milk, some straight lemon juice, and something very nasty on the bottom of the fridge. He chose the lemon juice. While the kettle boiled, he checked the shelves for anything else useful. Ginger, garlic, honey, turmeric even. There was a little bit of honey. There were some bread crumbs in it, but he figured the honey would be worth it anyway. He switched the kettle off before it boiled - he wanted to give Ronan a drink he could drink straight away.

 

He mixed it together, sipped it to make sure it wasn’t disgusting or scalding hot, and then resigned himself to however grumpy Ronan was going to be right now.   

 

Ronan had not stopped crying in the time it had taken Adam to regain his leg and make the lemon honey drink. If anything, he was crying even more. This was not what Adam had signed up for.

 

“Ronan?” he called, knocking on the ajar door, “Um. I’ve brought you a drink.”

 

There’s a noise from inside the room that sounds remarkably like Ronan’s bedside table being knocked over. Adam pushed the door open, squinted into the dimness of the room at the toppled table and at Ronan twisted in his sheets.

 

“I thought you’d fucking left,” Ronan said, and it was hard to tell if his voice was so raspy and constricted because of his tears or his tonsils, but it was probably both. “Shit, Parrish,”

 

“Well,” Adam said awkwardly, kicked at some junk on the floor, and then switched on Ronan’s light, “I didn’t. I’ve got you a hot drink for your throat. You should probably take some more painkillers too.”

 

“Fuck,” Ronan growled, lifting his arm to shield his eyes from the light. It didn’t shield his face from Adam’s view though, and it was easy to see the tear tracks shining on his cheeks. “You’re a fucking shit.”

 

“Yeah,” Adam snapped, “you’re welcome. Asshole.” He crossed the room to Ronan’s bed, handed him the mug, and then crouched to right the bedside table. “Where did you put the painkillers?”

 

“They were on the table,” Ronan grunted, hands wrapped around the mug.

 

“Of course they were,” Adam sighed.

 

He picked up the lamp that had fallen off of the table into a pile of clothes (thankfully for the lamp) and put it back on the table, switching it on as he did, and then squinted around at the rest of the junk on the floor looking for the painkillers. He found them underneath a book a few moments later - the book must have been on the table too - and turned back to Ronan who was still sitting up on his bed, hands tight around the mug, face unreadable and tight.

 

“Here,” Adam said, held the meds out to Ronan. Ronan didn’t move to take them. “C’mon, Lynch,” Adam sighed, “it’ll make you feel better.”

 

Ronan took the pills, his expression shifting from blank to affronted.

 

“I don’t them,” he snapped hoarsely, “I can deal with a bit of pain.”    

 

“Sure,” Adam groaned, standing up from his floor searching crouch, his knees clicking uncomfortably, “you sure sounded like you can.”

 

“Fuck off,” Ronan said, “I wasn’t fucking - I wasn’t fucking crying in pain. I’m not a baby.”

 

“Whatever, Lynch,” Adam said, “just take the painkillers and drink that before it goes cold, ok?”

 

Ronan didn’t reply, so Adam stretched, and then started to leave. He was at the door by the time Ronan spoke.

 

“Don’t tell Gansey,” he said.

 

Adam turned off the main room light - leaving Ronan in a puddle of light from his lamp within the dim room.

 

“Don’t tell Gansey what?” he asked, “That you’re an asshole? He already knows that.”

 

Ronan scowled at him. He was trying to pop the pills one handed, and his hand was shaking something stupid.

 

“Bitch,” he said - Adam wasn’t sure if it was directed at the pills or him - “you know what I’m talking about. He doesn’t need to know.”

 

Adam kind of wanted to just say ‘whatever’ and go to bed, but. Ronan was still struggling to get the pills out, and his hand was still shaking, his face was stupidly tight. He sighed.

 

“Everyone cries, Lynch,” he said, “I’m not gonna tell him, but it’s nothing to be… ashamed of.”

 

“I’m not fucking ashamed,” Ronan said, far too quickly. He dropped the pill packed on his lap and cursed at it. “Anyway,” he added, “that would mean more coming from someone who cried as well. You probably haven’t cried since you were a baby.”

 

He should go to bed before his eyes fell out of his head from too much rolling.

 

“You’re a dumbass,” Adam snapped.  He stalked back into the room and snatched up the fallen pills and popped them out into his hand. “You think I don’t cry? Some weeks I cry every night. It’s not a big deal. Take your pills.”

 

Ronan stared up at him, face screwed up as if he couldn’t comprehend what Adam had said to him, and then accepted the pills. He put them in his mouth, washed them down with the lemon honey, and did not look at Adam when he spoke.

 

“I don’t get sick often,” he said. “This is the first time I’m like. Actually. Sick. Since - since my parents.”

 

Now Adam felt like he was the one who couldn’t comprehend what Ronan was saying. It felt like too much truth at once.

 

“Mum always looked after me,” Ronan mumbled at his knees. “I guess, when I woke up earlier and I was in - am in pain, I just - it hit me that. She’ll never look after me again when I’m sick.”

 

“Oh,” Adam said, because he had nothing more useful to say. “I am a bit of a sorry replacement.”

 

Ronan snorted. He still wasn’t looking at Adam, which suited Adam just fine because he felt like this whole conversation was too fragile to survive eye contact.

 

“So,” Adam said slowly, when it became clear that Ronan was done with drinking, “can I uh - do you need anything? Something I can do?”

 

“No,” Ronan said, took a large mouthful of the lemon honey. Swallowed. Said, “could you rub my back?”

 

“Uh,” Adam said.

 

“With vick’s,” Ronan added, “uh. Or not, I mean.”

 

“Do you even have vick’s?”

 

“Of course,” Ronan snorted, kicked his legs around in the blankets a little until something fell off of the bed with a small thud. “Right there.”

 

“Huh,” Adam said, “is this a thing your mum did?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Adam was pretty sure his own mother had never rubbed his back. With vick’s vapo rub or without. It just wasn’t her thing. Although, neither was looking after him when he was sick, so that made sense.

 

“Ok,” Adam said, “finish your drink first, I guess.”

 

“Uh-huh,” Ronan said into his mug.

 

Adam bent down to pick up the vick’s - it was in an odd container, a glass thing that looked almost sparkly. Trust Ronan to have the most extraTM vick’s rub. He sat down on the bed next to Ronan, and then immediately got back up again in disgust.

 

“Shit, Lynch,” he swore, “your sheets are wet. What’d you do? Pour water all over it?”

 

Ronan scowled at him, took another large mouthful of the lemon honey. “I had a fever,” he said, “I sweated a lot.”

 

“That’s so gross,” Adam groaned, “I just sat in your sweat puddle.”

 

“I’ve been asleep in my sweat puddle,” Ronan shot back, “it’s grosser for me.”

 

“Debatable,” Adam said, then, “yuck. Look. Finish your drink and take a shower. Then I’ll rub your back.”

 

“I’m not gonna change my sheets,” Ronan grunted, “there’s no point in showering.”

 

“I’m not going to change your sheets either,” Adam said quickly, in case that had been something Ronan was trying to hint at, “we can share Gansey’s bed.”

 

“You’re staying?” Ronan asked.

 

“Uh,” Adam scoffed, “yeah? It’s late? And I’m baby sitting you.”

 

“Dickhead.”

 

“Whatever,” Adam said, “hurry up and get to the shower. You’re gonna want to be asleep before the painkillers wear off again.”

 

-

 

By the time Ronan reappeared from the bathroom, Adam felt very much like reneging on his agreement to rub his back and share a bed, because he was tired as hell, and also because Ronan looked very sick. God. He did not want to get sick.

 

“Don’t breathe on me,” Adam warned as Ronan came over to sit on the opposite side of Gansey’s bed to him, “If I get sick I’ going to murder you and Gansey.”

 

“Fair,” Ronan said, “shove over, then.”

 

Adam shoved over a little bit, and Ronan tugged his shirt off and all but dropped himself down on the bed.

 

“Your mother must have been a very patient lady,” Adam mumbled, fumbling with the lid of the vap rub, “you are such a petulant toddler.”

 

“Shu-up and rub m’back,” Ronan said into the mattress.

 

The vapo rub looked entirely unused, the surface unmarked. It also looked a little bit sparkly. Maybe the container hadn’t been the sparkly thing.

 

“Where do you do even buy this stuff?” He asked, breaking the perfect surface as he scooped some out on his fingers. “Magic world?”

 

Ronan didn’t deign this with a response.

 

He had never gotten such a clear view of Ronan’s tattoo before; it was possibly too intriguing watching his hand rub patterns in over the stark black patterns swirling around Ronan’s back muscles which were tense and rock like under Adam’s hands.

 

“Jesus,” Adam said, rubbing at a particularly hard knot near Ronan’s shoulder, “is your back always this gnarly?”

 

“If by gnarly you mean super fucking cool tattoo,” Ronan mumbled, sounding half asleep, “than yeah.”

 

“I mean,” Adam said, pressed in hard at the side of Ronan’s spine, “it’s way too tense. You need to stop walking about like the grim reaper, it’s hell on your back.”

 

“Fuck off.”

 

There was still - maybe - some vapo rub on Adam’s fingers, so he didn’t fuck off, just kept rubbing at Ronan’s back until it loosened. A little. He wiped his fingers on the sheet and considered telling Ronan to go back to his own bed so as to minimise the risk of Adam getting sick. Then he realised that Ronan was snoring again and sighed.

 

He screwed the lid back onto the vick’s, put it on the floor, tugged some of the blanket over Ronan’s back, and got under it himself as far away from Ronan’s diseased self as possible.