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Adam didn’t seem to be in a good mood when he came downstairs in the morning. His eyes were narrowed, his hair a mess, and his expression was sour.

“Why are you in a fucking mood?” Ronan said cheerfully, pulling a mug out of the cabinet to make Adam some coffee. He’d already been up for two hours- with farm chores to do, he was the one who woke up early for once.

“Fuck off,” Adam grumbled, rubbing his eyes. “I’m not feeling well.”

“You gonna skip work?” Ronan asked, although he already knew the answer.

“What do you think?”

“That you’re gonna be a goddamn martyr about it.” Ronan turned around and ruffled Adam’s hair.

“Exactly,” Adam said, giving a reluctant smile. By now they knew each other well enough that Ronan knew Adam could make it through work even though he was sick, and Adam knew Ronan’s asshole jokes were not intended to try and change that. Of course, they’d known those things even before they’d started dating, but now they were able to know them without getting into a fight about it.

Opal skittered down the stairs a few minutes later. Adam was picking at some dry toast and groaning a little from his sore throat.

She ran over and placed her head in Adam’s lap. He smiled softly and ran a hand through her hair.

“Adam,” she said quietly. “Don’t go.”

“You know I’ll be back in the afternoon.”

“No,” Opal said. “You feel bad. Don’t go.”

Adam sighed and closed his eyes.

“I’ll be OK, Opal,” he said.

“You made me stay in bed when I got sick,” she said, and fixed him with an irritated glare. “If I had to stay in bed, you have to stay in bed.”

Ronan laughed at that, and handed Adam the cup of coffee he’d made. “I mean, she has a point,” he said.

Adam took a sip of the coffee and grimaced, then kept drinking it anyway.

“I’m a grown up,” he said to Opal. “Grown ups can work even if they’re sick.”

“Especially if they’re stubborn bastards.”

“That’s not a nice word,” Opal said. “You can’t say it about Adam.”

“You say bad words all the time, brat.”

“Not about Adam!”

Ronan couldn’t argue with that, so he went to the other room, where Adam had set up a medicine cabinet back when Opal had gotten sick. He grabbed a handful of cough drops, ibuprofen, cold medicine, and a clump of tissues, and brought them back to the kitchen to unceremoniously stuff in Adam’s work bag.

“Oh, thanks,” Adam said, his sarcasm a little tired.

“No problem,” Ronan said, his sarcasm only half there.

 

A little after noon, Opal came hollering out into the fields, where Ronan was tending to the soybeans.

Kerah-Kerah-Kerah-Kerah!” she shouted in one long string as she ran in between the green rows.

“Jesus, what?” Ronan asked, turning to face her.

Opal caught her breath and tugged at the leg of his overalls.

“Adam,” she said.

Ronan’s breath caught in his throat.

“What happened?” he asked.

Opal shook her head. “I’m worried,” she said. “He came back. It’s too early.”

“All right, come on,” Ronan said, trying to keep his voice even as they headed back to the house, because he didn’t want to freak Opal out by panicking, and for all he knew she was being melodramatic, but maybe she wasn’t. Oh God.

It took far too long to get back to the house, and once they were there Ronan burst through the back door. He released a horrible sigh of relief when he saw Adam curled on the couch, looking like shit but not injured or dead.

“Fucking Christ,” Ronan said. “Opal, he’s fine. Don’t worry me like that.”

“But he’s sick,” she insisted, and sprinted to the couch to clamp her hand on Adam’s knee. “Kerah. Auxilium.”

Adam looked down at her with a tired fondness in his eyes and said, “Don’t be mad at her, Ronan. She was only trying to help.”

His voice was horribly strained and Ronan said, “I’m not mad, Opal. Adam, what the fuck? How sick are you?”

“Sorry,” Adam said, his voice a raspy whisper. “I couldn’t really make it through the day at work. They sent me home.”

“Jesus fuck,” Ronan said. He couldn’t bear to watch Adam in pain like this.

Adam shrugged, his face scrunching up in pain, and closed his eyes.

“Kerah,” Opal said, in a rather admonishing tone, sinking her nails further into Adam’s knee.

“Let him go, kid,” Ronan said, and walked over to the couch. He put an arm around Adam’s shoulder and one under Adam’s legs, fully intending to pick him up.

“What are you doing?” Adam asked.

“Getting you into bed.”

“I can walk,” Adam said, then coughed horrifically.

“You can also shut up for once in your life, Parrish,” Ronan said, lifting Adam into his arms- he really was incredibly easy to carry- and walking over to the stairs. Opal trailed behind, peering up to see how Adam was doing.

Adam groaned when Ronan set him on their bed.

“Fuck,” he muttered. “I’m cold.”

“Get under the blanket,” Ronan said.

“You don’t have to take care of me, I’m fine,” Adam said, getting under the blanket. “I-” he coughed, “I don’t know why they,” another cough, “sent me home. Fuck,” and then he shivered and groaned in pain again, pulling the blanket further around him.

Ronan looked at him pointedly and Adam managed to glare back at him.

“Fuck off,” he whispered, “I’m fine.”

“Sure,” Ronan said. “You’re gonna be the death of me, Parrish. Just admit that you’re sick.”

“No,” Adam said, before letting out a sound like a dying cat and coughing up a glob of mucus onto the blanket.

“That’s fucking disgusting,” Ronan said.

“Gross!” Opal added cheerfully, her mood seemingly improved now that Ronan was ‘taking care’ of Adam.

“Sorry,” Adam muttered. “Do we have any tissues or whatever?”

“I’ll get you tissues if you admit you’re sick and let me take care of you.”

“Fuck you.”

Ronan shook his head, more affectionately than anything, and ducked into the bathroom to grab a paper towel to clean up the blanket, then tucked Adam in. Opal tried to climb into bed beside him.

“No, Opal, I’m sick,” Adam said. “You might catch it.”

“So you are sick?” Ronan said, turning from the doorway where he’d gone in search of tissues.

Adam gave him a narrow-eyed glare.

 

“Kerah! Kerah what are you doing?”

Opal had been running around the house in an effort to help Adam get better. She’d only been sick one time in her life, a stomach flu, and she was convinced that Adam’s bad cold would be deadly if she didn’t provide him with a steady stream of stuffed animals, dream trinkets, candy wrappers, and her favorite acorns.

“I’m picking mint,” Ronan said, holding up the ceramic bowl of leaves as proof. “And I was trying to dream up some chamomile and ginger-root too.”

“What’s- ginder- gin- what’s that?”

“Some shit that I read is good for sore throats.”

Opal sighed. “I think he needs ice cream.”

Ronan was sure he would grow to rue the day he let Adam buy Opal an ice cream cone back in June.

“We’re not getting ice cream,” he said. “I’m making him tea and you can sit down for a second if you really want to help.”

Opal fixed him with an intense stare.

“Ice cream,” she said very slowly, like she was trying to hypnotize him.

“Not gonna work.”

She scrunched up her face and ran inside. Ronan rolled his eyes and finished picking the mint, and picked up the sad attempt at chamomile flowers that his brain had brought up and stuck that in the bowl too.

When he went inside, he was greeted with Opal at the bottom of the stairs, smiling triumphantly, and she said, “Adam said we can get ice cream.”

“God damn it, Parrish,” Ronan muttered.

Once they got back from a quick trip to the supermarket with two cartons of ice cream- one vanilla, one birthday cake (Opal’s favorite)- Ronan finished making Adam tea and brought it upstairs.

When he pushed the door lightly open, he saw that Adam was asleep. He was curled up with his hands fisted into the blanket, a line of drool coming out of his mouth onto the pillow, and his hair a mess of gold-white light in the gentle afternoon sun coming in from the window. The pain from his face seemed to be gone, which made Ronan’s shoulders fall in relief- at least he was resting, at least for now he felt all right.

He set the mug of tea down by the windowsill and closed the curtain, dimming the light in the room. Then he walked over and gave Adam a gentle kiss on the forehead.

Adam stirred a little, but was still asleep. He must have been so tired.

“Is he OK?” Opal stage-whispered from the door. She was holding a bowl of birthday cake ice cream.

“Yeah, shh,” Ronan said. “Come on.”

He led her downstairs to keep her busy, putting on a movie for her to watch while she messed with a pile of dream play-dough and he went through inventories for the farm. Every so often (which was about every twenty minutes or so, out of a combination of procrastinating the inventory work and being worried about Adam), he went upstairs to check on Adam.

The fifth time he checked, Adam was awake. He still looked miserable, but a little less exhausted now- eyes droopy, expression lazy.

“Hey,” he said, voice still raspy, when he saw Ronan.

“Hey,” Ronan said. “Want some ice cream? Since apparently you’re the one who makes the decisions in this house.”

“What?” Adam said. “Oh, right. Sorry, I know, I’m a pushover with her.”

Ronan forced a scowl, looking off to the side, and said, “Whatever, you’re sick, weak defenses.”

“Yeah,” Adam said, turning over onto his side and groaning in pain.

“You need anything?” Ronan asked.

“Nah,” Adam said.

Ronan moved to leave, then said, “You should keep drinking fluids and shit.”

“I know,” Adam said, gesturing to the glass of water Ronan had put by the bed.

“And, like, take another DayQuil. It’s been six fucking hours.”

“OK,” Adam said, reaching over to rip open the little packet of pills and struggling.

“I’ll do it,” Ronan said, heading over, and took the packet out of his hands, taking out the pills and handing them over. Adam took them, shuddering when he swallowed.

“God, that’s awful.”

He leaned back against the pillow and closed his eyes. Ronan’s chest hurt.

“Need anything else?” he asked, because he wanted to stay.

“Mmm,” Adam mumbled. “Dunno. I’m good.”

He seemed to be going back to sleep, so Ronan said, “All right,” and headed for the door.

“Wait,” Adam said, and Ronan instantly turned to look at him.

“What?”

“Could you… could you stay?” Adam asked, his head tilted a little to the side. “Just keep me company?”

“Yeah,” Ronan said immediately. “Sure.”

He walked back to the bed and Adam moved over gently. Ronan sat down at the edge of the bed and looked down at Adam. In the grey-dim light of the room, with all the exhaustion of the day on him, he looked so innocent and quiet and sleepy.

Ronan picked up his hand and kissed it.

“Don’t,” Adam said. “You’ll get sick.”

“Don’t care,” Ronan said, leaning in to kiss Adam’s lips, and stopping only when Adam let out a hoarse laugh.

“What?” Ronan snapped, without heat.

“I’m sorry,” Adam said. “That’s just such a… rom-com move… not caring if you get sick…”

“Fuck you,” Ronan muttered, and gave Adam a soft kiss just to spite him.

Adam let out a sigh.

“This is nice,” he whispered.

“Being sick?” Ronan said, raising his eyebrows.

“No,” he said. “You taking care of me.”

“Oh, you’re letting me take care of you?”

“Fuck off. It’s nice is what I said.”

“Fine,” Ronan said, because Adam was tired and so he was tired, too. “I’ll be nice if you want me to be fucking nice. You want me to get you a fucking wet towel for your head? Make you chicken soup or some shit?”

Adam gave him a tired smile.

“Actually,” he said, “if you could tell me a story or something to distract me?”

Ronan smiled back at him. He ran a hand through Adam’s messy, sweat-damp hair.

“Sure,” he said, and began telling him an old fairy tale.

 

The next day, Calla came over, and she had a plastic bag of weird herbs and roots in her purse.

“Maura had a feeling,” she said, “and we did a reading and I’m guessing your boyfriend has a cold.”

“Witch,” Ronan said, and let her into the house.

Opal ran to hide behind the couch. She was a little frightened of Calla still.

“Don’t be fucking rude,” Ronan said to her. Then to Calla, “What the fuck am I supposed to do with all this shit?”

Calla headed into the kitchen.

“This,” she said, putting a clump of dried herbs onto the table, “you grind up, put into a teabag, make it into tea. Good for the throat. This,” she said, taking out a knobbly crystal and a bit of bark, “put into some cheesecloth and stick under his pillow.”

“That’s some satanic ritual shit,” Ronan said.

“You want him to get better or not?”

“He can’t just take fucking cough syrup?”

“This works better. I haven’t had a cold in years. But since you’re such a smartass, I can just take it back.”

“Whatever,” Ronan said, snatching up the crystal and the bark and looking for something that would work as cheesecloth.

Opal emerged from the side door in the kitchen and said shyly, “Calla, can you make Adam better?”

“I’m trying,” Calla said. “Maybe if your parents weren’t so stubborn, it would go a little faster.”

“They’re not my parents, they’re my guardians,” Opal said, her voice matter-of-fact. “Adam told me that guardians is what you call it if they aren’t your bi- bile- biogolical parents.”

She’d been asking a lot about what exactly her position in the family was. Ronan and Adam both had been fine with calling her a daughter to make it simpler, but Opal wanted a more specific definition for herself.

Calla said, “Well, tell your guardians, then, to shut up and accept my help.”

“Shut up, Ronan!” Opal exclaimed.

Ronan put a hand to his forehead.

Calla set the dream-kettle to boil, and gave Ronan more instructions on how to use her weird natural remedies. When the kettle began whistling, she turned to it and at the same time, Adam burst into the kitchen.

“Ronan, what the fuck?” he said, and his voice was still scratchy and sore. “It’s 10 am, I’m gonna be late, why’d you turn my alarm off?”

Ronan narrowed his eyes. “You have got to be fucking kidding me, Parrish.”

Adam ran a hand over his forehead in exasperation.

“Just because I live here,” he said, “doesn’t mean that you’re in charge of my schedule. We’ve fucking been over this-”

“I didn’t say that,” Ronan said. “You’re sick, Adam. I wanted you to rest.”

“Well, I have to go to work.”

“I called in for you. I told them you were still sick.”

“And you didn’t ask me?”

“You were asleep!” Jesus Christ, sometimes Adam was impossible.

Calla, standing with her arms crossed by the kettle, said, “I’m not going to get involved in this lovers’ quarrel-”

“Good,” Ronan snapped.

“-but I’m just going to say-”

“I thought you weren’t getting involved.”

“I’m just going to say,” Calla repeated, louder, “that it wouldn’t kill you to have a discussion on what to do if this situation comes up again. Otherwise you’re gonna have a goddamn fight every time.”

She held her hand out to Opal, who was standing in the corner of the kitchen looking upset- oh no, fuck, fuck no- and said, “Come on, do you want me to show you my tarot cards again? While your guardians have a chat.”

“Opal,” Ronan said. “Hey. We’re not upset at you, you know that, right?”

Opal looked up at him, and bit her lip.

“I just want Adam to be OK,” she said. “I don’t want him to be sad.”

She let go of Calla’s hand and ran to throw her arms around Adam’s legs.

“Please don’t fight,” she said against them.

Adam’s face fell, and Ronan felt his heart drop further.

He knew Calla was right. They needed to talk about this- about Adam’s need to work himself to the bone, and how Ronan didn’t seem to get it. He also knew that Adam was still sick and he didn’t have the energy to defend his position if Ronan disagreed with him.

“We’re not gonna fight,” Ronan said, walking over and very gently placing a hand on Opal’s head. “Just talk. I promise. Go fuck around with Calla’s tarot cards.”

Adam pried Opal off his legs carefully, ruffled her hair and said in a soft voice, “I’m sorry, Opal.”

Opal quirked her head at him, said, “It’s OK,” and followed Calla into the living room.

“Shit,” Adam muttered, leaning against the counter. “I really fucked this up.”

“No, you didn’t,” Ronan said. “It’s not your fault Opal got upset. She’s upset ‘cause you’re sick and she doesn’t want to see you be hurt, ever.”

“You were right,” Adam said. “I shouldn’t go to work… God, how stupid am I? People are supposed to take sick days, it’s not fucking against the law. Why can’t I just take a goddamn sick day?”

His elbows against the counter shook a little, and Ronan ran over and held him steady.

Adam’s face was horribly crumpled, and his voice was all raspy, and he was unkempt. Ronan leaned in closer against him, trying to say with his arms and hands what he couldn’t with his voice.

“You,” he began, then started again. “None of this is your fault. Do you think- we’re not mad at you for trying to go to work.”

“But you should be,” Adam said.

“No, we shouldn’t be. It isn’t your fault-”

“How is me trying to go to work not my fault?”

“Because- because- I don’t know. Why do you insist on doing it?”

Adam’s shoulders fell further. He leaned his head against Ronan’s chest.

“I have to,” he whispered, facing the floor. “If I skip work, I’m nothing but a lazy freeloader. Don’t you get that?”

Ronan inhaled sharply, keeping his gaze even on the kitchen counter. Adam didn’t have to tell him who had put the idea in his head that not working endlessly made him less worthy- not just his parents, but everyone who saw him in his ratty sweaters at Aglionby and thought he didn’t really deserve it, everyone who told him that he was impressive because of his rags-to-riches story and nothing else.

“I know, I know,” Adam said. “It’s not true, you don’t see me that way-”

“You aren’t that way,” Ronan said. “You work so hard, you matter so much, to me, to Opal, to so many people. You’re so much more than how much you go to work, God, Adam- you shouldn’t feel guilty for taking a break when you’re fucking sick-”

He pulled Adam closer to him and held him up.

“I know,” Adam said quietly. “I know that, it’s just hard to remember.”

Ronan ran a hand up Adam’s back and rubbed circles into his neck. Adam let out a ragged sigh.

“Can I please,” Ronan ventured, “take you upstairs and give you all this herbal remedy shit that Calla brought?”

“Wow, always dreamed you would ask me that,” Adam said sarcastically.

“Fuck you.”

 

Technically he should have, and could have, been doing his farm work. Adam was eighteen years old and he’d had a cold before. Also, Ronan needed to get his work done. He’d put a lot of dream stuff into the soil and the animal feed to lighten the work load a little by helping out through magical means, but that didn’t mean he could just neglect his chores.

And yet he was. Because he couldn’t bear to leave Adam alone when he was sick. And also, in some horrible twisted way, he was enjoying it- the chance to take care of Adam, wait on him hand and foot, which he would never fucking admit to because it was embarrassing, and selfish, considering that it came at the expense of Adam being sick.

Ronan had, reluctantly, called Declan to ask how exactly one called the doctor to make appointments, and after taking Adam to the Lynches’ physician, they’d found out that he was just suffering from a really bad cold. Adam had seemed almost disappointed about this, like he’d been hoping it was something bad enough to really merit missing work, but Ronan was relieved. The doctor had told him what he already fucking knew, which was that Adam needed to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take some over-the-counter cold medication.

It was easy to interpret that as ‘Adam needed literally anything he wanted and everything else can go fuck itself, actually.’

“Ronan, I’m fine,” Adam said, rolling over onto his back and giving Ronan a dreary-eyed look. “Just go do your work.”

Ronan ignored this and went to fetch more pillows to put under Adam’s feet, saying, “Your feet need to be up, dumbass.”

“That’s for foot injuries, not the common cold.”

“Whatever.”

Adam made an attempt at rolling his eyes, then winced and said, “Aah. My head hurts.”

Probably Ronan should have been immune by now to feeling his chest constrict every time Adam winced in pain.

He leaned over and kissed Adam’s forehead, adding sarcastically, “All better?”

“You’re the worst,” Adam said. “Really, the worst.”

“I wonder how much pain medicine you’re technically allowed to take,” Ronan said, picking up one of the ten different over-the-counter medication bottles he’d picked up at the supermarket.

“Don’t give me any more,” Adam said.

“Well, what do you think would make you feel better?”

“Probably just waiting it out,” Adam said.

He closed his eyes, squeezed them shut, and burrowed further into the blankets. Ronan’s shoulders got tight.

“You’re cold?” he asked.

Adam nodded.

“Should I turn up the heat in here?”

“What, no, it’s summer,” Adam said.

“I could get you a heating pad.”

“Do you even have one?”

“OK, do you want more blankets? A softer blanket?”

“I want you to shut up and let me suffer in peace.”

Opal trotted in just then and peeked her head into the room, whispering, “Kerah. Kerah.”

Adam’s eyes opened and his head lolled over, giving her a small smile. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled back.

“The soup you made,” she said. “It’s all heated up, I think.”

“You made soup?” Adam said.

“Shit,” Ronan said, and ran out the door to go check on the soup.

It hadn’t burned, but it might have if Ronan hadn’t turned down the heat in time. He added some spices and other stuff and stirred it until it tasted normal again.

Then he ladled some into a bowl from the cabinet and carried it up the stairs.

Opal was curled up in the bed next to Adam, holding a bouquet of crumpled wildflowers she’d been out picking all morning. He was talking to her in a quiet voice, soft from the soreness.

“You see this part here?”

“Yeah,” Opal said, looking to where Adam was pointing in the flower.

“That produces all the pollen. It’s called the stamen.”

“Stamen,” Opal repeated.

“Hey, birdbrain, let him rest,” Ronan said from the door. “It’s not time for school.”

Opal hissed at him, then placed the flowers gently on the blanket and kissed Adam’s nose. “Make it better,” she said, and jumped off the bed to run out the door.

Ronan was sure his face looked as disgustingly endeared as Adam’s did. He walked in with the bowl of soup and sat back down next to the bed.

“So, you did make soup,” Adam said.

“I had to do something with all the fucking zucchini,” Ronan said.

“Sure,” Adam said, propping himself up on his elbows to reach for it. Ronan batted his hands away.

“You can’t possibly feed yourself in this state.”

Adam narrowed his eyes at him. “No.”

“Yes,” Ronan said, and of lifted a spoonful soup up, blowing on it to cool it down, and then brought it to Adam’s face.

Adam kept looking at him.

“Eat the damn soup, Parrish. I worked hard on it.”

“You almost burned it, it sounds like.”

“It’s fucking delicious. I’m gonna be seriously offended if you don’t try this fucking soup.”

Adam sighed, then said, “Fine,” and took a sip of the soup. His face lit up.

“Shit,” he said. “This is really good.”

“Told you,” Ronan said, and grinned.

He spooned some more soup out and lifted the spoon to Adam’s mouth. Adam let himself relax a little, drinking the warm vegetable broth. It was quiet for a bit, Adam humming contentedly while the soup temporarily soothed his throat, Ronan gazing at him lovingly.

“You’ve never made this soup before,” Adam said, after a while. Ronan was pleased to hear that his voice sounded a little less scratchy.

“Yeah, it’s an old recipe,” Ronan said.

Adam quirked an eyebrow.

“A family recipe,” Ronan clarified. “My mom used to make it every time one of us got sick. Then she would feed it to us and sing us lullabies.”

“Sounds nice,” Adam said.

“Yeah.”

They didn’t say anything, letting the heaviness of the thought of mothers and families sink into the shadowed summer bedroom.

“Lullabies, huh?” Adam said after a while.

“Yeah, like old Irish lullabies and shit.”

“You remember any of them?”

“I’m not fucking singing to you.”

Adam smiled. “You’ve sang to me before. And you’re already spoon-feeding me.”

Ronan rolled his eyes and said, “All right, loser.”

He sang lullaby after lullaby, all the ones he could remember, and then a few songs that weren’t lullabies but were quiet enough to work, and finished feeding Adam his soup, and then ran a hand through his hair and sang, watching the quiet, mesmerized expression on his face, and then how Adam’s eyes sank and fell into sleep.

 

When Adam woke up from his afternoon nap, it was late, and he was restless under the covers.

“God,” he snapped, when Ronan walked in. “I fucking hate being sick.”

“You sound a little better,” Ronan said, walking over to adjust the covers on the bed.

“I feel a little better,” Adam said. “But I also feel fucking shitty for lying around in bed all day. God damn it.”

Then he added, “Sorry to complain about it.”

“Adam,” Ronan said, leaning down to cup Adam’s face in his hands. “There’s nothing to be sorry about. You can do whatever you need.”

Adam looked up into Ronan’s eyes and let out a long sigh.

“I feel kind of gross,” he said. “Sweaty. All these fucking blankets. And the skin around my nose is all raw.”

“I dreamt up a lotion for that,” Ronan said, and turned to the cabinet. He’d been dreaming all afternoon for Adam’s various small ailments. Vaseline, he’d decided, was not quite right for the rough skin on Adam’s nose, and Kleenex were not nearly soft enough, and the cough drops they kept in the house were gross.

“Here,” he said, taking out a small container of moisturizer and dabbing it around Adam’s nostrils.

“I can do that myself, believe it or not,” Adam said. “This is getting ridiculous.”

“I want to take care of you,” Ronan said.

“I know,” Adam said. “It’s kind of… humiliating.”

Ronan raised an eyebrow. He could see how it would be humiliating, if he thought about it, but he thought if anything he was the one acting embarrassingly- obsessing over Adam, running to get anything he needed.

“Thought you liked giving me orders,” he said finally, with a suggestive glance.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Adam said, but he was smiling.

Ronan sat down on the edge of the bed and pushed Adam’s sweat-damp hair back from his face. He said, gently now, “Seriously, Adam. What would help?”

Adam sighed, pushed himself to a sitting position, and said, “Could you help me get into the shower? I should wash off all this sweat but I’m too fucking tired.”

“I could draw you a bath,” Ronan said. “Might be easier.”

“Yeah, actually,” Adam said. “Good idea.”

Ronan opened his mouth to argue, then realized with a start that Adam hadn’t protested the idea of taking a bath. He couldn’t believe it had taken two days of being sick for Adam to finally let Ronan take care of him without protest.

Jesus Christ. They had to be the most difficult couple on the face of the earth.

 

After the bath, which had been filled with herbal oils and bath soaps that Ronan had dreamt to create calming fumes, and which had led to Adam sinking into a quiet relaxation while Ronan softly ran his hands all over his skin, Adam was finally curled up in bed, with fresh sheets and a cozy blanket and watching some boring-ass documentary on Ronan’s laptop that he inexplicably found fascinating.

Ronan went to check on the animals, who were doing OK- Opal had apparently gone out to clean up after the cows at one point, completely unprompted, which was sweet and impressively responsible. Then he did a quick check on all the fields to ensure none of the crops were majorly fucked over by his negligence.

By the time he was done, the sun had set, and he came back into the house to see that Opal had eaten the dinner he’d prepared for her and was now reading a Baby-Sitters Club book that Blue had given her.

“Come on, kid, time for bed,” he said, reaching down to ruffle her hair.

She glared up at him and said, “I wanna say good night to Adam first.”

“Of course,” he said, and she jumped off the couch to dash upstairs to his and Adam’s room.

Ronan followed after her, and saw that she’d wrapped herself around Adam to give him a clinging hug. Adam kissed the top of her head and said, “All right, be careful. Don’t stay up too late reading.”

“I won’t,” she said, angelic, because if Adam told her not to stay up late, then she would actually listen. Fucking typical.

She stayed for a bit longer to tell Adam about her day, including the dramatic story she’d made up about a feud between two of the chickens, and how she had resolved it with her excellent bird mediation skills. Adam listened intently, eyes widening in genuine pride and surprise, and told her he was sorry he’d had to be in bed the whole time.

“That’s OK,” Opal said. “You needed to rest.”

Then she handed him a smooth rock from her shirt pocket and said, “I found it in the stream. I think it’s magic. You have to put it here to make you feel better.”

“Thank you,” Adam said graciously, and put it on the bedside table with the pile of other things Opal had given him over the past two days.

“Seriously,” Ronan said, shaking his head. “Time for bed.”

Opal reluctantly let Ronan carry her to her room and tuck her into bed. She whispered a Latin phrase in his ear before he left, a reminder to be gentle when healing.

When Ronan went back to his room, Adam was lying down, comfortable under the blanket. Ronan changed out of his clothes from the day and got into bed next to him.

“You feeling better?” he asked, tucking his arm under Adam.

“Yeah,” Adam said. His voice sounded almost back to normal now. “I think that last nap and the bath really did it. I’m gonna take one more day off just to be safe, and then I think I can go back to work.”

“Really?” Ronan asked.

“Yeah. I know, I’m not being a martyr for once or whatever.”

“It’s good,” Ronan said. “You should get all the days off you need. I’m glad.”

Adam rested his head against Ronan’s shoulder, and he said, “Thank you, by the way. For being so patient and kind.”

“Fuck you,” Ronan said. “I’m not patient and kind.”

“Yes, you are. And gentle and caring and softhearted, and uh, emotional and sentimental-”

Ronan shut him up by kissing him, and Adam said once they broke apart, “I swear, if you caught this bug from me, I am not going to wait on you hand and foot.”

“Liar,” Ronan whispered. “Remember the time I got the flu over winter break?”

“You were whiny as shit.”

“Yeah, and you took care of me anyway.”

“I always will,” Adam said, quieter than before.

Ronan kissed his right ear and said, “Me, too.”