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Came in Like a Thunderstorm

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It was a cold day in San Francisco, the fog rolling further into the city today, creating an ethereal glow when mixed with the city lights, like some other world that wasn’t earthly. To Ronan Lynch, local bookshop owner and curmudgeon, it was both beautiful and a nuisance. Ronan could only think of getting to work on time, traffic already atrocious in this city, made a thousand times worse when it was hard to see the car ahead of you.

“Hey, be a dear and pick up some milk on your way home, could you?”

Ronan’s new roommate, Gansey, was driving him up the wall. While yes they were new to living with each other they weren’t new to being friends, having been friends for over a decade now. Living together, though, was testing that friendship. Ronan had been known to be noted as slovenly on more than one occasion, but Gansey took the cake for being a mess. He had papers and books cluttered in any available crevice throughout the house, not to mention all the mint plants he started collecting and placing by every window. Ronan made the mistake of one day asking him what the fuck was up with all the mint plants and Gansey actually responded with a real, genuine answer that Ronan tuned out almost immediately.

“Be a dear and get the fuck off the sofa,” Ronan replied tersely, staring out the window into the street outside, seeing nothing but fog and hints of color of cars passing. “Get a job or something.”

“I don’t need a job,” Gansey groaned. He was still wearing yesterday’s pajamas and four day old bedhead. His glasses were crooked on his face and a sticky note was casually stuck to his cheek. Ronan peeled it off when Gansey followed his movement to the living room. “I- ouch - am almost at my breakthrough. I’m so close, I can feel it.”

Ronan turned away from the madness that had swallowed up his living room, grabbing his book bag by the table at the front door, checking it for his keys. “You felt it back in Henrietta, and you felt it in England and you felt it in-”

“Okay, god , I get it,” Gansey snapped. He slumped back down onto the sofa cushions, disappearing from sight from where Ronan was standing. “I swear this time is different.”

“Mm.” Ronan was going to say something else, but as he opened his mouth his fingers brushed against the cold metal of his house keys, and he was reminded he was late for work. “Yeah, sure, Gansey,” he said. Stricken with mild guilt over his half hearted attempt at getting through to his best friend, he moved closer to the sofa again, halfway between it and the front door. He still couldn’t see Gansey over the back of the sofa, who was likely wallowing, face buried against pillows. “I’m heading out. I’ll see you tonight. Take a shower, Dick. You smell like shit. Not even your mint plants can hide that.”

Gansey grunted an uninvested response, enough of one to satisfy Ronan’s qualms. With keys in hand he turned on his heel, barely catching Gansey shooting up to an upright position again.

“Don’t forget the milk!”

Ronan had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from saying anything to that. Instead, he curtly nodded and left.

Gansey was only his roommate for a few months, and the only reason he was Ronan’s roommate was he became desperate recently, with the inclining price of living conditions in the Bay Area. His inheritance from his father’s death only did so much, and because of Declan most of that was sitting in some bullshit bank somewhere anyway, untouchable until it grew or diversified or whatever the fuck Declan said that he didn’t really hear. He only really did it because Matthew said it was a good idea, and so did his mother.

Gansey needed somewhere to live after he had a falling out with his parents when he said he didn’t want to become a politician, instead focus on finding dead kings and following ghost conspiracy theories. He really fell down hard, though, when his old British friend from England passed away. Ronan didn’t know what to make of these recent turn of events, this not being the Gansey he grew up with, the prim and proper and always solid Gansey that always knew what to say or do. But he helped Ronan through a rough patch back in high school after his dad died, and now Ronan was there to help him through his, best he knew how.

Ronan owned a small little bookstore at North Beach, its main dedication to Irish culture and history, with sub sections about cars and farming. Strangely enough, it had a small following in the city of hipsters, so it helped pay the bills enough to keep him afloat, and it was a quiet enough job that didn’t require too much socializing. Most of the people that came in to shop liked to keep to themselves much like him, as it was the perfect location for locals and a little out of reach for the curious tourist.

He enjoyed his life in the city, with a good collection of friends, some he met here and some who matriculated here shortly after he did. There wasn’t much need for anything else, although his friends would argue differently.

That morning, the fog was only barely starting to clear when he reached his shop a few blocks down from his apartment, a literal walk, which was nice in a city where parking was almost impossible. Sitting outside on the pavement, legs tucked under her with a book already in her lap, was his only repeating customer that never bought a single thing. A young girl around twelve or thirteen, who barely spoke a word to him and who he acknowledged only with little nods or looks. This silent bond they built over the collection of months was one of the few highlights he had each week. He almost smiled at her when she heard him coming, but that would’ve ruined the moment. Normally he didn’t take to kids, but she minded her own business and kept to herself so how could he not.

Every week she came in, hours varying, day of the week varying, and she would sit in the corner and read part of a new book. Sometimes it was in the farming category, sometimes the cars one, sometimes the Irish one. That, too, changed based on the day. Finally, last week he told her she could take the one she had been reading for nearly a month home, so long as she promised to bring it back when she was finished. She looked to be almost done, which was impressive.

“You’re late,” she said, standing up when he moved to unlock the door.

He glanced down at her, already in a rough mood. Being scolded for his lateness by a child was not improving it.

“Sorry,” he grumbled. “I know I’ve set back so many people’s days. All these people out here waiting to buy books held up by twenty minutes.”

Her tiny little brow folded into itself as she frowned. “You could be a comedian,” she said dryly.

Ronan fought back a smirk as he unlatched the last lock on the door. “I do stand up every Sunday at the comedy club downtown,” he said.

The girl, Opal, rolled her eyes as she slipped in first through the doorway before he could.

After settling in when the shop was properly open, the majority of Ronan’s day went by as they all did. Opal settled into a corner of the shop in the back where she was likely not going to be disturbed until she inevitably decided to leave. People filtered in and out, wandering the aisles, sometimes buying books, rarely asking questions. The books were often self explanatory. They were about Ireland. Or farming. Or cars. Little else was needed in terms of detail. Lunch came around and Ronan briefly closed up shop and went across the street to get some lunch, always getting a little more than he needed to give to the girl. He knew she should have been at school right now, but he hated school and felt it hypocritical of him if he tried to enforce her to go when he wouldn’t have. She was still learning here, just non traditionally.

They were eating lunch together quietly, each mulling over a different book, when Ronan’s day started to shape up into something untraditional. Someone else came into the shop as Ronan was finishing up his sandwich, noticing the new person shape out of the corner of his eye as the shop’s bell dinged when the front door opened. The sign at the door still said closed, which meant this someone either hadn’t noticed or completely ignored the sign and barged in anyway. EIther way, Ronan was a little miffed someone came in on his lunch. He started to tell them that they were closed for another thirty minutes, but when he peered over the book he was reading (a biography about the historical feud between Lamborghini and Ferrari), he held his tongue.

The patron moved into one of the aisles closer to the register counter, where Ronan was currently stationed behind finishing up his chips. The unfamiliar face awkwardly shambled around, looking lost. His brow turned as he watched in wonder this fanciful thing picking aimlessly at books, clearly not interested in a single one. He then noticed someone pacing back and forth outside the display window, and he wondered if their strange behaviors were related.

For perhaps the first time ever, he set his book down and actively gained interest in a customer, current child company not included.

“Shouldn’t you be yelling at him right now?” Opal said, her face also buried in a book as she sat beside him behind the counter. She didn’t even look up as she spoke.

Ronan didn’t know what to say to that. Instead, he folded his brow and waved her away. “Finish your sandwich,” he said to her. To the gentleman meandering one of the aisles of his shop, he spoke up a little and said, “Do you need any help?”

His question came as a bit of a shock to the young man, who very nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of his voice. He was wearing sunglasses indoors, a baseball cap that smushed his brown hair, which was peeking out the edges at the nape, and he had on a large scarf wrapped round half his face. That, attached to jeans and a simple black jacket, made for a strange outfit. Not that Ronan was one to talk. He wore the most basic of clothes, functional and simple (and usually dark colored).

“I’m fine,” the man stuttered out, turning away with a hand at his scarf, pulling it tighter around his face.

Ronan wasn’t so sure. The person outside was still pacing, and quite frankly Ronan was bored reading his book. This was more fascinating. This man and his odd outfit was curious. This was San Francisco, a city where people could come in wearing some of the oddest outfits at times, but this was more a disguise than anything. Even Ronan could see that.

“Are you looking for something specific?” he asked.

“No,” the man said curtly. “Just browsing.” He continued to keep his gaze down, visibly disinterested. It was clear he was a little put off by Ronan’s presence, distancing himself with his body language. Normally that wouldn’t bother him, except this time he made some form of an effort, and that was a little annoying.

Well fuck this guy, I guess , Ronan thought.

Giving the man what he clearly wanted, he backed off, frowning. Back behind the register, Opal was still sitting with her nose in her book, but he could see a smirk split across her face. Her amusement annoyed him even more. He rolled his eyes and turned back. Persistence wasn’t in his forte, but he was annoyed enough by this guy he felt the need to. He didn’t understand it, either.

His persistence went unnoticed, the young man never once looking up from his book. Either it was extremely fascinating or he was trying very hard to be invisible. He was examining the back of the book, a small thin paperback about beers and stouts of Ireland. His long, slender fingers were rapping against the paperboard, until finally he must have realized Ronan was still beside him. His eyes shifted a little behind his sunglasses, taking him in.

“Do you like beer?” Ronan asked.

The man made a small sound that sounded like a snort. He shook his head, some of the brown hair tucked around his ears slipping out of his hat. “Not really,” he said. His fingers paused on the book’s cover. “Why?”

“Just really like reading about hops then?”

“Hops?” It was then he must have taken proper notice of what he was reading. “Oh,” he said, and he put the book away back on the shelves. Almost self consciously, he folded his arms across his chest, with nothing else for them to do. He remained at a distance from Ronan, continuing to stand facing the books, profile to him. Ronan understood the body language well, silently pleading to be left alone. He moved back a few steps, ready to return to behind his counter, where at least he didn’t feel like a jackass. The man noted his movement, his head turned to follow him.

“Is this your bookstore?” the man asked.

“No, I hang around the shop for kicks, approach the customers and harass them until they tell me to fuck off.” He sounded like a smartass. He was a smartass.

The man looked down at the ground and smiled mildly at his feet, nodding along to what he said. An unusual reaction to his smartass-ery. “How long does it usually take for someone to tell you to fuck off?”

Ronan smiled, too. “Not as long as this has. I think you’ve outlasted everyone else. New record.”

“Mm. I have a high tolerance for dumbass,” the man quipped.

Even while still wearing his sunglasses, Ronan could tell the man was looking at him through them. Their eyes were locked for a few seconds as together they silently reveled in the amusement of their combined jackass responses. For a moment, he almost forgot where they were, that he was at work, trying to sell a book to this man. When he remembered again, he dropped his gaze, running a hand over the smooth of his scalp, riddled with something he couldn’t quite place.

“Are you going to buy a book or not?” He sounded agitated, but he was more agitated with himself than with his one and only current customer.

But that wasn’t so easily explained in how he posed the question to him, and the man hesitated to reply, startled by his swift attitude adjustment.

“I’m not sure,” he said.

Ronan didn’t know how to explain himself, and so he didn’t. He chewed on his lip, looking at the man whose gaze was drifting back towards the exit. It wouldn’t surprise him if the man were to leave now thanks to him. He felt like rolling his eyes at himself, at his behavior. It took a lot of effort not to make another smartass comment as some sort of defense mechanism, to detach further from what was starting to be a nice conversation.

“You know, since you’re already fucking here and wandering around like a chicken who got its head cut off, there’s a book I’ve got over here that might interest you. A starter book about Irish culture, if that’s a thing you’re into.”

Even as the words came out of his mouth he was shocked this was him talking. Actively seeking conversation with someone. Offering them insight in books. He was bewitched with curiosity. It didn’t hurt the one who had him curious was, well, attractive. Very. He chewed his lip again as he reached around the front of the aisle for one of the books on center display, a book about modern day Ireland for the novice.

The man’s eyes subtly followed him as he moved, and then they dropped to the book between them as Ronan offered it over. When he held it, he took a long moment to examine it, front and back. Then he chuckled, soft and tiny little laughs, which he tried to disguise with a hand to his face.

“Don’t tell me, you have it already in hardback and signed by the author,” Ronan joked.

“No, I…” The man cleared his throat, and looked back up. “I just came from a long visit to Ireland, actually. I lived there a couple months.”

“Wow.” There was a soft little southern twang to his words that woke something up inside him. It reminded him of the warm summer nights he spent in his family home, sticky hot from the humidity with the only way of cooling down was sitting on the roof with ice water dunked on his head.

Ronan chewed his lip again for a second, before adding, “I would have appreciated if you told me that before I reached all the way over there for that book.”

One of the man’s eyebrows lifted above the rim of his sunglass frames, and he shook his head with silent amusement in response. His responses were small and subtle, but when Ronan managed to see one he was inspired to strive for more. “You don’t look that put out,” the man said. “After all, this is your job isn’t it?” he teased.

Ronan scoffed noncommittally. His idea of flirting was making a mess of himself with sarcasm and bad jokes that often were misconstrued as being an asshole (even though he was often also being an asshole). So it was often impossible to know if someone was flirting back, especially if they played his game at being a sarcastic asshole back. He then gestured for the book in the man’s nice hands, silently asking for it back. When the man realized that’s what he was asking he looked between him and the book and then handed it over again.

As Ronan returned it to its place, he kept his eyes on him, as if he would disappear if he looked away for even a second. He wasn’t all too sure he wanted him to leave just yet. This small interaction was the highlight of a rather mundane week - month - god, could he admit year?

“Since you’re apparently an Ireland expert-” he jested.

“I wouldn’t say that,” the man interjected.

He ignored him as if he said nothing. “I would recommend some of the books on the next aisle over,” he said. “That is, if you think you can handle it.”

The man’s smile peeked out a little from under his scarf. He rolled his eyes only slightly, visible through the tint of his sunglasses. “I think I can handle it,” he said.

The pair of them started to head over to the aisle one over, until they reached past the edge of the bookshelf, where the man hesitated to follow after him. Ronan caught the hesitation, confused.

“Is that guy still out there?” he asked him.

“What guy?” But then Ronan remembered. “The one walking around the sidewalk outside? Yeah, he’s still out there.”

“Fuck,” the guy said, biting at his knuckles. His hand dropped promptly when he realized he said that aloud. “Sorry,” he said, attention averted to Opal.

Her attention was finally ripped from her book and she gazed up at the pair of them. Instantly her eyes went wide and she sat there frozen, as if she had seen a ghost. Her reaction was worrisome, but Ronan couldn’t even begin to pretend to know what to do about it.

“That’s nice you bring your daughter to work,” the man then remarked.

“Her?” Ronan startled himself with a laugh. “She’s - she’s not my daughter.”

“Oh, my mistake.” He lost interest, returning his attention toward the display window. To see better, he moved casually into Ronan to peek out from behind the bookshelf. The surprise closeness was startling, and Ronan held his breath at the feeling of the man’s weight against him. He could’ve taken a step back to give him space, but he couldn’t move, frozen much like Opal behind him. He smelled nice, a fine hint of a fragrance. Ronan didn’t mean to notice. It just happened.

When he saw what he expected to see, the man still outside the display window perusing the sidewalk, he recoiled from Ronan and back into the shadow of the shelves.

“Fuck fuck fuck,” he whispered.

Ronan looked between the two men and their equally strange behaviors.

“What, is he like an ex boyfriend or something?”

The man said nothing.

“Got it. Sugar daddy.”

Almost immediately, he was given a withering look. Ronan twitched a smirk in response, appreciative of whatever this was. He nearly forgot he was at work and that he should be making money. He could handle a day of no customers. Maybe.

“Did you steal from him?” Ronan said, making another joke. He stole another look of the man outside, then moved back into the aisle with his one patron.

When he looked over again, the man was chewing on his lower lip, visibly avoiding responding with a smile or any type of visual expression. Ronan could see his cheeks jitter with the threat of a smile.

“Yeah,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Stole his heart, then his wallet, now I’m on the run.”

“I knew it. Explains the absurd get up.”

The man at once touched at his hat, in an almost self conscious gesture. “Fuck you,” he said, without any heat.

“Oh, come on.” Ronan motioned to him. “Sunglasses, the hat, and the scarf? You’re evading something, or someone. It’s very obvious.”

He received a frown at that, as the man then looked away, fidgeting with his appearance. It was entirely possible he went too far, and he opened his mouth to say something else, maybe even apologize. The young man slowly began to peel away at his scarf, frowning to himself as he did.

“I didn’t mean-”

The man raised a hand, asking for him to stop. “Can I use your bathroom?” he asked.

Ronan nodded almost immediately. While usually it was reserved for just staff, since it was in the back, he felt strangely allured by this man. He also felt responsible for giving him some sort of fashion crisis.

“First and only door on the right,” he said, and gestured to the thin hall behind the counter. “Can’t miss it.”

“Thanks.”

Ronan was unable to say anything else, simply move out of his way to let him move past him. He was mildly distracted by the reveal of all the freckles across the young man’s face and the curvature of his jaw. He was annoyingly handsome, and Ronan admitted he stole a look at his frame as he walked away.

When he reached the bathroom, he glanced back down the hall before disappearing through the doorway. At once, Ronan released a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding in.

This was so unlike him. He didn’t understand what had gotten into him, why he was acting so fucking ridiculous. Like the teenage boy who used to insult his first crush as a flirting tactic. Get it together, Lynch , he thought. Just fucking sell him a book, you dumbass .

When his breathing returned to a normal pace, he turned to see Opal had moved, if only a little. She was staring at where Mr. I have amazing cheekbone structure was last visible, clutching her chair strangely with both hands. She looked as if she were about to have a heart attack.

“What’s wrong with you?” he said. He threw a chip at her head. She barely registered it with a half hearted swipe at her head delayed ten seconds. A low guttural sound came from her direction a moment later, which was strange to say the least.

“He’s - he’s…”

Was this a thirteen year old girl’s version of the feelings he was currently experiencing? He wondered if he sounded half as embarrassing talking to him as she was being.

“Tone it down a notch there, weirdo,” he said.

She groaned at him as her eyes darted back down the hall. Then at once she spun forward in her chair, back to the hall and looking at Ronan.

“Oh my god he’s coming back,” she said, head ducking down.

“What the…” He almost wanted to laugh at how hilariously awkward she was being. This was more active than she had ever been in any of her past visits.

“Shh,” she hissed.

He couldn’t even pretend to understand teenagers, and he was one once not that long ago. With a hint of a grin, he looked over from her to the man heading back down the hall towards them, and his grin died on his face, replaced with an expression of surprise. There went his breath again at the sight of him, sans sunglasses and hat. He had piercing blue eyes that daggered straight through Ronan, matched with freckled tan skin and dusty brown hair. Something unidentifiable stirred inside Ronan. He was definitely heavily identifying with Opal’s pre-teen panic attack right about now. As he tucked his hat under his arm, the young man ran his nice hand through his purposefully messy hair.

“You know, I’m actually starting to miss the sunglasses and hat,” Ronan remarked. He barely made it sound like a joke.

“Shut up.” His shy smiles were even more glorious when they weren’t covered up. His ocean blue eyes drifted from Ronan to elsewhere, avoiding eye contact. Ronan couldn’t help but steal the opportunity to stare a little longer when he wasn’t looking back at him. “He’s…” His smile waned when his eyes went to the window. “He’s still out there.”

Ronan didn’t even have to look to know the man was probably doing something just as weird as earlier outside his shop. “Really don’t want to return that wallet, huh?” he said.

Finally, he looked back at Ronan. Their eyes fleetingly met before Ronan turned away. “It’s a long story.”

“Well,” and his attention moved to Opal, who he only just noticed was mouthing words at him. Words he couldn’t read, since he wasn’t a damn lip reader. He furrowed his eyebrows at her, shaking his head at how she topped him in being absurd. Before him, the blue eyed handsome dick was fidgeting around, anxious as he continued to stare outside. When he followed his gaze, he realized the man in question outside was now trying to peer inside through the display window. Did he not realize there was a door right there? Oh right. They were still closed. He was probably being mindful of the sign, unlike freckle face next to him.

“Uh, I should get going.” Freckle face’s voice was a little shaky as he said it.

Opal made a strange little squeal in response. Both men looked at her weirdly. Her face went hot pink, and quick she spun around, placing her back to them.

“Anyway... ” said Ronan.

“Is she okay?” Freckle face whispered.

“She’s fine.”

Silently agreeing with a nod, the young man gave her one last look before pulling back into the shadow of the hall. The man outside was looking still through the window, trying to see with two hands over his eyes, face right against the glass. Ronan was going to have to clear those smears later, he noted with a tight jaw.

“Is there a back way out of here?” Freckle face asked.

Ronan looked to him, admittedly a little disenchanted he had to leave. That was what customers did, but for a moment he… He didn’t really know what he thought was happening. Something that didn’t require leaving so soon, perhaps.

“Wow, don’t want to be seen leaving my shop, huh?” he said. “That embarrassed by your lack of Irish knowledge after living there for a few months.”

“No, I just don’t want to be seen talking to you.” Freckle face made eye contact with him long enough Ronan knew he was joking, too.

“Oh, damn. Ouch.” He placed a hand to his chest, pantomiming a shot through the heart.

For a moment, the young man said nothing back. He only looked at him, silent. Behind his blue eyes, Ronan could see something turning in his mind, working through something. He couldn’t look away, disappearing into his haunting gaze, more than willing to be swallowed- Their eye lock was broken when the man turned his head, taking another look out the front of his shop. Ronan needed that moment to regain proper brain function, only to have it stolen away from him again when out of nowhere there was the man up against him. It lasted but only a second, but that one second was burned into his brain same as the one before. Ronan froze as he reached around him, picking something up off the counter behind him. When he pulled away, he was holding the book Ronan had been reading earlier.

With some intrigue, he examined it, flipping through a few pages. He made a small face, as if he were surprised but impressed by his choice.

“I’ll buy this one,” he said, handing it over.

“Wait, really?” Ronan should have been annoyed he wanted to buy the one book in the entire shop he was reading, but he knew he had other copies on the shelf.

“You seemed invested in it earlier,” said Freckle face. “I’m curious how good of a read it was.”

Ronan chewed on his lip. “Do you even like cars?”

Freckle face rolled his eyes. “Are you really trying to keep from making a sale right now?”

Ronan didn’t break, and folded his arms consciously across his chest. “Making sure you’re getting the book you really want. Don’t like selling books to people if they aren’t fully appreciated.”

The answer appeared to impress the young man, and he smiled a little. “I’m fascinated with learning something new.” He glanced at the book again. “Never read about them before. Can’t wait.”

There was no way to argue his way out of this, to somehow for some insane reason keep the guy around a little longer. There was no real point risking a sale anyway, when he took up so much of his time.

Quietly he scanned the book, and gently moved Opal out of the way to look at his register. They silently went through the process of payment, even down to him signing his name on a receipt. When it was all finished, Ronan held onto the book a little longer.

“Do you want a bag or?”

“I’m fine.” The man took the book from him, tucking it under his arm same as his hat.

“The back exit is the door on the left, inside the small office there,” said Ronan finally, knowing that’s the only reason he bought the book. Out of some courtesy for letting him leave back there.

But even as he said his thanks, Freckle face didn’t leave. Not yet. He lingered a little, almost hesitant to leave.

“I’d say tell me how you find the book,” said Ronan, filling in the silence, “but I have a feeling you’re a one time kind of customer.”

The young man’s brow arched a little at the comment, and his lips twisted up enough. “You never know,” he said. His eyes followed the continued movement outside. “If he comes in and asks for me-”

“Tell him exactly where you went. Got it.”

He frowned at Ronan’s joke.

“Never saw you,” Ronan answered again. “Don’t even know your name.”

He seemed to get a laugh out of that one, as if that were the joke. Then he reached for a handshake. “Adam,” he said.

Adam. Fuck that was a good name. They shook hands, Ronan feeling the strength in his grip, the softness in his touch. He was on fire. The small touch lit him like a match to gasoline, and he was bursting aflame. His face felt hot.

“This is usually when you say your name, too,” Adam offered.

“Nah.” Ronan released his hand. Adam responded with rolling his eyes, sighing.

“Thanks for the book,” he said.

“That is what I sell here.”

“Really?” Adam took one more look around. “Thought this was a bad joke shop.”

Ronan genuinely laughed, as he watched Adam disappear down the hall. As if he were never there to begin with. When he heard the door shut in the back he looked over at Opal, who was turning back to him slowly, coming down from whatever she was going through before. Then he looked at the man still outside, still trying to see through his window. He moved to him first, opening the door to the store.

“Hey,” he said, no longer amused. “Stop looking through my window like that. Scaring my customers away.”

The guy laughed. Ronan didn’t shake from his laugh, taking his sexual frustration out on this guy with actual frustration. He glared down at the man, a short, balding older fellow. He cowered a little at Ronan’s face. His laughter died in his throat. “It’s a free country,” he said. “I can stand wherever I want.”

“You’ve been out here keeping my business away,” he said, ignoring the visible CLOSED sign next to his head. “Go loiter somewhere else. Unless you’re going to buy something, fuck off.”

The man raised his hands in surrender. “Sorry. Sorry.” He turned to leave, and that’s when Ronan saw the giant camera hanging around his neck. Stranger and stranger.

Once the man was finally gone for good, Ronan went back inside, flipping the sign from closed to open again. He shook his head at himself, still in disbelief of the absurdity of today. It was only three. Slowly he moved back toward the rest of his food, finding Opal staring at him with her intense eyes.

“What got into you earlier?”

Opal’s gaze didn’t deter. “You didn’t know who that was?” she said, in shock. “How old are you?”

“Hey.” He stole the last of her chips, eating a few of them in one mouth full. “I let you read for free and I buy you food.”

Opal jerked away from him. “Ew! You’re spitting on me.”

Ronan put a hand over his mouth. “Sorry.”

“How uncultured are you?” she asked.

“Opal.” Ronan swallowed.

“That was Adam Parrish ,” she said, voice reaching a new elevation.

Ronan shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re saying right now.”

“Adam Parrish.” When Ronan didn’t react, Opal gaped. “Oscar nominated actor. Just finished shooting a period drama in Ireland like two months ago.”

“Eh, I don’t think so.” Ronan shook his head at her.

Opal rolled her eyes, disillusioned with his lack of knowledge. “You’re so old!” she said. She turned to his computer that was next to the register on the counter, and she opened up google. He jumped for control of his computer, frowning. “Employees only, kid-”

Before he could reach the keyboard she had typed in Adam Parrish, and a bunch of articles and pictures popped up. She clicked on one image, and there he was. Handsome as ever.

Well, fuck.

“How did you recognize him?” he asked. He leaned into the screen, taking a peek at the suggested images next to the one she clicked on. Fuck, he looked just as good in pictures.

Opal gave him a look as if he asked a stupid question. “He’s only one of the most popular actors ever right now,” she said. “He’ll probably win an oscar next year, because god forbid they don’t nominate him again for-”

Ronan leaned into the mouse and took control of it from her, tuning her out as she talked at length about his acting career. He moved through some of the photos, some photoshoot and some candid. Even his candids looked like photoshoots. There was one shirtless from a beach candid and he visibly swallowed. He tuned Opal back in.

“Have you seen any movie that was released in the last decade?” she was saying. “Don’t answer that. Don’t embarrass yourself like that.”

He scowled. “Hey.”

“Watch these four,” she said, and she was writing them on the back of receipt paper. “They’re my favorites that you can rent. He has one out in theaters right now, too, but… I don’t know if you would like it.”

“Is that code for chick flick?”

“That’s sexist.” Opal frowned. “And no. It’s a space movie. He had to do a big budget film because it was only a matter of time, but the period drama is coming out in November, which I can’t wait for. But I hear it’s rated R.”

“Mm.” Ronan pretended not to be interested, when in fact this was the first time mainstream pop culture fascinated him. Adam Parrish. Who would’ve thought. Just his fucking luck that god of a man was a fucking Hollywood superstar.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The rest of the day was spent as plainly as all others, no noticeable change from the routine he had grown accustomed to. He made several more sales and even more drop bys, but none so eventful.

At the end of his work day, he was locking up the store. Opal stayed the whole work today, which was out of the ordinary, but after the eventful afternoon they had he wasn’t all that surprised she felt like sticking around. She tried to school him more in Adam Parrish culture, but quickly realized he didn’t want to hear anymore about him, and she changed subjects to other celebrities he cared even less about.

Opal was tucking her book away in her bookbag when she spoke up. “I still can’t believe you’re so culturally ignorant you didn’t even know who Adam Parrish was.”

Ronan shrugged. “Not my kind of thing,” he said.

“Enjoying things?”

He paused, upset. His teeth scraped against each other as he locked his jaw. “Okay,” he said, voice gruff, “give me the book back.”

“What.” Opal put a hand over her bag. “No. I’ll stop.”

“Good.” He took a tiny breath to collect himself, noting she was lingering longer than she needed, or normally did. “Today was the most we’ve ever talked.”

She shrugged, hand still covering her bag opening. “You were actually fun today.”

Ronan laughed a little. “Wow,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Thanks.”

“I’ll see you next time,” she said, which he knew meant was likely a few days from now.

He nodded. “So long as you don’t bring up Adam Parrish again and his beautiful freckles ,” he said, mocking her from earlier.

“They are beautiful,” she said, defensive. “You noticed them, too, gramps. I know you did. Everyone does.”

Before he could get another word in edgewise, she spun around and started walking off. As he followed her movement briefly, he caught her wave back at him, fully aware he was looking. He turned back to the locks on the door, but not before his eyes catching at the hint of a billboard from behind the rooftops of the buildings across the street. At once he could see the piercing blue eyes of Adam Parrish staring down at him from a poster for the space movie Opal mentioned earlier. Fuck . He really was pop culture clueless. Somehow he had developed a crush on a famous actor. This was some cosmic joke.

When he arrived home not long after, he found Gansey in the exact place he had left him, in what appeared to be the same outfit, same unshowered mess.

"Gansey."

"Don't talk to me." Gansey didn't even look over at him. He was doodling on a pile of papers in the mess of paperwork that ate up Ronan's living room.

"What the fuck did I do now?" Ronan groaned.

"You forgot the milk," Gansey said simply.

Ronan wasn't in the mood for this and he said nothing. If he was just going to sit there and do nothing all day, he could go out and get milk on his own. Ronan had a long day and he was tired, and so he simply walked away. Gansey didn't even appear to notice. He was ruining what little joy Ronan had from today, and here Ronan thought that he was going to come in and tell him the news of seeing a celebrity today at the store. Gansey probably didn't even know who Adam Parrish was either.

After making himself some dinner, Ronan settled down in his room, far away from Gansey and his mountain of papers that would take him nowhere. He opened his laptop, which was a rare sight, and before he realized it he was knee deep in Adam Parrish Internet Hell, or Heaven if he he really thought about it. He was nice to look at. Somehow in the span of a few hours he found out a lot about him. Well, what the internet had to offer, which wasn't a lot. This Adam Parrish was pretty private. There wasn't even anything about his love life, just a lot of speculations, always assuming he was with a co-star of his current film.

He went to Yale University for acting, with a minor in biochem. Who minors in biochem? He was half a year older than Ronan, and his mainstay was New York City. There was no information on his life before Yale, where he lived before that, or anything, which wasn't that surprising. Actors were allowed to have private lives, too. But Ronan wanted to know where that hint of a Southern accent came from that sent a shiver through him when he heard it. He wanted to hear it again.

Before he knew it he was searching his jacket pocket for the note Opal wrote him, with the list of the four movies she recommended he watch of Adam's. The first one was about a pair of teenagers who try to buy weed for the first time and accidentally witness a murder. It was listed as a dark comedy and won a bunch of indie film awards. It wasn't usually Ronan's thing, but he put it on anyways. It was listed as Adam's first film, nearly ten years ago. He was eighteen, in his first year at Yale. Ronan knew too much already.

He was halfway through, annoyed with how talented and handsome and funny Adam was in this, when Gansey barged in. Ronan fumbled around on his computer to pause the film. Gansey promptly made a face.

"What are you doing in here?" He gasped. "Are you watching porn? On a laptop?"

Ronan scowled. "That is where people usually - Fuck off, Dick. I'm not watching porn. Go shower or something."

"Why were you laughing so much? I was worried." Gansey was too curious for his own good and he moved around the room to steal a peek at Ronan's laptop. Ronan only shut it halfway before Gansey managed a look.

"Oh my god." Gansey was smirking. "Is that-?"

Ronan was going to murder Gansey. "Get out of my room."

"Since when did you like Adam Parrish movies?"

"Get out, Gansey."

"Why didn't you say anything?" Gansey was clueless. "You know, I remember I tried to get you to go see one with me last summer, and you literally told me to-"

"Fuck off, Gansey!"

"That! Those exact words!" Gansey shook his head, somehow oblivious to the look of a thousand daggers Ronan was throwing at him right now across his bed. He chuckled to himself until finally he met with Ronan's clenching jaw and narrowed eyes and he took a small step back. "Jesus, what's wrong with you?"

"Get. Out. Of. My. Room." Ronan was on the verge of jumping across the mattress to shove Gansey out. He was embarrassed enough with this newfound curiosity, he didn't need him here to witness or comment on it.

"You don't have to be so rude, you know," Gansey said, hands on his hips, giving Ronan a very vivid flashback to his teenage years when his mother walked in on him in a much similar situation to this. About something else though. He shook himself out of that thought process to find Gansey still standing above him, and he rolled his eyes, the tension in his body easing a little, and the frustration coming down a little too.

"Sorry, I just..." Ronan's jaw still clenched. "Opal suggested a few movies."

"Opal." Gansey nodded knowingly. "You know what I think about you two, and how unhealthy that all is."

"And as I've said before, you can take your concerns and-"

"Okay." Gansey raised a hand in the air between them and shut his eyes. "I don't want to fight with you."

Ronan didn't want to fight with him, either. He settled his back again against the headboard, releasing some of his grip on his laptop. Above him, Gansey relaxed his posture too, hand falling and eyes drifting from Ronan's face and back to his computer. Suddenly he was wearing a smirk again.

"You know that he's in San Francisco right now?" said Gansey.

There was a pinch in Ronan's chest, and for a second he thought he had given himself away somehow, but when he looked over at Gansey he didn't look the least suspicious in his response. Again, he was a little oblivious.

"How do you know that?" Ronan cleared his throat to sound less pitchy. He stared down at his laptop to evade having to meet his best friend's gaze.

"Dunno." Gansey shrugged. "Saw it on instagram."

"Insta..." Ronan's voice died as Gansey reached into a pocket of his sweatpants and pulled out his phone, flicking through apps and screens until finally his fingers stopped tapping. He flipped his phone around and Ronan blinked. He had to bite back the urge to yank his phone from his hand, patient enough to just lean in. Adam was at the California Academy of Sciences in the park, standing inside the aquarium tunnel with his head tipped back and eyes closed, a smile playing at his face. It had the simple caption of a fish emoji. Fuck, this was becoming a problem.

"If you weren't so anti-social media, I would suggest you follow him. He doesn't update that often though."

Ronan started to shake his head and pull back from Gansey's phone. He couldn't do this. He was already in too deep. The guy was a movie star. If he ever saw him again he wouldn't recognize Ronan, and probably ask some bodyguard of his to take the crazy man talking about books away.

"Could you imagine if we ran into him?" Gansey pocketed his phone into his sweats. "I think I'd fangirl too hard, though. Probably a good thing this city's so big."

"Yeah..."

"Hey, if you want to go see his new movie, the space one, I'd be down. You keep trying to get me out of the house. I'd actually get out for that."

"Maybe." It sounded like a good idea, to get Gansey out of the house, but Ronan wasn't sure how well he could handle seeing Adam 20 feet tall on a screen.

Gansey finally caught on something was a little off, and for once he didn't push. He left not long after, but Ronan wasn't invested in the movie anymore. He lay flat on the bed, staring at the ceiling of his room, wondering how in the span of half a day he went from content and single to crushing on the least attainable man in the world. It was bad enough when it was just a customer he would never see again. Now it's the lead of what was said to be the hit of the summer. Just his goddamn luck.

 

Chapter Text

Ever since Ronan met Adam at his bookstore he couldn't get him out of his head. Now that his eyes had been opened to the pop culture world it became harder to ignore him, seeing his face on billboards and in magazines and even tv spots for his new film during commercial breaks. It was really difficult not to think about him. He could see why teenagers with crushes on celebrities never shut up about them. They were force fed imagery of those celebrities nonstop.

He still hadn't told Gansey or any of his other friends about the encounter. They would surely tease him for not realizing, or Blue and Noah would come by the store and stalk it in hopes he would come by again.

This Adam thing was getting ridiculous.

It was an entire week later, and according to his instagram he was still in San Francisco somewhere as of yesterday. Ronan didn't need to know that, but Opal thought it appropriate to tell him anyway. She wasn't helping the situation in the slightest, and in fact was promoting this unhealthy obsession with news about him every day that week.

"His movie's doing well at the box office," she said. "It's a huge hit. Might even inspire a franchise."

"Good for him," Ronan replied, half earnestly. He was in the middle of a transaction and Opal was intruding it. She didn't care and pressed on.

"What are you doing tomorrow?" she said. Her arms draped over her side of the register counter onto his side. Ronan refused to answer her until he finished giving the card back to the couple buying a few farming books from him. After that was finished he sighed and turned to her, clearly irritated.

"You've got to stop doing that," he said.

"I don't see a problem with it."

He gave her the side eye before resuming cataloging his new stock. As he went silent Opal groaned, noting her displeasure in his adult behavior. She shoved herself off the counter and made a face at him by sticking out her tongue and rolling her eyes. When that still didn't grab his attention she groaned again, louder, and walked away. Ronan really didn't want to talk right now. He had work to do and ever since Opal started talking to him more it became harder to do his work. He was so distracted by her and about the Adam thing, he just wanted some silence so he could get something done for once.

After a few minutes of nothing she came trailing back from one of the corners of the store she slithered off to before. She was still visibly irritated, hands at her hips.

"Why are you so boring today?" she asked.

"Opal," he said sternly. "Go read a book or something," he said. "I'm not up for it today."

"Too bad." Opal came and stood by him again, staring up at him with her chin in her hands as she rested her elbows by his stack of books. He gently nudged her away, and she scowled.

"You're being old today," she said.

He snorted. "Thanks," he said.

"Let's do something fun tomorrow," she said.

"I have work."

"You're your own boss," she argued. "Skip a day. Come hang out with me."

Ronan wasn't as enthused as she was on the idea. "This feels inappropriate," he said. "Hanging out with me at work is one thing. Going somewhere else is another."

"So?" Opal shrugged. "You could be like my older brother or something. People aren't going to ask or care."

While he enjoyed his time with Opal, he felt this was bordering on exactly what Gansey warned him about. He shouldn't indulge in this behavior when he knew Opal's home life must have been shit if she always skipped school to come here instead and no one seemed to do anything about it.

"What about school?" he asked.

"Tomorrow's Saturday," she said.

"Oh, right." He looked down at the book in his hand. "What about school this week?"

Her shoulders fell forward. "You're not my dad," she said. "Be fun, not a suckfest."

"Suckfest," he repeated under his breath.

"Yeah," she said, having heard him. "Come on, Ronan. Have some fun. Play hookey."

"Like you?" His brow raised at her. She said nothing.

Having one of his closest friends happen to be a thirteen year old girl who hung out at his bookstore was strange, but Ronan wasn't ever really deterred by that before. So he didn't see why he should be now, and he came to a conclusion as she looked at him with such tween disappointment. He shouldn't listen to Gansey.

"Where did you have in mind?" he asked. He couldn't believe he let his resolve get whittled down by a teenager.

Opal beamed wide and eager.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Opal suggested they go to the California Academy of Sciences, probably because Adam had been spotted there two separate times according to her incessant gossip about him. When he asked her if she needed a ride to it, she shook her head and smiled.

"Nah," she said. "I'll meet you there. I can get around."

They met just outside the front entrance around one the next afternoon. Ronan found himself getting there later than he meant to, and as he was walking up to the front he spotted her already there with a drink in her hand. She waved at him, and he waved back.

"Half expected you not to come," she confessed, offering him some of her bubble tea. He shook his head at it and she shrugged, drinking more.

"Yeah, well there was traffic," he said. "And I didn't bring my phone to call you."

Opal laughed. "You don't even have my number," she said.

"Oh yeah."

This was still very new.

"How did you get here? Don't tell me. You stole a car."

Opal laughed again, one large laugh that sounded like a bird squawk, and she chewed on her straw. "I wish," she said. "Come on."

She pulled him along into the line for tickets, and he bought hers too even though she swore she had money. He didn't mind, and after a little persuasion she didn't either.

Their first spot was the planetarium.

"Now," she said, as they walked toward the planetarium. She walked backwards as if a tour guide and lowered her voice. "We're making our way to the planetarium, where you'll find inside is an actual planet."

Ronan couldn't help but laugh, and so Opal continued to do that for the rest of the afternoon. She gave bad information and generally just made shit up about what they were looking at, and a lot of it was thirteen year old humor but he couldn't stop laughing. She lit up every time he laughed.

They were walking through the aquarium when he thought it appropriate to finally have an actual conversation with her. Bonding was nice and all, but at the end of the day he knew nothing about her. What if she got hurt here and he had to take her to the hospital? How would he explain their relationship to anyone? He was starting to become Gansey. The horror.

"What do you like to do for fun besides loiter around my shop?"

Opal looked up at him from where they had both been staring ahead at fish, Ronan trying really hard not to think about how this is near where Adam took that photo for his instagram. She was still chewing on the straw of her drink, even though the drink itself was long gone.

"I dunno," she said. "I skate, I ride the train when I can sneak on. I sometimes loiter in the coffee shop down the street from you."

Ronan shook his head.

"You're cheating on me with a coffee shop?" he said.

"It's nothing personal," said Opal. She didn't hear the hint of humor in his tone. "They don't give me free coffee like you lend me books. I just sit in there and read on days I don't want to bore you."

That was eye opening. The longer she visited the more days she stayed, which meant she didn't go to school practically ever.

"Do you ever go-"

"Don't ask that, Ronan." She looked up at him and turned to face him, frowning with the most sincerely sad expression in her eyes. Ronan didn't know how to fix this. It washed away in a second when something else caught her attention and she sparked up like a bulb, racing off down towards other fish. "Come on, dude. We're here to have fun!"

She raced further ahead and then turned back toward him.

"Look at all these robots!"

People looked at her funny as she said it. He noticed a few of them snuck looks at the fish again, as if made suspicious these could in fact be robots. Opal did sound convincing as she shouted it.

Eventually they moved on from sea life, for the most part. Their attention averted to the penguins, and when Opal saw them she clung to the glass with her face pressed up against it.

"There's a lot of germs on that thing," he said. "You sure you want to do that?"

Opal glared up at him like she probably would a parental, silently begging him to shut up. So he did.

He sat down on the bench in front of it, watching her watch them. He never really thought about kids before, but he also never really thought about going out and finding that one person in his life that could make him feel more complete than he already was. While he liked his little life he built in San Francisco, he was starting to yearn for more. Things he used to want when he was younger but put on the back burner for other reasons.

Opal looked so small against the large wall of glass. She was silhouetted by the light from the other side, as she put a hand on the glass beside her face.

They were relatively alone in here. Most people were elsewhere, like the rainforest and the aquarium tunnel.

"I used to really like birds as a kid," she said.

"You're still a kid," he called out.

She ignored that. "Used to want to be one, so I could fly far far away." Her hand slithered down the glass. "Broke my arm trying to fly."

"You're kidding." Ronan was pained to hear that, almost as if it happened yesterday.

She turned around to him and folded her arms over her chest.

"I was six and stupid," she said. "I'm never getting out of here."

Somehow their trip had become warped with sadness out of nowhere, and he didn't know what to do to fix it.

"Opal."

Her eyes drifted up to meet his.

"Where are your parents?"

Her jaw clenched and her tiny hands balled into fists. "Ronan, I thought we made a deal," she said sourly.

"There's been no deal made, Opal." He knew that if this were him at thirteen he would hate these questions too, but he had to know eventually. She couldn't evade the question forever. She must have realized that, and she huffed.

"A silent, unsaid deal," she said. She sounded desperate. "No talk about my home life. You don't hear me asking you about yours?"

"I'm not thirteen, Opal." She scoffed at that. He could understand why. Never in his life would he have thought he would be on the other side of a conversation like this, but she left him with no choice. "Do you live with your parents? Do you go to school? Shouldn't you be in school now?"

"Please stop." Opal put her face in her hands. He realized he truly upset her, and he rose to move to her for some form of comfort.

"Opal."

"No!" She shoved him away. "Don't follow me!"

She ran off before he could realize, and he raced after her.

"Opal!" he shouted. "Stop being a child!"

Of course, he lost her, but he kept going in that direction in hopes of finding her. He searched through a variety of rooms, backtracking their trek in places he knew she took to. He was back in the aquarium when he rounded a corner and crashed into someone.

With the momentum of his fast walk, they both collapsed together on the ground. The young man he hit dropped his phone and broke it, and Ronan reached for the pieces to help.

"Shit," he said.

"Is there a fire somewhere I don't know about?" the man said. "Don't- don't help me."

"I broke your phone," said Ronan.

"I can see that," said the man. "I don't need your help. I'm fine. It's fine."

"You don't sound fine," Ronan remarked with a tiny laugh. "You actually sound..."

They both looked up and Ronan froze. Here he was, in all the places in this large city, and he ran into Adam Parrish again. Underneath another hat and sunglasses, no scarf this time though. Adam appeared to register him in turn, both silenced by the reveal as they knelt on the ground before each other.

Ronan almost ran away in that moment out of fear. Then Adam's lips twisted into a small smile. God it was no wonder he was a superstar.

"That concerned with my purchase you found me again to ask my review on the book?" he remarked. Ronan dumped Adam's broken phone into his hand as he rose to his feet.

"I'm actually here with Opal," he said.

Adam made a face as he stood after him. He awkwardly held his broken and useless phone in his hands.

"Am I supposed to know who that is?" he said. His accent slipped through and Ronan got chills. He was suddenly very nervous, fully aware of who he was. Of what he felt after the last time. Between now and then he had seen him have sex in two different movies.

"The girl from my book shop," he said.

"Oh. Did she become invisible?" He looked around them. Ronan rolled his eyes.

"She ran off. Got upset as teenagers do."

Adam nodded, understanding. It wasn't long ago they were both teens themselves. It was easy to sympathize, but it still pissed Ronan off that she would run away like that.

"Have you talked to security about finding her?" Adam suggested.

While Ronan hadn't thought about it before now, there was a reason that even with it now an option he wouldn't do it.

"I don't think having her get picked up by security will make this any better," he said.

"True." Adam seemed to understand this as well. "Do you know where she went?"

"Yes, I know exactly where she went," Ronan said dryly. "I only ran into you in a panic because I was so excited to see Adam Parrish in the flesh again."

"Okay, smartass. You have fun looking for her."

He started to walk away and Ronan realized he was ruining his chance of pretending he could ever properly get to know a celebrity like this.

"I'm sorry," he said, moving one step to the right to catch Adam before he left. "I'm an asshole, but I'm also freaking out here looking for her. Could you help me?"

Adam paused and looked at him, really looked at him. He took off his sunglasses to really look at him. With just one look into his blue eyes, Ronan was a mess again. He could see why so many people were obsessed with Adam. He was obsessing, too. Through the course of silent debate, Adam's features softened and he shrugged.

"This is for Opal," he said. "I don't like the idea of a kid being alone in here like that."

He walked ahead of him, and Ronan frowned. "And you think I do?" he said, a little more heated than he meant.

"I don't know you," said Adam.

"Well, one thing about me is I don't like people I care about being hurt and alone. I care about her, and I feel like shit for this enough already. You don't have to add onto that, thank you." He didn't even wait for Adam to respond, and just kept walking. "I think she might be in the planetarium."

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

She was not in the planetarium.

Ronan and Adam continued to check around other places as well, the building so large he feared they were never going to find her. They probably were going to have to go to security eventually, and what joy it was going to be having to explain his relationship with her.

As they searched, there was still some tension between them. They had gotten under each other's skin. Ronan was so easily irritable today after having to deal with the emotional drama of a thirteen year old and now the crush he had on a celebrity walking next to him.

He took note of Adam's jutting jaw and avoidance of eye contact, and he felt spurned by his own temper. When Adam looked down at the broken phone still in his hand, Ronan was hit with the desire to speak up.

"Hey." He waited until Adam looked at him, although it was fleeting. "I'm sorry I broke your phone. I can buy you a new one."

"I have the money to afford another one," Adam replied, a little terse.

Ronan did his best not to let his tone get to him. He pushed through his instinctive desire to say something snarky back at him, and he sighed.

"Yeah, I know," he said. "It's a gesture thing. Never mind. It was stupid."

He went quiet as a result, trying to focus on searching for Opal. It was admittedly kind of difficult when Oscar nominated actor Adam Parrish was walking casually beside him in search, too. His silence pulled Adam's gaze toward him, who looked at his suffering with words. He was moved by something, and he looked to want to say something, but nothing came of it.

Ronan never had to remind himself that Adam was a person too, but he realized maybe Adam forgot not everyone who knew who he was wanted something from him. Celebrity life sounded weirdly hard when he really thought about it. He tried not to think about it.

"How are you liking the book, by the way?"

Startled by the question, Adam whipped his head his way in surprise. After a moment, the surprise morphed into a thin smile. It was a flash of one before his lips went back into a straight line.

"It's good," he said, eyeing every young girl with blonde hair they passed in case they were Opal. Ronan was doing the same, but he was also getting a little distracted. "I didn't realize there was so much drama. It's been a fun read. You didn't get to finish it did you?"

When Adam returned his gaze to him, Ronan could feel himself fully immersing himself into this distraction and he touched a hand to the center of his chest. Suddenly it felt like he was getting heartburn.

"Yeah, so don't give away anything," he quipped. "No spoilers."

Adam rolled his eyes but he didn't look annoyed in the slightest. "Yes, because a historical event with loads of information online can be a bit spoilery." He was wearing his thin smile again.

Ronan tried not to feel something from that. Was this flirting? He couldn't tell.

"And your film?" he asked.

Adam frowned. "What about it?" he said.

"Is it doing well?"

"You aren't really into mainstream entertainment and media, are you?" Adam said, his smile broadening just a little to show the top row of his teeth. The constant back and forth of smile and no smile was making Ronan dizzy.

"That obvious?" he asked.

Adam shook his hand to imply so-so. Their gaze lingered a little long, until Ronan remembered they were looking for Opal. Christ. He was shit at this. He looked away to search for her again, turning his head back to check if she were behind them at all. Where could she have gone? This was impossible.

They were in the aquarium again, but she didn't appear to be. In the dark lighting Adam's eye color popped, his freckles so prominent against what light there was. Ronan had to tell himself to focus.

"So I take it then you were genuine about not knowing who I was last time we met?" said Adam. He sounded amused.

"Oh, no." Ronan glanced his way if only for a second, taking in the smile still hinted at his lips. "I knew exactly who you were. I was trying out an audition on you. Can you forward my headshot to your agent?"

Adam snorted. "Hilarious." He wagged a finger at him. "I like you," he said, before turning to look away as well. "You're funny."

Ronan was admittedly aroused. Fucking hell. This was bad. He watched as Adam continued searching the crowds for Opal, and then he started searching again. This was going to take forever. It probably would've been better if they split up, but he realized neither of them had phones now and so he was left with poorly trying to split up his attention between Opal and Adam.

"So you and Opal....." Adam commented, when they started looking through the four story rainforest. His eyes flickered Ronan's way, in time with when Ronan stole a look at him. They immediately both turned their heads.

"She hangs out at my shop," he said, "and I've grown to like her, almost like a little sister or something."

Adam nodded, taking it in. Then something seemed to click in his head and he paused. "This is a school day, isn't it?" he said. His brow furrowed. "Shouldn't she be in school?"

"That's kind of why she ran off," Ronan said reluctantly. "I tried to ask her about that. I don't know anything about her home life. She won't tell me. I don't think she has good parents, but she won't say."

Adam shook his head. "That's not good....."

The pause at the end of his sentence was long, and it took that for Ronan to realize he never introduced himself last time. "It's Ronan," he said.

"Ronan, this is a-"

"Weird relationship we have." He rolled his eyes. He could hear Gansey talking in his head now as he interrupted Adam. "I know. I've heard it before. Doesn't help me find her any faster."

He walked ahead of him, unnerved. The rainforest was easy to get lost in so he didn't want that much faster, slowing when he realized Adam wasn't doing much to catch up to him. That made him want to walk away even more, but he tried to ignore his urges to storm off. This wasn't with Gansey or Noah or any of his friends. This was with Adam, someone he barely knew but had ridiculous wishes of knowing better.

Adam didn't seem all that bothered by his attitude, but they were silent once again as they continued to search.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Eventually they found Opal sitting alone in a corner almost completely hidden by plants. Ronan spotted her sneakers peeking out and he nudged Adam silently with an elbow that that was her.

He moved to go ahead, but felt a hand press hard to his chest. Adam shook his head at him when he looked over.

"Let me talk to her," he said. "I think I can make a better argument for her to come out of hiding."

"Fine." Ronan waved him forward. "Anything."

He stood by and watched as Adam slowly trekked over to Opal. Gently he called out her name and she poked her head out from behind a giant leaf. She looked like she had been crying and he felt so torn up inside to see that, to know he was the cause.

Her eyes went wide as she noticed it was Adam approaching her, and she froze like she did last week when they met him. Her visible reaction didn't go unnoticed by Adam, who smiled at her as he sat down.

They got to talking, and Ronan watched as she broke out a tiny smile once or twice. He was working his wonders on her, arm coming up to drape around her shoulders. Every so often he looked up at Ronan, who felt emotional for some reason watching them two talk like this. She wasn't his kid, but she was the closest thing to it, and maybe he felt a little moved that Adam was being so tender with her.

After a while, he stood, and then he helped her stand with an offer of a hand. Together they walked back to Ronan, Opal wiping at her eyes and Adam softly smiling behind her.

"All good now," he said.

"I want to go," she said, sniffling. Ronan still felt like shit.

"Opal, I'm sorry."

She shook her head. "It's whatever," she said.

"Do you want me to take you home?"

"Fine," she groaned. She probably knew he wouldn't take no for an answer at this point. She walked away from both of them, the heel of her palm at her eyes. They were red and worn. He thought of hugging her as some way of offering comfort, but he suspected she would shove him off if he tried.

Adam lingered back with Ronan as they both watched her pause a few feet away to stare at the plant life.

"Thank you," said Ronan. "I mean it."

"I know how she feels," he said. Ronan didn't understand, and Adam looked to want to talk of something else, shying his eyes. "Shitty home life," he clarified.

Ronan said nothing. It only confirmed something he had been suspecting for some time. He shook his head, hands coming up to his temples, angry at nothing in particular and everything.

This was not the day he planned to have. Opal was probably thinking that exact same thing.

"Listen, I should get going," said Adam. He ran his fingers through his hair under his cap, then settled it back down on his head when people passed them by and glanced over their shoulders for a double take. To avoid being talked to, Ronan started motioning the three of them all leave together. Adam didn't seem to find any problem in that, and he walked with them to the front by the dinosaur skeleton that stood at the entrance.

"Do you think I could borrow your phone by any chance?" Adam asked. Opal walked away again at that to give them space, but she made a point of staying in their line of sight this time. Ronan watched her stare up at the skeleton from where she stood.

"I don't have it on me," Ronan muttered. "Left it at my house."

"How?"

He looked back at Adam to see him staring in disbelief.

"I don't care about my phone," he said. "I'm fine without it."

Adam paled as he stared down at his broken phone with this news. Ronan realized he was likely stranded here, and being of a certain caliber that wasn't exactly ideal in an unfamiliar city.

"If you need to make a call I can take you there and you can use it," he said.

"Where?"

"My house."

Adam tucked his dead phone in his pocket.

"I don't think that's such a good idea," he said.

Ronan shrugged. "Or you can ask someone around here to borrow theirs," he said, casually motioning to people that passed. "I'm sure they'd love to lend their phone to such a famous actor."

There was a silence, and Adam looked to be debating internally his decision. As his brow creased and then his eyes shut tight, he groaned.

"Fine," he said.

"Don't be so put out by it," Ronan remarked. "You don't need to borrow my phone if you don't want to."

"How far do you live?" Adam asked.

"I mean, not far from where my shop is," said Ronan.

"So, far."

"I have a car." Ronan wasn't sure why he was trying so hard. Oh, no. He knew. Adam was a dream. "It's not that terrible a drive."

"It'll be with you," Adam said and Ronan could tell he was joking. There was almost another of his smiles, but Adam appeared to think better of it. Ronan reacted with a scoff.

"You're telling me," he said. "I gotta ride with you, too."

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

In the car Opal sat in the back and Adam in the passenger seat. When they were safely inside he took off his hat, running his long fingers through it to fluff it up again after the hat hair.

"Okay, Opal," he said. "You first. Where do you live?"

She mumbled as she stared out the window.

"What? I don't speak teenager anymore."

One of Adam's hands reached and touched at his on the steering wheel. "I know where she lives," he said. "It's not far from your shop either."

Opal shot him a look that Ronan caught in his rear view mirror, but Adam wasn't taken apart by it. He turned his head to her and spoke without words, until she looked away again.

As they got caught up in the city traffic, Ronan tried to put on music, but nothing seemed befitting. It didn't eat up the silence as well as he hoped, and eventually once they got out of the park, he glanced over at Adam as often as he safely could. Adam was staring ahead at the road, too.

"How are you liking San Francisco?" he said.

Adam sighed, looking around.

"Enjoying it immensely," he said, almost bittersweet. "Everything here is... It's hard to describe. It's nice not being constantly stalked by paparazzi here, and I've been loving the city's history."

Ronan snorted a little.

"What?"

"That's... I don't know many people that come here and enjoy its history ."

Adam rolled his eyes, and he could see Opal rolling hers too. If they were in a better place he would've called her out for it, but he couldn't now.

"Are you from here originally?" Adam asked him.

"No, I'm from Virginia," he replied.

"That's kind of far for you." Adam's southern drawl slipped again just a touch. He gripped the steering wheel just a little tighter

"Sort of why I moved," he said. "The commute was terrible."

Across from him, Adam gave him a withering look.

"Where are you from?" Ronan said.

"New York." Even the way he said it wasn't how people from New York said New York.

"With that hint of an accent?" Ronan shook his head. "Nah, it's somewhere else."

"It's none of your business," Adam said tartly. His arms began to fold in front of him like a shield.

"Come on." Without meaning to, he swung a hand out and lightly tapped at Adam's chest. Oh. It was like hitting a rock. Fuck, he was fit. Adam didn't react to his touch, however. That was something. "Look at me," he said, and Adam rolled his eyes when he looked over. "Do I look like someone who's gonna leak info to anybody?"

Adam really and genuinely gave him a once over, and Ronan could feel a tingle run down him in time with Adam's eyes.

"I...." He glanced over his shoulder at Opal, who wasn't paying attention with her headphones in her ears, then forward again. "Tennessee," he said. "My parents moved there when I was three."

"Why isn't it written anywhere?" Ronan found himself asking. He felt like this was an interview. He hoped Adam didn't feel the same way. "You ashamed of being from the south?"

"That's not the part I'm ashamed of." Adam's words were prickly.

Ronan must have hit some kind of nerve, and he shut up as a result. The music he turned on earlier played as a weird undertone of their awkward silence. When they reached a red light, Adam turned the top of his body toward Ronan, arms still folded at his front.

"How do you know it's not written anywhere?" he said.

"Uh...." His eyes darted to the rear view, to see Opal still not paying attention. "Opal told me," he lied.

Adam smirked, staring at him for a length. His face shifted into several different stages of amused, until he again looked forward. The freckles at his jawline were noticeable as he turned, and Ronan thought about how so many of his freckles were hidden by makeup in most of his movies. Why hide such glorious things? He needed better self control and returned his eyes to the road.

"How long are you in the city for?" he asked. "A week's an awful long time to be hiding from the paparazzi."

Adam's mood deflated like an old balloon. "My flight back is in two days," he said, with a definitive disappointing sigh. "Then it's back to the real world. I have to return to Los Angeles for the press circuit. I didn't give enough interviews before, I guess."

Again, they went quiet a while. They were getting closer to where Ronan lived, and where Adam said Opal lived as well. For someone who was new to the city, he was already really good at directions. Even living here as long as Ronan had, he still got lost a lot without GPS.

"You're a pretty good actor," he noted, when they passed the seventh billboard for his movie. Adam either didn't notice it or intentionally ignored it, not reacting as they turned into the street it was on.

"Ah." He shifted to face Ronan again, smiling like he caught Ronan doing something embarrassing. Perhaps this was embarrassing. "You've seen my movies? Was this before or after you met me?"

"Answering that will only incriminate me," Ronan admitted.

"Which movies?" He then winced, a hand touching at his forehead. "Please tell me you didn't see the one where I played a robot."

Ronan had, against Opal's advice.

"Guilty," he said.

"Oh, god." Adam's legs came up to rest on the seat, feet tucking underneath him. He was becoming smaller as he stared out the window. "I hate that movie," he groaned. "It was so bad."

Ronan laughed. "Why did you do it then?"

"Money," Adam said, so quick it was like a reflex response. He probably got asked that question a lot. "It was the start of my career, and sometimes you just have to do what you can." He then let his legs fall back into the floor space before him reserved for them. "I've worked my ass of from that point so I don't have to do anything I don't want to now," he said defensively.

"So you wanted to do the space movie?" Ronan teased.

Adam moved and slapped him on the shoulder. "Don't knock it until you've seen it," he said. "It's actually really good, and I'm not just saying that."

Ronan couldn't think of anything witty to say back, so he just chuckled under his breath as they drove on.

Eventually they drove to a small house, white with a blue door. It was plain and ordinary with a dead yard in front and a skateboard on that dead lawn.

Opal didn't motion to move when they stopped. She merely stared at it through the window.

"Are your parents home?" Ronan asked.

"I don't live with my parents," she muttered.

Ronan looked at Adam and Adam said nothing. He gave Opal his attention instead, and he reached his hand out to her across the car. She took it with one of hers, not quite looking his way. "Remember what I said," he said to her. "If you ever need anything, call me okay? I'm going to get a new phone," and he waved the broken one in view. "But I'll keep the same number I gave you. Okay?"

She nodded, finally meeting his eyes. He gave her a warm smile, and she softened a little. She started to get out after that, but Ronan felt something heavy sit at the base of his stomach watching her leave.

"Opal." He turned around too. She paused her hand at the door handle and looked back. "I'll see you tomorrow?" he suggested.

She brightened for a fraction of a second, then opened the door and got out, saying nothing. He watched her head inside, grabbing the skateboard off the lawn as she went. When she wasn't visible anymore he looked forward, catching Adam's gaze as he turned.

"You're good with her," he noted.

"I like kids," said Adam.

Ronan turned the car back on, overwhelmed with music again as he drove on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After they parked by his house, Ronan began to feel frantic that Adam was going to be in his house. His house. His house . He walked faster than him to the door, which didn't go unnoticed.

"I didn't realize this was a race," Adam commented.

"Could you wait outside for a minute?" he asked.

Adam folded his arms across his torso. "Why?" He then smirked. "Hiding the bodies, I presume?"

"Actually, it's all the porn and drugs," Ronan replied.

Adam was avoiding showing his amusement but Ronan could tell he wanted to laugh.

Once he stepped inside he was overwhelmed with just how messy Gansey left the place. Okay, he left it a little messy too, but 90% of this mess was Gansey's. Having him as a roommate in situations like this was proving problematic, and he panicked at the disarray.

In a flurry, he started cleaning up as basically as he could. He wiped a spill on the counter and moved dishes into the sink, dirty clothes into the closet for now. He even brushed some of the fallen mint leaves into a pile behind one of the plants.

"Gansey!" he called out. "Gansey?"

No response. That was a blessing. He turned back to the door, sighing with relief, and found Adam entered at some point without warning. Ronan was flustered.

He was in his place. He was in his home. He could see his stuff. Adam was looking around as he walked through the front hall and into the living room where Ronan was. He eyed the stairwell that led up to Ronan and Gansey's bedrooms.

"Nice place," he said, finally looking Ronan's way since he arrived. He suspected he looked like a mess. He felt like one.

"I like it," he said, shooting for casual.

Adam stood around a moment, as Ronan realized the sofa still had a dirty sock hanging off the back.

"Phone?" Adam suggested.

"Oh, yeah." Before saying anything, Ronan raced upstairs and grabbed it from his bed. He noticed messages from his friends and exited out of them all as he walked back downstairs. Adam wasn't where he left him and he checked a few rooms before finding Adam outside in his small yard. It had no view, blocked by tall fencing on all sides, but it had a patch of grass and a patio furniture set.

He offered Adam his phone when he noticed him come out. Adam's fingers grazed his as it was handed off. Ronan almost screeched.

"Thanks," said Adam coolly.

The sun was beginning to set, and the breezes from the bay were picking up. Adam stood there holding the phone in his hand, as Ronan waited for him to make his call, taking in the sound of seagulls passing by overhead. It took him a second to realize Adam was staring at him, and then it took him another second to figure out why.

"Oh, right," he said, turning back to the sliding glass door that led back into his place. Adam wanted privacy. "I'll just be in here," he said. "Not eavesdropping."

Adam nodded, smiling a bit, hopefully allured by his uncoordinated behavior. "Thanks."

To distract himself from staring out at Adam as he talked outside, Ronan went into the kitchen and started washing his dishes. This was really Gansey's mess, but he needed something to do, and washing dishes really took his mind off things.

Adam came back in after a while, and he set the phone down on the counter by the dish drying rack.

"Thank you," he said. "The car's on the way. I'm going to go wait for it outside. Shouldn't be but a couple minutes."

Ronan turned off the sink. "That quick huh?" he said, grabbing the dish towel to dry off his hands.

"My manager called me a taxi," said Adam.

"Oh."

Adam moved toward the door, walking around the other side of Ronan to make his way toward it. He smiled a little, nodding to him.

"It was nice to see you again, despite you breaking my phone."

"See, that was the highlight of my day," he said.

Ronan was so charmed. He was charming. Jesus this was painful. Adam rolled his eyes, less annoyed and more like he expected for Ronan to say something like that. He grabbed his hat from his back pant's pocket and returned it to his head. "I hope you and Opal will be okay," he said.

"Me too." The sudden reminder of it gave him a heavy feeling. This gave him one as well. Talking to him was easy, once he managed his crush and just talked.

"Yeah, well....." Adam looked hesitant to leave, and Ronan had a thousand thoughts on why that could be, all of them only fantasy. He watched Adam head for the front door, and then come back around to him. He moved into Ronan and Ronan was startled. He went for a handshake and Adam went in for a hug and they collided awkwardly and then through the mess of it Adam instead just kissed him on the cheek. Ronan almost gasped.

"Goodbye, Ronan," he said softly.

"Goodbye, Borgon the Android."

Adam looked at him witheringly. "Not funny."

"Oh, I think it's hilarious," Ronan said playfully.

This time Adam made it to the door without any hesitancy, no looking back, nothing. He opened the door and Ronan called out, "Real quick," he said. "Can I get your autograph?"

Adam's laugh reverberated down the hall to him as he left.

When he was gone, Ronan's place felt different. Adam's presence in it made him much more aware of everything in his home. Suddenly he wanted to clean everything, even though he was never going to see Adam again in his life. Not unless Opal somehow coerced him back.

After only making it through cleaning his kitchen, Ronan collapsed exhausted on his bed upstairs. He opened his phone to respond to some of the messages, begrudgingly. His friends would worry otherwise, even though it was expected of him to barely use it. Apparently Blue dropped by his bookshop today and found it closed, which created a huge fuss amongst the rest of their friends sans Gansey.

But before he replied to any of them, he caught a text conversation he did not start sitting in the center of his recent texts. Adam must have programmed himself into Ronan's phone and texted himself. He messaged:

Hey, it's that smartass that broke your phone at the aquarium.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

Ronan's life had become a mess, and he didn't know what to do about it. Things were good for a while, but then Gansey moved in and he was a mess. Then he met Adam, and his insides were a mess. Then he fucked up with Opal, and now they were a mess. Everything was fucked, and he didn't know how to handle any of it.

Opal was quiet again, but it was a more wounding quiet, full of silent resentment. She expected him to be a perfect separate thing from her home life, but when her home life was as mysterious and troubling as it was, it was hard to keep separate. He couldn't just stand by and watch her self destruct like he almost did.

But he didn't know what to do now. Whenever he tried to talk to her she ignored him or mumbled replies, and yet she continued her visits. School was out now, as it was summer, but she was around less than when school was in.

As a result, her frustration with him malformed into his frustration building with customers. He became abysmal to talk to at work, and more than once drove a customer away with his behavior. Progress was sliding backwards and he fucking hated it. He could see himself resorting to anger like he once did, and he didn't know what to do to change it.

Gansey was still lousy as ever about cleaning and taking care of himself. He became obsessed with his dead king like he once was, but more than anything he was still broken about Roger Mallory. Ronan could understand and sympathize with being destroyed by someone's death, but he didn't understand how Gansey could. He was always a redwood tree, solid and strong. Now he was more like wicker, fragile and susceptible.

He managed to get out of the house at one point, when Ronan suggested they see something at the movies. Gansey dragged Ronan to see Adam's new film, which he knew he couldn't protest too much or else it would be suspicious. The whole time Ronan kept rewinding back to the day at the aquarium.

"I like you. You're funny."

Ronan was a sea storm inside.

He didn't text Adam back, even though he had his number and so badly wanted to. There was a part of him that read into the text to the point he didn't think it would be a good idea. He wasn't sure if Adam wanted him to text him, or if he only gave his number in case of Opal, or something else entirely he hadn't thought of. He picked apart the text and decided against it. He couldn't get hurt if he didn't try.

It was clear Opal and Adam were talking, by her reactions to occasional texts and the mention of Adam not holding as much of a glow as it once did. They were becoming friends, which he appreciated, and so he left well enough alone.

Adam was this unapproachable thing, like a hallucination in a desert. You see water, you see salvation, but when you approach, it evaporates in the hot, dry air.

Plus, a few days after Adam gave Ronan his number, he was spotted getting coffee with a hot male model that all the stupid tabloids speculated was his new boyfriend. Ronan hated that Gansey left that shit lying around the house, and worse, hated himself for reading it.

It opened up something new about himself. This fascination, this separation from reality and fantasy.

Adam was seen traipsing around Europe during fashion weeks in Milan and Paris and other cities he's never been to. He sat in front rows next to other famous people looking fine as hell doing famous people things. His movie was successful and greenlit for a sequel.

Ronan's highlight of June was when Blue dragged him to a concert over the bridge in Berkeley.

Two different worlds.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It was the cusp of July, and Ronan's summer was the same as always. He was having dinner at Henry and Noah's along with Blue, who often came in with enough news it distracted his friends from his solemn mood. That is, when she was around. She was so often traipsing around the world it was hard to catch her long enough. But tonight she would be at dinner, and he couldn't wait to not be Henry and Noah's sole focus.

He invited Gansey, but Gansey was busy collapsed on the sofa watching some old British show.

Blue was already at the house when Ronan arrived, talking about her latest breakup, which happened while she was still over in Puerto Rico with him.

"I dumped him at the airport," she said, as Henry was still in the kitchen and Noah was putting out snacks. "I took a later flight, so that's why I just landed an hour ago."

Noah was shaking his head, lips flattened to swallow a laugh, but they could hear Henry in the kitchen cackling.

"You didn't," he said.

"I couldn't be bothered sitting next to him for an entire flight," she replied. Blue was pragmatic sometimes, and other times she did things so spontaneous he wondered what sparked her to do those things at all. She had only been dating this guy a month, and then she invited him along to her work trip to Puerto Rico, and now here she was, single again but without a care in the world as to that fact.

"Why didn't you just wait until you got back?" Noah asked.

"Because he sucked."

Blue was very honest about if she thought someone sucked.

"Then why did you go to Puerto Rico with him?" Henry called out.

Blue turned to Ronan on the sofa they shared, and sighed, looking exasperated.

"Ronan how's your love life going? Still single?" She was trying to push their friends' attention onto her. She smiled wickedly at him and he rolled his eyes, disappointed he didn't think about that. They always tried to find a way to push the attention of their friends onto the other.

"Fuck you," he snapped.

"That's a yes," she grinned.

Noah slapped gently at her knee.

"There was that guy I set you up with a couple months ago," Henry shouted from the kitchen. A few seconds later he appeared with a kitchen towel in his hands and an apron around his waist. "How did that go?"

The date was underwhelming at the time, and more so as he thought back on it. There wasn't a spark. There wasn't anything really. He shook his hand goodbye at the end and avoided a kiss like it was leprosy. But after he met Adam, just comparing a poorly flirtatious conversation and a date, it felt like comparing the moon to a rock.

"Clearly it went great if he's never mentioned him again," Blue remarked. He looked at her with contempt. She flashed him another grin.

"I almost stuck a fork in my eye," he said. She rolled her eyes, while Noah grimaced. "He wouldn't shut the fuck up about boats."

"Well that's lovely," Henry winced.

"And that's why I told you to stop trying to set him up with guys from your work!" Noah replied.

"I think I've run out of them anyway,"

Ronan wanted to tell them about Adam, but there wasn't much to tell. He couldn't say his name, and he couldn't exactly explain why it was he was never going to see him again. He knew so much and yet so little, and they would be told even less. It was real enough for him, those two briefs encounters, he didn't need to tell them. Telling them would almost spoil it, with the list of questions they were sure to ask. So he was silent.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Gansey was passed out on the sofa again when he came home. At some point he ordered pizza and left it on the living room floor barely eaten. The television was still on, and so were the lights. Ronan sighed, feeling forlorn looking at his friend.

After cleaning up after him in the living room, Ronan put a blanket over him to sleep. He wasn't sure what to do about him. Having a serious talk wasn't exactly his forte, and Gansey couldn't exactly give one to himself. The others offered to talk to him but they didn't know Gansey in quite the same way. So he was left with the dilemma of dealing with him alone.

He decided he would have to deal with it tomorrow. But tonight, he slept.

Bed was a welcome thought after a long day of either being ignored or prodded about a nonexistent love life. However, tonight like all nights, Ronan had trouble sleeping. He was tossing and turning, drowning under several blankets as the bay breezes made the night cold.

Ding ding.

His phone wasn't muted. Great. He cursed as he reached for it on his nightstand. His eyes strained as the screen was still lit, the message visible. Ronan blinked when he sleepily read it, and then he felt a rush of adrenaline.

 

adam parrish: You know, usually when someone gives you their phone number they expect you to use it.

 

He was wide awake.

And he stayed awake well into dawn. Who could sleep after a text like that?

When the sun started snaking in through his bedroom window curtains, he sat up. Bleary eyed and light headed, he took his phone out again from where he shoved it under pillows and blankets. There the text was again when he looked, untouched. It was the same as it was when he checked before, although when he opened the phone up he hoped it would've been different. Easier to reply. Easier to ignore.

This was painful.

Ronan rubbed his eyes and sat up more. He typed out several replies. They were all shitty, so he deleted them. Again and again he tried to think of a response. Nothing clever came to mind. Nothing substantial.

He simply gave in and wrote something, anything. It hurt to hit send after ignoring him for a month.

 

ronan lynch: i wasn't sure if you just wanted to have a conversation with yourself. didn't want to interrupt

 

That was incredibly dumb, he decided. Where even was he right now, Ronan wondered. Adam texted at two in the morning before, and he suspected it wasn't two am for him. Now it was around six, and he wanted to slip back into his sheets and disappear to sleep. Maybe have a dream about- No. Stop.

Ronan shut his eyes and let his phone fall to his lap. He just wanted to sleep.

His lap vibrated. He struggled not to feel some sort of glee as he looked down.

 

adam parrish: I shouldn't have been all that surprised. After all you purposefully left your phone at your house for an entire day. Probably never use it.

 

Ronan ached.

 

ronan lynch: i'm using it now

 

Adam didn't reply right away. After ten minutes Ronan wasn't sure he was going to write at all. He wanted to throw up. The thought of him not replying shouldn't have been a surprise. He had a life. For a fleeting moment Ronan was a part of it.

Fuck, he needed to sleep.

It was possible he wouldn't go in to work today. He hasn't had a sleepless night this bad since high school, and all he wanted now was to rest his weary eyes and put his mind to rest. Let these cluttered thoughts settle.

Then he felt his phone vibrate once, then twice. Ronan remembered Henry once saying something about how 'double texting' was a good thing. But he didn't know if he should believe in that crap.

 

adam parrish: I should hope so.

adam parrish: Unless someone stole your phone in which case kind texter please return this to its rightful owner even though he'll never text me back unlike you xx

 

Those two xs did him in. He lay back down in bed staring at them, sinking under the blankets until they were up to his nose. His breathing was too fast for this early. He wanted to go back to sleep so badly, but Adam was texting him again and he knew he wasn't sleeping ever again. Not when this was the alternative. He was having a conversation with Adam. Unbelievable.

 

adam parrish: Is this weird for you?

A little bit, Ronan admitted.

He saw Adam was texting him back and he was quick to add,

I mean, I stole this phone and now I'm having a conversation with a super star

 

The ellipses image went away a second. Then it came back and he laughed.

 

adam parrish: Jesus Christ I can tell it's you through the phone. I don't think anyone can be as absurd as you.

ronan lynch: thanks

adam parrish: You're welcome.

 

Ronan didn't know what else to say. He was reading into this. It shouldn't be so hard, talking to someone. Adam was just a guy. A guy who wore Armani suits and was featured in fashion spreads, but still a guy.

Outside his room he heard Gansey moving around, and then he saw fleeting glimpses of the creeper walking past his door like a haunting.

He poked his head in when he saw Ronan was already awake. Ronan tucked his phone away.

"What are you smiling at like that so early in the morning?" he said. "You high or something?"

Ronan scowled at him. He hadn't realized he'd been smiling.

"Fuck off, Gansey. You going outside today?"

"Haven't decided yet." He needed to shave. "Goodnight."

"You were just asleep," Ronan noted.

"Cat nap." Gansey was gone from his doorway again, and not long after he heard him shut the door.

Ronan felt a vibration in his phone and looked down again.

 

adam parrish: Have you ever been to Ireland?

 

Ronan suspected that's where he was now. He vaguely recalled something about how he was there recently for a film.

 

ronan lynch: a few times growing up. nothing recently.

adam parrish: It's boring as fuck

 

Ronan almost laughed and rolled his eyes.

 

ronan lynch: how can Ireland be boring? ever thought maybe you're the boring one?

adam parrish : There's nothing out here except an old castle and a bunch of sheep. You'd probably love it, farmer boy

 

Ronan laughed out loud.

 

ronan lynch: i'm not farmer boy

 

Not these days, he wanted to add, but didn't feel the need.

 

adam parrish: You sell books on farming. There's got to be some farmer in there. Otherwise what the hell are you selling farming books for in San Francisco?

ronan lynch: Hipsters

 

Again, Adam didn't reply. The flow was off, and of course Ronan began to think of the worst. He was bored of him. The conversation was admittedly a little stale, which he only blamed on the awkwardness of talking in text for the first time. He sighed, and stared longingly at his cracked open door. He should get ready for work, but he didn't want to get out of bed. It would be better if he let himself go back to sleep and pretend this was more than just him killing time.

 

You've been in the tabloids a lot lately, he almost writes.

Why are you texting me, he almost writes.

Do you talk to opal? That one hurt to type out and he definitely didn't send it.

 

ronan lynch: how do I know this is even really you, Parrish? and not some bored assistant pretending to be you?

adam parrish: You're joking

ronan lynch: the only other explanation is you're incredibly dull in text

 

He gets silence.

Ronan fucked up. While he had a small repertoire with him in person, text was a whole other language, which was precisely why he didn't like to use it. If he had to use his phone at all he preferred calling. But he didn't want to pay for a long distance phone call to Ireland. And he doubted Adam wanted to talk on the phone with him.

Out of frustration, Ronan tossed his phone onto the bed with a resounding sigh. The phone bounced on the mattress and then bounced off and onto the floor. He heard it smack onto the hardwood floor and he flinched.

Before his brain caught up with his body, he flung himself over the bed and retrieved his phone out from where it slid underneath. He felt a pang in his stomach as he checked to see if it was broken anywhere and if it still turned on. Normally he wouldn't have cared, but it wasn't like he could ask for Adam's number again so easily.

The phone was fine. Once again he was overreacting.

Adam sent another text as he was slinking back into his sheets for the warmth the morning hours did not offer. He opened it hesitantly, not sure what to expect. He found himself staring at a photo of Adam, a self portrait or whatever the fuck they're called.

Adam was giving the camera a bored look while at the same time was flipping the camera off. He was on set, that much was clear by what little background Ronan could make out. It looked like a very old and fancy room behind him. His hair and shirt collar gave him the appearance of a Jane Austen era adaptation. Even with the visible tiredness in his eyes, he looked fucking good.

 

ronan lynch: how do I know this is even recent?

 

Ronan was being dangerous this morning. Lack of sleep helped in that department. He waited with bated breath for a response. This conversation alone was probably affecting his cholesterol.

He received not a text, not a photo, but a video from Adam. It was in the same place, only now with video there was so much noise behind him, the world around Adam becoming more alive and visible through motion and sound. He was slumped in his chair, shoulders pressed in tight to his neck, with people talking in the background and people yelling things like glass moving and striking .

"Ronan Lynch, you are the absolute worst," he hissed. "Is this enough proof for you, asshole?"

Ronan was aware he was grinning this time, the audacity of it pulling so much at his cheeks they hurt. He saved the video, and the picture too, and then replayed the video again and again. Adam's accent was a mixture of English and his normal one, like he had tried to slip out of the one for his film and into his real one for Ronan. It was enlightening, and attractive, and on his fifth view of the little clip he realized something.

 

ronan lynch: hey i never told you my last name

 

It had officially been an hour since he woke up and as he continued to lie in bed with no intention of getting up, he realized he was definitely not going in today.

 

adam parrish: I may have googled you

 

Ronan's heart was racing.

 

ronan lynch: that's a little creepy

adam parrish: People do it about me all the time

 

That was true, Ronan thought. But he didn't really find it creepy. He was kind of enamored by it. That he made enough of an impact on Adam for him to google him. The modern age of learning about someone, he supposed. Bet he was disappointed Ronan didn't use any form of social media to look at.

 

adam parrish: Had to make sure you weren't a serial killer or stalker or worse, a blogger

 

Ronan snorted.

 

ronan lynch: a blogger is the worst one of those three?

adam parrish: Yes, sometimes. You don't want to know half the shit I've seen online.

 

Curious, Ronan googled himself to see what would pop up. He googled the name of his bookstore, Greywaren Books, and there was a site Henry made him a while back that didn't have much but it did have his name. There were some small articles about its opening, and it was featured in a few sites for places to visit when in the city. When he googled his name, other than the shop, nothing really came up. That was a relief, although what could show up? His terrible attendance at high school? His lack of a college degree? How the closest thing to love he experienced was a guy he met shortly after moving here in a gay bar where he fumbled awkwardly through the motions from feeling so lonely but couldn't commit at the last minute; how they went on two dates after before he called it off because it only made him lonelier, and how he didn't really try since. A date here and there, but nothing else. Now here he was pining after a celebrity more deeply than he felt for anyone in an absurdly long time, perhaps ever. Thank god google didn't say anything about that.

 

adam parrish: Are you becoming a blogger now just to spite me?

 

Ronan realized he hadn't yet replied.

 

ronan lynch: yes I think i'm going to title it 'Adam Parrish called me an asshole'

adam parrish : I've called a lot of people an asshole.

ronan lynch: now i'm titling it 'I thought I was special but Adam Parrish calls everyone an asshole'

adam parrish: Haha

ronan lynch: is that a sarcastic laugh? blog entry #1: he sent haha. the passive aggressiveness of this haha speaks volumes. i will never see haha the same way again

adam parrish: Drama queen

ronan lynch: blog entry #2: he called me a drama queen. but those words still didn't sting the way he called me asshole. i am broken. what am i if oscar nominated actor Adam Parrish thinks so lowly of me?

adam parrish: God, are all the entries from just this conversation?

ronan lynch: I like how you're ignoring my existential crisis

adam parrish: Because you're a drama queen.

ronan lynch: and you're just bored waiting around on set

adam parrish: That's not completely true

ronan lynch: oh? which part isn't true? you? on? around?

adam parrish: I'm not bored anymore.

 

Ronan swelled with the intolerable feeling he wanted to get rid of.

 

ronan lynch: you're welcome

adam parrish: I didn't say it was because of you :)

 

Ronan couldn't tell if he was joking. He sat there analyzing the text the few seconds between when it arrived and when Adam sent a second one.

 

adam parrish : Sarcasm aside, I admit I'm surprised you replied at all

ronan lynch : yeah well i had nothing better to do

adam parrish : I'm very fortunate then that you have such a plain schedule

 

Ronan was sweating. This was flirting wasn't it? He knew he was.

 

adam parrish : They're calling me back to set. Until next time, Lynch

ronan lynch : blog entry #3: he said goodbye to me

 

Adam sent him another photo of him mid rolling his eyes. If he looked close enough he swore he could see a smile starting on his lips, or maybe that was wishful thinking.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

He fell asleep after that, all too easily. Dreams of sheep and the Irish countryside filled his head. He thought of Opal, and if she told Adam more things than she told him. He wanted to be that person for her, but he didn't know what to say to be that person. His dreams were no longer nice, even as he dreamed of Adam appearing from out of a fountain, shirt soaked through and showcasing a very nicely formed body. Like that British miniseries. Gansey had him watch it in high school and he was made aware just how gay he really was. Now he pictured Adam in it, but the dream was cut too short.

He woke up to the sound of loud and shitty music blasting through the house. It was painful to hear, and that was coming from someone whose own music taste rivaled cats screeching (according to Blue, and Henry, and Noah, and everybody else).

"We have neighbors!" Ronan yelled. He sounded a lot more adult than he liked to, but with Gansey's current position in life somehow their roles had switched.

Gansey was downstairs, standing on the sofa and dancing around. He was drunk. The smell of alcohol was potent and familiar. Ronan was made nauseous by it.

"Are you fucking trying to break your neck, Gansey? You wreckless weirdo. This is terrible music to die to." Ronan walked right over to the stereo and turned the music off. At once Gansey faltered on the sofa, glaring at him from above. He couldn't believe this was the same Gansey he knew in high school.

"That was Mallory's favorite music," he slurred.

"Who?"

Gansey looked at him in drunken horror.

"You never liked him," he hissed.

"He was an old asshole." When Gansey looked away, he could see this wasn't the best approach. He grumbled under his breath a few curse words at the situation. Gansey looked like he was going to fall any second, and Ronan stepped closer toward the sofa in case he did. "You know, I'm sorry he's dead, but for fuck's sake man, he isn't worth all this."

"I'm going to die alone like he did." Gansey's lips quivered as he resisted crying. "Single old man found dead."

His resistance fell short and he collapsed onto his knees on the sofa cushions, and at once started to cry.

"Oh for Christ's-" Ronan rolled his eyes and sighed. He came to sit beside him on the sofa. He didn't know what to do. He couldn't remember what Gansey did when he was in a place like this. How he comforted him. How he helped him get beyond it.

Awkwardly, he put a hand to Gansey's back.

"There there," he mumbled.

This was painful, but Gansey was his friend.

Gansey pressed his face against the back of the couch, sniffling into it. This was hard to watch.

He continued to comfort Gansey through his tears, as he went on about what Mallory meant to him. Ronan already knew all this, but he listened anyway. This was the first time Gansey properly talked of him since he first moved in, and that was months and months ago.

In his jeans pocket he felt a text come through. It was two pm here, which meant it was ten pm in Ireland. Ronan hated that he did the calculations. He pulled out his phone while still trying to listen to Gansey. It was a difficult balance.

 

adam parrish: I realize how weird it must be to be talking to me like this. after all, I'm me. you probably think you hit the jackpot.

 

Ignoring Adam's sarcasm, Ronan wrote back with one hand, the other still at Gansey's back as he cried.

 

ronan lynch: oh, so you don't do this often? give your phone number to random civilians you meet?

adam parrish: no, you're the first

 

"Are you texting someone right now?" Gansey sniffled. He sounded outraged.

"No." Ronan was typing out what makes me so special.

"You're literally typing as we speak!" Gansey was glowering at him.

"Give me a minute," said Ronan. He was typing out still one handed, and it was difficult.

"Ronan!"

It took for him to say that for Ronan to register what he was doing. His mind was singularly focused on Adam that the moment he was present in his mind again that was all that filled his mind. This was a problem, he thought. He looked between Gansey and his phone, at the sheer sadness in Gansey's eyes and the text waiting to be finished on his phone.

"Yeah, okay." He knew which was more important, and set his phone back down on his lap. His full attention was offered to Gansey again, who sniffled as his eyes were still focused on the phone.

"Who are you texting anyway?" he asked.

"No one," Ronan replied, without hesitancy.

"Are you texting a guy? That you're into? Are you keeping him secret because of me? I really am gonna die alone!"

Gansey went back to breaking down.

"Oh, Jesus Christ Gansey." Ronan really wasn't cut out for this. "You aren't fucking dying alone. You're upset about Mallory."

"Don't talk to me in that tone when I'm sad!" Gansey argued.

"This is my tone for everything," Ronan snapped. "You know that. And you're not Mallory, alright? You're fucking Richard Gansey the third. You're not dying alone. Jesus."

Gansey didn't say anything, but it was something. He didn't argue. He listened. That was something.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

adam parrish: You're meant to entertain me but you're taking ages to reply

 

That ruined Ronan's chance of asking him why me.

 

ronan lynch : i'm not a fucking jester, your royal pain in my ass. i've got things to do

adam parrish : :(

 

Ronan didn't know what to say to a frown.

 

adam parrish : let me guess. blog entry #7

ronan lynch : we're still on 4 actually

adam parrish : Oh I would've assumed you wrote 3 more since we last spoke.

ronan lynch : no it's been a slow Parrish morning

adam parrish : I see

 

Ronan again didn't know what to say. Texting was hard. It was even harder when you were making sure your best friend was okay at the same time. Gansey was showering, and Ronan was standing just outside the bathroom door. He was forcing him outside today to get fresh air. He could hear him poorly singing through the door behind him, something melancholy.

 

ronan lynch: why are you in Ireland?

adam parrish : Met a sexy farmer and moved into their drafty castle in the middle of nowhere

ronan lynch : wow do I get an invite to the wedding

 

Did he really just say that? Did he really just joke that? Unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable. He was his own cause of pain.

 

adam parrish: Of course :) You're my jester after all :)

 

Adam..... did that.

 

adam parrish : My film that's coming out in a few months required some reshoots. They're adding new scenes and bettering others. It's going to make the movie a lot better but it's also incredibly dull at the same time

ronan lynch : so I really am just meant to entertain you

adam parrish : no

 

Ronan stood there trying to analyze the message while he could hear Gansey's poorly done covers of Beatles songs bleeding through the wall. He was always terrible at singing, and more so recently when he would be singing because he was drunk or crying or both.

 

adam parrish: You're the first person that's made me genuinely laugh in a long time. I thought maybe we could be friends

 

Ronan didn't know what to say to that, and resorted to the joke he was already tired of himself.

 

ronan lynch: blog entry #5

adam parrish: You've worn this joke thin.

 

Ronan rolled his eyes.

 

ronan lynch : don't you have enough friends? being rich and famous?

adam parrish : do you not want to be friends?

 

Ronan analyzed this in his head. He knew this was a terrible idea. Being friends with someone famous. It would create chaos in both their lives no doubt. Being friends at all with Adam sounded painful. To watch him be with someone else, that model from the tabloids or another actor or actress later on (he may have learned through Opal that Adam was openly bisexual), it hurt to think about those possibilities.

However, Adam was a private person he could already tell. He probably wouldn't want their friendship scrutinized as much as he wouldn't. The possibility to know Adam more... How could he say no?

 

ronan lynch : what if i get more famous than you?

adam parrish : Ha! I don't think we have to worry about that

ronan lynch: wow friendship over

adam parrish : It was fun while it lasted

ronan lynch : I don't have anything to wear for someone with a famous friend anyway

adam parrish : yes, that is the most important part of friendship

 

The door swung open behind Ronan, who faltered a bit as he had been leaning against it. Gansey stepped out freshly showered, towel wrapped around his waist, and glasses fogged up from steam. Ronan felt ten degrees warmer from the steam following him out of the bathroom.

 

ronan lynch: you'd get annoyed with my jokes fast

adam parrish: too late

 

"There. I showered." Gansey put his hands on his hips as his hair dripped down onto his bare shoulders. Ronan rolled his eyes at him. "You happy now?"

"My nose is." He wrinkled it for good measure. "Now go get dressed."

Gansey groaned. "Why?" His hands fell down to his side again.

"You need some fucking sun, you ghoul," said Ronan. Gansey needed some tough love if he was meant to outlive this breakdown.

"Ugh." Gansey rolled his eyes, but moved to his bedroom regardless. Ronan followed him, to make sure he didn't lock the door and hide away in the darkness of his dirty room.

 

ronan lynch : I'm not very photogenic

adam parrish: wait are you really trying to give me reasons now? because I'm going to be honest here, my personal life is private and I like it that way. if that's something you're worried about. I do like talking to you. I wasn't joking about that. I haven't stopped thinking about that little bookstore and its cranky owner since that day. You're like a bad pop song and I can't get you out of my head. Even if you aren't photogenic and wear terribly normal clothes and plan on making a blog about how I called you an asshole. Asshole. I don't give my private number to just anyone.

 

Through the door he could hear Gansey groaning loudly. He opened it to find he managed to get as far as putting on underwear, but that was all.

"Gansey, I swear to fucking god--"

Gansey jumped and then pointed an angry finger at Ronan.

"Fiiiiiiiiine," he said, groaning again. "Fine fine fine."

Ronan shook his head and turned away from Gansey's room, relieving himself of Gansey duty again for just a few minutes more. His heart was racing as he reread the message again and again.

And then the impossible happened. Adam was calling him.

He almost dropped his phone.

It kept ringing as he shut his eyes and opened them again to see if he was hallucinating. No, he was still calling him. This was happening. Hesitant, he answered.

"Uh, hello?"

"It's been a long time since I've tried to know someone who wasn't a part of this life. I genuinely hope you don't care about all that." Adam laid into him immediately and he faltered as he tried to find his voice to answer. This was such a weird day.

"I don't." He eyed Gansey slowly getting dressed and he shut the door to give them both privacy.

Adam sighed. He could hear the sleepiness in his voice. "Then why the hell are you being so annoying?"

Ronan almost laughed.

"Bet you regret giving me your number now," he quipped.

Adam groaned.

"I was giving you an out, in case..." Ronan didn't know why he was admitting this, but he was. He wanted Adam to know the truth, but not the whole truth, which was that he was scared he was going to develop feelings for him, real feelings beyond the middle school crush he felt. If he already suspected that from three conversations, it was going to happen whether he liked it or not. If he told this to Adam he was sure to offer some amusement before he went to bed.

"In case what?" Adam sounded so quiet over the phone, even when he was clearly irritated. "I can't sleep now thanks to you."

"You shouldn't use your phone when you're in bed," Ronan teased. He could feel himself smiling during the phone call. "Strains your eyes. Keeps your brain too alert to sleep."

"Fuck you. It's on night mode," Adam grumbled. He sounded so tired.

Ronan snorted.

"I know it's weird--"

"Yeah." Ronan didn't want to talk about that anymore. "Using night mode is weird."

Adam sighed heavily into his ear. He closed his eyes a second, knowing he couldn't avoid the topic in question.

"I'm not a social experiment," he said, uneased by the need to say it. He and Adam didn't know each other, and he was still irrational as to why Adam wanted to talk to him at all. When a man had the world in his hands, why choose to know someone from within it when he could instead reach for the stars?

Maybe Gansey's terrible mood was becoming infectious.

"I never said you were." Adam sighed again. "I wasn't always part of this lifestyle. For fuck's sake I was raised in a trailer park."

There was a silence. Ronan wondered if Adam meant to say that. He sounded... lonely. Ronan was lonely too.

"I'm a regular person." Adam's voice was smaller as he said it. He could definitely hear the loneliness now.

"So you're really not an android?" he said. "Damn. The movies lied to me."

Adam coughed, over what he hoped was a laugh he was trying to smother. "You're an asshole," he said proudly.

"We've established this already." Ronan chewed on his lower lip as he could only hear Adam's soft breathing. He wanted to close his eyes and lose himself in the relaxing sound, but he had a life he needed to focus on. One that, unfortunately, did not revolve around Adam Parrish happily calling him asshole.

Ronan opened Gansey's door to find him just sitting on his bed. He was only half dressed, and staring at a wall blankly.

"Gansey, are you finished getting ready?" he said.

Gansey grumbled something under his breath, but did not speak loud enough for him to catch it.

"Hurry the fuck up," he said.

"Are you talking to me?" Adam asked in his ear. He almost forgot he had the phone still to his face.

"What? No. My roommate."

"Oh."

"You've got five minutes Gansey."

" You've got five minutes Gansey ," Gansey said mockingly.

"Don't fucking sass me."

Adam was laughing into his ear. Ronan felt hot as he shut the door.

“You sound busy," Adam said, and Ronan already knew he was going to like where this was headed. "I should let you go."

Yeah, he didn't like where it headed.

"Yeah," he said anyway. Adam sounded more and more exhausted the longer he had him on the phone. "You need all the beauty sleep you can get. You looked awful in those photos earlier."

"Hey!"

Ronan chuckled a little. There was more breathing on Adam's end, who he listened to quietly, reserved.

"Are we........?" Adam cut himself off. His voice drifted into the other sound of him sleeping.

"You don't have to ask." Ronan closed his eyes. "I don't exactly know how to do this-"

"Me either."

"But I... would like to know you. I guess." He breathed. He felt strange admitting that aloud. Stronger for it, but strange.

"You guess?"

"You called Ireland boring," Ronan joked.

He heard Adam make a weird scoffing choking sound, like he was in disbelief he said that and couldn't decide if it was funny or stupid.

"I'll talk to you tomorrow," Ronan added. He could tell Gansey needed coaxing to get out of his room. He hadn't heard any movement since he shut the door again.

"Yeah." Adam's voice sounded soft. "Tomorrow."

"This is probably going to become a huge disaster," Ronan admitted out loud. He needed to say it once, to voice his fears just once.

"You don't know that," Adam replied rather casually. "I think this could be nice if we let it."

"I meant my blog." Ronan felt like an idiot, but he heard him scoff again and he smiled into the receiver.

"Ugh. Oh my god." Adam's voice shook a little. He was laughing. Good.

Ronan laughed too, wistfully. "Goodnight, Parrish."

"Night, Lynch."

He hung up just as Gansey came out, mostly dressed beyond some socks and shoes.

"Did I hear you on the phone?" Gansey knew Ronan's resistance to phones and he sounded surprised as he asked.

"Talking to Matthew." He didn't know why he lied. No, he did. Gansey's giant poster of Adam's latest movie on his wall. "You ready?"

He hooked an arm through Gansey's to pull him downstairs. Gansey was hesitant but he followed better than he would have even a few days ago.

"Where are you taking me?" Gansey inquired.

"Don't make it sound like I'm kidnapping you," Ronan said. "It's lunch. Let's go."

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It was difficult, but he managed to get Gansey to eat more than a few bites of food. He was impossible. They ate down by the wharf, in one of the restaurants that wasn't a complete tourist trap. They then sat by the water and watched the ferries and tour boats go by. It was a cool seventy degrees, cold breezes but warm sun, and Ronan was surprised he managed to keep Gansey out for a few hours soaking in much needed vitamin D. They sat out there until the tide began to fight against the pier, and then Gansey asked to go home.

The second he took him back home, however, he was once again a mess. Ronan had to tell himself progress was slow. He could be an impatient guy, though. He just wanted his friend back.

Before bed, Ronan received another text from him. He wasn't as surprised as he was last night, but there was still a little bit of shock at Adam's name appearing on his lock screen.

 

adam parrish : There's so many sheep here

ronan lynch : isn't that what living in la is like?

adam parrish : Ok funny man. It's too early for your jokes

ronan lynch : it's ten pm

adam parrish : For me it's six am

ronan lynch : jesus christ go back to sleep

adam parrish : Some people have work

ronan lynch : I work

adam parrish : On your own schedule. You didn't work yesterday

 

Ronan was about to ask how he knew that but then realized it was Opal.

 

ronan lynch : do you talk to her a lot?

adam parrish : Who?

adam parrish : the queen of england. who do you think i'm talking about?

adam parrish : I met the queen once.

ronan lynch : Parrish

adam parrish : I talk to her when she wants to talk. Yesterday she was upset that you didn't open the shop, and then she got more upset that I told her I was talking to you. I think you should talk to her.

ronan lynch : i do talk to her

adam parrish : About things other than books, Lynch

ronan lynch : i'm not a fucking psychiatrist.

adam parrish : No one's asking you to be. Just be her friend. She needs that.

ronan lynch : she's thirteen

adam parrish : Yes, good. You can count

ronan lynch : fuck you, Parrish

adam parrish : Just try, okay?

ronan lynch : i'll try. no promises, but i'll try

adam parrish : That's all you can do. Now go to bed. Someone recently told me it's not good to use your phone right before you sleep

ronan lynch : whoever said that sounds like an asshole

adam parrish : Oh, he is. Has a stupid blog all about being one :) go to sleep

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Opal appeared at the shop a little after lunchtime a few days later. Like she had been the last month or so, she was quiet and distant. Ronan mumbled several different news topics ripped straight from the headlines to get her attention, but remembered she was thirteen and probably didn't care about world news.

 

ronan lynch: how do I talk to a thirteen year old

adam parrish: You open your mouth and words come out

ronan lynch:  fuck you, you aren't helping

adam parrish : You did fine with her before I came along. Just talk to her about what you used to

 

Ronan eyed Opal sitting in the corner of the shop reading something while sitting on the floor. He didn't know how to approach her anymore, afraid he would only upset her again and send her running away.

 

ronan lynch : we didn't really talk much before. and when we did it was.... about celebrities

adam parrish : Ah. Your kryptonite I gather? Don't like idle gossip?

ronan lynch : more like she's talking to a celebrity now so there's no need to talk to me about them

adam parrish : I'm sure standing there staring at her like a creeper while texting me isn't helping you any

 

Ronan looked up to see Opal glancing at him, who upon eye contact dropped her gaze down to her phone. This was ridiculous.

 

ronan lynch : just tell me what to say to her

adam parrish : Hi would be a good start.

 

Ronan put his phone back in his pocket and approached Opal with the utmost fear. He felt like he was walking into a lion's den or a dragon's lair or somewhere he knew he wasn't supposed to be and yet he needed to do it. She was sitting with her legs folded under her and the book in her lap, hunched over reading it in the shadows of the stacks.

"Hi," he said.

"Hi...." Opal didn't raise her head to speak.

"What you reading there?" he said, and gestured to her book.

Opal flashed him the cover. It was barely a second and he didn't see a damn thing.

"I don't know about you but I can't fucking read that fast," he said. It was played off like a joke, but Opal didn't seem to see it that way.

She rolled her eyes at him, much more demonstrative of her irritation than the way she did before. Without missing a beat, she raised the book to him, and he took it to examine this way and that. It wasn't a book from his shop. It was fiction. Something about vampires that fall in love with humans. She wasn't very far in it. He wondered why it was she was here if she wasn't even reading one of his books. The thought that maybe she missed him as much as he missed her almost made him smile. He handed back the book.

"How's it feel to be out of school for the summer?" He didn't think it was such a harmful question until he remembered school equated to family life, which in itself was a touchy subject still.

She flinched when he asked, and she pressed the book close to her chest almost like protection. Opal looked smaller and younger since their visit to the Academy of Sciences. It broke his heart. While they weren't exactly active conversationalists before, what little they talked about was now thrown to the wayside in favor of avoiding glances and shifty body language.

After a while of exchanging those glances between one another, she sighed. "It's nice," she admitted.

"I bet." He leaned against the end of the shelf. "Summers were the best when I was your age."

Ronan felt so old saying that. This was painful. This conversation.

"When the dinosaurs were still alive?" Opal stared down at her book.

"I'm not that old. Jesus."

Against her best interest, she smiled a little. He almost smiled back, but he knew her own smile wouldn't last forever. He had things he felt needed to be addressed before they were okay again. He wasn't about to ignore the fact that she was potentially living in a troubled home, that her home life was not up to par to what she deserved.

"Okay, kid." He sighed. She looked up at him and furrowed her brow with curiosity. His own gaze fell to their feet. He couldn't face the idea of seeing her sad any longer, but he knew he was about to again. "I have to ask, and I know you aren't going to like it, but don't toss the question aside. Who do you live with?"

Opal slowly met his gaze again, and slowly he watched her face shift into complete and total discomfort. Quick as a blink, her eyes went back down to her lap.

"Foster parents," she said quietly.

"Are they assholes?"

Opal shrugged. Her eyes were still focused downward. "They're whatever."

"Opal." He could sense she was denying saying it out loud. He didn't know what he could do. He felt powerless as she just kept her head focused down. Her hands were pulling at the edges of her book.

A customer came in and Ronan turned his head to the sound of the door opening.

Opal used the opportunity to steal a chance to leave, and she was gone before he could talk to her.

A while later, after Ronan tended to those who wanted to purchase things, he took out his phone and texted Adam. Adam replied almost instantly, even though it was nearly midnight where he was.

 

ronan lynch : she left

adam parrish : What happen?

ronan lynch : she won't talk to me. i'm not good at this

adam parrish : You just have to have patience. She'll come around.

ronan lynch : do you think patience is such a good idea?

adam parrish : She's not in any danger. Not at home at least.

ronan lynch : how do you know?

adam parrish : She told me. She's full of a lot of anger, because this isn't the life she wanted. She's an orphan at thirteen. Her foster family is nice enough, but they have like six other kids and she's easily been skipping school to hang out at your bookshop under their radar. While it would be nice for her to be in a more engaging environment, she's safe where she is.

ronan lynch : I can't believe she's told you all of this and all i get is 'whatever'

adam parrish : Because I listen

ronan lynch : i listen

adam parrish : You're stubborn and argumentative.

ronan lynch : no i'm not

adam parrish : Please reference previous text.

adam parrish : You're also impatient.

 

Ronan rolled his eyes and almost ended the conversation right there. It still didn't explain how it was that he found it so hard to talk to her but with Adam it sounded almost effortless. He couldn't tell who he was more envious of.

 

adam parrish : She adores you, but sometimes the ones we care for the most are the ones we're afraid of disappointing the most too. Did you have a conversation at least, before she left?

ronan lynch : briefly

adam parrish : That's progress isn't it?

ronan lynch : i guess

adam parrish : Why are you being sour

ronan lynch : i'm not being sour. how would you even know? it's just texting

 

[one missed call: adam parrish]

 

ronan lynch: that isn't an invitation to call me

 

[one missed call: adam parrish]

 

adam parrish: Lynch, pick up

ronan lynch: no

 

[one missed call: adam parrish]

 

adam parrish: Lynch

ronan lynch: No

 

[one missed call: adam parrish]

 

adam parrish: Ronan

 

The next time Adam called, Ronan gave in and answered.

"Why are you being a jerk right now?" Adam asked before Ronan could even breathe after answering.

"It's easy to be," Ronan muttered. Customers came in and browsed around. He moved to get back behind his desk, in case any of them showed interest in purchasing something.

"Fine," said Adam. His voice was clipped. He was mad now, too. "I'm hanging up then if you don't want to not be a jerk."

"Fine." Ronan moved to put his phone down, but he heard Adam groan, and he was starting to pick apart his groans. This one was definitely his frustrated one.

"What is your problem?" Adam beseeched.

"I'm perfectly fine, fuck you very much." He received looks from the patrons to his shop. They went back to browsing when he turned his back to them.

"We've only been talking for a few days but I can tell you're not fine," Adam retorted. He sounded exhausted, and Ronan assumed as much. Midnight was late for Adam, with his busy film schedule and all. "If you don't want to talk, then stay on the line at least until I fall asleep."

"Why would I do that?" Ronan was irritated beyond compare. He wanted nothing more than to hang up, throw his phone at something, and stew in his anger. It was rattling his bones, the inability to help Opal through her current situation. He didn't want to overstep his boundaries, but he felt so helpless seeing her hurt. Orphan. She was an orphan. And he just kept reminding her of it. Fuck.

The possible customers trickled out the longer he talked. He turned back toward them to find them gone. He wished he were a little more surprised, but he expected people to come in and then immediately leave. Lately most did that with his terrible customer service.

"Because I can't go to sleep and you're boring me enough maybe I'll fall asleep if we keep talking," said Adam. He spoke so quietly into his ear it was almost like he were really here. It felt intimate.

It was just a phone call, Ronan. Calm down.

"What?" Ronan's voice went too many octaves too high when he said that. He cleared his throat away from the phone and tried again. "What?"

Adam was laughing when he put his ear back to the phone. His laugh was softer, slower, from the longing to sleep. He closed his eyes and listened to it, even though he was still unsettled by him.

"You're a real pain in the ass," Ronan argued.

"Shut up." Adam yawned into his ear. "Let's change subjects."

"To what?" Ronan grumbled. He needed to get back to work, and although there weren't any customers around he suspected someone would come in soon and he would have to give them some form of attention. But for now, now he just had Adam. Sloppily he balanced the phone on his shoulder between it and his cheek, tilting his head enough to catch the phone there. He then began to look through the books on his desk he still needed to log.

"Anything," said Adam. He yawned again. "Entertain me, jester."

"I'm hanging up now," Ronan grunted.

"That's not very entertaining."

"I have shit to do," Ronan argued. But he was really standing around doing nothing. It was hard to do much with his head jerked to one side like it was.

"What are you doing right now?" Adam asked. He sounded mildly but genuinely interested.

"Working, asshole."

Adam yawned again. "Describe it to me."

"Describe-? You're fucking joking." Ronan couldn't believe Adam. Sleep was a precious thing for him, too, but he didn't go asking Adam to stay up and talk him through the process so sleep would be better.

"No, I want to know what it is you do besides the obvious," Adam remarked. "It'll put me right to sleep."

"You're unbelievable," Ronan snorted.

But slowly, Adam had worn him down. So he started describing what it was he did on a daily basis for work, from opening to closing.  He detailed what it was he did today up until now, including giving the side eye to several customers that came in only to make out and then leave again.

He was getting into the days when shipments came in when he no longer heard little sounds of acknowledgement or interest. Adam was dead silent on the other end, all but his breathing. Ronan listened to it a moment, as a few more people filtered in to look around. He accepted Adam fell asleep and that he should hang up, but he listened a little longer than he needed to, and then he eventually hung up.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Opal continued to be absent from the store over the next several days, and Gansey continued to be a mess emotionally about himself and Mallory. He stayed in his room or on the sofa when Ronan was gone, wallowing and being self deprecating.

Adam, though. Adam was a consistency now to his ever changing days. They talked every day, and Ronan could see himself absorbing the friendship, focusing on it rather than the middle school crush he had. That was tossed to the wayside for this. Or, at the very least tucked away.

Adam was still in Ireland filming, so their schedule was still awkwardly mismatched. They talked the few hours they were awake at the same time and not overwhelmingly busy, which Adam was most of the time they could speak. So it wasn't a lot, but it was enough. Ronan was learning a lot about Adam, about his world as an actor, and Adam was learning a lot about Ronan and his world as the owner of an independent store.

Most of all, Adam was great to talk to. Down to earth. Funny. Brilliant. An asshole. But one he liked.

Two weeks went by since Adam first texted him, and in those two weeks he only saw Opal the once. He swore he saw her walk by outside once, but he couldn't have been sure it was her. He missed her, but Adam said she was okay. He had to believe him. That's all he wanted, for her to be okay. While it sucked not seeing her like he did, at least she had Adam to confide in. At least he had Adam to confide in.

"My phone bill for this month better not be sky high," Ronan remarked, when Adam opted to call him again during his lunch break. It was nine pm there, and he just got off. His last filming date was tomorrow and then he was back in New York. While Ronan wasn't going to see him, he couldn't wait for him to be in a closer time zone. It was hopefully going to be easier to talk, though he suspected it was probably going to be just as difficult.

"You told me you have money outside the business," Adam moaned. He could hear sheep baaaaing and then a door shut and the sheep were no more. "You can afford it."

He grunted. That was true. It was a joke. Adam often treated his jokes literally.

"Why you calling?" Ronan moaned. He was eating lunch with the sign turned to closed. A few people passed and looked disappointedly inside. It was clear he needed to start eating in the back.

"I'm calling because I wanted to," Adam answered flatly. He often talked as if he was bored when he was surrounded by people who were eavesdropping. That must have been now.

"How were the sheep today?" Ronan asked. "Oh, and those bastards that won't let you sleep, too."

Adam's laugh was small. People were in the background talking. His people.

"We finished up with most of the other actors," said Adam. "All that's left is a scene between my love interest and me. Then I'm done. And the sheep were decently quiet today up until an hour ago."

"Bastards," Ronan said again, and he could feel Adam rolling his eyes through the phone.

They talked more about nothing, about their days. Adam's side of the conversation was fuller since his day was nearly over, while Ronan's only begun a few hours ago. As they talked he watched the people come and go outside. It was July now. A few days ago was the Fourth of July. He managed to get Gansey to come out with him and the others and watch the fireworks over the bay. And the day before that was Adam's birthday. He wished him happy birthday over the phone and they talked about the cake the cast and crew surprised him with. Adam was showered with tons of fan birthday wishes online, and even a few pieces of fan mail made it to him in Ireland through his agent. Ronan wondered what he would've been doing for his birthday had he not been filming. He wondered a lot of things.

After Adam had to go and Ronan finished his sandwich, he turned the sign back toward Open. Not a minute later someone came in as he was walking back toward the counter.

It was Opal.

She didn't speak or even look his way. As if they didn't know each other, she ignored him completely like most customers did at first. Rather casually, she went and sat in her usual corner in the back. Ronan slowly followed after her, making sure he wasn't hallucinating. When it was clear it was her, book in hand, slumped down at the back with a soda and a fast food bag, she looked up and met his eyes for the first time in two weeks.

"Opal...." He remembered what Adam told him, about not starting off right away with the hard questions. "How are you?"

"You sound like you're in pain," Opal remarked. She took a long sip from her soda. He could see her analyzing him with her tiny brow.

"Well, this isn't easy for me," he admitted. He sat down on the floor across from her, and noticed her eyes follow his movement down. She was chewing on her straw like always when he rested his back against the shelf. This was so uncomfortable, he wondered how it was she did it almost every time she came in. Then again, he wasn't thirteen anymore.

Her one eyebrow arched over the other, challenging. "Don't I look okay?" she said. Her expression quickly shifted to something shyer. "Don't answer that."

"I--" Ronan stopped talking as he watched her pull out her cheeseburger, unwrap it, and then take a bite of it. She chewed it close mouthed, staring at her book set down beside her. She took another bite. Ronan couldn't bite his tongue any longer. "You know you can talk to me, yeah?"

Opal's brow rose as she continued chewing. She hid her mouth behind her burger wrapper. "Aren't we talking right now?"

"Yes, I mean, obviously." He rolled his eyes at himself. "Fuck. I care about you."

Opal's chewing slacked a little. "That's nice," she said quietly.

He reached across the small distance between them and he tilted her chin up, suggesting she look at him. He dropped his hand when she did, if only for a second.

"Opal, I'm serious," he said, feeling very bare as he spoke. "We're friends."

The word seemed to make her uncomfortable in some way, and she squirmed as she took another bite of her burger. She chewed it more forcefully than before.

"I'm fucking terrible at this." Ronan admitted it shortly before running his hands over his face, pulling at his face. "The fuck. I never thought talking to a teenager would be so hard. I was one not so long ago. Jesus fucking Christ."

When he looked up again, he could see Opal was trying not to laugh. He relaxed again against the shelving, feeling a few books press into his back.

"If you ever need somewhere to stay, you can stay with me," he said. In one of their conversations, he brought it up to Adam, and Adam thought he was joking. He didn't mention it to him again.

Opal looked like she thought he was joking, too. Her eyes widened for a flash of a second, then she shook her head as if he was the absurd old man he currently felt he was.

"And suffer meeting your roommate again?" She took a big sip from her drink. "No thanks."

"He's not so terrible," he said, defending Gansey, when just this morning came out of his room wearing just his underwear and the poorly grown beard he was trying out.

Opal could see through his half earnest defense, and she merely blinked at him. He caved, sighing.

"Not usually," he added. "Just lately. I hope. Don't factor that dumbass into your decision though. I'll make him sleep on the couch if you need somewhere."

Opal awkwardly looked back down at her book, red in the face. "Okay," she mumbled. "Thanks"

That's it? he thought.

But as she continued to finish her burger and drink, it dawned on him just how alike they were. It was a lot from her just to say that, as it took a lot from him to say what he said.

"Okay," he said. He smiled. She rolled her eyes.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Things slowly grew to become okay again with her. They talked again as much as they had before, and soon Opal was getting on his nerves in the way he preferred, going on about celebrities and the characters in the books she brought over. She mentioned Adam sometimes, casual but nothing detailed. Nothing about the serious talks he suspected they still had, while he was gifted with her at least occasionally allowing him to drive her home.

It was almost as if was before, only it could never be like before again, not with the new information and relationships formed since then. He had Adam now, and so did she.

His friends noticed something was different, if only because he was using his phone , but they didn't pry. For once they didn't pry, and he didn't have to spoil it by telling them I have an abnormally large crush on a celebrity I've somehow befriended. What the fuck.

 

~~~~~~~~

 

One night when Ronan and Adam were texting about nothing, just random topics that kept the conversation going so Ronan could just talk to him and fill the hours up with him, Adam broached the subject of if Ronan was traveling any time soon.

He almost laughed.

 

ronan lynch: yes, I'll be in bali and then heading over to paris. oh, and I can't forget my weekend I'll be spending in barcelona....

adam parrish : Great! So you'll be in town. I'm going to be back in San Francisco next weekend. To promote another film I'm in.

ronan lynch: thanks for the update

adam parrish : I'd like to see you, asshole.

ronan lynch: I'll have to check my schedule

adam parrish : Because you're sooo busy?

ronan lynch : oh, shoot. I have something that day. I was free, but two minutes ago someone else POLITELY asked to see me

adam parrish : Too bad for you. Now you won't have the joy of seeing me again

ronan lynch : oh darn

adam parrish : I'll let you know when I'm free. Probably that Saturday between interviews. I'll be staying at the Ritz Carlton. It'll be nice for you to see my lack of amusement rather than me texting about it.

ronan lynch : oh, yeah. real nice

 

They got off the phone a couple hours later, Adam having yet another early morning the next day. Goodnight and good morning had become habitual between them.

As Ronan was brushing his teeth that night, he felt like he was going to have a heart attack when the weight of their chat finally hit him. He was going to see Adam again.

Chapter Text

Adam texted Ronan out of the blue at midnight Ronan's time, which meant it was even later for Adam, with a very random text message.

 

adam parrish : I've been thinking of adopting a dog

 

Ronan didn't know how else to respond, other than with earnesty. He was only awake because Gansey was watching the television loudly downstairs and he didn't have the patience to go tell him to shut it off.

 

ronan lynch : are you drunk texting me right now?

adam parrish : Why do you assume I'm drunk texting you?

ronan lynch : because its four in the morning there and you don't usually text me at four in the morning

adam parrish : Your detective skills are lacking, Lynch. I'm not drunk. I'm awake early for the start of a very long day

ronan lynch : and you just randomly thought about dogs? and texted it to me?

adam parrish : Who else do I have to annoy with texts about nothing? Besides, I'm always thinking about dogs. Have you ever had a dog? I haven't, but I've always wanted one.

ronan lynch : no, but i used to have farm animals growing up

adam parrish: you really are a farm boy

ronan lynch: i really do think you're drunk

adam parrish : :( I'm not though

ronan lynch : why are you sending me a frowny face we're adults here

adam parrish : who's the other adult besides me? Is there a third person lurking in the chat I'm unaware of?

ronan lynch : goodnight parrish

adam parrish : I don't really drink. it makes me uncomfortable not being fully present. I like to be in control of my senses, and if I let go I do so in a controlled environment where I know I'm safe.

ronan lynch : so do you suffer all those snobby rich parties you go to sober? willingly?

adam parrish : I know it's a shock, but you can still enjoy things sober

ronan lynch : wouldn't have guessed. learn something new every day

adam parrish : asshole

ronan lynch : its a little early to be calling me names isn't it parrish?

adam parrish : brat

ronan lynch : my ego is wounded parrish. blog entry number 19.

adam parrish : That joke has gotten stale, Lynch

ronan lynch : :(

adam parrish : don't copy me

ronan lynch: i don't copy anyone. i'm an individual

adam parrish : maybe you're the drunk one

ronan lynch : let's continue this berating in the morning. i need to get to sleep. unlike someone i know.

adam parrish : maybe i shouldn't get a dog right now. i have my hands full enough with you

adam parrish : night lynch x

 

Ronan didn't get a chance to ask him what he meant, because pretty soon he passed out, and when he woke up it was to an entirely new conversation jumpstarted at some point in his sleep.

About traffic. They really did just talk about nothing.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Gansey surprised Ronan at work with lunch, and Opal did not like that. She didn't really like Gansey. Any time he said anything she rolled her eyes and made it abundantly clear she wasn't having any of it. Eventually Ronan gave her a few dollars to allow her to go buy her own lunch since he didn't get a chance to get any for them to share. She almost didn't take it, but then Gansey said something and she groaned muttering oh puh-lease and took the opportunity for a break from them.

"What are you doing here, Gansey?" Ronan asked, as soon as Opal walked out the door.

"She doesn't like me much, does she?" Gansey noted, completely changing subjects intentionally. Opal made a face at them both through the glass. Ronan smiled back at her.

"Can you really blame her? You came here in yesterday's pajamas and you called her Olive."

"That's not her name?" Ronan shook his head. "Shit. I'm making an effort," Gansey groaned.

"And you've spent the majority of lunch complaining," Ronan added.

"I...." Gansey jutted out the lower half of his jaw. "Huh. I guess I have." He took a bite of his ramen and let the words sink in. Ronan was still trying to be as gentle as he possibly could with Gansey's process, but he could only tiptoe around the subject so much, especially when he came in and annoyed Opal like he did.

Eventually he left, leaving Opal and Ronan alone in the shop to reminisce about the hour spent with Gansey being sad while neither of them had any idea what to say to him.

"Why do you let him talk down to you like that?" Opal asked, after Ronan had disposed of their lunches and started getting back to work. He was shelving new books when she said it, and he stopped mid motion.

"What?"

"You were trying to offer him advice about getting back on his feet after losing Mayonnaise, and he was like," her voice went high pitched and nasally, "I get that your father died but that doesn't mean you're the expert on mourning. Just because you like being alone doesn't mean I do. I didn't think you could handle the chili oil so I didn't get any for you."

Ronan frowned. "He did not say the last one," he argued.

Opal placed her hands at her hips. "It was the way he was hogging those chili oil packets," she corrected. "Anyway, the other two were real. Want me to kick his butt for you?" She pounded her fist into her flat palm. Ronan refused to laugh at her, unwilling to condone violence even in a joking manner.

"I'm good, thanks," he said. "Violence is bad," he added, feeling the need to give some advice, albeit not very subtle.

Despite his lack of subtlety, Opal laughed at what he said, shaking as she laughed in a way that made him feel warm inside. Her body reacted to the laughter as her shoulders hopped up and down while she moved with each laugh. Her smile made him feel like he did something good for once, and that he was achieving something every time he made her smile.

"So are we ever going to talk about Adam?" she said, peeling back an even wider smile when Ronan faltered with a book and watched it drop on his foot. They hadn't talked about him all day, or in a few days for that matter. He became a subject they talked of only sometimes, as she was probably equally talking to him on a daily basis. He wondered what they talked about, because he didn't talk to Adam much about Opal either. It was like an unspoken rule, one which Adam broke sometimes but Opal rarely did. Ronan was usually the one to mention him, but lately he held his tongue because Adam was coming to visit.

"What's there to talk about?" He knew exactly what she wanted to talk about. He felt selfish

"I know he's coming into town," Opal commented, talking at him slow like he needed time to process the words. "I'm not dumb," she said, as she began to fiddle with the bookmarks by the register he offered to sell. It gave her something to do with her hands and something for her attention to turn to. "His press tour started and there's an event for the film at the Castro next week." Her eyes trailed back up to his. "Are you seeing him?"

"Yeah..." Ronan was reluctant to say much else. He knew he should offer Opal an invitation to join him, and he felt selfish in wanting his one day with Adam to be all for himself.

"I see." Opal looked out across the store toward the window display, watching someone look at the books through the glass.

"Did you..." Ronan sighed. "Did you want to come with?"

Opal didn't even look at him. "I'll just make him see me before he sees you," she said, and she grinned while still staring out the window. "Don't want to impede on your little thing ."

He rolled his eyes at her. "There's no 'thing'," he said. He refused to ask her if Adam talked about him to her, if there was something he didn't know, because he already knew the answer to both questions: no. He gave him no reason to believe he wanted anything else than what they were already exploring, which was simple friendship.

She hummed, amused, as they returned to their quiet complacency. Ronan finished shelving all his new inventory as Opal started in on a new book. It was called Far from the Madding Crowd , around a similar era that Adam's Irish film was said to be set. Research, she told him. He acted disinterested, when really he was curious if she knew anything about his new film at all. There wasn't much about it online, and when Pandora's Box was opened he became interested in Adam's filmography, even more so now that he and Adam sometimes talked about it. For the most part they were picked with care, especially lately since he came with name recognition and box office draw. The one coming out soon was a murder mystery film and he played one of the leads trying to solve it. Adam almost spoiled the ending for him and he didn't text him back for four hours. Adam called him a dweeb when he finally texted back. He liked to think Adam was endeared by his interest and subdued support.

"Is it true your dad died?" Opal's voice was soft and hollow as she asked him. When Ronan stepped away from the bookshelves he looked to her to see her staring back at him with a misery in her eyes he remembered almost drowning in a lifetime ago.

"Yeah," he admitted. He hadn't talked about his dad like this in a long time. "I wasn't much older than you when it happened."

"And you're okay now." It wasn't a question, so much as it was an observation.

"I am," Ronan replied anyway. He hoped he offered her some sort of comfort in that things take time but it's possible to be okay again.

Opal nodded, internally thinking. Her teeth worked on her bottom lip as her eyes refocused on her book, although it was clear she wasn't reading any of it as she just stared at the same single page for a while.

"Want to go get some bubble tea?" Ronan asked after the silence became overwhelming. He knew how much she liked the drink.

Her brow furrowed as she closed her book. "It's called boba , you dork," said Opal, and she sounded annoyed by it but she was getting up from her stool anyway. "Don't you have a bookstore to run?"

Ronan gestured to the empty shop with a wry smile. "There's the boba place down the street. We can go and be back in five minutes. I doubt I'll have a line out the door if I close the store for five minutes."

Opal shrugged and was already walking toward the door before she answered. "Your decision to lose out on money," she said.

"Just- Shh, will you?" He rolled his eyes as she looked back at him to grin.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

adam parrish : they're thinking of making a video game out of my space movie. I can't believe this. I'm going to be in a video game!

ronan lynch : so people are going to be able to play as you? that's fucking weird.

adam parrish : no, I think it's cool. it might not happen. who knows. would you play it?

ronan lynch : would i get to do embarrassing things to your character like run into walls and pick your nose?

adam parrish : why am I not surprised this is how you respond. why can't you just simply say you're excited for me?

ronan lynch : you want to deny yourself the joy of hearing my real response?

adam parrish : yes please

ronan lynch : you are no fun at all

ronan lynch : I am excited for you

adam parrish : thank you

ronan lynch : when would it come out?

adam parrish : in a couple years probably. when the sequel comes out. video games are no joke. they take a while to get made

ronan lynch : damn. that's a long time. i dunno if i can wait that long now that you've brought it up

adam parrish : too bad. :) you're just gonna have to stick around a while I guess..

 

Ronan's heart was racing in his chest as he lay in bed. He smiled down at his phone as he avoided the inevitable of waking up on Wednesday morning. Adam had already been up for several hours because of the time difference and he was quick at responding, which was the only thing keeping Ronan from falling back to sleep and saying fuck it to the day.

 

ronan lynch : if the video game sucks i'm outta here

adam parrish : you aren't even in a video game. you don't get to be choosy

ronan lynch : i am shocked and offended

adam parrish : blog entry number blah blah blah

ronan lynch : :) hehe

adam parrish : does this outfit say 'I'm only here because I was paid to be' but also 'I'm still going to look good anyway'?

 

Attached was a photo of Adam taking a selfie in a body length mirror, his face half obscured by his phone. In it he was wearing a white collared button up with the first three buttons at the top undone revealing his throat and bits of his collarbone, as well as a pair of jeans that had holes in the knees. Behind him Ronan could make out what looked to be his bedroom. It was stark white, from the walls to the bedding, with little furniture in view and a pile of clothes on his bed. He looked good.

 

ronan lynch : i have no idea

ronan lynch : but if you undo any more buttons you might as well not be wearing a shirt

adam parrish : noted

adam parrish : I don't even know why I asked you you have terrible fashion sense

ronan lynch : excuse you i'm ahead of the trends

adam parrish : you're far to the left of them let's be honest

ronan lynch : eh fuck you

adam parrish : boots or sneakers?

ronan lynch : what?

adam parrish : to go with my outfit. I'm crafting a look here

ronan lynch : uh... send me pictures of both

 

He felt devilish as he sent that, and he waited all too eagerly for Adam's reply. Adam obliged not long after, wearing both. Ronan stared longingly at him in each and tried to actually assess which was the better option, since he asked for these pictures after all. Adam's hair was a mess and he was making faces at the camera behind his phone. Ronan almost didn't want to get out of bed so he could do something else with his time, but it was inappropriate when Adam was just his friend. Right? He had never done this before, waded this boundary of friendship and more with someone, his side being the more while Adam talked to him about friends things and only friend things.

 

ronan lynch : i like the boots better

adam parrish : sneakers it is!

adam parrish : kidding. I like the boots too. thanks

ronan lynch : no problem

adam parrish : so you're telling me this is too many buttons?

 

Ronan received a fourth photo and Adam had undone all the buttons in his shirt. Ronan could see down the entire center of his torso all the way to his happy trail that disappeared into his jeans. He sucked in a sharp breath as he quickly exited out of the picture, and then fumbled out of bed to go take a cold shower.

 

adam parrish : Lynch? Hello?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Thursday night Blue was hosting dinner at her place for the gang. Out of politeness she invited Gansey, although Ronan wasn't so sure it was a good idea. Gansey wasn't close with the others much. He was really just Ronan's friend. He interacted with the others before Mallory died but not often enough they could really see past his current state.

Gansey was suspiciously optimistic about going, though, when Ronan got home from work and mentioned he was getting ready. Gansey even showered and everything. But Ronan said nothing about it and brought him along. It was good he was making an effort at something.

Blue answered the door and hugged them both, though Gansey more apprehensively than him. Henry and Noah were already there, drinking wine in the living room, and they both got up to say hello when they saw who was trailing behind Ronan.

"Oh, wow!" Henry couldn't hide his disbelief even if he tried, and it did look like he tried.

"Smells good," Ronan said, glancing toward the kitchen. "What is it tonight?"

"Moroccan!" Blue said excitedly. "Some of the recipes are from when I was there last summer. You guys are gonna love it!"

Ronan touched at his stomach, eager, until he noticed her dining table. It was already set with plates and silverware and cups, which was probably Henry's doing, but there were an odd amount of place settings.

“Why are there six place settings?"

"We invited someone else," Henry called out from the living room. Noah was sitting in his lap and they were being so incredibly coupley it was hard to watch. There are other seats .

Ronan slowly blinked at them at what Henry said. He was bewildered they were still trying this, even after the last time when he literally told the guy he was boring and left mid-dinner forgetting to pay.

"You're joking, right?" he said. When he looked at Blue in the kitchen she only shrugged at him, making a face like she tried to stop them. They stopped setting her up on dates a while ago.

"Just breathe," said Noah. "You'll survive the night. You might even go home happy if you keep an open mind."

"I'm going to go home with Gansey, so I don't think I'm going happy no matter what becomes of the evening," Ronan spat.

Gansey didn't even seem to take offense. He was looking elsewhere, visibly distracted.

"Just be open minded would you?" said Henry.

"I'm open minded as hell," said Ronan. He really didn't want to be here any longer.

Henry rolled his eyes and Noah sighed at his comment, both equally aware he never really gave anyone a chance. Most of them sucked anyway.

"Why do we keep trying?" Henry muttered into Noah's neck.

Noah shrugged.

Ronan chose to ignore them and instead came to notice Gansey had entered the kitchen and was hovering by Blue as she was checking on her food in the oven.

"So, uh, Blue," he said.

Blue stared at him, brow lifted, and waited to speak. She was expecting him to say more. When he didn't, she smirked.

"Was that the end of your sentence?" she said.

"Ha!" He was being weirder than his current weird self. Ronan moved to step in. "Uh, do you uh eat a lot?"

" What ?" Blue narrowed her eyes and Gansey looked to want to say more, but in that moment Ronan swooped in between them. He grabbed Gansey by the shoulders and motioned him to step out of the kitchen.

"Let's go sit over here for a while...." he said.

"But I--"

There was a knock at the door, and all of his friends sans Gansey moved in unison to answer it. Blue was there first, being out the couple who couldn't get out of their shared seat that easily, and she opened the door with a polite but not very eager greeting.

"Hello," she said.

She greeted a relatively attractive fellow who was wearing a plaid shirt tucked into his jeans and a decent pair of shoes. Since Adam started asking Ronan about that sort of thing he started to notice when things looked good together and when they didn't, even though he didn't really listen to his advice much anyway. It felt like more an excuse to antagonize him with selfies that deserved to be in a museum.

The man was holding of wine and Ronan wanted to gag. He seemed nice enough, but at this point Ronan was left pining for a celebrity. His love life couldn't have been more tragic.

Henry and Noah greeted the man excitedly, showering him with hugs.

"Oh, hi Ryan!" said Noah. Ronan held back, with Gansey still standing beside him. "Glad you could find the place."

"Wasn't that difficult," said Ryan. He had a nice enough smile. Ronan didn't care.

"He looks like a lumberjack," Gansey whispered into his ear. Ronan made an uncontrollable sound that came out like a half scoff and snort. His friends looked back at him as he put a hand over his mouth to hide his amusement. "You see it too, right?"

Ronan could only nod.

Both Henry and Noah gently guided Ryan from the door to Ronan, who stiffened when he realized their attention wasn't going to fade from him the rest of the night. Ryan had nice eyes, but Adam's were nicer.

This was unbearable.

"Ryan, this is Ronan," said Noah. "Ronan, Ryan."

"That won't get confusing, huh?" Ryan laughed.

"Huh?" Ronan didn't get it. Noah came around to his side opposite Gansey and he nudged him at the back, to do something he didn't quite know. He nudged him again and he realized they wanted him to shake his hand or something. He reached out, and Ryan took it eagerly.

"Nice to meet you, Ronan," he said. "I've heard so much about you."

"I've heard literally nothing about you," Ronan admitted.

Ryan laughed like it was a joke. Who was this guy?

When dinner was finally ready, Ronan was forced to sit across from Ryan, direct eye contact implied. He wanted to disappear into his soup. Gansey was talking nonsense to Blue about British rock from the 60s (a Mallory favorite), and Noah and Henry were staring at him intensely as they each sipped on their soups.

"They tell me you run a bookstore," said Ryan. His efforts of small talk all night so far were poorly, but he kept trying.

"Who's they?" He turned to his friends and glared a little at them. They both smiled snidely, motioning for him to look back at Ryan. "Yeah, I run it," he said, and he noticed he sounded annoyed by it, when that wasn't the case. He just was annoyed with this dinner. "I own it, too."

"Oh wow!" Ryan almost sounded genuinely enthused. Almost. "That's so neat. Must be neat. Books are great."

Ronan looked at his friends funny. Noah motioned to keep going. Henry gave him a thumbs up. He wanted to stab a fork in his eye, as he wondered if this would be as unbearable if he weren't so hung up on Adam. The more words that came out of Ryan's mouth the more he could tell yes it would still be unbearable.

"So.... Ryan...." Ronan's at up in his chair and leaned forward into the table. He played with his soup. "What do you do?"

He had such a weird energy. Like a Labrador or something. Too chipper for his own fucking good.

"I'm a blogger," said Ryan.

Ronan choked on his water. Everyone looked at him at once, a variety of concerned looks on their faces as he waved them all away. He grabbed a napkin and held it to his face, trying not to laugh at himself.

"You're a blogger?" he ultimately said, coughing out the words with effort.

"Yeah." Ryan didn't understand his reaction. He still looked worried even as he said, "I run a pretty successful website reporting on movies, with my own staff and everything." He brightened a little with his bragging. "We get a lot of inside news coverage about movies and interview actors and whatnot. It's pretty cool. I'm interviewing the cast of Spoken For this weekend."

The table was taken over with responses of oh wow and oh cool and that's great . But Ronan just felt pale at the mention of Adam's upcoming feature.

"You okay?" Blue asked. She touched at his arm. "You look uglier than usual," she joked. He scowled at her only a little. "You like you're gonna hurl."

"I'll be right back," he said, fumbling for a handle on the his chair to scoot it back

With a quickness he didn't know he had in him, he rushed to the bathroom and locked the door. Standing in front of the sink he looked in the vanity mirror, at the reflection of himself staring back. Why did it make him feel like that hearing them mention Adam's new movie? This was absurd.

"Get it together, Ronan," he said to himself. "You can do this. It's just a date. That you were blindsided by. While your friend is flirting horrendously at your other friend."

He felt a buzz in his pocket, and he reached for it instinctively now, thinking it was Adam. It was not.

 

blue sargent: Don't worry. I got you covered. I'm telling him you are having a massive food poisoning attack right now

ronan lynch: sargent, i don't need you to do this

blue sargent: It's gotta be believable. Don't leave the bathroom for a while

ronan lynch: blue seriously

blue sargent: Chill out. You clearly don't like the guy

 

That much was true. As he made himself comfortable in Blue's tiny bathroom, which was photos from her travels laminated and sticking on the walls, he opened up his conversation with Adam. Adam hadn't replied to him in a few hours, which he was used to, but it still set him off to have a terrible time at dinner no matter what. At this point it was clear it wouldn't have helped even if he had texted back. In fact it may have made things even worse, but he was only projecting. He had grown attached to talking to him whenever he could, but tonight that didn't appear to be happening.

Last he sent him was about the dinner, how he didn't really wanna go. Adam had said They're your friends aren't they? Why don't you want to see them?

Ronan didn't know how to explain that a conversation with Adam was more enjoyable than seeing his friends these days. He loved his friends. He really did. But with Adam he felt something more. He wasn't hounded about his love life, although really that was just Henry; and he didn't feel less than for being a virgin at twenty four, although he knew none of his friends did it intentionally. They didn't even really know, but they probably suspected. How many times could he turn down blind dates prompted by them?

Adam was probably with his boyfriend right now, if the tabloids were accurate in their "inside scoop" based off those paparazzi photos. He was probably having sex and being happy and famous and not even thinking of him.

There was a gentle knock on the door, as Ronan had started typing out a new message to Adam explaining his night. He immediately deleted it.

"Ronan?"

It was Blue. He opened the door to find her staring back with a tiny smile, and she came in to shut the door immediately behind her.

"Hey, you," she said. "He's gone, thanks to me. You can come out now if you want."

"I think I'm just gonna die in here, thanks," said Ronan, and he slunk back down to sit at the edge of her tub. Blue sat right beside him.

"Don't be a stubborn baby," she said. "I've worked so hard for you not to be." He rolled his eyes at her. She grinned, then added, "Gansey's putting his foot in his mouth again and I think Noah's gonna burst."

"I don't care if it's not an accurate representation of Ancient Greece, Gansey!" Noah was heard shouting outside. "It's freaking Hercules!"

Ronan stifled a laugh. "Are they watching Disney movies right now?" he said.

Blue shrugged. "Only one way to find out."

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It was almost midnight when Ronan got home and put Gansey to bed. Adam texted him at a quarter to one, which he only saw because he couldn't sleep. There was temptation to leave it until morning, but of course with Adam he was learning he didn't have very good self control.

 

adam parrish : Hey. Sorry I didn't text back earlier. how did dinner go?

ronan lynch : not great

adam parrish : I'm sorry.

ronan lynch : you should've convinced me not to go

adam parrish: ha! As if it's my job to do that. We're friends but we aren't that good of friends yet

 

Ronan liked that the "yet" was there.

 

ronan lynch : so what were you doing?

adam parrish: I had a dinner of my own with some people. My agents getting me meetings with a bunch of different directors and producers to possibly team up for my next film.

ronan lynch : that sounds terrible

adam parrish: it's what I have to do. as much as I wish I could just show up to set, act a bit, then go home and do just that, there's more to acting than acting.

ronan lynch : wouldn't have guessed

 

Adam didn't reply again the rest of the night. Eventually Ronan gave up waiting and went to sleep. He didn't wake up to any new texts in the morning either, and went to work without his usual hello message. It felt odd, something he shouldn't have gotten used to but did. He allowed himself these feelings, and now they were coming back to bite him in the ass.

Opal came in with some visible reluctance. She tossed her bag on the floor and slammed her book on the counter when Ronan said good morning. She buried her face in her arms on the counter, and said nothing or did nothing again until Ronan came over and poked her in the elbow. He didn't know what else to do, and it was a while before he even did that.

"Hello?"

"What," Opal groaned. Her voice was muffled as she continued to groan well past the word.

"Uh, how are we doing?" he said. "Is it... teenage related?"

Opal sat up and looked at him with a hint of bitterness in her confused expression. She narrowed her eyes at him, shaking her head.

" What ?" she said. "You weirdo. No. Adam cancelled on me."

Ronan felt like the universe was shifting around but he remained locked in place. He was a little dizzy, thinking that meant Adam was going to cancel on him too. Fuck fuck. Why?

"That's... a bummer." Ronan didn't know what else to say.

Opal groaned again. "Yeah!" She rolled her eyes. "I know he's mega busy and shit-"

"Don't curse," Ronan said, reacting almost immediately without meaning to. He was becoming his mom, or worse, Gansey pre-Mallory's death.

" Anyway ," Opal said, sighing melodramatically, "But it's tomorrow, and I bought him this stupid toy, and I was really looking forward to it."

She started fishing around in her bag which she had thrown down, and she pulled out a stuffed octopus from the aquarium. She handed it off to him.

"I bet he hasn't even cancelled on you, has he?"

"Not yet," he confirmed. She nodded glumly and left the octopus in his hands. "What am I supposed to do with this?"

She frowned at it, then frowned at him, then frowned at her book. "Give it to him, I guess. I doubt he'll cancel on you ," and she sighed. "So give it to him for me. Tell him he owes me a trip to New York at this rate."

"One cancelled trip and now it's expected you get to go to the east coast for free?" Ronan wasn't sure why he was laughing. Opal slapped at his arm.

"I'm moping here, stop laughing," said Opal. But as Ronan kept laughing Opal was slowly lifted out of her mood, and she started laughing too. "You suck," she said. "I hate you."

He smiled as he knew that wasn't true.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

That night Ronan was just entering his bedroom to get ready for bed when his phone rang. He hadn't talked to Adam all day, half expecting him to cancel on him last minute too, and so when it was Adam who was calling him he was admittedly surprised.

He barely answered the phone before he heard Adam's gruff voice.

"We still on for tomorrow?" he said. He sounded like he hadn't slept, and his accent was slipping a little back into that southern twang that hung on the ends of his words when it was let loose. He liked the way it sounded a little too much.

"Unless plans have changed on your end," said Ronan. He was fishing. "I don't see why not."

"Just checking you're not chickening out," said Adam.

"Chickening out?" Ronan couldn't believe he was getting teased for that when it's what he did to Opal.

"I remember how ridiculous you were the first time we met," said Adam, and he felt himself getting pulled into his game. He played along reluctantly, as he started undressing with him on speaker phone. He prayed to god Gansey couldn't hear through walls.

"I was trying to sell you a book," Ronan muttered.

"Those are very strange book selling skills you have then," said Adam, and Ronan could feel himself blushing. He was grateful this wasn't a video call, which they hadn't had yet. He wondered if they ever would, as he wouldn't mind the joy of seeing Adam live more often.

"Am I to be expecting this is how it's going to go down tomorrow?l Ronan quipped. "A constant stream of insults?"

"Yes."

Ronan sighed. "Well, okay then." He didn't have the fight in him tonight to continue being so playful. There was still a small part of him that feared he was going to cancel on him like he did Opal. He wanted to ask why it was he cancelled on her, but he also didn't want to suggest he then cancel on him too. It didn't make sense in his head, but his thoughts weren't connecting right when he realized that while he wasn't seeing Opal anymore Ronan's plans with him were still on. Opal was right. He wondered how she knew.

Instead he said, "You sound tired." It was a blatant observation, something someone who didn't know Adam at all or his voice could say. He sounded so incredibly sleepy.

"I am," Adam confessed. He must have started shifting around because all Ronan heard for a while was the sound of something rustling, clothes or paper or both. After a while of it he could hear his breathing again. Ronan had managed to finish changing and brush his teeth in the time he waited for the rustling to end. If it weren't for the occasional grunts and soft spoken words he couldn't make out, he would've thought the connection went completely bad, but it was entirely possible he put his phone down and forgot about it. Just as he got into bed, Adam moaned a, "Sorry. I just landed."

Ronan felt a prickling in his chest, like a porcupine had gotten inside and left a bunch of his needles behind. They were in the same city already. He suddenly became struck with the fact he missed him. How could he miss someone he met only twice? He never had him in the first place to miss him? His feelings were unbalanced and unkind, his heart unable to handle them as his brain so often reminded it.

Adam yawned into his ear. He closed his eyes to focus on his breathing, something he always did when they called, which was rarer since he got back stateside.

"You excited to see me tomorrow?" Ronan found himself saying aloud. He intended for it to come out like a joke but then he heard Adam grunt approval.

"Yeah," he said. "My own personal tour guide. Can't wait."

"Who said anything about being a tour guide?" Ronan shot back playfully. "I'm not giving you a tour to San Francisco."

"Of course you are." Adam's smile could be heard in his words, and so he imagined him with the one he wore last they saw one another in person. "What else are we going to do tomorrow afternoon?"

Ronan could think of a few things, things he would never say out loud.

"Uh, rob a bank?" he said instead.

Adam could be felt rolling his eyes even through the phone. It was the way his breathing changed a little, something Ronan learned quickly he did when he was rolling them. He hated that he knew this small a detail.

"I'm not robbing a bank," Adam said matter of factly.

"What's the point then?"

Adam laughed, one singular laugh. He sounded completely drained of life. The boy needed to get off the phone with him and get some sleep.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he said. Suddenly there was a cacophony of sound amongst Adam's voice it practically drowned him out. He must have stepped out somewhere, from the airport into the city or a car into the city. It really didn't matter. What mattered was he was here, again, so close. "I'll text you my room details."

Ronan was dizzy. He really was seeing him in just a little over twelve hours.

Fuck.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Saturday morning around ten, Ronan bagged the stuffed octopus from Opal and the book he got for Adam on molecular evolution, which he suspected he would like, and he left for the Ritz Carlton. He parked in public parking nearby and walked, needing the fresh biting cold air to keep his nerves down. Adam was on the top floor, and when he knocked he heard commotion on the other side. A variety of voices, one of which yelled something muffled by the walls.

When the door opened he was surprised and yet not to find a woman slightly older than him answer. Music was echoing through the hotel room, and came vibrating out to him along with the other voices from people he couldn't see. He was staring into what looked to be a living room. Fancy hotel room for a fancy guy.

"Can I help you?" The woman gave him a once over and looked partially impressed with what she found.

"I'm here for Adam," Ronan said. "Adam Parrish."

"The interviews are happening next door," and the woman started shutting the door.

In a panic Ronan put a hand to the door to keep it from closing, which offended the woman greatly. He could understand why, but he wasn't about to go next door.

"You don't understand," he said. "I'm supposed to meet him."

The woman sized Ronan up again. She had flat hair and a lot of makeup and had a dark pantsuit on, but he was pretty sure she could take him if she felt she had to. It was in the intensity of her gaze.

"The only people seeing Adam today are journalists," she said in a flat voice, "and they're all meeting in the room next door. Thank you."

She shut the door on him and he was left alone out in the hallway. He went to knock again, but suspected the next time she answered she would threaten him with security or something. He went to text Adam when the door opened and the woman was sighing heavily. He lit up as he moved into her, but she was leaving.

"Some of you really can't make it from spot a to spot b, can you?" She grabbed his arm and walked him away. He felt he had no choice but to follow.

"Excuse me?"

She walked him to the hotel door one over which was held ajar with the deadbolt on to keep the door from shutting.

"What the fuck , lady," he said, jerking out from under her touch. "I keep telling you, I'm not a-- Shit."

Inside was another living room littered with a dozen or more men and women in similar drab colors and clothes. They all had badges on their shirtfronts, and she sat him down in an empty spot on a sofa next to one of them.

"Stay here," she said. "They'll come get you when it's your round."

She then rolled her eyes as she walked away. He was stuck here.

This was painfully awkward.

 

ronan lynch : help they think i'm a journalist

 

And so he waited for him to reply. He could call him, but if he was in that hotel room he probably wasn't going to answer. They sounded busy in there, whatever they were doing.

"Ronan?"

Half hoping it was Adam, Ronan looked up, only to find it was the guy from dinner the other evening. He almost forgot he was likely going to be here, and the reminder made him realize his friends were probably going to hear about this. He swallowed, dry mouthed, as he sat straight. This was going to be bad.

"Uh, hi...." he said, questioning how to approach this.

"Ryan," Ryan finished for him. Ronan hadn't been fishing for his name, but he did forget it. He was going to forget it again in five minutes. "What are you doing here?"

He exchanged seats with the guy sitting next to him and Ronan panicked. His whole day was being torn apart bit by bit, and he feared  Ryan could destroy it completely.

"I run a blog too," he said in a tizzy. It wasn't the least bit true other than his bit he had going on with Adam. He eyed Ryan suspiciously same as Ryan was eyeing him. "I didn't know you were coming?"

"I said as much the other night," Ryan said, smiling as if this was a genuine misunderstanding. God he was weirdly nice. He couldn't remember how it was he knew Henry and Noah.

"Oh, I didn't hear that part," Ronan said, lying through his teeth.

"It was the last thing I said before you got sick," said Ryan, almost embarrassed to remind him of the night. "You feeling better by the way?"

"Yeah. Much." He nodded like his life depended on it. If he just kept saying yes in different ways maybe Ryan would leave. "All passed. Thanks."

Ryan seemed pleased to hear it and he touched at Ronan's shoulder. Ronan shifted on the sofa enough his body fell out from under Ryan's touch.

"You new at this?" And Ronan noticed him eyeing the bag with the book and the octopus. He could feel a blush creeping up his skin and he ran a hand over his face to try and wipe it away.

"What gave me away?" he said sarcastically, but Ryan took it literally.

"A lot. Mainly, the gift bag. You don't have to get anyone a gift you know."

He leaned in to say this like it was a secret. Literally no one else here was paying them any attention. Ryan was slick, if this was his way of flirting, but Ronan preferred other methods. He preferred someone else entirely.

"Oh, uh...." He closed the top of the bag up to hide what was inside. It could easily be lunch. if he weren't holding it open so you could see inside to find out it wasn't.

"They actually find that thing kind of weird," Ryan added.

"Thanks for the advice." Ronan gave him a fuck you smile that Ryan either didn't realize was saying that or didn't care, and he smiled back, tapping at Ronan's knee.

"No problem," he said.

"Film Fan Plan dot com?" uttered a woman with a headphone set on and an iPad in her hands. Ryan stood up at the mention.

"See you later," he said.

Ronan said nothing and watched him leave. He sat there waiting for Adam to text him, but Adam continued to be silent and he started to think he should go as more and more of the journalists around him were asked into the room next door, when he woman came back out and stared at him and gestured.

"Uh.... whoever you are."

He knew she was talking to him because he didn't even know who he was in this scenario. Unsure, he stood, and she motioned for him to follow. He did.

"Uh, when do I see Adam?" he said.

The woman eyed him strangely. "He'll come at the end. You have the other main cast to talk to first. Michael, Brie, Lupita, and Stephanie. And you work for...?"

Ronan felt a cold sweat overcome him. "Farmer Hobby's Magazine," he said.

"New publication?"

Ronan touched at his collar out of a nervous tick. "Something like that."

The first person he spoke to was Stephanie. He recognized her from something, but he couldn't place it. Either way, he took out his phone and raised it to her like a microphone, pretending to record on it because he had nothing else to use as a prop.

"So you play..." he started, nervous. He suddenly couldn't remember what questions were. What were they allowed to ask? What was relevant enough to bypass the process and get to Adam? How did he not realize he hadn't shown up yet? Adam said ten thirty and he arrived here just on the brink of it. It was now eleven.

"January," Stephanie filled in.

Ronan played along as if they had seen the film already. It was entirely possible the journalists all had, but Ronan was still going in this dark.

"Yes," he said, and thought about it. "I thought I recognized you."

Her face distorted as she sat more uncomfortably straighter in her chair.

"You aren't meant to recognize me," she said. "I'm in a disguise the entire film."

Wanting this conversation over, Ronan shut his eyes. "Fuck," he said out loud. "It's like I'm watching the movie again."

Brie was next, who looked to be half asleep by the time he came in. He was, after all, probably the tenth interview she had just this morning alone. He sat up when he walked in and out of habit she introduced herself, even though he was meant to know who she was.

She searched for a badge on his shirt like the others but didn't see one.

"So you're from...."

"Farmer Hobby's magazine," Ronan replied. It was easier to lie the third time. It almost sounded like a real magazine.

"There's no farming in the movie," Brie announced, confused.

"We're expanding," Ronan lied. He touched nervously at his neck. "And - don't you think.... your big scene is a lot like farming?"

"I..." He was pretty sure he just made an idiot out of himself. Security would come. They would know he was lying. Adam would never speak to him again. "You know you're right?"

"I am?" He blinked.

"I never thought about it that way before," she said. And she went on and on to a phone not recording about her character and struggles.

Michael was quiet and grunted out small answers, and Lupita didn't even really need much prompting and went into explaining her character and her struggles like she had likely been explaining all morning.

When it was Adam's turn Ronan almost forgot why he was here in the first place. He had forced himself to adjust to the lie, and when Adam came in and shook his hand Ronan muttered the name of his fake magazine and Adam looked up at him.

There he was, handsome and real and smiling, although that smile waned in his confusion, and then his eyes darted to one of his entourage who followed him inside and he seemed to understand.

"Glad you could make it," Adam said. Ronan wondered if he talked to all his interviewers like this or just him. "What a fascinating magazine? How long in operation?"

Ronan scowled. "Not long," he said.

"You know, I don't think you guys have interviewed me before. This may be the first time."

Ronan hesitated to say something, but they weren't alone. He wasn't sure if Adam wanted their relationship outed, and he definitely wasn't sure if he did.

"Go on then," and Adam was leaning back in his chair. "Ask away. I'm all ears."

"So, Adam...."

Adam grinned roguishly. "Yes, that's me."

"You play the lead.

"I do."

"You play the lead a lot."

"I do."

"What's that process like?"

Adam drew one eyebrow in on his forehead but left the other raised, and Ronan was pretty sure he was going to throw the stuffed octopus and book at his head.

"This film is more an ensemble piece," he said. "A collaboration, as are all my films. I wouldn't say I'm the lead, but I certainly am the one who initiates the search for the killer."

He had to know he wasn't recording anything. It was strange, having a horde of people in the room. The others only had one or two people standing awkwardly in the corner. Adam had five, including the woman before who grabbed him and walked him over here. He didn't like her.

Adam's eyes moved down Ronan, taking him all in as there was the awkward silence of Ronan not knowing what else to say and silently begging him to end this. Adam noticed the bag in his lap. He brightened.

"Are those for me?" He looked to find it endearing.

Ronan lowered his phone as he simultaneously reached for the bag, and he glanced at the line of people along the wall same as when Adam got out of his chair and walked over to him. He opened the bag as Ronan tried to explain, and then noticed Ronan's resounding silence.

"Uh, Wendy, can we get a little privacy?" Adam smiled at Ronan. He should've been annoyed but it was so surreal to have him here in person. He was so close he could touch him, which he almost did.

"You sure?" Wendy looked at Ronan like he had leprosy. Ronan tried not to take it personal, but of course he did.

Adam only nodded once, and then Wendy was fast to act, motioning to the others with her.

"Sure thing, Adam," she said. "Guys, with me."

They were alone, and suddenly Ronan was very much aware how much he missed him. Adam was real, and he was leaning into Ronan's knees as he took out the book and stuffed octopus from the bag. His smile softened when he saw them, thumbing over the book cover and squeezing the octopus.

"What's this for?" He held the octopus higher than the book.

"Opal wanted to give it to you."

"Oh." Adam spoke like it was thoughtful, but he frowned down at the toy, pushing at its beady eyes. "Tell her I truly am sorry I couldn't see her this time around," he said. His eyes flickered up to Ronan's, then back down. "But I'll make it up to her."

Ronan felt a whirlwind of emotions, but most all he felt dizzy, knowing Adam fit him and only him into his schedule this weekend. He still felt terrible for Opal, but he had a feeling he wasn't even going to get much time with him. Adam looked incredibly overworked underneath all that makeup and shine.

Adam then knocked their knees together as he inclined forward for a hug. Ronan was still sitting, so it was awkward. He tried to stand as he returned it, and they staggered back together collectively. Adam smelled good, and he held on just a little too long, before they parted and he stepped back.

"I was waiting for you in my hotel room," Adam said, and Ronan blanked at the phrasing. "How did you get over here, interviewing people?"

"Wendy thought I was a journalist and walked me over here," Ronan explained reluctantly.

Adam burst at once, roaring with laughter, laughter he clearly was holding in since he first walk in to find him here. Ronan pushed at his shoulder as he doubled over.

"It's not funny!" Ronan exclaimed.

"It's really funny," said Adam. He wiped a tear from his eye, laughing so much he cried. "You could've just told her your name."

Ronan flushed, feeling the day just getting worse and worse. "How the hell was I supposed to know that?" he snapped.

"Logic?" Adam sputtered out amongst his cackling.

"You didn't text me back," said Ronan. He felt like he was whining. He was annoyed.

"I don't have my phone on me." Adam was still laughing, and Ronan continued to be annoyed. "I've been doing things all morning that I left it in my room. Some things you have to do yourself."

Ronan groaned. He didn't like how easily this upset him. There shouldn't have been any expectations on how this day went, and yet he had plenty and all of them were eaten away the longer he sat in the other room waiting to be called on to interview people he didn't know or care for. Ronan wasted a day of work for this. For getting laughed at and ignored and to possibly spend maybe an hour with surrounded by strangers.

There was a hand at his scalp, fingernails grazing along the edge of his buzzcut. If he had hair to grab, he could assume Adam would've pulled at it. He ached.

"You look good," Adam said, the humor in his voice gone, replaced by something unidentifiable. He could feel himself losing focus in Adam's blue eyes.

"You look terrible," he said, and Adam knew he was kidding.

He touched at his own face, smirking. "I try," he said.

"So," Ronan found himself licking his lips as he took Adam in completely. He was wearing a simple tee over casual slacks, along with a pair of Oxford shoes and shades in his perfectly tousled "just got out of bed" hair.  "What now?"

What happened then was they went back to their hotel room and had sex.

No, Ronan only imagined that part. They did go back to his hotel room, but Ronan sat off to the side as he watched Adam take a video interview. Wendy sat down next to him on the sofa while Adam was getting touch ups on his face and hair.

"Sorry about earlier," she said. They were both watching him, as Adam glanced their way and gleamed, perfect smile attached to a perfect face. "Adam didn't brief me that his friend would look like you."

Ronan finally turned to her, frowning.

"What's that mean?"

"When he said bookstore owner I was looking for someone more.... bookish." Wendy gave him daggered eyes and Ronan scowled.

"Sorry to disappoint," he said, a bite to his words.

Wendy didn't back down from them. Like he thought earlier, she could take him if she wanted.

"Listen," she said, and she was smiling but her tone was not gentle, "my job entirely revolves around Adam and his wellbeing. I make sure his schedule stays on track and that he doesn't get creepy fans or hounded by the paparazzi. You are an anomaly. I don't know what to make of you, but if I think for one minute you're affecting his career for the worse, or you're manipulating him in some way-"

"I'm not-"

"I will end this. Okay?" She patted him on the arm as if it were something to signify affection, but he felt more threatened than anything. "I'm Adam's manager, and sometimes I feel like his mom. And moms have to be tough. Don't make me be tough."

She got up off the sofa and walked away to do some business with another person in the room similarly dressed in basic black. He turned to Adam, who looked to have been watching the whole exchange. There was concern wrinkled on his brow, and Ronan could see now why Wendy was smiling. He faked one, too, for him.

He didn't want this to end, whatever it was. But he understood where Wendy was coming from. He didn't want to affect Adam's career negatively either.

He looked around the large hotel suite and took it all in, from the makeup artist to the hair stylist to the guy in the corner looking through Adam's wardrobe, to the collective of people on cell phones, and finally back to Adam. This was an entirely different world, and he felt so out of place in it, but he didn't want to leave. Because of Adam.

After the interview was over, Adam wiped off all the makeup he'd been wearing. His freckles were much more prominent, as he rubbed his skin red with the makeup removal sheet. Ronan almost reached to touch, constantly finding himself wishing he could.

"Why do they cover up your freckles so much?" he said, hopelessly lost in his face.

Adam shrugged. His expression was unmoved by Ronan's question. "Can't say." He then slapped Ronan on the back. "Okay, tour guide. Where to?"

"How long do we have?" Ronan had a few options to show him, since Adam said he hadn't been anywhere before except for North Beach and Golden Gate Park. There was a whole city he hadn't yet seen.

Adam shrugged. "I cleared the day," he said.

Ronan almost tripped, and he wasn't even moving.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Ronan had thought a lot about how to show Adam the city he'd grown to love in the span of a day. He walked him across the street to the parking garage, which he insisted on paying for.

"Would've only been a few dollars had it not been for you having to play Journalist," he said.

"I can afford it," Ronan countered.

"So can I," and Adam slipped in his credit card at the pay station before Ronan could.

They drove to to Fisherman's Wharf, where when he was with Gansey the last time it sparked ideas, even before he knew Adam was coming to town.

The place was bustling with life, and at first Ronan was concerned for Adam about exposure, but when Adam showed no sign of hesitation about getting out of the car and walking around, neither did he. It was cold and windy and perfect out today, an ideal San Francisco afternoon.

Adam was enthralled with the shops as they walked, staring into the weirder ones with peaked interest.

"You don't get seasick do you?" Ronan asked after a while. Adam looked at him with bewilderment, but then half shrugged as a group of teens passed and didn't recognize him. He looked to assume they would, and seemed relieved as they walked on.

"A little," he said. "My equilibrium is off on boats because of my hearing."

"Your hearing?"

"I lost hearing in this ear when I was younger," he said, gesturing to himself. Ronan made note of which ear. He wouldn't have been able to tell if he hadn't said anything. "Accident," Adam said, casual as he probably had before to others. Ronan wondered why Opal hadn't mentioned it when she gave him the lowdown on Adam that first time. "And that is definitely something I don't want in your blog."

Ronan laughed out of reflex, as they turned the corner down a street. Even though he was also experiencing warmth in his heart, privileged to be told something he realized Adam didn't tell many people. There was a reason Opal didn't know. Not many did.

"Blog entry number 23," he said, and Adam rocked into him, bumping shoulders as he forced himself not to laugh. Ronan grinned as they continued on, humored by him as he offered a teasing look.

"Why do you ask?" Adam said.

"Because I thought a cruise around the bay could be fun." He sounded less enthused now that he knew Adam would get seasick. "I understand though it might not be for you--"

Adam's eyes brightened and he jerked forward, taking Ronan by the arm through the summer crowds.

"Let's go," he said.

They bought their tickets for the next boat out and waited around near the dock for it to come back from the current tour. There was an ice cream shop not far, and they both treated themselves to one, after Ronan realized Adam didn't eat yet either. Adam had chocolate and Ronan had mint chip. As they sat on a bench staring out at the bay, some of Adam's dribbled down onto his chin. Without thinking, Ronan reached and swiped the droplets of chocolate off his chin and then wiped his finger on the bench. Adam glanced at him, heat in his stare, as the tips of his ears burned red.

There was something truly powerful in being able to make Adam Parrish blush. He watched the color creep into his cheeks and down to his neck, and then get washed away as he looked forward again and toward the water.

"How long have you lived here?" Adam asked. He licked at the drips of ice cream that came rolling down the sides of his cone. Ronan didn't want to make ice cream something obscene so he looked away. He'd opted for the bowl, so he could let his melt a little.

"Five years, I think?" He blinked, realizing it had been that long. He was nineteen when he moved, wanting a new life and a change of scenery after it took him so long to be in a good place post-Dad. He never once looked back, never once visited. When he saw his family, they would come here. "Yeah, five years." He was flabbergasted.

"So you know the city pretty well then," Adam noted.

"Yeah, of course." Ronan took a bite of his ice cream before it completely melted into goo. While it was cold out, it was also sunny, and the ice cream didn't register the difference so it was melting anyway. "This place is my home."

Adam nodded. "And you never go back to the East Coast?" he said.

"Nah," and Ronan took another scoop of his ice cream. "Don't really see the point."

Something about his answer didn't sit right with Adam, who sighed a little and nodded again, less enthusiastic. He took a crunchy bite of his cone and simultaneously ate into the resounding silence. Ronan didn't mind just sitting here quietly, so used to just talking to Adam about nothing and everything he didn't mind simply being in his company. Having him here, real and hot against his side as they were crammed together on the bench to avoid bird shit on the edges, it was enough.

"Why did you move here?" Adam didn't seem to agree that silence could be nice. He seemed to want to fill the voids, and Ronan let him.

"After high school, I wanted to live as far from Virginia as I could, and it was either here or Seattle, and it rains less here so..."

"It's because of the gay scene, isn't it?" Adam teased. "That's the real reason."

Ronan rolled his eyes and felt heat creeping up his neck. That was definitely a factor at nineteen and lonely, but he didn't use it like he thought he would, and quickly after moving he fell in love with the city as a whole rather than just its parts.

"You caught me." Ronan raised his hands up. "That's the whole reason."

"I knew it."

Ronan rolled his eyes, but he wasn't annoyed. Really, he suspected Adam already knew the real reason. Opal probably told him already about his dad. It wasn't like it was a big secret, but it didn't exactly slide into conversations very easily. Hi , my dad died in front of me. How's the kale salad?

The boat was coming to dock when Ronan got out of his headspace and came back to reality, and Adam was already standing to leave for it.

It was then that he noticed Adam hadn't brought a jacket. He touched at Adam's short sleeves as they walked.

"You're going to freeze to death on there," he said. "The bay's cold as fuck."

Adam shivered a shrug. "I'm fine."

But five minutes into the boat ride Adam was blue and quivering like a leaf resistant to the wind, unwavering as Ronan just smirked at him.

"We can go inside-"

"I want to stay out here." Adam could barely get the words out without stuttering.

Ronan rolled his eyes. He dressed for the occasion in a jacket and a hoodie, and even if he didn't Adam would probably kill him if he got sick. He took off his jacket and watched Adam's eyes widen in horror.

"It's a jacket, Parrish," he said. "Would you stop?"

He placed it around Adam's shoulders, forcing it to stay even as he tried to shake it off. He rubbed at Adam's arms through the fabric until his shaking came down to a small tremble.

"You going to put your arms through the sleeves or what?"

Adam grumbled a string of words under his breath in languages Ronan recognized but understood were probably curses at him. He felt gallant and grinned when he watched Adam slowly slide one arm in a sleeve and then the other.

They stood out there leaning against the railing as the ship went past iconic skyline views of the city, making its way to the Golden Gate Bridge. The longer parts of Adam's hair were twitching in the wind as he squinted from it hitting him in the eyes. Ronan reacted by grabbing for Adam's sunglasses that sat at his and handing them to him, reminding him they were there. Adam looked a little annoyed as he grabbed them, putting them on after a moment of hesitation. When he could see again he relaxed more against the railing, reaching for his pocket to take out his phone. He began to snap photos like a true tourist, while Ronan was only interested in looking at him.

"What's your new film about?" he said. He had to yell over the wind.

"The one that comes out in a month?" Adam asked. "I told you about it already."

"No, the Irish one," said Ronan. "How do you get any sleep? That's three movies in one year isn't it?"

"I sleep just fine, thank you." Adam smiled but it wasn't full. He was examining the photos he just took, judging the with his sunglasses pushed up his forehead so he could see. "I just have no social life," he said so casually.

"Makes sense," said Ronan, and Adam looked up at him with a scathing fake gasp. "You're hanging out with me."

That was clearly not the response Adam was expecting and he rolled his eyes. "Okay, Debbie Downer."

They stared at one another in the silence that overwhelmed them. To their right, Ronan could hear people talking loudly on the other side of the deck, a reminder this moment was private and it wasn't. He almost hesitated to say something else, the way Adam was staring at him. He couldn't see his eyes, but he sensed something unsaid in the breezes. He squinted as one breeze came and hit him in the eyes. The moment passed.

"The movie?" he said, looking back out at the water. He stared down while Adam stared up, two very different experiences on the same ride. He was glad Adam was having fun, though. He gave a resounding sigh as he pocketed his phone, their sides pressing together. As the boat teetered on the water, Adam leaned for support, stumbling this way and that, his balance not as attained as Ronan's.

"It's about a young ranch owner who is betrothed to someone, a woman who he doesn't really love and doesn't really love him," Adam said. "It's a marriage of convenience and connecting two families. And he goes along with it reluctant enough until one day his future wife's old friend returns from the war and there's an instant spark between them that's undeniable, that he never felt with Franny."

Ronan laughed. "Her name's Franny?"

"Shut up." Adam couldn't help but smile anyway. "She's a lovely character who finds herself dealing with the dilemma of wanting either love or to make her family happy more."

Ronan laughed again. "Why did they give the poor girl that shit name?" he said. Why did so many period piece films have someone named Franny or Fanny or something equally  terrible? There never seemed to be anyone named Ronan in these films.

Adam shook his head at him as he ran a hand through his messed up hair. Now it was truly tussled, and not just by someone who he probably paid too much to do what the wind could do for free. "Unbelievable," Adam muttered. "You focus on that."

"It's just.... Franny......" Ronan laughed a third time. He felt immature, and Adam looked at him as if he were. He couldn't help himself.

Adam's look only wilted the longer Ronan chuckled. "You're a child," he said, which Ronan could agree on. When the amusement fell, as they started nearing the bridge, he advanced into him a little more, stealing a look from him that had hints of disinterest as well as humor. He annoyed Adam but he amused him, too.

Ronan hated to admit he was genuinely interested in the film's plot. He knew how much this one meant to him that he had to drag the story out of him unlike the others he was currently in talks for, where he blurted out big plot points and didn't warn for spoilers.

"So, wait, do they get married?" Ronan inquired, trying for bored but visibly invested. "Does he have an affair with the soldier? Did they have women soldiers back then?"

"The soldier's a man," Adam replied.

"Oh." Ronan's interest was peaked.

Adam laughed like he said a good joke. " Now you're interested,"

"I was always interested," Ronan scoffed. Adam didn't appear to believe him. "I want to know what kind of family names their child Franny. So it's a gay film?"

"James is bisexual, my character," Adam corrected. "He finds himself falling in love with Franny as he's also falling in love with Blake."

"Blake." The name sounded nice, broody. "Interesting. Who's he choose in the end?" He lost all sense of self preservation and was hounding Adam for answers. Adam looked at him with achievement in his smile, toothy and wide.

" That , you'll have to find out in theaters," he said, wiggling his eyebrows above the rim of his sunglasses.

"Oh, come on!" Ronan pounded a fist to the rail. "I need to know."

Adam laughed at him, and Ronan couldn't help but find himself laughing at his own absurdity as well. There was something to be said about laughing in this kind of cold. He felt warmth inside as he shook, expanding outward into his skin, until he was fire hot as his stomach ached.

He only hoped it wasn't another tragic gay ending, or tragic bisexual ending, as it were.  But he suspected Adam wouldn't be in one of those willingly, so he had to believe there was some decent resolution. He couldn't believe Adam was making him wait until November to find out.

"I can't believe that's a film that's been made," he confessed aloud.

"I fought really hard for it to get made," said Adam. "The screenwriter is a favorite of mine and she's been pushing for the script to be made for seven years now. I did the space movie so I could do this one." He rubbed at his brow and almost knocked his sunglasses into the water. Ronan caught them as they dipped down his nose, and he pushed them back up with a gentle touch. Adam's skin was soft against his fingers as they accidentally grazed his face. "Now I'm stuck with the space movie and its sequels," Adam added, sounding mildly bitter, "but I'm hoping this will profit enough I can do more like it."

"Well, you have one ticket already sold," said Ronan. He looked up at the fog that built up around one side of the bridge. This far below it, half obscured by mist, the bridge looked almost like a monster in an old horror film, imposing and dangerous.

"Just don't bring Opal," said Adam, and Ronan was staring at him again instead of the bridge. "There's some sex scenes in it that aren't appropriate."

Ronan's mind went to the sex scenes he'd already seen of Adam's. He blushed and looked out at the water. It must be a strange life to be an actor, to fake all those emotions for the screen, to be so open to audiences all over the world but as someone else.

"Oh my god, hi," came a voice behind them. They turned to a group of teenage girls, older than Opal he guessed. They all stood nervously huddled together as one, and the one who spoke sounded like she were Australian.

Ronan felt like defending Adam from them, even though they weren't really doing anything. One had a phone out, trembling a little.

"Hi," said Adam. He looked relaxed as he offered them a smile. They looked to be dying from it.

"Can we get a photo with you?"

"We're so sorry to bother."

"We understand if you can't."

"It's fine." Adam moved to stand between them. He awkwardly glanced at Ronan over his shoulder as if apologizing. He had no reason to apologize, Ronan thought. Ronan expected this, he prepared for it, watching as Adam was swallowed up by the group of girls as one handed him her phone.

"Could you? Thank you!"

He kept on a blank expression as he opened the camera to photograph the girl's. They were smiling and giggling as they stood around him, which all felt so surreal. This was really happening. He was really famous. It wasn't some weird dream he had. They were making small talk, Adam asking for each of their names and shaking their hands. The touch alone looked to kill them from happiness.

He took a string of photos until he felt they had enough, and the girls all waved goodbye excitedly at Adam as they came for the one girl's phone.

They were staring after them as they walked away to the other side of the deck, only one of the girls examining the photos. Adam came to stand by him again with mild interest in their staring.

"I bet they think we're on a date," he mused.

Ronan couldn't believe how easily he said these things. He was reeling.

"We aren't?" he jested. "Um, excuse me captain! Turn this boat around!"

Adam gave him a silencing look, but his lips were still shyly smiling, his expression always in a constant battle with himself whenever Ronan said something ludicrous.

"Shut up," he said, and Ronan happily obliged. He didn't mind the silence, hearing the whirring of the engine and the waves of the water crashing against the sides of the boat below.

Under the bridge, Adam pulled out his phone again and took more pictures, then dragged Ronan in close and turned around to take photos of them together. Ronan had to react quickly, to stare at the camera and not at him, as he realized Adam was taking the photos already and he didn't want any evidence of his feelings left on Adam's phone.

"You want any?" he said. "Nevermind. I'll text them to you."

After the boat ride, they walked around Fisherman's Wharf some more, and Ronan pretty much did whatever Adam thought interesting. They walked into shops and checked out the Boudin at the Wharf's bakery museum tour, and even went into Ripley's Believe it Or Not, which Ronan had never been to.

"This is a tourist trap," he said, reluctant to go inside after suffering a bread museum for Adam.

"And I am a tourist," Adam reasoned, "and you are trapped." He tugged at his hoodie's sleeve, Adam still wearing his jacket. It looked better on him than on himself. "Come along, Lynch. Entertain me."

Ripley's was absurd, and both of them agreed in the end it wasn't really worth the money, but Adam had fun and that's all Ronan really cared about. There was a maze of mirrors that Adam discovered and Ronan was the one this time to take photos of them. He never really took photos on his phone and lately his camera roll was only photos of Adam. Couldn't complain about that.

As they got out, the sun was starting to set over the buildings. They continued to walk, to nowhere in particular. The crowd was expanding as the city's nightlife was kicking in. Street performers were out in full swing, singing and dancing and standing still like robots. Adam offered a pianist some money, who was singing as he played. The man nodded grinning back at him, and Adam extended that grin to Ronan who hung back to watch the exchange. He watched in a stupor as Adam requested something from him and then started to dance. That stupor turned into secondhand embarrassment as he witnessed Adam dancing in the street. For someone who tried to avoid being noticed, he was sure as fuck wasn't being subtle right now. He tried to cower his eyes as Adam danced, but he couldn't find it in him to truly look away. Even though if this were anyone else he would have snickered and made a snide comment, he couldn't look away from Adam, mesmerized.

"No one actually dances to the music on the street, you know," he finally said, and Adam flipped him off.

"Shut up," he said, to a song Ronan didn't quite know. "I'm having fun."

"You're on your own," Ronan replied.

But the universe wanted to prove him wrong, and soon others were joining in to dance. Adam certainly had a way about him that drew people in. Ronan felt like he was in some parallel universe staring at the small crowd amassed around this old man and his keyboard.

"You are fucking weird," Ronan called out to Adam.

Adam touched at the shell of his ear as if requesting him to repeat himself but Ronan couldn't bring himself to speak again. He was bewitched watching Adam being Adam. Carefree and brave and dancing. His dance moves were off, clearly he had one thing he wasn't good at, but he didn't seem to care in the least and really neither did Ronan. Adam gestured for him to come in, motioning with his arms as if he was seducing him with his poorly made steps.

Ronan almost started to move in to join him, when cameras started flashing and Adam stilled at the cacophony of flashing lights and the clicks of cameras. Ronan jerked to see the paparazzi coming at them from the left, moving fast toward them like a herd of animals. How they even found them, he didn't know, but that wasn't important. Adam was frozen at the center of the dancing mass of bodies, as the paparazzi came closer and broke them all up.

They started to ask him highly personal questions about why he was here, his love life, his relationships with his co-stars, to get him to look at them or react or something. Ronan shoved through the swarm and grabbed for Adam's hand and pulled him away in a swift manner. They started to run, and they didn't stop. They ran through the crowds as the paps chased after him, cutting across streets and traffic and even somehow passing by the girls from the boat again. But the paparazzi were on their tail the entire time, and Ronan realized they were running the wrong way to his car, and doubling back now would prove difficult with the herd behind them. So he took a shortcut to turn around and ran through a restaurant he knew had a back exit, one he used once before to get out of a bad date. They ran through the dining room and back through the kitchens, ignoring all the shouting and swears, and they ended up out back in the small alleyway. Ronan rerouted them to head back to where his car was, but knew they couldn't remain hidden forever, and he didn't want them to take photos of his car and find out who he was. Before they were spotted again they disappeared into a tourist gift shop, where Ronan dragged Adam to the back. They were both still panting and breathless as he reached for the first thing he could think of and pulled a hoodie over Adam's head, then a hat on himself. Through the front door he could see the group of men wielding cameras half their size run past, still thinking they were chasing them, and Ronan and Adam simultaneously ducked their heads in case any lingered to look inside.

He could feel Adam's racing pulse that matched his own, as Adam hid his face against Ronan's shoulder, avoiding any chance of recognition. They were pressed together in the back of the shop, and must have looked a sight for the employees.

Once the coast was clear Adam looked relieved, and Ronan felt it too. He didn't know what he would've done if they kept chasing them. Adam peeled off his hoodie while Ronan took off the hat, and Adam's silence was very telling of his mindset. He looked upset and pretty shaken, but then he surprised Ronan by cracking up against his sweatshirt.

"Why did you give me this hoodie, but you get a hat?" he said, causing Ronan to pulsate with each word and breath. He moved from him, still in stitches enough his shoulders convulsed a little. "I mean, this is the dumbest disguise in the world. This is the absolute most ridiculous thing I think I've ever done to avoid the media." He shook his head, sighing with contentment as a few chuckles still came out like a delayed reaction.

Ronan reached and touched his hair, stealing the chance to touch him. He liked that he was smiling, but he was also unfortunately probably used to this sort of thing. The feeling of his hand to Adam's cheek stilled them both, like time had frozen on this moment so he could remember it forever. Every bit of it, from the way Adam's skin warmed when met with his, the way his eyelashes looked stark against his freckled cheeks, the way his lips parted as Ronan's fingers slid up into his hair. He wasn't laughing anymore.

"It's no wonder you wore that fucking giant scarf the day we met," said Ronan. Must be hard to stay obscure."

Adam withered a little, and in response Ronan dropped his hand from him. "Yeah, it can be," he said. "I shouldn't have posted the pier on my instagram story. That's probably how they found me."

"Don't blame yourself. You're allowed to have fun."

"I just hope someday I'll be boring enough they won't care what I do," Adam sighed.

While he seemed to love the acting part of being an actor, like Adam said himself, there was more to it than that.

"Hey..." He twisted a lock of Adam's hair between his fingers, just to see if he could. Adam looked to be letting him do a lot of things today. "You're kind of boring now, so I don't know why they're following you."

With smaller laughter, Adam slammed a fist at his chest, a light pat matched with a voided expression. He stared down at their feet, not quite smiling and not quite frowning either. He sighed, as the sun had just about disappeared completely from the sky.

Outside it was hues of pink and blue and stretches of purple in between.

"Should you be getting back?" Ronan knew Adam couldn't stay with him forever. They had lived after all, Adam's certainly more demanding.

The reminder soured Adam just that much further any hint of delight in his face had left. He looked at his watch, noting the time with an unwelcome grimace.

"Yeah, probably," he said.

Ronan pulled up to the front of the Ritz for Adam, unbuckled his seat but didn't get out right after. He turned to him and Ronan felt unquestionably sad.

"Come up?" said Adam, which was not what Ronan was expecting.

"Why?" He blurted it out without a second thought and couldn't explain to Adam or himself why he did. For a second he thought maybe Adam was inviting him up for sex, and if he were he wasn't sure what he was going to do about it. He wanted Adam, that much was obvious, but he wanted him in a way Adam could never give him. He wanted commitment, and he was pretty sure Adam wasn't looking for that right now. Besides, didn't he have a boyfriend?

Ronan must have been staring and quiet for a length because Adam was rolling his eyes and gesturing big with his hands.

"Well you haven't eaten dinner," he said, "and I haven't eaten dinner...."

Dinner. Ronan breathed. He just wanted dinner.

"Don't you have shit to do?"

"Not really." Adam didn't seem to understand Ronan's hesitancy, and frankly neither did Ronan. He wanted to say yes, but maybe it would be good to say no. Boundaries and all that. If he got more than an afternoon, he was pretty sure he was going to start dreading so far from Adam. "I have more interviews tomorrow, but I've answered every question I can a million times." Adam opened the door and got out. He stared back inside at Ronan, bent down so he could see. He held the door open as he smiled a little, tempting him with his challenging eyes. "You can choose to come up or not, it's up to you. You remember the room."

And he tapped on the roof of the car and walked inside. Ronan sat there, watching him leave, contemplating whether or not to go after him. There were a million reasons not to and a million reasons he should. He looked forward and then back at the hotel.

He was at Adam's hotel room not long after, knocking on the door feeling a mixture of defeat and relief and anxiety and liberation.

Wendy answered the door, and already Adam was lying sprawled out on his sofa with the television on. Wendy moved aside without even saying anything, allowing him in unlike last time. Ronan passed by her and they exchanged a look, a nod to one another. He didn't want to get in her way and she looked to feel the same, though he didn't really have a way to get into.

Adam piped up at the sound of the door shut and he muted the television at once, smiling as he sat up to greet him.

"Good decision," he said. Ronan started peeling off his jacket when he added, "I already ordered."

"You-?" Ronan was impressed with his bravado, not to mention his speed. It had only been fifteen minutes at most since he came upstairs.

"You like meat right?" Adam rested his head against the back of the sofa, peering up at Ronan while he then removed his hoodie. Adam's room was hot, or maybe he was hot from being in here. He had a wonderful way of making Ronan feel at home without even trying. His effortless way of just heading into a conversation right off the bat like they had already been talking for ages and this was just a continuance of it, the way he familiarized himself so steadily fast with Ronan the moment he started texting him, the way he observed him casually and comfortably as he revealed his Save the Redwoods shirt Blue got him for Christmas as if he had done so a thousand times before. Adam was possible and impossible, a stranger and a best friend, a crush and something more, a man and a phenomenon. Adam was staring at him with a sense of familiarity, but with a wonder that also came from something new.

Ronan felt his question was double edged and pretended there wasn't an innuendo hidden in it. He eyed Wendy who was still staring back at him, and he answered simply, "Yeah."

"Good." Adam peeled off the sofa to stretch, and then he disappeared behind a set of sliding doors that he hadn't noticed last time he was in here. They shut behind him, thin enough he could still hear behind them, but solid wood so he couldn't see. "I wasn't sure if you were vegan or something," Adam called out. Ronan almost laughed at the suggestion. The doors opened a crack, and Adam poked his head out between them, beaming ear to ear. Ronan could see his bare shoulders poking out just a crack, which meant he was probably naked. Fucking Jesus. "I ordered burgers anyway."

"Okay," Ronan said when he found his voice. The doors shut again, and Adam resumed whatever it was he was doing on the other side of them, leaving Ronan alone in here with Wendy. As he placed his jacket and hoodie on a chair, he took full note of Wendy, who took full note of him back.

"Hi," she said all chipper.

She looked like she was going to kill him if he said the wrong thing.

"Hi," was all he said back.

Wendy looked to want to say something more, but in that moment the doors rolled back into the walls and Adam came back out wearing a white long sleeved shirt and basketball shorts.

"Thanks, Wendy," he said, and he plopped back down into the sofa with effortless ease. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Bright and early," she reminded him. She glanced at Ronan. Ronan didn't know how to tell her they were definitely not doing something tonight that required that reminder.

Adam nodded as he grabbed a magazine off the coffee table and started flipping through it casually as she left. As soon as she shut the door Ronan could feel Adam's eyes on him. He was proven incorrect when he looked over to see he was still reading his magazine.

"You've been hanging out with me all day," he said. "Why are you suddenly being weird?" Adam didn't even look up from his magazine as he said it.

Ronan ignored him. This was his private hotel suite and it wasn't cluttered with people anymore. They were alone. Properly alone for only the second time since they met. He was admittedly nervous when Adam's bed was in view, pristine with a nice looking outfit laid out on it for him tomorrow. He looked at what was on the television, some show where people were buying houses, and when he looked at what magazine Adam was reading, it was about home decor.

"I noticed your boyfriend didn't come on the trip," he said.

Adam finally looked up.

"What boyfriend?" He squinted like he couldn't see. Ronan inched closer, dragged forward by the impulsive desire to pry. It wasn't like him to pry, but he wanted to know if it was true, if he had a boyfriend.

"The one the paparazzi photographed you with a while back," he said. Adam still didn't look to understand. God, he felt like an idiot for even mentioning anything. "The model or something. My roommate mentioned it..."

"Oh, Jacob?" Ronan's heart was doing funny things in his chest, trying to escape perhaps. "No. We've never dated." Adam looked upset about it. Meanwhile Ronan almost grinned, until he saw the way Adam was staring at him. "You really believe that shit?"

Ronan shrugged. His eyes followed the length of the back of the couch, falling down to Adam's face and then rolling back down his long, lean form, from his long arms to his fitted torso to his even longer legs. "I don't know what to believe," he confessed. They barely knew each other. They knew the smaller things, like how Adam hated getting up early even though he did it almost every day. He liked his coffee black, though sometimes he got sugar when he wanted a little extra buzz. He had a habit of calling Ronan to talk on the phone when he was shooting, especially as he was going to sleep when he seemed the loneliest. He was lonely, and so was Ronan. They fit, and yet...

Adam set down his magazine and sat up. "They do this every time I'm spotted out with someone," he said, his words worn at the edges like an old book. "Won't be surprised that next week I'm supposedly dating you," he said with a tiny laugh.

Ronan didn't think it was so funny.

"I'm not currently dating anyone," Adam said, solving the mystery once and for all. "It's not a good time right now. I haven't been in the same place longer than a few months lately. Makes it sort of difficult to be serious with someone."

Ronan didn't know how to respond to that. He couldn't tell if Adam was just telling him, or if he was warning him.

In that moment he suspected the former, but then Adam was playing with the lining of the sofa's arm, leaning against it so he could be close to where Ronan stood at the center of the living room area. He looked up at him, smiling faintly like it were a ghost of a previous, more comforting smile.

"Are you currently seeing anyone?" he said, and Ronan felt his eyes searching for something inside him.

"No," he said, and he looked away. There beside him on a table was a gift basket from the production studio of his current film. He hadn't opened it yet. It looked important. Ronan's fingers picked at the frayed plastic at the top, and he thought of hopeless thoughts, prayed for prayers meant to go unanswered.

"Then we're both losers at love," Adam remarked, jokingly. Ronan was staring at him swift as a breeze, hand falling from the basket.

"I'm not a loser," he said, playing along.

Adam smiled a little more. "So you're saying I'm the only loser?"

"I- No." He rolled his eyes. "You're an asshole"

Adam laughed.

Their burgers arrived with fries and two cokes. They sat out on his balcony staring out at a idyllic view of the city.

As they were eating, Adam was looking at him as he was looking at Adam. For such a fancy ass place, their burgers were pretty ordinary, which he noted to Adam's amusement.

"You a burger connoisseur now?" said Adam. "God, I don't know what to make of you." He rested his chin in his hand, which was propped up by the elbow on the table top. He was inclining toward Ronan at the patio table, smirking with a devilish undertone. He spoke with mockery in his voice. "First you're a bookstore owner, then I find you're a blogger, then a journalist of a very well established fictional magazine, now I find you're a world renowned burger expert." He clucked his tongue. "Gee, I can't compete. I'm just Oscar nominated actor, philanthropist, soon to be owner of a production company Adam Parrish." He shook his head.

Ronan was beet red across from him, glowering at his teasing and grateful they hadn't turned the light on out on the balcony, allowing him to hide his reaction cleverly in the dark.

"Bragger," he said, absurdly throwing his napkin at Adam's face. It slipped in the wind and out past the edge of the balcony and out into the California night. "Fuck."

Adam chuckled softly as he sat back away from him, striking Ronan silent the rest of the meal.

Back inside Adam insisted Ronan stay to watch some television. He had a soft spot for house related reality shows, he noticed, berating the people on the show's sometimes for their choices.

Ronan couldn't care less about what was on, but somehow through the course of a few episodes, they inched closer and closer on the sofa until they were sitting right beside each other, Adam's weight against his side a solid reminder this evening was happening.

"I'm glad you came today," Adam said, during a commercial break which he muted.

"Me too," Ronan replied. They weren't looking at each other as they said it, but he felt Adam move in a little closer.

"I almost didn't mention I was in town," Adam admitted, and Ronan then looked at him.

"Really?" He saw the guilt in Adam's face and was confused by it. "Why? Would've been kind of hard to avoid the subject. Your face is plastered all over town now for two different films."

Adam sat forward, to avoid him staring at him or catching his gaze, or to maybe avoid having to show his expression as he answered.

"I was... nervous," he said.

"Nervous?" He leaned away from him to study him fully. Adam looked rigid and uncomfortable. "What does Adam Parrish have to be nervous about?"

"A lot of things." Adam finally looked at him again, through the spacing between his fingers. "I like you."

Ronan remembered well the last time he said that.

"I like you, too," he said.

"Of course you do. I'm amazing."

Ronan nearly choked on his soda. Adam turned into him, their knees knocking together on the sofa cushions. He dipped his head down again, fidgeting with his hands.

"I'm glad I found you and Opal," Adam said, a confession that sounded like it was hard to give. He had no hint of sarcasm or humor in his eyes as Ronan was staring into them, searching for an answer in them that did not exist. How did he become so fortunate? That fate gave him this? Though he shouldn't thank fate just yet, he reminded himself, as there was more to this that he wanted but could not have.

"I can't speak for Opal, but I'm glad too," Ronan said.

"Yeah?" There was a faint glimmer in Adam's eyes. Hope, maybe.

"I always wanted to be in the tabloids," Ronan remarked drily.

Adam groaned, unimpressed and unamused. He pushed at Ronan's shoulder, and then again and again just so Ronan knew as he laughed at his own joke he wasn't the least bit funny to Adam.

"I'm done with you," he laughed.

Ronan caught his hand the fourth time he went to push, and he held it in his a length. Fingers touching fingers, palm to palm. He was so fucked.

"I should let you get some sleep," he said, pulling away and off the sofa. "Don't want to look like a zombie on camera tomorrow, do you?"

"They can just cover my face in makeup," Adam said, making an effort to keep in step with Ronan's movements. He rose from the couch, too, as Ronan was trying to remember where he set down his things. "They usually do anyway."

"It was good seeing you," said Ronan, and he managed to retrieve his jacket and sweatshirt, standing there with them in a bundle to his chest.

"Yeah." Adam sheepishly neared him, hands in his pockets, shoulders high against his neck. "Tell Opal again, I'm really sorry I couldn't see her."

"I will."

Adam followed him to the door, and Ronan managed to look back at him as he did it.

"I think I can find my way out," he said. "It's not that big in here."

Adam shrugged. "You look like you get easily lost," he cracked.

Ronan rolled his eyes and allowed him to linger, like a shadow or an extension of himself. He opened the door and stood there in the doorframe. Adam bent forward and kissed him on the cheek same as before. Ronan could have so easily turned his head and snagged his lips in his, but he wouldn't.

"See you, Lynch," he said.

"Not if I get lost," Ronan said with a teasing lift of his eyebrows.

"I'm excited to see what career you'll have next. I hope it's a mime."

" Oh wow ," Ronan laughed. "Damn, fuck, Parrish. That was pretty good."

Adam shrugged, looking not completely disappointed in his own witticism. He smiled soundly, a hand coming to touch at Ronan's shoulder. Ronan half wished he asked him to stay.

He didn't.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

"Thanks for bringing him the octopus," said Opal the next afternoon. She was talking to him but staring down at her phone. Multi tasking at its finest.

"No problem," Ronan said. He wanted to talk of anything other than Adam today. That was so clearly not happening. Even this morning Gansey was all about him and his new film, asking if he could get a ride to the Castro to see him. Ronan told him to take the fucking BART.

"You know," Ronan was exchanging books out of the window display case, awkwardly angled for a conversation, but finding himself seeking one anyway, "Parrish's real sorry he couldn't see you, you know."

"I know," she said, waving his apology away. "He told me as much this morning. It's no problem. He's busy."

Opal seemed to be taking this a lot better than he thought she would, but maybe that was because he was Adam. It seemed hard to be mad at him. Ronan certainly tried whenever he openly flirted with him, but then he would say something that was a complete non-sequitur, and he would be right back into adoration.

On the bright side of yesterday, Adam seemed to be liking his book. He sent him a photo of himself that morning sitting on his balcony drinking coffee while reading it. The fucker.

Opal was still on her phone and not paying him any attention, and he intentionally dropped a book on the ground. She jolted a little in her seat as she looked over at him.

"We can hang out though," he said, as if the conversation hadn't died a few minutes ago. "I'm cool, too."

"After the success of last time?" Opal's brow rose then fell. Her eyes refocused on her screen. The brightness of it was reflected in her eyes. "I don't think so."

"I won't bug you about any of that this time," Ronan said. He walked to her, to the opposite side of the counter than where she sat, and he gazed at her until she looked back up from her phone again.

"You swear?" she said.

"I swear," he said.

With a twitch of a smile, she closed her phone and set it off to the side. Pillowing her round face in her palms, she pressed her stomach against the wooden counter between them.

"Well, I've never been to Alcatraz before," she said.

"Me either," said Ronan.

"Then it's a plan." Opal leaned away again from Ronan. She opted for her book instead of her phone, flipping through the pages to the one she earmarked.

"We don't need Parrish to have fun," said Ronan, and Opal rolled her eyes.

"You know, the more you talk about him like that, the more obvious you are."

Ronan scowled at her. "Shut up. You don't know what you're talking about."

She smiled down at her book. "I'm thirteen. I'm not stupid."

 

Chapter Text



"Declan, I realize we're on good terms now, but that doesn't mean you can fucking just show up unannounced and expect to stay over."

"Of course it can. We're brothers, after all."

Ronan's older brother Declan arrived not five minutes ago with a suitcase on his doorstep, after a phone call not fifteen minutes ago saying he was coming to the city to stay a couple days.

"It's my birthday," he said.

"Shouldn't you be spending it with strippers and lines of coke?" Ronan asked.

Declan gave him one of his irritated looks and a resigned sigh, the classic you're being annoying baby brother package. "I told you, just because I work in government--"

"I'm just fucking with you." Ronan outstretched his arms to offer a hug. Declan jumped right into it. "Happy birthday, asshole. Where's Matthew?"

"He's got a new girlfriend or boyfriend or someone," Declan said, and he shook his head same time as shrugging his shoulders. "I can't keep up with him."

"And Mom?" Ronan asked. Last he spoke with her she demanded he come visit soon. She said the atmosphere in San Francisco did not like her hair.

"She's the one who suggested I come visit," Declan said. Ronan should have known as much. "Haven't seen you east side in a while."

"Haven't had the reason to visit," Ronan replied.

"Ouch." Declan acted as if he'd been shot in the heart. The asshole. Ronan ignored him and walked further into the house, hearing Declan shut the door behind them as he followed him.

"Besides, I'm busy with---"

Gansey appeared from the living room, as always a mess. He managed to change into new pajamas though, albeit they were mismatched and he still hadn't showered yet. Ronan stopped walking as Gansey moved to approach them.

"As I live and breathe... Declan Lynch."

"Gansey?" Ronan's brother squinted at the sight of him. "That really you? You look like shit."

Ronan laughed.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

A month had passed since last Ronan saw Adam in person. Not much changed in his life, other than seeing Adam's mystery film where the killer turned out to be his character's girlfriend. Real twist, that one. He hadn't guessed it, though Opal claimed she already knew. How she managed to see an R rated film by herself, he didn't know but didn't ask. He was kind of impressed.

The most change in Ronan's life was his newfound ability and interest in sending Adam selfies. For every selfie Adam sent him now, he returned the favor. He felt all of his were stupid and Adam's were glorious enough to be in museums, but he was new at this. New at trying.

"You're hopeless," Opal said to him the last time he took a selfie when she was around. It was of the two of them, which Adam specifically requested. He managed to cut her out of half of it, not angling his arm right or something. How was taking a selfie hard? Also why did they have to be called selfies? He somehow became an old man overnight and it was terrifying.

"Help me, then," he said. "If you're so perfect at this."

Opal didn't even blink. She just grabbed his phone and took a photo herself and by comparison hers was a Monet and his was a painting by a dog.

"How?" he said, as she sent the picture to Adam for him with a little :) attached to it. "How do you take better photos than me. Were you even alive when camera phones first came out?"

"Nope," she said proudly, as she handed him back his phone. "Why do you even want my help? Thought you didn't like him."

She said it with such apparent sarcasm that he knew denying it was only going to cost him a labored back and forth of teasing that would inevitably result in his frustration.

"Okay, smartass," he said. "We both know that's not true."

His confession stirred her eyes to widen a little and a smile to perk up her face, as if she was saying finally , and then she put a hand over her mouth feigning a gasp.

" It isn't ?" she said in mock surprise.

Adam replied back to him as they were talking.

 

adam parrish : aw opal took your photo :)

ronan lynch : how do you know it wasn't me?

adam parrish : because it's not of half your face or a bad angle. tell her thank you for me xx. you guys look cute

 

"Maybe I should help you," said Opal, all too close to him. "Can't be sending bad angles to your crush."

"I--" He caught her reading over his shoulder as he was sitting beside her and he jerked. "Hey don't read my text conversation!"

"It was just out in the open asking to be read," she said. She clearly didn't see the problem with it but Ronan was annoyed.

"Opal," he said sternly.

"Ronan," she said mockingly back.

With her help and coaching, Ronan's selfies got better and Adam certainly noticed, somehow stepping up his game as well. Ronan didn't think that his photos could get any better, and yet he somehow outdid himself again and again. He would send him photos of himself in the streets of New York, in offices with white walls, at the gym, on the red carpet of his new film, in his apartment which seemed very simple but nice. Ronan would send photos of when he was at work, when he went on runs on the weekends, when he was in his room. A lot of his selfies were of him in his room. Adam seemed to pick up on that and asked him why he didn't go out more. Ronan did go out, but he didn't take photos of himself when he was with his friends. They would never let him hear the end of it. He told Adam as much, who seemed to find the whole thing amusing. It's just photos, he said.

And then Adam killed him by sending him a selfie of himself half naked in bed one morning earlier that week, which took Ronan hours to respond to with put on a shirt, parrish . Adam was half asleep, his cute little sleepy smile on his face, one eye closed to the light coming in through the window. He wasn't in his bed, but a hotel bed in Los Angeles, the white sheets around him visibly not his own, which Ronan somehow memorized after a few guest appearances in pictures. He was shirtless with the sheets pulled back and while Ronan had seen a lot more of him in some of his more risqué roles, he was definitely more allured when it was Adam gifting him with the sight that others could only see in the movies.

Adam was in Los Angeles that week, close and yet far from him. It was still half a state away, and he was in agony over it. He had half a mind to just drive down, but he was already teetering on the edge of never having a holiday to himself again if he kept skipping work like he was.

 

ronan lynch : come visit me you don't need to make a million dollars this week do you

adam parrish : hahaha funny

ronan lynch : why is la so far

adam parrish : so you can't bug me

ronan lynch : hey :(

adam parrish : needy

ronan lynch : how else am i going to update my blog. it's getting kind of stale :/

adam parrish : stop being cute. i'm working

ronan lynch : glossing over the fact you called me cute, if i continue to be will you visit

adam parrish : no I'll block you

ronan lynch : :(

adam parrish : blocked

ronan lynch : is that how it works

am I blocked now

hello

parrish?

asshole

adam parrish : oh my god

 

Since running into Ryan at the interviews, he hadn't heard about him since with his friends although he expected he would. It was suspicious Ryan didn't mention anything to them, when if it were him in that situation he would definitely find it fucking odd a bookshop owner suddenly was hanging out with journalists in a very private interview session with some of the most famous actors currently in Hollywood. Ryan was fucking weird. He didn't understand the guy. Like he said, suspicious.

On the upside, Noah and Henry finally got the message setting him up on dates was useless. They quit. Henry said it like it was a threat but Ronan was pleased.

On the downside, now there was more drama related to Gansey and his other friends he had to deal with as repercussions of that night. One evening out last week with Blue, she asked to go to Mill Valley, a town across the bay they liked to go to sometimes when they didn't want to run into anyone they knew. They reserved their trips there for when they wanted to talk about something just between them, the two self proclaimed assholes of the group who bonded over mutual disinterest in many things, one of them obviously being blind dates and the disappointments of dating in general.

Anyway, Blue took Ronan there that night to tell him she thought Gansey was flirting with her.

"I'll tell him not to do that," he said.

"But that's not the weird part," said Blue.

Ronan pinched the bridge of his nose. He could tell where this was going. "Did he try to talk to you about his mint plants? He won't shut up about them-"

"I may have liked it a little," she said. "The flirting. I don't know anything about mint plants."

"That is weird," he said. "Did you hurt your head recently?"

Blue rolled her eyes. "Make fun all you like. He's your best friend."

That was true. But he still spent the rest of the night teasing her about it.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It was probably a good thing Ronan didn't convince Adam to come visit, though, since having Declan and Gansey in his house, it was a clusterfuck. Declan was being Declan, slightly less snide comments than they would have been ten years ago, and Gansey was Gansey, gallantly handing those comments right back. It was a nightmare, to the point that Ronan went into work early that morning to avoid it. Declan was leaving tomorrow, and thank god he was. He needed his home back, or at the very least what parts of it Gansey hadn't taken over but Declan currently did. Ronan was in an irritable mood today, and even had to catch himself a few times from snapping at Opal when she did her usual kid stuff like leave crumbs on the table and follow him around.

Opal's summer vacation was still in full effect, and just a few days ago they went to Alcatraz as he promised. She jokingly tried to throw him overboard. At least he thinks she was joking. They had a great time then, but with Declan in town he just wanted to be left alone.

He was in the stacks reorganizing the books. It was a weekly thing to fix the shelves, most people having the habit of taking a book out then putting it back wherever they felt. He was annoyed, at them, at his brother for not asking to visit and instead insisting on it, for Gansey who was so irritable lately he was picking fights with him. It was the most surreal thing to be the one on the outside of the fighting. He wondered if he and Gansey switched bodies at one point and he just forgot. But then he remembered Gansey's love of boat shoes and polo shirts and he was reminded nope, still him.

"Hey, Opal. How has Lynch been treating you?"

Ronan dropped several books on himself when he heard Adam's voice, and he staggered out of the shelves in a hurry to see Adam, only to see Opal on the phone. Adam wasn't physically present. He was on video chat. And Ronan's heart sank.

Opal was cackling at him. She must have heard what happened, as if seeing him run out when he heard Adam's voice wasn't embarrassing enough.

"What?" said Adam. "What's going on?"

Ronan glared at Opal with a Don't you dare expression. Opal smirked back at him, saying mmm I might dare .

"Eh," Opal said. She sat up so she could see Ronan better over the phone. "Ronan's clumsy and dropped a few books. Want to say hi?"

Ronan didn't even have time to be upset with her, because she was turning the phone around so Ronan could see Adam on the small screen.

"Yeah," said Adam. He sounded eager enough as Opal then leaned in to see her phone screen too. Seeing him in motion for the first time in a month drew Ronan in rather quickly. He came closer as subtly as he could, almost appearing hesitant. Perhaps he was. He had grown so used to texting and the occasional phone call, he almost forgot how real Adam was. There he was. Waving hello in a car somewhere in Los Angeles, wearing sunglasses and smiling. Suddenly all his anger washed away.

"How are you doing this?" he asked Opal.

"How are you and Adam the same age but he's like ten times smarter than you?" Opal replied.

Ronan rolled his eyes while Adam laughed.

"Hi," said Adam.

"Hi," Ronan said back. He could see Adam was sitting in the back of what appeared to be a taxi, alone presumably since he was being so open with this call.

Neither said anything for a while, merely taking the other in, all the while Opal sat there observing them. She stared bewildered at the two of them and their riveting conversation.

"Is that it?" she asked. "Wow. How did you guys hang out for a whole day without getting bored of each other?"

Ignoring her, Ronan leaned a little more into the camera.

"What are you doing right now?" he said.

"Taking a cab to a meeting," he said. He leaned his head back against the headrest, tilting his phone so Ronan could only see Adam's nose and up. He almost laughed. "You're bleeding on your forehead."

Ronan touched at where he remembered it hurting the worst, and when he pulled his finger back there was blood.

"I'll live. Tell me," he took Opal's phone from her hand and started walking away. "Is it just an actor thing that even in unflattering angles you look fine? Because it's really annoying. Honestly."

Adam pushed his sunglasses up off his eyes to rub at the curve by his nose, laughing at Ronan to a point he was drowning out all sounds and all Ronan could see was the side of his face.

"Hey!" Opal stomped after him. "That's my phone!"

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

That same day, later toward the evening, Ronan was closing the store. He did his nightly ritual, checking the back door and turning of all the lights. Opal was following him around that night, though, pestering him about joining Instagram. His mood only soured since earlier, and Opal was getting on his last nerves.

"I don't need it," he said. "I don't take pictures of anything worth showing the internet. I don't need a bunch of strangers knowing my business."

"You could help promote the store," Opal suggested. Ronan ignored the offer. It was a decent recommendation, but he wasn't exactly suffering. It was just a little slow lately.

"It'll make you cooler," Opal added, knowing her other suggestion failed.

"That's what all the kids said about drugs in middle school," Ronan recollected aloud. "I know for a fact it didn't then, and it won't now."

"You're so boring!" Opal was pouting, and Ronan couldn't fathom why. It was just a website. She saw him every day. What about this social media website made it worth promoting like this?

She continued to follow him as he moved some of his new shipment out of the aisle for convenience. That way tomorrow's Ronan wouldn't have to.

"Adam follows my Instagram," Opal said, bragging. "On his private one."

Ronan faltered. "He has a private one?"

"Yeah." Wickedly Opal knew she had his attention, and she didn't make much of an effort to hide it. "And I'm not allowed to give it out until you get one," she said.

Ronan rolled his eyes. "Oh so this is a joint effort then." He didn't want to get bugged into joining some site for the brief, cheap thrill of seeing Adam's private pictures when he had plenty of them of his own. Ones he was never going to share with anyone.

"He's posted about you," said Opal. She was getting desperate. He stopped again and looked at her.

"Has he?"

One look at her and he could tell she was lying. This conversation officially went past its due date.

"No," she said reluctantly, "but he could someday and you wouldn't know. See how excited you just got there?"

"Drop it, Opal," he hissed.

Opal rolled her eyes and groaned. "I don't even know why I bother," she said. "You could barely FaceTime earlier. You hung up on him twice."

"Maybe I wanted to hang up on him twice," he retorted.

They both twitched as the front door opened and the little bell chimed to signal to him there was a customer. Opal looked embarrassed for half a second before she fixed her face back to annoyed.

"Opal, you were supposed to lock the front door."

"I did," she argued.

He might have laughed if he he weren't so upset. She very clearly didn't. "Then how do you explain it being unlocked?" he asked.

"Maybe someone has a key," she replied, playing along with her own little lie, arms folding over her chest. "Burglars these days are very resourceful."

Ronan groaned.

Abandoning what he was doing, he walked back out to the front in a huff, feeling his blood begin to boil. This was the last straw of a very draining day.

"Um, excuse me," he growled. "The sign clearly says..." He faltered in his footing when he came out from the back. "... closed."

Adam was standing there, in all his real life glory. He was wearing mustard colored pants and crimson colored socks with a matching crimson sweater and a white winged collar hanging out at the top. Fashionable fuck somehow made mustard pants look good.

"Hi," Adam said, and he waved his hand at him like he did on the phone earlier. "I'm getting some serious déjà vu here."

Behind him he heard a stampede attack, and then Opal was shoving him aside to get a look at what he saw. She screamed.

"Adam!"

She ran around the counter and into his arms, and they hugged tight and happy. He was a little envious of that.

"Oh my god!" Opal was moving around now like she was on a sugar high, talking fast and loud and happy. "I thought you were kidding!"

Something clicked and he flinched when it happened. "You knew?"

Opal turned back to him and frowned. Adam was just smiling, as warm as the sun that was already beginning to set.

"Cool it there, grandpa," said Opal. "Sometimes the kids talk about plans without you."

Ronan rolled his eyes and hung back, wondering if this was just for her benefit. Closing up and just leaving sounded like his best bet, not wanting to disturb the time they wanted to have together. So he started to do just that, but felt a hand on his back kindly greeting him. When he turned Adam was in his space, searching for a hug.

"You get one too, you dope," he said, wrapping his arms around Ronan. He smelled like a long day, if smell could be described as such a thing. Really it was just sweat, but it was Adam's, so he liked it. Ugh.

After a few seconds of allowing himself the embrace, Adam and he mutually pulled apart. Adam then touched at his forehead, near where he smacked his head on a book earlier. There was a band aid there now covering the wound, but it was still embarrassing.

"You are just falling apart without me, aren't you?" Adam teased. Ronan was a mess of emotions. He remembered last time so vividly, how everything felt. He could do a live recap of it in his head. This was going to be a motherfucker.

"How long are you in town for?" he said, moving so the counter was between them. He pretended to go through some bills he left there, but he already went through them already so there wasn't real need.

"I've snuck away, so only a day. I have an event tomorrow back in LA-"

"To learn the art of rhyme?" Ronan jested.

Adam frowned, unamused. He missed him. "Thankfully flights between here and there are so fast, I can stay until then," he said. "Until six pm tomorrow."

Opal reminded them both she was present by jumping a few times up and down. "Isn't this great?" she said. Ronan missed having the energy of a thirteen year old.

"It is," Adam said. He touched at Opal's hair very paternally. They bonded so much since they met, it was amazing to witness. He was a little envious of them both. "Aren't you glad to see me?" Adam asked, and he realized after a second he was talking to him.

"Yeah," Ronan confessed. He was exhilarated, and joyful, especially when he sensed by Adam's inviting smile he came here in part to see him, too. He almost let himself be happy about that, but then he remembered about Declan. "I wished you told me you were coming," he said, a little less excitable.

"I wanted it to be a surprise." Adam came to stand by the counter and touched again at Ronan's forehead. "Wanted to see you in all your bruised glory."

"It's not that." But Ronan still blushed when he looked down. "I have plans tonight."

"Oh." In just that one syllable Ronan heard Adam's heavy disappointment. When he looked up he could see it reflected in his eyes. After a few seconds he looked fine again, almost like Ronan hadn't said anything. It was chilling. There was a reason he was an Oscar nominated actor.

Opal approached the counter too and pulled on Adam's sweater.

"We can still hang out, can't we?" she said, hopeful. "I don't have to be back until eleven. That's my curfew."

"Eleven?" said Adam.

"You have a curfew?" said Ronan. He was more surprised that a foster parent that didn't notice she was barely at school gave her a curfew than it being at eleven.

"Yes." She glared at Ronan like he was ruining something for her. He rolled his eyes. "So you down to hang with me?" she said to Adam, smiling sweetly.

"Not until eleven," he replied.

"Party pooper," she pouted, but the pout was washed away with the opportunity to spend time with Adam. She looked at Adam, who in turn smiled at her, then looked across the counter back at Ronan.

"What are your plans?" he asked.

Ronan went to answer, but Opal cut in before he could. "Definitely not a date ," she said, chiding him with a laugh. She pulled herself up onto the counter to sit. He suspected she did that so they couldn't forget she was there. Ronan was so easily distracted by Adam it sometimes felt like there wasn't anyone else in the room, in the world even. Fucking Declan.

"It's my brother's birthday dinner," Ronan corrected, and he tried to get Opal off the counter, but she stuck her tongue out at him and he submitted.

"Oh." Adam leaned against the counter with an elbow, and he looked to brighten up at the mention of Declan. Weird. "How nice," he said. "I didn't know he was in town."

"Surprised me, too. Two days ago." He sounded so happy about it as he dragged himself away from the counter to finish closing up. Adam and Opal were exchanging looks like they were making plans together through mind reading. "Listen, I'm gonna finish here, but you guys don't have to stick around. Go enjoy your night. Don't let me hold you up."

He started to head to the back when he heard Opal suggest something to Adam.

"Let's crash their party," she said.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Adam replied. "Won't that upset his brother? And Ronan?"

"Ronan wants to see you more than his annoying brother," said Opal. Ever the matchmaker, that kid. God. He was glad they couldn't see his face right now. "I'm sure if you asked he would say yes."

"Bored of me already, Opal?" Adam teased.

Ronan spun around on his heel. He didn't even need to think about it, he just returned to them and leaned against the counter on his side.

"Would you like to come?" he said. He doubted Declan would even notice. Declan was a little clueless about these sort of things, and tonight he was likely going to be preoccupied anyway by Noah and Henry's hosting skills. They oddly enough missed him, although they never had to witness his complete asshole years, when he was unbearable and vain. Realizing he wasn't shit when he got a government job really woke him up. Anyway, Ronan wanted more time with Adam so he didn't care what the others would think. It was high time they found out about Adam.

"Am I dressed alright for it?" Opal ran a hand down over her overalls with a highlighter pink shirt peering out at the top.

"You look fine," Ronan said, and then his eyes moved to Adam. "You on the other hand look like a condiments tray."

Adam glanced down at his red and yellow outfit and frowned. "Rude," he said. "My stylist said this was very chic."

Ronan couldn't believe he knew someone who had their own stylist. Though if he thought about, Henry probably had one, too.

"Is your stylist Ronald McDonald?"

Adam gave him a salty expression. "I didn't come all the way here just to be insulted," he said.

"It's okay." Opal patted him on the arm. "He looks like he got dressed in the dark."

Adam's laughter was the only thing keeping him from snapping.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Adam insisted on bringing wine, though he said he didn't drink and Ronan wasn't much for drinking these days either. His friends, however, would love it, and especially when Adam bought a very nice brand at the store.

"They won't care if you buy the cheap stuff," Ronan said. "You don't need to impress them."

"Maybe I want to impress them a little," Adam admitted. "They're your friends."

"Can I get this?" Opal raised a bag of hot cheetos to Ronan's face.

"No," he said flatly, swiping the bag away. She pouted and walked off.

All three stood crowded together on the top step of Henry and Noah's place, Opal having just excitedly rang the doorbell while Adam was shifting around uncomfortably at Ronan's other side.

"You nervous?" Ronan teased. But when Adam glared at him fleetingly, he realized he was. "Honestly. Don't be nervous. There's nothing to worry about. Fuck. Here. Give me the fucking wine."

"No, it's mine to give." Adam yanked his hand away from Ronan's reach.

Ronan rolled his eyes. "Whatever," he said.

Henry opened the door after a second ring, wearing an apron over some nice slacks and a dress shirt, and oven mitts on his hands. He looked overwhelmed, barely even registering them before walking away.

"Hello to you, too, Henry!" Ronan shouted.

"Come the fuck inside," Henry shot back. It was obvious he hadn't even noticed Ronan wasn't alone.

As they walked in, taking off their coats to hang at the coat hanger by the door, Noah came scrambling in from down the hall. He was still getting ready, and the sight of him made Ronan feel highly underdressed. It was a dinner at home with friends. Why did they look so nice? Opal kicked him, and he understood why. Her overalls were very out of style here.

“What happened to your face?”

“A book,” Ronan answered.

"Is that what you're wearing?" Noah asked, noting Ronan's look of the day: a black tank top under an open flannel shirt and ripped black jeans with brown boots.

"Yes," Ronan grunted, watching as Noah came to pick off a fuzz from his collar. "Not all of us can be engaged to retired models and choose our hours," he said.

"Oh." Adam perked up with interest, probably at the word model. "What is it that you do?"

Noah glanced over and did a double take, not having noticed other people come in most likely. His hand fell from fixing the button on his sleeve.

"They run a fairly successful local magazine together," Ronan answered for him. Noah looked absolutely flustered.

"I didn't realize you brought people," he said, hissing at Ronan as if he should've known to tell him beforehand. In his defense, Ronan was busy entertaining two very time consuming people. Noah then looked first at Opal, who was barely shorter than him. "Oh, hello small child."

"I'm not small or a child," Opal snarled.

Noah strained, and looked back at Ronan. "Okay. Who is this?"

"I'm Opal and I'm standing right here." Opal looked like she wanted to bite him, and he was pretty sure if he left Noah standing next to her long enough she would.

"This is Opal," he said, motioning to her and separating them both with a tiny drag at Opal's shoulders, moving her into him. "My one bookstore employee."

Beside him, Opal beamed at him, like she appreciated the jokey introduction. Then her eyes drifted back to Noah, who she smiled at derisively.

"You hire children now, Ronan?" was all Noah could think to ask.

"No, I was kidding," Ronan groaned. "Jesus. Noah, this is Adam. Adam, Noah."

Adam awkwardly waved when Noah finally looked his way. He nodded cordially, still getting his mind wrapped around the sight of Opal first. Noah then reached to shake Adam's hand, who firmly took it. Finally, he fully looked at him when their hands met, smiling gently. "Nice to meet..." His eyes sparked wider and his mouth fell open without any more words coming out. "Wait. No, you're joking." He looked to Ronan, then back to Adam. This was exactly what he expected three minutes ago. "Nice to meet you. Oh my god. Excuse us."

As he dragged Ronan off to the side, Opal was giggling.

"I don't know which is weirder, you bringing a kid or Adam freaking Parrish," Noah whispered, though not too cleverly.

"I would assume the famous actor," said Ronan. He acted as if this wasn't the craziest idea he ever had, and as if he weren't rattling with nerves at how his friends would respond and more importantly if Adam would feel comfortable being here.

"Yeah, I vote Adam's weirder," Opal called out across the room.

"Hey," said Adam.

"I'm kidding," Opal replied.

"I'm just-" Noah stopped himself before he finished that sentence.

"It's too much to explain right now," Ronan said, and Noah looked to agree. "I'll explain later."

"You better." Noah poked him at the chest. "Because either you've been pulling the longest con on us by claiming to never know a single Adam Parrish reference I've made the last five years, or I'm hallucinating."

Henry returned back from the kitchen, mitts gone but apron still on. Everyone turned to him as he spoke.

"Okay, food's almost ready- Holy."

He faltered when his eyes fell onto Adam. Opal then stepped between the two of them and shook Henry's hand.

"Yes, I know," she said. "It's very impressive to meet me.”

"Adam," and Adam offered his hand to Henry, who looked at it with the widest eyes.

"Parrish?" Henry finished. He didn't sound all too certain, until Adam awkwardly nodded then looked to Ronan. So did Henry.

Noah seemed to feel the scene, and he stepped in when Ronan was at a loss for words.

"Henry, these are Ronan's friends, Opal, was it?" Opal nodded. "And Adam."

Still looking completely flummoxed and overspent, Henry put a hand to his apron string and pulled it, yanking the apron off awkwardly and folding it in his hands.

"I didn't dust," was all he said and he walked away back into the kitchen.

Both Opal and Adam looked back to Ronan, Opal looking like this was all a funny show, while Ronan couldn't quite decipher what was going on in Adam's mind.

"All a bit of a shock," Noah agreed. "As I'm sure you know. Oh. Is that for us?"

Adam looked down at the bottle in his hands as Noah came to examine it. It was clear he'd forgotten he was holding it. "Yes," he said, smothering a blush.

"Thank you! This is, wow, this is really nice." Noah started reading the label as he walked away, leaving Ronan alone again with Opal and Adam. He moved at once to stand by Adam again as before. He felt him incline into him, closing up the space between them.

"You good?" Ronan asked.

"They're funny." Adam was smiling a little. They could hear Henry and Noah freaking out in the kitchen like the nerds they were.

"I'm glad you think so," said Ronan. He felt a little relief when he heard him say that. It was a fear of his his friends would make asses out of themselves in front of Adam and then Adam wouldn't want to see him afterward. So far it was okay.

"And you, squirt?" Ronan said to Opal. She was on her phone.

"Are there snacks?" She looked around. "I'm hungry."

Then when the doorbell rang, Opal jumped up and ran to the door. "I'll get it," she shouted, so neither of their hosts needed to leave the kitchen.

It was Blue when she opened it, who she met several times before this past month, and who happily greeted her.

"Blue!"

They embraced.

"Hello again, sweet thing," she said. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm joining for dinner," said Opal. "Come meet my new friend."

"Alright."

And Ronan watched in slow motion as Blue followed after Opal with a smile. She caught Ronan's eye for a fleeting moment and smiled still. Then she rounded the corner from the opening hallway and looked at Adam and immediately stilled, smile faltering.

"Fucking motherfuck shit, you're Adam Parrish."

"So they tell me," Adam replied.

On instinct, Ronan motioned between the two of them, keeping the conversation flowing until hopefully she stopped looking like she just met, well, Adam.

"Adam, this is my good friend, Blue." Adam offered a hand but Blue was still in the middle of processing who stood before her, and his hand fell back down. "Blue, this is my good friend, Adam."

Adam shot him a look of surprise, and then a smile twitched on his face like it was rusty and needed some work, before fully forming into something softer.

"You know I always thought I'd be cool when I met someone famous." Adam and Ronan both turned back to her. "You know you're just people. Like us. Living and working and doing what you need to do."

Ronan felt Adam incline more into him the more she went on. Out of reflex, his hand came up to Adam's back, offering him some sort of comfort through his hand softly moving up. Next to Ronan, he appeared to relax a little more as Blue blathered on about humanity and how really we're all the same and not the same. She was making an ass of herself but he couldn't stop it. It was a little funny.

"You're the most beautiful man I have ever seen in my whole life." Ronan silently agreed. "I think we could be best friends, don't you?"

Before Adam could respond, Blue came and grabbed at Adam's hands. He looked down startled, and Ronan felt now was the time to put an end to this. He never would've expected Blue to be the one to freak out the most.

"Blue-"

"Maybe," Adam said politely.

Blue positively flipped. "Oh yay!" She was hugging him before either one of them could realize that's what she was coming to do. As a result, Ronan's hand fell before it got caught touching him.

While Blue was crushing the life out of him, Adam craned his neck to look over at him, visibly straining.

"Okay, Blue." Ronan knew to step in now and he pulled at her shoulder. "Get off."

Blue let go, a little embarrassed, and Ronan's hand went right back to where it was before, strumming along the length of Adam's spine. He never felt less in control of a limb before in his life. It had a mind of its own and he was just along for the ride. Adam didn't seem bothered by it, and allowed him the pleasure.

Opal sensed the tonal shift and grabbed Blue's hand, walking away with her.

"Okay now," she said. "Let's go this way, to a room far, far away."

As they ventured off toward Henry and Noah's backyard, he could feel his other friends' eyes on them from the kitchen. When Adam started to look around, he made sure to block their view and gave them the middle finger.

"So these are my friends," he said, motioning to the empty room, but Adam knew what he meant. He smiled softly as he took note of one of his movies on their DVD shelf. Must be surreal.

"Where's Gansey?" Adam asked. He was now perusing the rest of their film collection.

"Gansey isn't coming," Ronan said, a little bitter. "Asshole would rather be at home alone. He and my brother aren't getting along."

Adam nodded, though clearly a little disappointed. He heard a lot about Gansey, a key subject of talks about their home lives. It was probably for the best, since Blue was still mulling over how she felt about his flirting the last time. And Gansey being one of Adam's biggest fans, he would probably have a heart attack if he saw him.

"Thank you for bringing me," said Adam, and he appeared genuine about it, smiling at him across from a coffee table in the living room. They looked at one another a moment, and Ronan still couldn't believe he was here, and especially now in his friend's home. He was so goddamn happy, and he didn't want to contain it. At last he allowed himself to completely feel and react accordingly to Adam's presence, and a goofy smile pulled on his face that was sure to get a laugh. Adam responded with a more reserved one on his tired, handsome face.

There was a collision in the kitchen, and Adam broke their gaze to look that way. Ronan didn't need to turn around to know it was Henry or Noah or both being conspicuous as spies.

"My friends are making asses out of themselves," he said at last. "Why are you thanking me?"

"For letting me meet them." Adam sagged his shoulders as he walked around the table, moving into Ronan like it was a casual thing they did all the time. "I've told my friends about you, but I know it's different for you. Thank you." His gaze fell to the sight of a magazine with him on the cover. Before Ronan could react to it Adam casually bent down to it and turned it over. "Besides, I'm used to people making asses of themselves. You do it every time we talk."

Ronan choked out a sound that was meant to be a laugh but sounded more like an embarrassed chortle. Never fucking chortled in his life, yet here he was.

The moment was cut short by the doorbell being rung again, and Ronan turned to the sound knowing it was Declan. The last of them at last.

"That'll be Declan," Henry called out, and he raced through the house toward the door as if he were competing with anyone.

"Declan!" he exclaimed once he answered.

"Henry!" They hugged, and then Declan was being guided inside as they chatted less loudly, catching up a little while Declan put away his coat.

"Happy birthday," Henry said.

"Oh, thank you." It was possible Declan briefly forgot it was his birthday, entering into the living room after Henry. It was then Ronan realized he was purposefully guiding his brother to them. Asshole.

"Have you met Ronan's friend, Adam?" Henry still looked a little awestruck, but the interest in seeing Declan's reaction to Adam seemed far greater.

"No, I haven't." Declan looked him up and down, likely suspecting Adam were Ronan's boyfriend or something.

"Adam, this is Declan, Ronan's brother," said Henry. "Declan, this is Adam."

"Pleased to meet you."

Declan shook his hand and then quickly let go after two good shakes. The four of them then all stood together awkward and waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Declan to realize like the others had. Ronan knew he wasn't going to realize. He was about as clueless about these movie things as Ronan.

"Pleased to meet you, as well," said Adam. He glanced at Ronan, who was biting back a smirk.

"Ronan, would you help me with the chips?" Henry didn't wait for an answer to take Ronan's hand across from him.

"What, can’t open a bag yourself?"

"No. It's a very tricky bag."

"Okay," said Ronan, and Henry started to walk away with him.

Behind them, he could hear Declan still talking.

"So what do you do, Adam?"

"I'm an actor," Adam said. He sounded subjectively bored.

"Oh! Anything I've seen?"

Adam caught Ronan staring and he looked at him with a pleading expression to come back. In the kitchen, Henry stood by a bowl of chips already ready to go, and Ronan couldn't believe he didn't at least pretend he wanted his help with something.

"Are you two hooking up, or what?" Henry asked. Straight to the point.

"What?" Ronan paled. "What sort of question is that?"

"Oh my god you are." Henry looked out his kitchen window at his reflection. "My friend is having sex with Adam Parrish."

"Shhh." Ronan grabbed his shoulder and motioned to be quiet. "Shut up. I'm not," he hissed, lowering his voice. He could still hear Adam and Declan talking, and through the other side of the kitchen he could see Opal with Noah and Blue setting the table.

"That's why you said no to Ryan last month," Henry said, his voice lowered too but not enough in Ronan's opinion.

"No, it isn't," Ronan said.

Henry didn't dignify that with a response, instead changing subjects.

"How did you two even meet?" he asked.

"None of your business with that fucking behavior," Ronan replied, irritably. He grabbed the bowl off the counter. "Now I need to go back to saving him from my clueless brother. Thanks for the chips."

It was a short walk back into the living room where he found Declan still bombarding Adam with words. Declan was being appalling and describing how terrible it is to be an actor these days.

"It's just not the sort of business I could be in," he said. Ronan came around him and he took a chip from the top. "Scraping by like that. A government job is solid, safe. I make a good living. How much did you make your last film?"

"Ten million dollars," Adam answered dully.

Ronan almost dropped the bowl of chips.

Declan began to stammer. "Oh. Oh wow. Ten?" He blinked several times like he was rebooting, and when he finally finished he seemed to finally fully register Ronan returned. "Ronan, hello. Tell me where did you two meet?"

Ronan moved to touch at Adam's back again. He couldn't help himself, and Adam seemed to relax every time he did.

"His store," Adam answered for him. Ronan was still trying to get a handle on $10 million .

"Right." Declan took another chip. "So you're local, then?"

"New York." Adam appeared bored of these questions and then said, "Did you get a chance to see In Space and Time ?" He looked to want to end the query and get into the part where Declan realized.

And then Declan realized. When it clicked together, he gasped and inhaled his chip wrong, coughing.

"Jesus Christ!" he said between hacks.

Laughter traveled from the kitchen as all his friends popped their heads out, even Opal.

"Dinner's nearly ready," called out Noah. They all disappeared again, except Opal who meandered back into the living room.

"I'm going to go wash up," said Adam to Ronan. He moved so their shoulders brushed before he left his side. Blue appeared immediately from the other room as if her name were called, bouncy like gravity was lighter for her.

"I'll show you where the bathroom is!" she said.

"Oh. Sure."

Adam then exchanged a look with Ronan, half horrified and half amused, and he walked away with Blue linking arms with him.

Declan was still getting a handling on things, but he didn't pester him with any more questions. They had the rest of the night for that. When Opal came to walk between them for a chip, Declan's eyes widened again just now realizing she was here too.

"Who's the kid?" he whispered.

"My daughter," Ronan answered without a second's pause.

Declan choked on his chip again.

"What?"

"Take a fucking chill pill, Declan." Ronan slapped hard at his back, not intentionally trying to kill his brother. "I would've been eleven. I was kidding."

Opal poked her head into the conversation with a smirk. "Hi, Dad," she said. "Uncle.” She grinned wickedly at them both as she grabbed another chip then walked away.

Declan looked horrified. "You sure-?"

"I'm gay , remember? Also, again, would've been eleven."

The whole thing didn't seem to fully sit well with Declan, who appeared to be struggling with the joke a little harder than Ronan intended. It was sort of hilarious to see his brother having a small crisis though at the idea of his younger brother having a kid.

"This is the strangest birthday I think I've ever had," Declan observed.

"Cheer up. There can be weirder ones in your future."

His brother glared at him.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

After getting the basic how did you two meet story out of the way, with Adam explaining the first time they met from his side after Ronan tried to tell his friends to all mind their fucking business, conversation flowed into other topics like Opal's obsession with birds, Declan's girlfriend who couldn't make the trip because she had work, Henry and Noah's impending marriage, as well as Blue's job and her upcoming trip to Uganda. That sparked a side conversation between her and Adam, who sounded impressed by all the places she had been because of work. Ronan didn't sulk long, getting dragged into a talk with Opal about whether or not she could have more of the chicken.

"It's up to you," he said. "If you're hungry enough."

"Will they think I'm being selfish? What if someone else wanted a second piece?"

"I don't think anyone will care, kid. Really."

Overhearing this, Noah slyly pushed the plate of chicken closer to her, and she looked at him, then at the meat, then took the piece closest to her with her fork.

As she gave him a smile showing her appreciation, Ronan felt Adam's hand on his shoulder. He was laughing at something Blue said when he turned, actually having a meaningful conversation with her instead of oh my god I love your work . It took him a moment to comprehend that Adam wasn't really expecting him to join in or talk or anything at all. He just wanted to put his hand there. Ronan softened at the feeling, leaning into his hand.

Henry was staring curiously at their interaction across the table, and Ronan started to scowl at him, knowing full well what that look meant. Nosy bastard.

"So, Adam," Henry said, and Ronan wasn't the least bit surprised. Adam stopped chatting with Blue and looked over to Henry across the way.

"Oh, here we go," Ronan moaned.

"Hush, Ronan," said Henry, and then he looked back to Adam. "Adam, do you live in Los Angeles?"

Ronan was going to kill Henry. He knew what he was doing and wanted him so badly to stop.

"No, I live in New York," said Adam, and he curiously looked to Ronan for insight into what this was about. Ronan masked his expression with indifference to avoid giving away he knew.

"Oh. That's a bit far." Henry glanced Ronan's way as Adam turned to look back at him.

"It is," Adam agreed. "I'm only in LA this week for work, and then it's back to the East Coast for me." He sounded mildly dismayed in that, but it was his home. And Ronan's was here.

"He promised to take me to New York during winter break," Opal said excitedly. All attentions turned to her when she said this. Ronan didn't know Adam offered anything like that. He had a thousand questions.

"Really?" he said to him, as the others asked her questions about this planned trip.

Adam shrugged. "It's not set in stone yet," he said. "But she's never been. I would've invited you, but you said you don't like going back."

Ronan wanted to say that if he could, he would fly back there for Adam, but he felt he did enough tonight already to embarrass himself.

"What's the craziest thing you've gotten away with doing because you're famous?" Noah asked, and Ronan put his face in his hands as he heard Adam softly laugh beside him.

"Ignore him," said Blue.

"I often do," said Opal.

"Stop ganging up on me," Ronan groaned into his palms. He felt Adam's hand again at his shoulder, and his fingers squeeze ever so gently at where it connected with his arm.

"One time," Adam said with such a light airy voice from the remnants of his laughter, "I went to Disneyland with some friends just after college, and it was after my first big film. I got recognized by one of the cast members - employees - and we got to ride all the rides by ourselves. It was pretty wild. We got to go straight to the front of all the lines. I felt bad, but it was the first time I really let myself feel proud for my work. A bunch of kids kept stopping me for pictures all day, and I felt cool. I threw up on Space Mountain though."

Ronan looked up at the end of the story as the others mused about stories that only mildly related to his, mostly talking about their times at Disneyland. Adam looked to Ronan and smiled again, and Ronan wondered how this amazing boy allowed him to be in his life.

"I've never been to Disneyland," said Opal, and she was frowning about it.

"Me either," Ronan said.

After that, Adam opened up a little more to questions, even asking some of his own. The night organically shifted to talking about Adam's field of work again, and Ronan learned his brother was a huge Adam Parrish fan. It was horribly humiliating to learn this.

"Do you get to keep all your clothes from your movies?"

Opal snorted. "Why would he want to keep a space suit?" she asked.

Declan shrugged, looking her up and down. "I dunno," he said. "Themed parties?"

Opal snorted. "That's weird," she said. She then sighed, pushing her seat out from under the table. "I'm bored."

"They have video games in the other room," he suggested.

"I saw cake in the kitchen earlier."

"Cake?" Declan perked up while Opal stood to leave. "There's cake?"

"Did you think we weren't going to get you a cake?" said Noah. "I'll go ice it. Opal, want to help?"

She shrugged. "I guess. We'll let the children talk." As she passed by Ronan she patted him on the head. He rolled his eyes at her but caught her smiling.

When she and Noah left, he had half a mind to leave, too, except he wanted to leave with the entertainment. Adam didn't seem at all to mind answering these questions. He seemed to like the talking, but Ronan didn't like it and didn't want them to ask anything else. He just wanted time with him, and dinner was going much longer than he thought it would.

"So, Henry, you were a model?" Adam asked. He was picking at his plate even though there wasn't much left. Remnants of rice and vegetables, that even though they were cold Ronan caught him occasionally still stealing a bite from.

"I was," said Henry. "I, too, briefly tried acting." Ronan didn't know that, which he suspected was Henry's intention. He looked fleetingly mortified when he realized he outed his own secret, as Blue and Ronan looked at each other around Adam and smirked. Ignoring them, Henry continued.

"But then they gave me a sex scene in a short film and I was like no thank you." Henry leaned back in his chair. "Honestly, I don't know how you do it."

"It's not easy," Adam shrugged, and Ronan almost made a sound when he realized this was their topic of choice now. This was really happening. He was really about to go there. For months Ronan had been agonizing over the fact that Adam had fake sex with people for a living. Not that that was all he did. But it was unfortunately something he thought about too often. Who wouldn’t right? Normal people. “Although, I think I've had more fake sex in my life then real sex."

“Really?” Ronan would’ve choked on a drink if he were drinking something. He caught Adam’s look, thinking he was making fun of him, when he wasn’t. Rather, he was desperately trying not to have a breakdown.

"Sex scenes tend to be filmed over a couple days,” Adam reasoned, genuinely and actually going into it, as if he were arguing with Ronan. Ronan wanted to duck under the table and hide. “And I've had….” God, he actually started to count. Ronan almost answered for him. He already knew he had 7 sex scenes so far in his career including his most recent film but not including the one coming out in November. "I don't even know. Quite a few of them."

"What's it like filming one?” Henry asked, chin in his hands as he rested his elbows on the table.

"Why do you care, Henry?” Ronan asked, more edge to his words than he meant. He was agitated, evidenced by the napkin he was currently tearing apart in his hands under the table, ringing it around his fingers and yanking anytime he was internally screaming. And Adam was oblivious to it. They all were.

"I'm just curious.” Henry’s brow folded when he looked at him. "Aren’t you?"

Yes, but he wasn't going to admit that. Watching Adam have sex with other people in his films was like a nightmare. He was aroused but he was also jealous but he was also ashamed. The first time Ronan realized it was a sex scene he fast forwarded out of it.

"Nah, I don't really care.” He glared at his lap. "I doubt they're fun."

"They look fun,” Henry laughed.

"Oh, hush you two,” called Blue on the other side of Adam. "Honestly, leave him alone.”

"I mean,” just those two words made Ronan wince and shut his eyes. Here Adam went. “They look nice, but half the time you've just met the other actor like the day of or a few days before and then suddenly you're naked and pretending to experience this very personal, private, intimate moment with another person while there's the director and the camera operator and sound and electric and the script supervisor. So you're faking the motions and the sounds with another naked person and, well... It's uncomfortable, to say the least. Plus I have to wear this sock that is just very unflattering.”

The others all laughed, even Declan, but Ronan’s mind was red with the imagery. Even knowing it was awkward and not the least bit as sexy as its finished product, Ronan was still, what, envious? Of all those who got to be there for it? To at least get that which was more than nothing.

"Watching them back is even worse,” Adam went on. "I look at a key moment and I can always tell 'oh that's when the sock got caught on the mic wire' or 'this is when the director was yelling 'pound her harder' at me'. I can easily ruin every sex scene in my movies for you."

"Please don’t,” Henry begged.

Again, everyone laughed except for Ronan. He was quietly sitting there absorbing every word, every glance, every gesture and motion. Somehow hearing all of this should've relieved him of some of the discomfort he felt watching those scenes of the man he cared for, and yet it didn't do a goddamn thing. It somehow made it all worse.

"Have you dated any of your costars?" asked Blue. Ronan shot her a look when he sensed there was something unsaid behind the question. She snuck a moment to stick her tongue out back at him when Adam was looking elsewhere, and again Ronan wanted to just disappear.

"I've never dated a costar,” said Adam, speaking as if the idea was absurd. "My character might love theirs, but it doesn't translate for me to them. It's just a job. Dating's hard in my business anyway. My friends try it, but after a while the distance and the time away can easily kill any happy relationship. If I do date, it usually isn't with other actors.”

Ronan looked up at that, and he turned to Adam, catching him staring back as if he had been staring at him the whole time. He was imagining that Adam was suggesting something in that look, in that wry smile that split when their eyes met, wasn’t he? He had to be. At once he was beet red when he turned away, and felt Adam awkwardly look off elsewhere at the same time.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Around ten Ronan had to be the one to cut the fun short, taking Adam and Opal away from his friends. Opal argued she didn’t want to leave, that she was wide awake and could manage a half hour more, but she was already half asleep and it was late and Ronan didn’t want to get home at midnight. He was her walking stick to the car and drove her home. She sleepily waved goodbye to them both and said see you tomorrow to Adam.

The drive was more lively alone on their way to Adam’s hotel. Suddenly it was like Adam had energy, thanking him for the invite.

“You still thank me after all that?” Ronan was confused. “They invaded your privacy so many times tonight.”

Adam shrugged. “I’m used to it,” he said. “Plus they were nice. I’ve gotten worse questions than that. Declan’s face when I was talking about sex scenes, though.” He laughed, leaning away to hold his stomach. “Shit.”

Ronan glanced over at him at a red light, seeing the wrinkles of skin around his eyes as he laughed, the laugh lines on his cheeks, the way his nose crinkled when he wheezed out another chuckle. He couldn’t help but relax his grip on the steering wheel and get out a couple raspy laughs, himself.

Wiping a laughter tear from his eye, Adam sighed. "Tonight was nice,” he said, declaring it a fact as if there were no argument against it. While Ronan appreciated the fact Adam had a nice time, he felt the evening was a clusterfuck. “I’m glad I got to spend it with you.”

He could feel Adam staring at the side of his face, but he didn’t allow himself to look, focusing on the road. The streets of San Francisco at night were half asleep, some still bustling with life while others they passed just a block away were empty and dark.

“I wish you were here longer,” Ronan confessed. “Hanging out with you for less than a day is not very fulfilling.”

“Here I thought it was the perfect amount of you,” Adam joked, and Ronan almost rolled his eyes but he sensed sadness in his voice. “You know, I finally got around to finishing the book you gave me?”

Ronan allowed himself the pleasure of stealing a quick glance his way. Adam was already staring back, a hint of a smile still visible on his lips. For the first time that whole night his expression was open, no longer hidden behind polite smiles or feigned interest.

“Didn’t bore you to death?” Ronan said.

“I loved it,” Adam replied, choosing to ignore his comment. “I got you one, too.”

“On molecular evolution?” Ronan wasn’t going to read that. “Uh, have you met me?”

Adam snorted and sat up in his seat, peeling away from the back of his carseat. “No, it’s not about that at all. You’ll like it. Trust me.”

“Great,” Ronan said, with great effort not to sound like he was falling apart at the sweet sleepy lilt in Adam’s voice. He heard it plenty of times before when he was tired on the phone, but it was another thing entirely when he was sitting right next to him in person. “Did you bring it?"

“Yeah,” and Adam eagerly went for his jacket, but then froze mid-motion. “Shoot. I left it back in my room.”

“That’s okay,” Ronan said, as they were nearing Adam’s hotel. “I can get it tomorrow.” It wasn’t mentioned, but he assumed he was seeing him tomorrow too, otherwise this trip was really shitty.

“No, come on.” Adam slapped at the side of Ronan’s knee. When he slapped him, the back of his hand struck against the bare skin of his knee through the hole in his jeans. There was a soft hint of teasing in his voice, matched in his smirk when Ronan glanced at him. “I’ll give it to you now. You’re here and all. Five minutes.”

Chapter Text

Adam was staying at a hotel in the financial district, something a little more basic and affordable, but only a little. Ronan didn’t even need to agree out loud for Adam to know he was coming up.

“Pull in here,” Adam suggested. He seemed a little more awake as they pulled into the drive. “Valet can take your car. It’s complimentary.”

“Complimentary?” Ronan was mildly impressed. “Fancy.”

When they pulled in as instructed, a gentleman in a valet uniform approached Ronan’s side of the car. He and Adam both stepped out at the same time, and as Ronan handed over his car keys in exchange for a ticket stub, another employee of the hotel was greeting Adam and helping with his door.

“Welcome back, Mr. Loman,” they said.

“Loman?” Ronan repeated, as they were walking inside.

“Willy Loman,” Adam said. When Ronan didn’t seem to understand, he added, “From Death of a Salesman .” When Ronan still didn’t seem to understand, Adam concluded with, “Google something once in a while, Lynch. Honestly.”

“I know what Death of a Salesman is,” Ronan replied tersely. “But why the fake name?”

“So people can’t find me,” Adam explained, as if that answered everything. It only opened him up to more questions.

Inside they passed by the front desk, where Adam slowed down and then paused altogether to talk to the concierge.

“Any messages for room 308?” he asked.

“No, nothing sir,” they said.

Adan grinned cheerily at them, and then at Ronan. “Great,” he said, rapping his fingers along the edge of the front desk. He pushed himself away from it and into Ronan to walk on.

In the elevator, Ronan watched his mood only elevate as he pushed at the 3 button. Something was suspiciously off here.

“Do you think you can close the store tomorrow?” Adam asked. He started playing with the drawstring in Ronan’s hoodie, tugging at the closer one to extend it longer than the other.

“You’re bankrupting me, Parrish,” Ronan replied.

Adam looked to take the comment more seriously than he intended. “Oh,” he said. “I didn’t even think about that. You’re right. Work is more important. I can always drop by for lunch if you’re free. I’m sure Opal wouldn’t mind having time with me alone.” Ronan very much wanted to kiss him, for two reasons: because he looked absolutely beautiful standing there blathering on like a fool, and to shut him up.

“I was kidding,” Ronan said, and it was only half true. He just needed to be better at his finances. If worse came to worse, he could ask Declan for advice, the thought of which was not paining him as much as it had in the past. Maybe it was time he actually hire someone to work the shop on days he couldn’t.

“Oh.” Adam breathed, easing and slacking. “Dick. I take talks of bankruptcy very seriously.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” said Ronan. The elevator was chugging along to the third floor nice and slow, and as it just passed to the second floor and opened up to an empty hallway, Ronan noted again something different about Adam. The absence of his staff, for one.

“Who knows you came here?” Ronan asked, as Adam impatiently pushed at the close doors button. He was staring up at the current floor level while the doors continued to choose not to shut. Finally, when they did, he sighed with relief and rested his back against the wall.

“You, and Opal, and your friends-“

“Adam.”

The drop of his first name did something in Adam that felt revealing. He inhaled deeply, a long and steady breath, and then exhaled sharply through his nostrils. Something seemed to fester in his eyes and darken them, or maybe that was the trick of the light, and then his jaw jutted out just a little, and his eyes rolled as he stared straight ahead.

“I’m meant to be at some health spa right now,” he explained.

Ronan couldn’t believe it. Adam always stuck to a schedule. He would know. He learned it through the months of messaging back and forth. The fact he purposefully broke his schedule, was evading something he was meant to do, was telling. Something was wrong.

“So Wendy doesn’t know you’re here?”

“No,” and Adam wouldn’t look in his direction anymore. He pretended it didn’t upset him that he admitted this, playing it off as casual and nonchalant. He lifted his chin a little and spoke with such calmness, but Ronan knew Adam was upset with himself. Ronan was more upset with the fact that Adam felt he couldn’t tell him. Adam started to fiddle with the zipper of his jacket, bringing it up and then back down. “She thinks I’m off in the hills outside Los Angeles relaxing.”

“Why?”

Adam sighed. “She says I’m really tense these-“

“No.” Ronan inclined into him. “Why aren’t you?”

“That’s impossible anywhere near that city,” Adam said, as if it were obvious. For a moment Adam looked at him with a small turn of his head, his eyes shooting holes in Ronan’s head. His expression soon softened as their eyes met, like he wanted to be mad at Ronan but then the second he saw concern staring back at him he withered. “I’m more relaxed here.”

For a moment, Ronan thought he was suggesting something, but Adam was impossible with his words. They always had two meanings, and he never knew which one Adam intended. They stared at one another for a long while, this proving to be the slowest elevator in human history. They would’ve gotten to the third floor faster if they took the stairs.

“Why Willy Loman?” he said, switching subjects to keep Adam from being forced to open up any more than he was comfortable with. Adam seemed to prefer this subject, his smile faintly returning to the edges of his lips.

“I started out in theatre,” he said, “and so I choose my fake names from plays. It’s fun.”

“You need to look up the definition of fun,” Ronan replied. “It’s not that.”

Adam rolled his eyes as the elevator finally crawled to a stop at the third floor. They got out quietly, Ronan following close behind Adam. The only sounds he heard were their walking, their breathing, the zipper of Adam’s jacket being pulled up and down again. At the door to 308, Adam looked back at him and smiled a little, almost shy. He opened the door with that smile, and then disappeared inside into the dark. Ronan felt like he was heading down a rabbit hole when he stared after him into the void, and then he went inside.

The door shut behind them, and then for a moment they were enveloped in complete darkness. Then Adam clicked on the lamp by the bed, and Ronan flinched from the shift, adjusting his eyes as he watched Adam move about. It was a smaller room, an average hotel room with just a bed and a bathroom and a small TV. Adam picked out a small suitcase from under the bed and placed it on top, opening it up and rummaging around his things. As he did this, Ronan went to find another light but couldn’t seem to find one.

"You would think with the money you spend in this sort of place they give you more lighting,” Ronan commented, patting at the walls for a light switch.

"The little front hall has a light,” Adam said, and he motioned to where they first came in. "Most people come to a hotel to sleep. I don't think they care."

Ronan moved to turn on the light and then came back to find Adam taking out a book from the depths of his clothes. The hall light did absolutely nothing, and so he leaned into the light from the lamp with it, holding it up against the lampshade to read. It was titled Wires , but beyond that he got nothing from this poor lighting.

“This a fence book?” he said.

Even though he could hardly see, he knew Adam was rolling his eyes at him. That was a given at this point.

“It’s about a woman in the 1970s who goes on a quest to find aliens in the Mojave Desert,” Adam explained. He seemed genuinely interested in getting Ronan to read it.

“Do they find any?” he asked. He started to flip through the pages, and Adam stilled his hand from reading them.

“Just read the book,” he said.

This felt pointed, and as he looked between Adam and the book he noticed a sticker on the bottom right corner of the cover, stating soon to be a motion picture . Ah it made a little more sense now.

“Is this a movie you’re going to do?” he asked.

“Maybe,” said Adam. He seemed apprehensive to explain. He was still fiddling with the zipper of his jacket. If he wasn't careful he was going to break that thing.

"Who would you play?" Ronan started to peruse the first few pages, even though he couldn't see a thing.

"The leader of the club that Margaret joins." Adam closed the book again for him and tapped repeatedly at the cover. "It was on the New York Times bestseller list, and the script was really good."

Ronan couldn't help but be a little annoyed. This felt like homework. "I gave you a thoughtful gift that related to your interests, and you give me this."

Adam looked to want to knock the book right out of his hands, and he nearly did as he came to poke pointedly at his chest.

"You own a bookstore full of books related to your interests," he argued. "I wanted to think outside the box. This," he then tapped again at the book, "is related, too, in a way." At once he shied his eyes, which was easy when half of his face was already impossible to see in here. With a turn of his head it was entirely swallowed up by shadow. "You seem really invested in the films I'm in. Thought I'd offer you something for that. Best I could come up with. It's not like you would be into coming by set, would you?"

"That would be a shit gift," said Ronan, and Adam scoffed. "It would ruin the magic of films, seeing all the odds and ends of what happens behind the camera."

"I figured you would be annoying about it," Adam said. "Besides, it really is a good book."

Ronan held the aforementioned book to his chest. It felt like a private piece of Adam was being offered to him. He held it tight. "I'll give it a read," he said. "For you, I guess."

He was very much being an asshole, but it's all he knew how to be to make Adam not see right through him. And so often he could see right through him anyway, see the sensitive young man who was falling for him, who would treasure this book more than any other gift. Who wished he simply said thank you, but couldn't now.

"Okay."

Together they stood awkwardly there. Ronan was caught between the lamp and Adam, uncertain how to move around. He would have to move past him to leave, who seemed to be intentionally blocking him from doing that without making it awkward.

"This place is nice," he mumbled, trying to save face and be less obvious about not moving away. This was a lot longer than five minutes.

Adam shrugged. "I wouldn't mind being somewhere less expensive. I don't need all the frills and accessories," and Ronan wondered what were these frills he spoke of since there weren't any around, "but they keep my identity private when I stay here."

As they stood there Ronan remembered now why this hotel stood out to him.

"Is it true they have a pool on the roof?" he said.

Adam grinned mischievously. "Wanna see?" he suggested, like a light switch inside him flipped on.

"Isn't it too late to swim?" Why was Ronan making up excuses to leave when he wanted to stay?

"Where's your sense of adventure, Lynch?" he said, and he slapped at his shoulder like the friend that he was.

Ronan's sense of adventure was buried under the weight of his feelings for Adam. Being alone with him like this felt sinful. Dangerous. He didn't want to make the wrong move and fuck it all up.

"I don't have any swimwear," he said, more a clarification than an excuse.

"Neither do I."

Ronan was suddenly very intrigued with what was about to happen. He left his book behind on Adam's bed, and they grabbed two towels, then headed upstairs.

It was unsurprisingly cold on the roof. Windier up here, as well. Of course they were alone, as Ronan deposited the towels on a lounge chair and tried not to visibly shiver. Instead he watched as Adam stripped down to his underwear, and then quick and painlessly he peeled out of his own clothes too. Adam graced him with shirtless photos before, and he'd seen all but what was placed in a sock in his films, but this was different. This was flesh and bone and real. It was Adam as a person not a character. It took all the strength he had not to stare. He felt Adam's eyes on him while he did his best not to look. He felt prideful and selfish, even though he was probably going to freeze to death. August in San Francisco was not warm.

As he cautiously dipped a foot into the water of the pool, he learned the water was heated, when he expected to find it cold. Thank you god. Slowly he stepped in, up to his ankles and then slowly up to his knees. He planned to go deeper, to avoid the wind and the cold, when he saw Adam standing by their clothes, checking something on his phone.

"Is this some elaborate prank where I get in and you grab my clothes and run?" he said.

Adam looked up and smirked at him. "You watch too many movies," he replied.

"That's not what everyone else tells me."

Ronan watched as Adam set his phone down, acknowledging his absence from the pool with a fleeting look of guilt. He came to stand at the edge, close enough to touch, close enough Ronan wanted to run his hand up his leg just because. To feel the strength in his calves and if his thighs were as taut as they looked. He had hair on his bare chest, but not much, and a lot more hair than Ronan realized on his legs. It was fair, like the color of his fair brown hair, and Ronan swallowed when he thought about everything in between. He was tan and elegant, making Ronan feel paler than a ghost in comparison.

For a moment he was elevated above him in a way that was very compromising, Ronan standing two steps below and forced to be at eye level with his crotch. He was very impressed with his self control not to let his eyes wander down from his face.

"Stare much, Parrish?" he said, a hand coming up to splash water at Adam's legs. "What's the hold up?"

In reciprocation, Adam kicked up some water onto Ronan's face, and as a result he moved down another step, wiping the water off his face with a swipe of the hand.

"Asshole," he said.

"Shithead," Adam shot back. "I was admiring how nice tonight was, until now."

"Only until now?" Ronan's face was cold now with the addition of water dripping down his chin. "So my brother unintentionally insulting you earlier was fun for you?"

"I should be used to it by now," he said, and for a moment Ronan was sad for him. "It seems to run in the Lynch family."

He was no longer sad for him.

At that, Adam walked past him down the steps and slid right into the water until he was neck deep.

"You don't talk about them much," he mused, as he spun around so effortlessly. The water made it look like he was flying, more graceful than he was already by way of the water's impact.

Ronan finally moved deeper into the pool until he was fully immersed, wading a good few feet from Adam. He wanted to maintain distance, for his own peace of mind. It was nice, feeling weightless and warm. The city was a spectacle of lights in the distance surrounding them. He could hear what little traffic there was this time of night below on the streets.

"Not much to talk about," he said, and he shrugged. "Declan's boring. Matthew's always busy. My mom is, too."

"And your dad?"

Ronan almost forgot he didn't know. He moved toward the deeper end around Adam, allowing himself to sink a little.

"Dead last time I checked," he said, hiding behind the twisted humor he learned to cope with long ago, realizing it wasn't funny to Adam because it wasn't funny to anyone.

Adam swam closer, but not too close. They seemed to have set up a spatial distance they mutually preferred, and he kept it there, saddened by the news. He was ten years too late to be sad.

"How?" he asked.

That was a question Ronan didn't want to answer, and instead of getting upset with him for it he dunked his head under the water. Underwater, he pinched his eyes shut tight, hoping maybe he could drown and wouldn't have to talk about it anymore. He was fine for the most part now. He went through his troubles in high school, and he went through a few more here when he first moved when he thought somehow they wouldn't follow him. But talking about it still hurt. Being a sarcastic asshole seemed to help in its way, but not enough.

As he began to fade, he felt Adam's hands on him, dragging him up to the surface. His hands were firm on his skin, one at his neck, fingers pressing there at the base of it, and the other at his waist. They lingered a moment as Ronan brushed the water from his face to open his eyes. When their gazes met, Adam was staring at him in such a way he felt hollowed out by his eyes. Like he was trying to take away his pain with only his gaze, and he didn't want him to. At once he pushed off, swimming a few kicks away.

"People don't ask how," he said.

"As we've already established, I'm not like other people in a lot of ways," Adam countered. Touché, Ronan thought, but he said nothing of the sort aloud.

Instead he weighed his options. It wasn't some top secret what happened, why he lost his dad and the horrible years he had after. But it felt like reopening an old wound and he wasn't really ready for it.

"You know Bruce Wayne?" he said.

"You mean Batman? I may have heard of him a few times," Adam joked. He smiled.

"You know his parents?" Ronan asked.

Adam's smile fell. "Yeah."

"It was nothing like that."

He received a heavy splash to the face and a groan. "You fucking asshole," Adam moaned.

Ronan laughed unsteadily at him. He splashed him back, if only to incite more playing around instead of this.

And it did. Adam splashed him back again, and Ronan returned the favor. It was unmistakably cold and they were probably going to get pneumonia from this and Wendy was probably going to sue Ronan for damages, but he didn't care. A distraction was a distraction was a distraction. Cracking jokes about it made him feel like shit, but it was his only idea of deflection.

After a while, when they couldn't breathe anymore they were laughing too hard, and Adam accidentally got Ronan in the eye, they stopped. And Ronan got sad again, wading in the deep end with his arms coming to hug him underwater.

"He was kind of a piece of shit who made a lot of dumb decisions with his life," Ronan came around to answer. "One of them was being terrible about his health. Had a fucking heart attack one day at the goddamn grocery store. Haven't looked at melons the same since."

Adam didn't laugh at his morbid joke. He was glad he didn't.

"Shit," was all he uttered.

They swam there in moody silence for a while, cold at their heads but warm everywhere else. Ronan was getting wrinkly and his underwear was clinging in unpleasant places.

"Tell me," and Ronan swam to his right. Adam followed swimming to his left to stay in step. "What's your family like? You don't talk about them either."

Some indecipherable reaction flickered on Adam's face, as he began to swim a little further from Ronan to add more distance.

"I'm not ready for that," he said.

"They in the mafia?" Ronan asked. His jokes were on fire tonight. This was some truly terrible stuff.

Adam rolled his eyes, because of course he would. "Yes, Lynch," he said. "They're in the mafia. The Tennessee Mafia."

Ronan shrugged, playing along. "I'm sure the mafia has no bias against where to station people."

Adam rolled his eyes again.

"You're going to hurt yourself one of these days." Ronan flicked a little water at him again and Adam flicked some back. "Roll those eyes right out of your head."

"Stop saying dumb shit and I won't have to risk it," Adam said unsweetly.

"Where's the fun in that?" Catching his eye, Ronan then smiled derisively, reserving the water flicking again for something more clever.

"You'll be receiving my medical bills when it happens, then," Adam said.

"That's not fair."

"Nothing in life is fair."

Adam dipped under the water at that. Ronan agreed. This wasn't fair for sure.

They continued to swim more, and talk more, as it got later in the night than Ronan could bare. The subject of family was dropped, replaced with less touchy subjects like books and aquariums and dogs.

"Still debating what kind of dog I want," said Adam. Ronan and he had been talking about this for over a month. He was suspecting Adam was never going to get one. "I want a small breed to take with me when I travel, but I also love big dogs too. It's so hard."

Ronan snorted. "Yes, what a difficult choice this must be for you," he said sarcastically.

Adam shot him a look, and he drowned his laughter in the water.

"Opal thinks I should get a toy poodle," he said.

"Is that really what you and Opal talk about?"  Ronan asked. He couldn't believe this was a conversation they were having either.

"Sometimes," Adam replied. He didn't notice Ronan's tone, or else he chose to ignore it. "Obviously it isn't all we talk about."

"What, uh, else do you talk about?" inquired Ronan, and he was thankful for the dark of night to hide the potential flush of color in his cheeks. He was worried he was being obvious, but sometimes when he was at his most obvious Adam didn't even notice.

But after he asked, Adam tilted his head a little. At first Ronan thought he was trying to get water out of his ear, but he realized he was actually looking at him with a quizzical eye and searching for something with this tilt. His eyebrows came together as he narrowed his eyes just enough.

"You're fishing for something," he said.

"No I'm not." Ronan shrunk from him and swam away. If he weren't obvious before, he was now.

Adam looked to understand what it was he was doing, deflecting poorly, and he saw a smirk begin on his face before it even made it to his mouth.

"Do you want to know if we talk about you?" He said it in such a teasing manner that Ronan felt outed, and he almost shivered in the warm water.

" No ," he said, floundering for words as well as for balance in the pool. "Don't be ridiculous. I don't care about that." He eyed the lights at the base of the pool, glowing upward so there was a faint light blue rim to everything. He stared until his eyes lost focus. "Do you?" he ultimately said.

Adam splashed at him, and he looked up.

"She talks about you a lot," he said.

That wasn't what Ronan was searching for, but he took it.

"She does?" Sometimes he felt like Opal only stuck around because she could.

"She loves you, you know." Adam sounded so certain Ronan almost asked how he knew. His heart ached almost as hard as if she said it herself. "I mean, she hasn't outright said it, but it's obvious. You're her favorite person."

"I thought that was you," Ronan confessed.

"I think you've got me beat, Lynch." Adam was smiling when he said it, like he was happy to be bested.

Ronan struggled not to openly smile, reeling from the words, and so he dunked his head in the water again to try. When he came back up Adam was still gazing at him, like he were quietly trying to memorize something about him, or perhaps he was trying to read his mind. Or perhaps he was just mindlessly looking. How the fuck should he know.

"How did you even get into acting?" Ronan asked. He didn't want to talk about himself in any way, shape, or form anymore. "I mean, you minored in something sciency."

"I've told you before, haven't I?" Adam raised his brow as if mildly offended he could forget.

Admittedly Adam had mentioned it once or twice, but it was always almost word for word what he said in interviews. About how he fell in love with theatre as a kid when he saw a production of Hamlet and how it just sparked something inside him. He wanted to be Hamlet someday. But Ronan knew it was all bullshit. He knew Adam well enough to know his answers were tricks, to distract, not to understand.

"You've never told me the real reason," he said, almost rolling his eyes but thinking better of it.

Adam shifted around in the water, letting himself sink under it. Ronan watched as he swam closer and closer and closer. He was frozen where he was, almost sinking under the water himself to meet him there, but he stayed still and present. Then Adam popped right back up, close enough that as he rose Ronan was misted by the water that slid off him. He looked to have miscalculated the distance, and he staggered back a bit. Then he slid right back into Ronan's space.

"Acting is a way of disappearing into other people," Adam said. He then moved to swim around Ronan, who was compelled to turn and follow his movement. "I grow from each character I play, both with my acting and as a person. Learning myself by understanding other people." He stopped when they managed to do a full turn, back where they started, and Ronan felt Adam come and touch ever so gently at Ronan's face, a finger moving downward from his forehead to his chin. He felt chills from not just the water cascading down from Adam's finger, and swallowed hard when Adam pulled away.

"What are you doing?" he said, shaking out a laugh, as the water trickling down started to tickle.

"I don't even know." Adam let out a laugh, himself. His shoulders shook in the water, causing ripples in the surface that moved to touch at Ronan. He then reached and repeated his touch at Ronan's face, this time less seductively and more like a kid playing around. When his finger came down and passed by Ronan's lips, he playfully faked a bite at them and Adam jerked his hand away, a laugh startled out of him.

"You were saying?" Ronan pressed, as Adam was close again enough to kiss. He wanted to, oh he wanted to, but the thought of losing this was more than he could bear.

"Acting is a character study," Adam continued, a little looser with his words and his swimming than before, "and to truly be a great actor you need to understand human's wants and needs and what drives people. What makes someone hate someone? Fall in love? Hurt themselves? So I studied acting. Initially it was just an elective in high school, and I was taking the class to better understand myself and everyone around me, and I just fell in love with it. With sharing stories that only films or plays can share to the masses. It's a way to bare one's soul without completely destroying yourself in the process... if you're careful enough." Adam was smiling a little as he said it, like it made him feel happy baring this one more piece of his soul to Ronan. "It's a way to feel free."

Ronan wanted to ask why it was he didn't want to say this in interviews but Adam was known to be highly private. It took years for the media to even find out his birthday.

"What about you?" Adam eyes him curiously as he started to swim around again. "Why the bookstore?"

"I like books," Ronan said, plain and simple. But Adam caught him. He knew there was more. There was always more.

"That's not all of it," Adam said, lifting one eyebrow above the other, commandeering more from him with just that look.

Ronan rolled his eyes, at Adam and at himself. "People used to think I didn't because I hated school, but I just hated the ones school handed out. My mom read to me a lot as a kid, and it was a way of escaping after my dad died. It's a way of showing others what I love without having to say it out loud. I don't know."

He purposefully sank to the bottom of the pool, and Adam followed him to pull him back up.

"You know, I used to think I'd work in a lab or something," Adam said, laughing like it was something funny. "It's amazing how your life shapes itself differently than how you initially expected it to."

"I thought I'd be a farmer back home in Virginia," Ronan mused. He sometimes wished he could be still, but then where would Adam fit into it? Adam laughed at his admittance, and they quickly wrestled in the water.

Through the struggling and the teasing and the dunking each other’s heads in the water, Ronan felt like a teenager again, crazy and messy and carefree. They pushed and they laughed and they swam and they shouted. Ronan’s heart began to race, his body filling with adrenaline, as they moved to sit at the steps of the pool, still underwater but not putting in any effort. Adam was sprawled along them, eyes closed to the wind, his mess of wet hair stuck to his forehead.

“Your friends tonight, Henry and Noah. They seem really happy,” Adam said, still breathing a little ragged from their roughhousing.

“I’ve never met anyone happier together,” Ronan said, agreeing with him. “It’s disgusting.”

They mutually laughed for a while, and then when it got quiet again he felt Adam press his elbow into his.

“Have you ever been in love?” he asked.

Ronan wasn’t expecting the question, and he couldn’t understand what it was Adam wanted from it. Perhaps it had to do with why he loved to act, to understand people better. To understand Ronan better.

“Once,” he said. He was looking right into Adam’s eyes as he thought of who. “Harrison Ford.”

Adam burst out laughing. He laughed to the point of tears. Ronan grinned, feeling self-serving and satisfied for getting him to laugh like that. It felt more real than all the times he laughed in his movies, in his interviews, even tonight with his friends. He slapped at Ronan’s arm, while his other hand held at his stomach, as he gasped out the last few good laughs with his whole body.

“You asshole,” he said. “I’m serious .”

“And I’m serious,” said Ronan. “Did you see him in the 80s? A man .”

Adam was still chuckling a little, his body quivering just enough with each beat. He looked at him with disbelief, while Ronan gazed back at him in wonder.

“But beyond him, no,” said Ronan. “No one’s compared to Indiana Jones.”

Adam snorted. “Why am I not surprised you would go for that?”

“Come on.” Ronan nudged shoulders together, ignoring how his skin tingled when they did. “The low collared shirt? That stubble? That smile ? Man.”

Adam laughed at him again, cocking his head back to erupt at the sky. Ronan watched him laugh as the night got longer, the city got quieter, and the air got colder. When he stopped, he still had his head tilted back, and he closed his eyes to the sky, lost somewhere in his mind.

“I’ve never been in love either,” he said. “Or in a serious relationship. My last anything was almost two years ago. I just don't have the time."

Ronan couldn't believe they had that in common, that neither of them had a serious relationship. It was for two very different reasons though, and how they spent their time was certainly different. Adam had sex but no relationships. Ronan had one relationship that didn't last a month, and no sex. Adam seemed to sense the topic of choice was a poor one and he looked at Ronan and gave him an uncomfortable smile, like he felt bad for bringing it up.

“Sorry,” he said. “You probably think it’s weird that I’m talking about this."

"It's not weird," said Ronan. But it was weird. "Were they an actor, too?"

"No. Cinematographer." Adam cracked his knuckles, as way of distracting himself.

"Did Wendy like them?" Ronan was asking as a joke, but he realized it didn't come off like it, and Adam looked ready to answer honestly. "I mean, I don't think she likes me much.”

"She's protective, but she's the best," Adam said. "She just doesn't trust you yet, but she will." He smiled a little.

Ronan succumbed to his smile, but not enough to sate his nerves. "Will she after she finds out you're here?" he said.

The reminder of Adam's secrecy unsettled him a little. His expression became closed off as he turned away. "She won't find out," he said, like it were fact.

"You aren't exactly a stealth expert," Ronan said. "Last time you posted your current location online."

"That..." And Adam's jaw pushed out a little when he knew he couldn't talk his way out of this one. ".... was a lapse in judgment. I'm stealthier this time." He tried to make it look as if that were true with a lift of his chin, haughty and self-assured.

"I believe you, Mr. Loman." Adam smiled a little, as Ronan risked a touch at his shoulder, fingering a droplet of water that was soaking in its neighbors at the edge of his shoulder joint. "I'm sorry again for not telling my friends about you. You told yours."

Adam did nothing to stop his touch, but he did shake his head, some of the water from his hair spraying Ronan in the face.

"It's different for us," he said. "I get that. I don't judge you for not telling them. I might have done the same if roles were reversed." He then braved the water again, staring out at it a moment before he climbed back inside the pool.

"I'd like to introduce you to them sometime, if you're ever in New York."

"I don't miss the humidity," Ronan said on instinct. It's what he said to his family. He forgot he was talking to Adam, someone he would gladly travel across the country for to visit.

"Yes, but I'll be there," Adam said, like he knew that alone would make Ronan willing to go anywhere. To Antarctica. To Mars. "And if that's not enough, you can stay at my place. For free."

Ronan peeked up at the mention of staying with him. "Okay, now I'm listening...." he said.

Adam didn't look shocked and instead gave him a knowing look, before dunking his head back in the water. He came back out laughing.

The door to the roof opened as Ronan waded back into the pool toward him. The both of them had the dumb idea of dunking their heads underwater when they heard the creaking sound of its hinges.

His eyes open and burning, Ronan could see Adam laughing underwater, staring back at him. Boy was going to drown if he kept that up. Something compelled Ronan to swim to him, and he did, and promptly Adam stopped laughing. He reached for Adam's face, and he leaned into him until they were entangled like seaweed in the ocean. His now grazed Adam's, who hadn't moved at all and was probably wondering what it was Ronan was fucking doing. Then a hand yanked at Ronan's shoulder, and he thought it was Adam's but it wasn't. He was pulled out of the water to see security staring down at him.

"Hey! No after hours swimming in the--" The man's eyes enlarged ten sizes when he came to see Adam reveal himself from underwater. "Oh my god are you Adam Parrish???" His voice went up ten notches. "My son's in love with you, can I get your autograph???"

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

After signing a towel and taking a very awkward and wet photo with the man, Adam and Ronan wrapped themselves up in their towels and grabbed their clothes and left the pool, laughing as soon as they were out of earshot from the guard.

It almost made up for the fact that Ronan almost kissed him and he just stood - swam? - there letting it happen. He didn't know what to make of that, but he wasn't about to try it again when they were soaked and pruny and running through the halls to get back to warmth.

As soon as they were in Adam's room he turned the heat on, then threw off his towel onto the back of a chair in the corner, while Ronan stood next to the vent to get warm. With his back to Ronan, Adam removed his underwear and stood there naked with his back to Ronan for a good ten seconds before he found another pair in his suitcase.

Ten seconds. Ronan counted. That's how long air wasn't circulating to his brain anymore. He then found a shirt to pull over his head, but didn't look the least bit rushed to find any pants.

When Adam turned around Ronan looked away so fast he hit his head against the wall.

"Ow. Fuck." Twice in one day he injured himself. This had to be a new record.

Fashioned in his new underwear and shirt but still heavily wet, Adam hurried over to his aid as if he did worse to himself than a bumped nose.

"You okay?" he said.

Ronan felt at his face with one hand, while still holding his towel around his shoulders with the other. "Just trying to give myself a homemade nose job," he said. It hurt to breathe. Adam inclined into him, shoulders wet from his hair, hands still cold.

"Let me see," he insisted, when Ronan meant to pull away.

"I'm fine." Ronan glumly was aware he still had that cut on his forehead and now likely a bruise on his face. "Just bruised and humiliated."

"Let me see , you goon." He said it go grouchiest Ronan didn't feel like arguing, and he relented to Adam's touch, which was delicate but icy. He couldn't help but since when he turned, the brush of air at his nose stinging worse than the the initial smack on the wall. With his thumbs Adam pressed around his nose, and Ronan winced harder.

"Ow." He almost hurled himself back out from under Adam's hands, but with his luck today he would probably only hurt himself again. "Yes. Do touch where it hurts. Logical choice."

Adam's hands moved around Ronan's face, continuing their efforts. "Stop whining," he said. His eyes were laser focused on Ronan's nose. "You cut yourself."

Well that did it. He was officially embarrassed with his life. "I did? The fuck?" Ronan struggled not to react too much visually so close to Adam and under his scrutinizing eyes. "I barely tapped my face against the wall."

"You're delicate," Adam remarked.

Ronan snorted, tapering off a blush when he felt pain shoot up his face. Adam accidentally breathed on the open wound. Any other time his face being so close to Ronan's would have been a colossal moment of success, but now it was just a nightmare.

"Fucking Christ that hurts," he hissed. Adam didn't seem the least bit bothered by his attitude.

"I can't see." Finally his hands moved off Ronan. "Come here."

He allowed himself to be dragged into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet. Adam then turned the lights on, briefly blinding them both. When he could see again, he looked to watch as Adam started fishing around a small black travel bag. In it, he had a lot of beauty products, moisturizers and the like. It showed in his blemish free skin how much he took care of it.

After a while Adam found what he was looking for, retrieving a little thing of antibiotic cream from the bottom. He took out some q tips from another pocket and dampened one end of it with water from the sink. When he came toward Ronan's face with it, he recoiled. He almost forgot they were in here for him, lost in watching Adam's movements.

"What are you doing with that?" he said, hesitantly.

"Cleaning the wound," Adam replied, terse and annoyed.

"It's fine." Ronan moved his hand away. "I'm fine."

Adam's looked at him witheringly. "You're bleeding," he said, like he had lost a limb in an accident and that Ronan was just simply identifying it as a flesh wound. It wasn't that grave. His nose could handle a little wounding. It was looking a little too nice lately.

"Don't baby me," Ronan grumbled. He didn't want any of this. It was midnight, he was embarrassed, and all he could think of with Adam so close to him, was he tried to kiss him in the pool and Adam didn't look like he even remembered.

"Then stop acting like a fucking baby," Adam snapped. "Sit still or do it yourself."

"I'll do it myself," Ronan answered.

"You won't do it at all," Adam replied pithy. He knew him too well.

"Then why was that a fucking option?" Ronan asked.

"I-- Shut up." He touched at Ronan's cheek, and Ronan froze, allowing him to touch his face. He shut his eyes to the feeling of the q tip on his skin, wincing once it made contact.

Under his breath, Adam grumbled curse words strung together at Ronan and Ronan almost started to laugh. He felt like such a fool, making Adam mad at him.

If this were how he wished it were to go, they would reenact that scene from Indiana Jones where he said it still hurt and Karen Allen's character kissed at the wound, then another when he motioned there next, then his lips when he said they hurt too. And then they fell into bed with each other and Ronan remembered wishing he was Karen Allen when he was younger.

But this wasn't like that at all. Adam squirted a little of the antibiotic cream on the other end of the q tip and applied it to his skin very delicately.

It stung every step of the way, but he didn't really care about the pain. It was bearable. A scratch. It was Adam's proximity that was doing him in. As Adam blew on his face to dry the cream, Ronan shivered, then grimaced. He didn't want this.

"Isn't that unsanitary?" he remarked.

Finally, Adam pulled back a bit, to glare at him. His eyes were narrowed just a little.

"You calling my breath unsanitary?" he said.

"Yes. Just because you played a doctor once-"

"A nurse practitioner-" Adam corrected.

" Whatever ," Ronan argued.

It was clear Adam was still annoyed with him, and now Ronan was annoyed too just because he was.

"Do you want a band aid?" Adam said bitterly.

"I guess," Ronan replied, just as unenthused.

Adam handed one to him and then looked down, and in that moment Ronan remember again very vividly they almost kissed underwater when they were poorly hiding. There was a faint hint of curiosity in Adam's eye as he raked over Ronan's form, eyes catching at something around his neck.

"I didn't know you had a tattoo," he said, still talking like he didn't want to, but he clearly wanted to.

"Yeah." Ronan matched his tone.

"It's really big."

Ronan snorted and proudly turned a little to show it off. "Yeah. Too bad beach season here is about a day."

Without needing to ask, Adam ran a hand down the center of his spine, pulling off his towel from his shoulders and letting it fall to the bathroom floor. Now Ronan was just sitting there in his underwear on the toilet seat, with Adam feeling at the muscles in his back. No one had ever touched his tattoo like this before. Other than him and the one time he went to Santa Cruz with the others and someone helped put sunscreen on, the most action his tattoo got was the laborious hours his tattoo artist put into it. This was a lot. He went soft at the feeling of Adam's soft palms at where he knew there were wings.

"It's pretty," he said.

"Thanks," he said, on the verge of gritting his teeth to suppress a less refined sound not fit for friendly touching. But this wasn't friendly touching. He didn't know what it was. "Took fucking forever to get done."

"Worth it." Adam's hand fell away and Ronan relaxed again, against the back of the toilet. He noted Adam with a look of relief that after that he wasn't staring back at him.

"I notice you don't have any tattoos," he said, as if he hadn't studied Adam's form taxingly in film and then in person.

"And mark this beautiful work of art?" Adam touched at his chest. "I don't think so."

Ronan rolled his eyes as Adam laughed, who then walked out of the bathroom without even a hint he was going to. His laugh travelled with him out the door, and Ronan scrambled to his feet to follow.

He walked after him back into the other room where Adam shoved his suitcase off the bed and to the foot of it. When he stood up, he strained at his shoulder, feeling at it with his opposite hand. He stopped altogether when he registered Ronan was right behind him, like he was embarrassed to be caught.

"You pull something?" Ronan asked. He felt Adam surveilling the situation as he put his shirt and jeans back on. Adam watched him dress, looking a little lost for words, and Ronan couldn't tell if it was because he was looking to leave or because he asked if he hurt himself. Either way, putting on jeans over wet underwear was not comfortable.

"I guess you and Opal don't relax me as much as I thought," Adam said.

Ronan could hear the discomfort in his voice from across the room.

"Sit down," he said.

Adam glanced at him bewildered, but after a moment in the dark he looked to understand what it was Ronan was offering. He mumbled something under his breath and sat down. Despite a part of him screaming internally that this was masochism as its finest, Ronan sat behind him. His hands were tingling already and he didn't even touch him yet. The back of his shoulders were right in front of him, his shoulder blades visible under his tight shirt, patches of it still damp. He reached shakily, and then when his hands gripped the space where his neck met his shoulders his hands were instantly warm and steady. He started there, his thumbs pressing in deep circles at knots under Adam's skin. Like he had touched a button, Adam reacted by promptly dipping his head forward.

"Shit," he whispered.

"Maybe you should've gone to that health spa," Ronan said. He squeezed in a rolling motion at Adam's shoulders, pulling at the skin through his shirt.

"Shut up," Adam said, his voice going deeper at the end like it was sinking down within him. Ronan assumed that meant he liked it.

All his moves were being made up as he went, kneading here and loosening a knot there and feeling tension in the space just between his shoulder blades. Adam hissed when he thumbed it, rubbing a thumb in circles until he felt it loosen up. Adam was making soft, small noises with each gesture that Ronan tried not to pay attention to. He was right behind him and well, if he let himself enjoy Adam's enjoyment, Adam was going to know right away. He didn't need that.

As requested, Ronan moved a little lower, feeling at the arch of his back, pushing the heels of his palms into his back where it dipped inward. Ronan heard him softly moan as Adam leaned into his hands, head tilting back. He found Ronan's shoulder as he leaned far back enough, and he rested the base of his skull there. His eyes were closed, his mouth slightly parted, enough his thin moans were utterable.

Ronan imagined what it would be like to allow himself this one thing, to press his face into Adam's, to kiss his forehead, thumb lower at his back. What would happen if he just fully put himself forward? If he tried to grab at what was intangible? If he kissed a god would he turn to stone if he were unworthy?

"Stay," Adam whispered. Watching his Adam's apple bob at the word, Ronan couldn't tell if he was saying that to him or not. Then he repeated it, opening his and blinking up at him. "It's late," he said. Ronan was very aware of the placement of his hands still near the base of Adam's spine. "You shouldn't drive this late. You could fall asleep at the wheel. I don't want to be responsible for that."

Adam's logic was sound, and who was he to argue with sound logic?

"I can sleep on the floor," he said.

"Nonsense." Adam shivered when he removed himself from Ronan's touch. He cleared his throat as he turned around. Their hands grazed as he moved, and he could feel goosebumps on both their skin. It was still relatively cold in here. "We're adults. We'll share the bed."

Adam's extension of friendship went beyond what he was used to. No, that wasn't true. If this were Gansey he would've shared the bed, cursed the whole time and probably elbowed him a little. It was his feelings that clouded how he felt about every situation.

"So long as you don't fucking hog the covers," Ronan said. "Or kick in your sleep."

"Who have you been sleeping with?" Adam shook his head while Ronan was still swallowing the question. No one, he almost said. Literally no one. "No kicks or hogging from me. I'm a hugger, though."

Ronan's brow furrowed. "A hugger?"

Adam nodded like it was something commonly heard. "Yeah, I hug in my sleep."

Ronan wondered what that would feel like, but he wasn't so sure it was good to find out.

"Yeah, I'm gonna sleep on the floor," he said, half joking. Adam moved a leg to lock him into place, dumping it across his lap.

"I'm just looking out for you," he said. "Sleeping on the floor isn't good for your back."

Ronan felt compelled to agree and he let a hand come up to touch at Adam's ankle, at the hair on his calf. With little effort he pushed Adam's leg back off his own, and saw Adam smile when he let go.

"Want me to do you?" he said.

Ronan's mind went blank for half a second. When he came to, he flinched a little in surprise at the question.

"No, I'm fine." Ha faked a yawn and stretched his arms. "Kind of tired actually."

Their sleeping arrangements proved awkward at first. After showering and changing into a second pair of pajamas Adam brought with him, Ronan lay there flat and rigid staring at the ceiling and making sure not a single part of him touched Adam. Adam didn't explain why his suitcase was filled with enough clothes he could be gone for a week, which meant he brought everything with him when he came here.

It was true, that Adam was a hugger in his sleep. After talking another hour in the dark, feeling dangerous but alive, he felt Adam come and press against his side, his arm draping across Ronan's chest, and he squeezed him like a hug. At first, Ronan went rigid as he did, but as time went on and he realized he wasn't going to combust, he eased into the feeling. He even let himself enjoy it just a little.

"Adam?" he whispered, to see if he was awake. When he didn't respond except through soft breathing, Ronan allowed himself the opportunity to move and kiss at Adam's forehead. His hair was still damp, his forehead cold, but there it was.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Ronan woke up to the sound of a door closing. When he opened his eyes he felt a sharp pain in his chest as he didn't recognize his surroundings. It took him a moment to register where he was, that he fell asleep in Adam's hotel room last night. Shit. He thought he dreamt that.

He sat up bleary eyed and searched for his phone in the chaos of sheets. Adam wasn't in bed with him anymore. He must have left, which explained the door closing. When he found his phone, he also noticed Adam tiptoeing in slow, dressed and awake holding a plate of food in his hands.

He registered Ronan's presence as well with a smile, straightening out once he realized he wasn't asleep.

"Oh, good," he said cheerily.

It was eight in the morning, and they went to sleep at two. He was exhausted.

"Thought you said you hated getting up early," Ronan said. He stretched with a yawn, feeling Adam's eyes still on him once he closed his. This felt like the morning after sex, except they didn't get to have the sex.

"I do," Adam said. He toed off his shoes and dumped them in the corner of the room before walking over. "But free breakfast," he added gleefully, holding up the plate in his hand with excitement. "I'm not wasting a complimentary continental breakfast. Bacon?"

He set the plate between them on the bed as he plopped down, knees to his chin. Adam looked like a kid early in the morning, still perky before the day wore on him, hair a bird's nest on his head, smile soft. His eyes were practically glowing as he beamed down at the food. His gestures were more childlike, carefree and unrestrained. He gnawed at a piece of bacon while swaying a little side to side, chin resting on his knees. He had on sweats and Ronan's hoodie, looking incredibly warm and incredibly happy.

Eventually Ronan sat up and joined him, taking a biscuit off the plate and a packet of butter to spread on it. Adam hummed as he licked bacon flavoring off his thumb, and then pulled a crumpled napkin out of the pocket of his hoodie to wipe his hand on.

"What, you Mary Poppins now?" Ronan commented. "Where did that come from?"

"My pocket," Adam answered dully. "Did you want one?" He fished out a second, less crinkled napkin and handed it over. Ronan almost laughed, but found this moment too pure, too gentle to laugh. Something about its etherealness called for silent amusement.

Adam was a wonder of surprises. For a boy with enough money he could probably buy anything he wanted, he was definitely a penny pincher in the oddest ways. His clothes were probably a fortune, yet he suffered hours he didn't like to be awake for to get a free breakfast that came with his stay.

"Opal wants to go get lunch later," he said, almost absentmindedly. He was still picking at the plate long after Ronan tapped out. "You down?"

How he could talk of other food when he was still eating was beyond Ronan. Ronan couldn't even think of another meal after this. Adam had filled the plate to the brim with food and he was stuffed.

"Does my nose look okay?"

Adam smiled fondly at him as he moved closer. For a second, Ronan regretted asking, as he came too close for comfort. He moved so his knees were resting either side of Ronan, elevated above him in a way that felt like he were towering above. His hot breath was on his face, and Ronan resisted the urge to lean into it, lean into him. Adam reached up and peeled away with delicacy at the bandaid at Ronan's nose, and at once his breath touched the sensitive skin and Ronan grimaced.

"Ow," he said, looking down.

"Small cut, but nothing substantial."

Ronan nodded to the words, doing his very best not to sweep an arm around Adam's tapered waist and flip them so he was flat against the mattress. This was unbearable.

"When's your flight?" he asked, wincing when the pain shot up from his nose again.

"Six." Adam looked apprehensive about it, the reminder not completely welcome. At once some of the shine in him faded. Ronan felt responsible for it. "That reminds me. I need to order my taxi for later."

Adam wiped his hands on his napkin before moving from the bed to find his phone. He unzipped himself out of Ronan's hoodie and placed it on the chair for him later, now standing there shirtless as he pulled apart the sheets for his cell. He ran his hands through his hair, only making it worse, as he searched.

As a result, Ronan sat up more, eyes hungrily feasting on Adam's bare chest.

"Uh..." He blinked when Adam looked back at him. "I could drive you to the airport," he said.

Adam pursed his lips and wrinkled his brow. "Have we reached that milestone in our friendship?" he said.

"No," Ronan jested, "but I'll make an exception this one time."

"I'm flattered." And Ronan watched him pull away, almost like he thought he was serious. "But you really don't have to."

"Fuck, Parrish." Ronan frowned. "I wouldn't suggest it if I didn't want to."

Adam looked down at the bedspread, smiling with his whole face, even his eyes.

"I guess I'll let you then, this one time," he replied.

"So what do we do until then?" Ronan asked, delight filling him to a boiling point inside.

They talked of exploring the city more, of getting a proper meal in, of Ronan going home until then, of taking Opal out now instead of waiting until lunch. Eventually they decided on none of those suggestions and instead went back to sleep.

Ronan woke up the second time in that hotel room knowing exactly where he was, with Adam still on him, clinging to him like a koala on a tree branch. His legs had come up and wrapped around Ronan's legs, and his arm was strewn across his chest, clutching at the shirt sleeve opposite him. His head was resting close to Ronan's, who at some point during the morning nap, had let his own hands travel around Adam to hold him there.

This was more than his heart could bare, as one hand had managed to travel under Adam's shirt just a little. He pulled it back out, stretching his fingers until they no longer felt the heat of his skin. He then ran that same hand gently up and down Adam's back, aware he should try to fall back asleep again, but he was unable. The alarm wouldn't go off for another hour, and he just lay there, softening, until it did.

By the time Adam woke up, Ronan had stopped running his hand along his back. Adam sat up and yawned out a good afternoon to him. He looked like a cat stretching awake, limber with his movements. He didn't seem at all reactive to how he woke up, as if he were used to it.

After checking out, valet brought Ronan's car around, and after stuffing Adam's luggage into the back they drove off into the nice late summer afternoon.

It was almost one, which meant they had to get Adam to the airport in just three and a half hours, to make sure he made his flight. San Francisco Airport was actually not even in the city, so they really had to leave even sooner than that. As Ronan was driving to pick up Opal, he realized they should've had brunch. But it was too late now for that. He felt bad for Opal, but when they pulled up she seemed to be happy to have time with Adam at all.

"You two look happy," she remarked tellingly when she hopped into the back. Ronan felt like she somehow knew everything that transpired last night, but it wouldn't make sense for Adam to have said anything to a thirteen year old, would it? And why would he?

"Are you wearing the same clothes as yesterday?"

Ronan checked himself. Shit he forgot he was.

"No," he said, but it wasn't very convincing. He glanced over at Adam who looked like he was on the verge of losing it with laughter.

It didn't take long for Opal to find something else to talk about. She talked the whole drive, mostly to Adam. She smiled every time he said anything back.

They found a place not far in North Beach, somewhere they could sit outside. Opal made a joke it was so that Adam could make a quick escape if he was recognized, and Adam laughed but didn't object. So far, though, no one seemed to recognize him. Their server kept taking long looks, but he probably thought he was making it up in his head.

Shortly after they ordered, Adam left for the bathroom. He trailed two fingers across Ronan's head as he moved past, like they were walking along his scalp, and left behind a shiver that ran so deep it forced him to pinch himself until the shiver went away.

"I'm here, too," said Opal. Ronan looked over to find her staring at him, smirking like she did when she first got in the car.

"I'm aware," he said back. "You won't stop talking to Adam."

Her smirk twitched, and she then frowned at him. "That's only because if I don't, you two won't stop staring at each other."

Ronan scoffed, shaking his head at her. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Opal rolled her eyes. He knew she was aware of his feelings for Adam, but he didn't need the constant teasing about it.

"Incredible," she muttered. Ronan sat up a little further in his seat.

"Thank you," he said, and he proudly smirked when she rolled her eyes again.

Adam came back not long after. He sat beside Ronan again, perusing his phone when he sat. It didn't take much for Ronan to catch the less elated expression on Adam's face when he returned, and he nudged him with his elbow to ask what it was he was upset about. He looked at him, aware of the question, and shook his head signifying he didn't want to say. Ronan left well enough alone, but managed a glimpse at Adam's phone before he shut it off, a tabloid image of Adam with the words Why is Adam Parrish So Private?

He wanted to chuck Adam's phone away so he wouldn't look at that shit. It wasn't good for him to have to see it, even though it was nearly impossible to ignore these days. They passed by racks of magazines earlier on the street and at least three of them had Adam on the cover.

"No phones at the table," he said, although he knew it was too late for that. The damage was already done by some asshole who wrote a shit clickbait article. "We should talk, not use our phones while we eat."

"Like how they used to in the 1800s?" Opal quipped, as she was pulling out her phone as well.

"What did I just say?" Ronan replied.

"I want a photo of the two of you," she said.

While he was suspicious of her sudden interest, he allowed himself the idea of having another photo of them together.

"Why?" he said.

She glared at him while Adam started to chuckle. "Just scoot closer," she instructed.

Adam began to obey the direction, while Ronan remained a little hesitant to lean in. Already their seats were relatively close at their smallish table, and he worried she was going to blast this photo somewhere online.

"Don't put this anywhere," he said. It was more for Adam's benefit, but he hoped it sounded like it were for his own.

"Why would I clutter my instagram with pictures of you?" she said teasingly.

Ronan took that as her way of saying no she wouldn't post this anywhere, and he allowed himself the option of leaning into Adam. Adam pressed their shoulders together, as Ronan's hand moved to behind him, resting at the back of his chair.

They smiled, as Opal lifted her phone. She kept it up, not saying anything. Ronan wondered if she ever would. What was she doing? Taking a million photos? Making them sit there awkwardly while they waited for their food?

"I bet she's taking a video," he remarked, to Adam who turned to him.

He was giving him one of his withering looks, withering more as Ronan turned to him too.

"Sounds like something you would do," he said. He snorted as a smile broke out, like it had been trying to for ages and only just could.

Ronan snickered, picturing himself doing what Opal was likely doing.

"You done yet?" he said. He turned to her as she was grinning childishly, and she set her phone back down and nodded.

"Yeah," she said. "Are you two?"

Neither of them seemed to understand what she meant at all, and they looked at one another again before peeling away from each other.

Easily and quickly they returned to conversation about Opal topics and things she wanted to talk about. The food eventually came, and they ate as Opal still talked, looking like she was going to suffocate on her burger if she wasn't careful. It was a nice, simple afternoon. Ronan only wished it could go longer, or perhaps forever if he were allowed. He wanted Opal to get her time with Adam, and he selfishly wanted more with him too. Some people didn't get any with him, and he was grateful he was allowed any at all, but it never felt like enough. It was never going to.

Halfway through the meal, Adam offered some of his fries to Ronan in exchange for a bite of his pasta. Ronan didn't really want any fries, but he said okay because Adam seemed very eager to try his food. Opal was in the middle of talking about the possibility of solo flight when he did this, and she looked annoyed when she was talking to deaf ears.

"You two are really stupid," she said.

"Don't call people stupid, Opal," Adam replied.

"Why are we stupid?" Ronan asked instead. They glanced at one another then back to Opal.

"Because you guys obviously like each other and you aren't together," she said, simply and assured.

They looked at one another again, this time with bolder, more startled expressions. Adam started to wheeze out a laugh like this were some practical joke, while Ronan was stammering swears under his breath trying not to get upset with Opal for playing this mean joke.

"What the fuck are you talking about," he said, very slow and very rough. His voice was hard to get out, words throttled in his throat.

"Oh, come on." Opal rolled her eyes and motioned to the pair of them. Ronan was on the cusp of hopping over the little gate around the cafe patio and just remaking a run for it. "You both talk endlessly about the other to me. You're giving each other googly eyes right now."

"I think you mean oogly," Adam said. It looked to have been on instinct. He was no longer laughing. Why was Opal making this such a thing? Why was she pretending Adam liked him? It made absolutely no sense.

"No, I don't think that's it," Ronan replied. He didn't know what else to say. He didn't know if he should completely reject the idea of having feelings for Adam with Adam right there, when he and Opal both knew he was head over heels for him.

"Oh my god, both of you!" Opal was getting annoyed with them when they were the ones rightfully annoyed with her. Their love lives weren't a game or a movie or some prank to pull. She then motioned to Adam, to looked surprised by the acknowledgement.

"You basically have made me a Google Alert on Ronan for you," she said. Her voice then went high as she tried to imitate him. "What's he doing today? Did you see him today? What's he wearing today?"

Adam started to sink down in his chair with his hand raised to shade his eyes.

Ronan swallowed, watching his reaction. When the tips of his ears began to color, the back of his neck burning bright, Ronan realized he wasn't suffering because it wasn't true. This wasn't a prank? This was real? This was happening?

"Opal, I think you've gravely miscalculated the situation," Adam said behind his hands. He side glanced to Ronan, glaring as if expecting him to try to shut this down too. Ronan fidgeted with the cloth napkin in his lap.

"Yeah, uh, I don't know what you think you're accomplishing here-" he started to say.

"Don't even get me started on you ," Opal said, cutting him off. She looked to have been wanting to say this for a while. "I don't know how much more I can take of your pining. You both are the worst at this and I am just done being the one stuck in the middle. You guys work it out. I'm signing off. I'm going to the bathroom."

Before they could say anything she was walking away, back into the restaurant toward the back. They were alone again, this time awkward in their revelations.

Quietly, slowly, they made eye contact. As their eyes locked in place staring at one another, Adam slowly sat back up.

"I'm currently hanging out with you and Opal, which means I saw Opal today, and I'm wearing a gray shirt and dark washed jeans with my leather jacket," said Ronan, trying to break the ice. He was answering the questions Opal said he supposedly asked her. Adam's face only went redder.

Ronan smiled a little. He never took Adam to be the shy type. Suddenly little things were making sense that before confused him. All the times he thought himself crazy or overly hopeful, he wasn't. He wasn't sure how to feel about this. Elated? Overwhelmed? Sad, because the possibility of dating a celebrity sounded achingly difficult?

"She's got quite the vivid imagination," Ronan said. Adam didn't look any less frustrated with the whole situation.

"Yeah. Because you're not pining after me, are you?" Adam let out a stilted laugh. "That's absurd."

"Completely absurd," Ronan sarcastically agreed. He felt absurd to have fallen for Adam, even more absurd that here they were, both feeling something more and doing nothing about it. As he stared back at Adam, slowly he watched it creep onto his face the realization Ronan liked him too. It appeared to click in him as Ronan was still processing it, himself. He swallowed as Adam stiffened a second, then came to lean forward into the arm of his chair.

"So you-?"

"Have feelings for you?" Ronan nodded once. "Yes. And you-?"

"Jesus, Lynch." Adam put a hand to his forehead, as if he were about to faint. "I didn't come here this weekend for the weather. I don't text anyone as often as I text you. I've been interested this whole time, nitwit. I've been dropping so many hints I was feeling desperate."

Ronan felt like he was going to faint. Dizzily, he said, "Maybe your hints sucked."

Adam frowned. "I just assumed you weren't interested."

"I'm very interested," Ronan replied swiftly.

"I see." Adam didn't visibly react. He was still staring back at him, but his eyes didn't reveal anything other than Ronan's reflection.

"But you're going back in a few hours," Ronan said, voicing something he knew they both were thinking.

"I am," said Adam.

"And I won't see you again for...."

"Months." Adam's eyes then began to reflect the sad, sinking feeling Ronan felt inside. "Yeah."

Ronan almost reached for Adam, to check that he was real, but he held himself together. They were in a restaurant in front of people. He knew if they touched he was going to kiss him until he had to let go. "Why me?" he said, and Adam frowned.

"Ronan, if you stop and think about it, it makes every bit of sense." He looked offended that Ronan would even ask him anything that would insinuate otherwise. "We make sense. We fit together, you and I. You've become my best friend, I hope you know."

His words made Ronan shaky, suddenly cold and and shivering. He breathed hard, registering these words like they were holy. Best friend. We make sense. Fit together. Jesus fucking Christ.

"The fuck kind of a friendship is it if I don't get to know the ending of your film coming out in November before everyone else?" he said.

Adam was unamused.

"Ronan," he said tersely. Ronan practically beamed at him. He could almost forgive the universe for giving him this so soon to Adam's departure.

"You're my best friend, too, if that weren't obvious."

And at that, Adam smiled a little. His smile blossomed part way, and then withered just as swiftly. He turned to face the table, but left his hands to grip at his chair's armrest. Before his brain caught up to what his body was doing, Ronan had reached and grabbed for his upper hand. It was for only a few seconds, until he watched Adam look at him, then down, then back up. He smiled again, soft but pained.

"I don't want to fuck up what we already have. There's no perfect timing for this," he said. "I didn't say anything because-"

"I get it." And he really did get it. Even if he didn't want to.

Inside he was a million different things: happy and sad and angry and happy. This made everything a million times more complicated.

"Blog entry number-"

"Oh my god I'm going to kill you," said Adam, but he was laughing.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The rest of lunch should have been weird, but it wasn’t. Whatever purpose Opal had to rat them out to each other, it sort of worked. Ronan found himself sitting oddly closer to Adam, not quite touching but not quite avoiding the possibility. Opal was the same chatterbox she was before, and more than once he caught her smirking when she didn’t think they were paying attention.

She hugged Adam goodbye a block from her house, and he kissed her on the cheek and said something comforting to her that he didn't quite catch. All he heard was her saying “You’re welcome” to the both of them before skipping off into the late afternoon.

The drive to the airport was silent. As they grew closer to the airport he felt more and more impossibly sad. He only wanted to go back to how it was hours ago, where he was pining in silence and dreading him leaving. Now he was almost surreally okay with it, if only because he didn't know what to say to him now. It still hadn't completely hit him that Adam liked him to. With the selection of men and women he had in his everyday life, celebrities and models and everyone in between, he couldn't fathom what it was about him that attracted Adam. His sense of humor?

He didn't just pull over to let Adam out, but drove into the parking structure so he could give him a proper goodbye before security. They walked as far as they could go together, and once there Adam gave him a hug. He squeezed so tight Ronan felt like he was going to collapse a lung.

"I'll be back in LA in November if not sooner," he said, right up against his neck, "for the premiere of To Love A Soul ." Earlier at lunch he mentioned that the film was about to be taken around the festival circuit. November was so far away. But Ronan went twenty four years without knowing him. He could handle a few months apart.

"I'll be here, as always," he said.

"As always, you're welcome for being gifted by my visit."

Ronan rolled his eyes, as Adam gnawed on his lower lip. He then moved to fix something on Ronan's collar, leaving his hands there a little longer than necessary. This felt so intimate, and yet he felt so exposed. It was a public space. An airport. People could recognize Adam at any moment.

"Read that book I gave you soon, okay?" he said. "I want your input on if it's a good film."

"Can't figure that out on your own?"

Adam rolled his eyes and said, "I want a second opinion. I can send the script to you instead, if it'll help."

"Is it different than the book?"

"Not really." Adam shrugged.

Ronan already knew he was going to read that book for him.

"When do you have to know by?" he said.

"In two weeks. I would play Levi. He's a bit of a prick, but lovable."

"So, it's autobiographical," Ronan remarked.

Adam didn't visibly react. Instead he placed a finger to Ronan's lips. "Learn to know when it's best not to speak."

So Ronan said nothing. He did nothing. Rather, he wanted to kiss him. Standing there surrounded by people at the center of the airport, he debated what would happen if he were to kiss him. How it would feel for their lips to touch, his hands to move somewhere, anywhere, on his person. For Adam's hands to feel him in return. For the whole airport to just fade out from sound and sight, until it was just them alone in space and time. He hated this immensely.

Adam slowly dropped his hand off from Ronan's face and slinked back. With a little nod he turned and left.

As he watched him walk away, Ronan couldn't believe his cowardice. Was he really going to leave it like that? Was he really going to let this go? He didn't want this to be over. Not today.

He closed his eyes.

"Hey, Parrish," he called out.

When he opened his eyes, he found Adam slowly wheeled around. With an anxious smile, he hesitantly said, "Yeah?"

He didn't get too far, so Ronan walked to him to close the gap again. Gently he touched at his hand, its shape distinct and very Adam. He kept his eyes down as he felt his own anxiety flaring up when he asked him, "You maybe want to go on a date next time you're in town?"

"I'd like that."

Ronan jerked his gaze up in time to catch Adam's smile brighten. He bit his lower lip as he nodded, smiling too.

"I'd kiss you," he confessed, "but..." His eyes trailed around them at the others of the airport. While no one was visibly staring, Ronan always suspected someone nearby knew who Adam was.

"Yeah." Adam splayed his fingers out so Ronan's could slip between them. He then bent forward to press their foreheads together, sucking in a breath sharply like he only just realized what was happening.

"If I kiss you I won't be able to leave," he said.

"Am I Medusa?" Ronan wished he were, to keep him from going.

"Medusa turns people to stone, you shithead." He bent forward and kissed him on the cheek before he could say anything more clever in reply. He kissed too close to his lips this time, almost daring him to move that inch until they were swallowed up in each other like he so badly wished they were.

But Ronan was decent, patient. As Adam pulled away at an almost sluggish pace, Ronan licked his lips and inclined forward to kiss him on the cheek too. His was shorter, less tantalizing. And then it was over.

"I'll text you when I land." Adam said it so eagerly, like he suddenly couldn't wait to fly back.

"Looking forward to it." Ronan was going to have to learn to video chat to survive this.

"No jokes about your blog?" Adam asked, sounding surprised.

Ronan shook his head. "This is too good to go on there."

Adam came in again and kissed him on the cheek, the opposite one than before. This kiss started properly on the cheek, and then trailed dangerously closer to his mouth, Adam's nose grazing across his cheekbone.

"Fuck it." And Adam kissed him anyway, sliding his tongue right into Ronan's mouth without any warning. His breath hitched in his throat as a result, and he clung at Adam's elbows of all places, while Adam reached to delicately hold at his jaw. The world stopped spinning.

This kiss was slow and sizzling, like a fire that only started to burn, and when they kissed all sound went out around them. Ronan could only hear the unpleasantly loud and fast beating of his heart, the smacking of their lips, Adam's hard breathing against his cheek. They were no longer in the airport, but somewhere private and alone. If he opened his eyes he was sure he would see nothing surrounding them, having been transported to a place for only two.

Ronan found himself sighing as Adam pushed more into him, his fingers sliding up the length of Ronan's jaw to cup at where it met his neck. He ached for him, and wanted more than this simple kiss, a kiss that erupted something inside him and sent out from his lips to the rest of his body. This was the best kiss of his life, and not just because it was Adam and his years of experience making out for the camera. It was because of how he felt for him, his affection so deep it was etched into his DNA. A man who laughed at his jokes sometimes, who returned his wry comments in full, who smiled at him with such warmth that he never worried of feeling cold again with him. The asshole made him think of cheesy lines like that and not want to gag when he did. He was transported somewhere new with this kiss, from the touch and the sound and the new taste of Adam's gum in his mouth.

Adam's tongue explored deeper and Ronan lost it. His knees buckled a little, and Adam had to break away to hold him up.

"You okay?" he asked. Ronan nodded profusely, absurdly.

"I... am fine," he replied. He was horrified by the reminder Adam was leaving as someone spoke over the intercom about another flight's arrival. "I... am great ."

Adam nodded, his hands still holding at Ronan's chin.

"Fuck," he heard Adam whisper. "I have to go."

Ronan swallowed. It hurt. His chin wavered on the edge of a tremble as he held back tears, rejecting the thought of crying here and now.

"Okay," was all he said.

And then they were kissing again, smaller, tamer, almost a peck but not quite. It was more painful than the first. It meant he was leaving. Gently Adam dragged a finger across Ronan's lower lip, and then took a large step back.

"I'm going to end up missing my plane because of you," he said, subjectively not that upset about it.

"And your problem is...?" Ronan felt a magnetic draw to Adam, but he didn't move into him. Rather he stayed put, regretting every second he wasn't touching him.

Adam reacted to his words like a joke, laughing lightheartedly. Ronan wasn't amused. "I'll see you," he said.

"I'll miss you," Ronan admitted.

Adam faltered, like he expected him to simply say goodbye.

"You've got my movies to tide you over."

"I'd rather not watch you make out with other people. It's more fun to stab myself."

Adam snorted, clearly thinking him joking. But it was true. Watching him kiss other people was only worse now that they kissed. That they weren't going to again for months, if at all. After his chuckling stopped, Adam then came forward again, and Ronan expected to drown in a third kiss, feeling selfish and honored to receive two already. Instead, Adam kissed him on the forehead, bending Ronan's head down so he could reach. He then pulled away and left. Ronan waited as he went through the TSA line, where he paused to turn back once he was through. Adam waved with a small smile when he saw he was still waiting there, and then he turned back and rounded a corner, gone.

The car ride back into the city felt longer, and when Ronan got home Gansey shot off the sofa like a rocket.

"Where were you!" he shouted.

Ronan didn't even pause on his walk to the stairs.

"Get a hobby, Gansey. You're fucking unbearable."

He was in a mood, and ignored any reaction Gansey may have had because he just wanted to be alone.

"Declan left already. He's pissed."

"Like I give a shit."

Adam was probably on his flight back to Los Angeles by now, as he went upstairs to just be alone. Ronan slammed the door when he was in his room, and then collapsed on his bed feeling sad. He knew he should feel happy. He just asked Adam out. Adam said yes. They kissed. Twice. But he wouldn't see him again until November. November . That was months away. And between then and now he could easily-- No, he didn't want to think about it.

"I will have you know-!" Gansey said, barging in. He stopped himself at the doorway as Ronan rolled over enough to glare at him. "Ronan?" His voice went soft as he registered he wasn't okay. Instead a reflection of what Gansey used to be appeared, as he moved to sit beside him on the bed. Beside him, he touched carefully at his shoulder, comforting him like he used to. Without meaning to, Ronan started to silently cry.

"I'll get a hobby if it means that much to you," said Gansey.

Uncontrollably, Ronan snorted. He rolled his eyes while wiping tears with the heel of his palm. This was unbearable. This should be a happy day, and yet he thought of all the reasons why it might not be. It felt almost too good to be true.

"Thanks, Gansey. I appreciate it," he said drily.

Gansey rested his chin to Ronan's shoulder, staring down at him over his backside. "If I'm a mess, and you're a mess, who's going to do the dishes?" he said.

Ronan, despite himself, started laughing. Laughing at Gansey. Laughing at himself. He should be happy about this, and he was.

 

adam parrish: that was some kiss

ronan lynch : eh

adam parrish: asshole

say you miss me again

ronan lynch : you miss me again

adam parrish: nvm I don't like you anymore

ronan lynch : yeah ok I believe you :)

adam parrish: well i miss you xx

asshole

Chapter Text

"Am I doing this right?"

"A little to the left. No. My left."

"Is that good?"

"Yes. Better. No, stop moving."

"What?"

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Lynch. There's an image of you in the bottom corner."

So there was.

He could see the mirror image of himself in the bottom right of his phone staring back at him, lying amongst the pillows and blankets of his bed, intentionally not wearing a shirt to bed even though it was cold. It was midnight the same night as their first kiss. Adam landed back in Los Angeles around eight and immediately started texting Ronan the rest of the day about anything but the kiss, and then half an hour ago he asked him to learn to video chat. So now here they were.

Adam was laughing. He was holding a hand to his chest to try, very poorly, and suppress his amusement, which kept erupting out of him like hiccups each time Ronan did something mildly amusing.

"There you are," Adam said, fonder than he spoke up until now. He was also shirtless. This seemed to be a theme with him, that looked to not be going away anytime soon. Ronan didn't mind. Okay, he minded very much. Having that to look at but not touch was killing him inside.

"Put on a shirt, Parrish," he demanded.

Seeing the fair hair on Adam's chest was actually physically destroying him, as Adam's laughter came down to a small simmering snicker. He tilted his head to one side, eyes dipping downward in a familiar way, obviously looking at him the way he was looking at Adam. With a lick of his lips, Adam's mouth quirked into a smirk and his eyes lazily closed for a second.

"You first, Lynch."

Ronan felt a shiver all over his body. This was impossible. It couldn't be real. If this was a dream he was going to be so angry with himself. Giving himself a small pinch in the arm, he proved it was real, and somehow that didn't make him feel any better. He wanted to touch what he could see, be in the same room as Adam's laughter, kiss him until his lips went numb.

Since that afternoon, everything changed between them. Their relationship was more a question mark now than ever, Ronan unsure just exactly what Adam wanted. He knew what he wanted, something solid and sure. Something permanent and monogamous. All of Adam's talks, he wasn't so sure if that's what Adam wanted. But he wasn't about to pressure him now, when all they've done is kiss once. Maybe in a week or two. He just wanted Adam to eventually know that he was in this for the long haul.

"So...." Ronan wanted to discuss the kiss. He wanted to ask what it meant, what any of this meant. Only this morning did he wake up in Adam's bed, eat breakfast with him in bed like he had dreams of doing. Then this afternoon, Opal with her lack of chill tattling on them like they were all schoolchildren or something. Surreal.

"Yes, Lynch?" Adam's eyebrow raised higher than the other, challenging him to say what he wanted to say. It was like he knew, though it was probably obvious with the way he was staring. He openly longed for him, taking him in with his greedy gaze. Adam licked his lips again, stuttering Ronan's heart rate as he watched, unsure if this were a habitual act or intentional.

Fuck, he was getting ridiculously overwhelmed with this video call, seeing him just existing there knowing he's kissed those lips and felt him pressed against him in his sleep and-

"Ronan, are you awake? I--"

Gansey didn't even knock before he walked in, opening the door as casual as if this weren't Ronan's bedroom and the middle of the night. At once, Ronan panicked and fumbled around as if Adam was physically present and in his bed. It was also possible he was trying to hide his erection which jesus christ he didn't even realize he had until now. In the panic he dropped his phone somewhere in his sheets, as Gansey stood there in the doorway staring at it all happening in real time. Ronan stared back at him, at his turned in brow that matched his own confusion.

"What?" Ronan's voice hit five octaves higher than it usually did. He was beet red. Somewhere in the chaos of his sheets, he could hear Adam's roaring laughter.

Gansey heard it too.

"Are you on the phone?" he asked.

"No."

The laughter wasn't stopping, and Ronan couldn't exactly subtly look for it when he was sitting in a specific sort of way trying not to make the situation obvious to Gansey.

"Who's laughing?"

“No one,” Ronan blurted out. He didn’t sound very convincing, but if he sounded annoyed enough he hoped Gansey would take the hint and leave. He was red all over and could still hear the muffled laughter coming from his phone somewhere to his left. Gansey inclined closer from the doorway, and Ronan panicked more. Tonight wasn’t the night he was going to find out about his friendship (relationship?) with Adam. “Porn,” he shouted. “I’m watching porn.”

Adam’s laughter roared, and Gansey squinted, halting in his movement. He was seriously questioning his answer, but Ronan just wanted him to leave.

"I don't think that's porn," he said with hesitance.

"Oh, are you the expert on porn?" Ronan snapped. He wanted him out, as he shuffled the sheets around him, pulling them up to cover his bare chest. It was a subtle excuse to try to find his phone, but he was proving unsuccessful.

"I-" Gansey faltered, as Ronan had apparently caught him in a trap of words. "I'm not answering that," he said grimly.

"Go to bed, Gansey," Ronan hissed, pleaded.

Finally it looked like Gansey was getting the message, and he moved a step back again toward the door, eyes on Ronan as he did.

"You sure you're okay?"

Hopefully Adam didn't hear him over the sound of his own laughter, because he didn't need him asking what Gansey meant by that. He nodded his head frantically, waving him out.

"I'm fine," he groaned.

"Yes." Gansey seemed to agree to some extent, and he then motioned to him and his laughing bed. "With your... porn," he said, clearly still suspicious. His nose wrinkled as he looked off toward the window, thinking. "What sort of porn has laughing?" He paused, then caught himself only a second later. "You know, I don't want to know. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Gansey," Ronan said to his retreating form.

Once the door was shut, Ronan flipped out of bed and started searching in a wild manner for his phone. Adam was still laughing, a clear sign he at least was still on the line. Or else Ronan was hallucinating now. When he found his phone in the chaos of sheets, Adam was still there, though. He was howling, head back and hand on his stomach. Ronan could see the rows of perfect white teeth going all the way back in his throat.

"Shut up," he said, blushing again. "Stop laughing."

"I swear, I thought you were going to have to show him your phone," said Adam, still very much amused by all this.

"I'd rather he not learn I know you this way," Ronan grumbled. "I don't need a catatonic man in my bedroom."

Adam snickered a little more, and then sighed as he finally looked back at him. His expression softened instantly, like he only just remembered what they were doing before, staring at each other with no real end goal to this. Just staring.

Suddenly Ronan wasn't annoyed or embarrassed anymore. He felt softer, too, and just stared back. Taking in Adam's messy hair, the curl of his eyelashes, the way he was chewing his lower lip, the screen's light bouncing off his eyes.

"So, are we just going to ignore the elephant in the room?" Adam said, and Ronan's heart rate immediately began racing. He swallowed, but found his throat drying out.

"You mean that Gansey thinks I'm watching clown porn?"

"No." Adam laughed despite himself. "No, that we kissed."

"Oh. Yeah." Ronan watched, Adam trying to his reaction, while it was visible Adam was doing the same with him. "Yeah, that did happen, didn't it?"

"Forget already, Lynch?" Although he masked it well, he could see and hear the disappointment in his voice. Like he worried about it or something. Ronan immediately regretted the joke. Resorting to jokes didn't always work, especially in relation to this. He felt like an asshole.

"No, I haven't forgotten," he said, swiftly sitting up in bed. He watched Adam carefully, his reactions so subtle like a mask had fallen on his face. "It's all I've been thinking about all day."

A small smile full of such warmth split across Adam's face, like the sun cracking through the darkness on a stormy day. The mask slipped away again, leaving behind his sweet natural expression.

"Me too," he confessed. "I wish we'd done it sooner, though. Kind of wanted more than just the one."

Although Ronan could feel his face getting hot, he ignored it, allowed himself to blush. Fuck it, honestly. He smiled wide, so goddamn happy.

You can always come back , he nearly said. But saying it felt like cruelty, like putting unnecessary expectations on him. Having him like this was enough, for now. Knowing he would come back, someday. If he had the money, he would visit him, but all his money went into that bookstore and this place.

"At least it happened finally," Ronan finally said. Adam nodded, agreeing.

"Yeah, finally." The way he said finally was exactly how Ronan felt, full of relief and wanting. "I'm surprised that there aren't any photos of us from the airport, though. Nothing leaked. I checked."

Ronan could only wonder how hard he looked, but didn't ask. Instead he noted Adam's current expression, mildly amused.

"Disappointed?" he said.

"Maybe a little." Adam shrugged. His eyes tilted down toward his bed, eyelashes distracting and long. Matched with his freckles, the contrast in color was alluring and frighteningly beautiful. God, how could eyelashes be such an attractive feature on someone? Adam then looked back up, startling with his bright eyes. "Kind of wanted to show you off," he confessed.

"Oh yeah?" Ronan couldn't help but smirk.

There was a flush in Adam's cheeks as he reluctantly nodded, committing to his words. His eyes drifted quickly away to something else beyond his phone.

"I'll just use my private Instagram for that," he said, casual but not. He couldn't believe he could make Adam flustered like this. This was... news.

"Can I see it?" Ronan wanted to know what the private side of Adam was like, even though he was privileged access to so much of him already.

"Make an Instagram account and I just might," Adam said, a small smile again pulling on his lips.

"That's not fair."

"Join the 21st century, Lynch," Adam grinned, wider and full of teasing. He so badly wished he was here so he could kiss him.

"Asshole," he said. Adam started to laugh again. "I-" Ronan almost got annoyed with himself, but pushed on to talk. He stuttered out, "I miss you," before going completely red and looking off screen.

This was embarrassing, he thought, confessing like that when they weren't anything. They were good friends. Good friends could miss each other. But there was a second connotation to his words that was obvious to them both. Something rawer than if he said it before this afternoon.

Over the phone, he heard Adam breathe, a single breath deep like a sigh. He closed his eyes a moment, as seconds ticked by and Adam hadn't replied. Finally he ventured a look back at his screen, to see Adam staring back at him curiously. Like he said something wondrous. This was torture.

"I miss you, too, Ronan," he said. "I wish..."

"I know."

Adam was now lying on his side, the phone propped up against something that kept it upright, allowing him to rest his head in his one hand, the other fingering his lips. Ronan's eyes could catch more of Adam's frame in this angle, noting he was wearing pants, which he supposed was a good thing as people often wore pants to bed. But upon further inspection, he saw that they weren't pants. They were just his briefs. He didn't need to know that.

"I've started on the book already," he blurted out, by way of distracting himself that Adam was in the same state as him, same time zone, kissed him only just that afternoon, and slept in the near nude. It was not a healthy combination of facts. No no no.

"And?" Adam's brow was raised, staring at him with an expectation to speak more. Uncluttering his mind, Ronan wondered how long he was lost in his thoughts before he heard Adam. He didn't want to think about it.

"Levi is just like you," he said, and he reached over for his bedside table to take the book in his hands. "Pigheaded but charming."

"You said that joke already last night," Adam said.

"So I did." Ronan couldn't think of anything clever to reply with, and he bit down on his tongue in the process. It hurt like a motherfucker and he very nearly cursed.

"Do you think I should take the role?" Adam asked, like it was an offhand thought. But he knew it was something he was battling with poorly, obsessing over really. He fingered the page he was on in the book, nearly a third into it already. It was a good book, captivating, but he had some concerns.

"Does he die?" Ronan asked. "I have a feeling he dies."

"Keep reading." Adam then moved to sit up and stretch, but as he moved Ronan caught sight of a tail end of a smile. It wasn't enough to deter him from what he was talking about. Nor was the close up sight of his bare torso, limber as he stretched his arms above his head, chest very close to his phone. He looked away.

"That means he dies," Ronan grumbled. He didn't want to see Adam die on screen. Again. It happened twice so far. It wasn't a very fun experience, even if it was all fake.

"It means keep reading," Adam said, face coming back into view. He smiled at his screen, then picked it up. "I have to sleep. Talk tomorrow?"

"Not if you don't tell me if Levi dies or not."

Adam rolled his eyes. "I'm not telling you anything."

"I could cheat. Read the end."

Adam rolled his eyes again. "Goodnight, Lynch."

"Ugh." Ronan frowned. Not only did he want to know the ending, but he didn't want to say goodnight. "Fine."

"You're cute when you're annoyed."

"I-"

Adam ended the call.

"Bastard."

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Thus began whatever they were doing. Pseudo dating? Could it be dating if it was through the phone like this? He couldn't tell. All he knew was he saw it as the start of a relationship. A very slow start, because he couldn't consider it anything full blown when he wasn't seeing him again until November. Whatever they were, he was enjoying it. Talking like they were, through video chats as well as texts. He craved every second of him he was offered.

Summer was over and school began again.  Fall in San Francisco was a beautiful time, the weather getting mildly warmer than summer. But it was still cool, which meant every time Adam and Ronan talked before bed and Ronan went without a shirt he was being ridiculous and fucking cold, but we all do shit for those we like. He liked the way Adam's eyes kept drifting. Like the night at the pool. He really wasn't using his head that night, was he?

Adam was traipsing around the world as per usual, caught in photographs with actor friends and model friends and people he suspiciously googled wondering if they were ever linked in a relationship in the past. It was not wise googling such things. A lot of people "shipped" Adam with other celebrities in a creepy way. He stopped googling fast.

Since school began, Opal was around the shop less, but Ronan took that as a good thing. He still saw her every day, but in a different way than before. To ensure she got the most out of school, they fell into a habit of him driving her there every morning to make sure she went, watching her until she went into the front door. Every day he waited a little less, until eventually he didn't have to wait at all after she got out of the car. She was actually going for herself.

While yeah he felt like a hypocrite about this, since he loathed school, he knew Opal was a smart as fuck kid and he wanted her to use those smarts wisely.

After a couple weeks back in school, Adam finally broached the subject of it with him. Before, he tiptoed around the mention of it because they both knew it was Opal's thing, not their thing, and somehow that made it so neither of them wanted to talk about it to each other. Clearly Adam changed his mood about that.

"How is she at school? Is she handling it okay? Does she need anything?"

"She's attending the eighth grade, not sacrificing a limb," Ronan replied. He was on his lunch break at work, while Adam was somewhere not here. "Calm down, helicopter mom."

"She just doesn't talk about it to me," Adam said. He sounded upset about it. They were on the phone, not video chatting mainly because Adam was somewhere surrounded by people. He could hear fussing in the background, a mess of people, and he was envious of each and every one of them. Alone in the back office at his work, Ronan had time these days to daydream of being wherever Adam was. Without Opal here to annoy and distract him, he had a lot of free time these days to do that. To wish for more. To remember vividly their kiss. To hate that he was probably kissing someone else for a movie.

"Have you asked her about school?" Ronan replied. He took a handful of fries and stuffed them in his mouth, making it hard to talk.

"Well, no," Adam said. He then said more things to someone else away from the phone, voice muffled but still there. Something about five minutes. Great. The call was nearly over. "Sorry, I'm being called in. I only have a few more minutes."

He swallowed his fries in a hurry, almost choking on them as they went down.

"I can let you go now if-"

"No." Adam sounded so forceful about it, definitive in his reply. "I want to talk to you until the second they make me hang up."

Ronan smiled. "That's a little clingy," he teased. "What if I had plans in three minutes?"

He could hear the eye roll on the other end of the line, picturing Adam being fussed over by hair and makeup and taking a moment to drag his eyes upward to the sky.

"Then you better cancel them, asshole." Adam sighed. "I hate this so much."

There was opportunity to be a dick again, but he didn't want to be. He wanted to share in his frustration, to be open about how he felt too. Even though Adam couldn't see it, he nodded in agreement and grunted in it too.

"Yeah," he said. "Me too. Opal does, too."

There was a small whining sound on the other end that Ronan couldn't tell the origin of, if it was Adam or something else. Maybe they accidentally poked Adam in the eye with a makeup brush. Assholes.

"Just talk to her about school," Ronan said, returning to their original subject of conversation. He pretended he didn't hear Adam making such a sad noise. "I'm sure she can't wait to talk about science crap with you."

"Science crap," Adam parroted, and he snorted. "You're ridiculous."

"So are you. Just talk to her. It's not taboo to ask how school is going."

"Yeah..." Adam sighed. "You're right."

"As always," Ronan replied.

"No, I'm pretty sure this is a rare occasion," Adam wittily snapped back. "Seventy one days."

"Seventy one-?" Ronan wondered if he was still talking to him or someone else.

"Until the premiere. Until I see you."

Ronan choked on his fries.

"Lynch?"

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

When the leaves were finally changing color and the weather was changing to feel more autumn-like, every shop ever was starting to prepare for Halloween. It was absurd, and while Ronan remembered enjoying the holiday in his youth, as an adult he didn't really find it all that exciting. He had no plans to decorate the store, as he never decorated it before.

Of course, Opal had other plans.

"Why aren't there pumpkins? Skulls? Spooky bats? Who are you, Ronan? Weren't you, like, goth in high school?"

Annoyed, Ronan all but slammed his book on the table. Here she was, not doing her homework and interrupting his reading during the brief downtime he had between customers today. She caught on to his annoyance and smiled openly.

"I was not goth . All black isn't goth ."

"I've hit a nerve," Opal said, hiding her laugh behind her math textbook.

"I hate that Blue found my old high school photos," he hissed, and Opal lost it, laughing harder.

Since Opal went back to school, things were looking up, even though most of their talks now revolved around homework and most of the time he couldn't help her with it. That was something she mainly talked about with Adam. Adam who was so incredibly busy with a schedule that wouldn't give him more than a little time every day to talk to Ronan and Opal, but still found time anyway to help with her homework when asked, or call and text Ronan when he was at lunch. He felt so lucky that that jerk paparazzo prompted him to come into his shop. It couldn't be said what he would be doing now if he hadn't, how his relationship with Opal would have developed without Adam there as well. Life felt good; for the first time in a long time it felt good everywhere.

He missed him. He had dreams about him. Nothing too torrid, simply things he took advantage of being able to do in his past - singular - relationship. Hand holding. Sitting on the sofa together. Tiny kisses that didn't go anywhere, but simply fed the desire to touch. Physically being present in the same space, that no matter how advanced technology could get, it could never compete with that feeling. He missed him.

One afternoon in late September, Ronan finally caved and bought one pumpkin to sit at the window of his shop. Not carved or decorated. Just a simple pumpkin. It was probably going to rot before Halloween, but it was an effort being made. Minimal, sure. Opal was almost certainly still going to annoy him about more decorations anyway.

During that same afternoon, Adam and Ronan were video chatting during Ronan's lunch hour, something that became a bit of a habit now. It was scary how habitual they could still be even without seeing each other for months, the parts of this.... relationship that could be discovered despite still not knowing what it was.

Despite Ronan not having yet finished the book, Adam said yes to the role for Wires . A few days ago he was given the script, and immediately called Ronan to talk about it, even though it was four in the morning in San Francisco when he did. Ronan was still happy to hear from him, to hear the giddiness in his voice as he looked through the complete script properly for the first time. While Ronan still didn't know what was going to happen to Levi, he was glad Adam was ecstatic about a role like this. When he talked of his other films they didn't hold as much excitement in his voice as when he talked about this one and the one coming out in November.

At the top of his lunch break, Adam asked Ronan to run lines with him, since he apparently wanted to get started as soon as he could. It was the first day in months Adam didn't have meetings or phone calls or anything of importance to worry about, yet he chose to spend it reading the script. Ronan felt he worked too hard, but he didn't know how to say that without sounding like an asshole.

On Adam's end of the call he was outside on a large patio balcony, probably his own because his apartment seemed that nice, with distant sounds of the city behind him. He had on a simple tee and sweats, which was enough to kill Ronan without the addition of his untamed hair and bright expression that could light the world.

He paced around with his copy of the script as he acted out his end, while Ronan, who was huddled in his back office holding his phone, was reading plainly in reply. If he even attempted to act, he knew it would only distract Adam, because he knew his acting was just that bad.

The scene they were reading from was something from the middle of the film, a scene he hadn't yet read in the book of it was even in the book at all. They had been at this for a minute already, two thirds into the scene when things got heated.

"Levi, I don't think this is such a good idea," Ronan said flatly.

Adam's energy was much much higher than his, already getting into the character. His mannerisms were slightly different, something Ronan could attest to because he obsessively studied them. The way he was pacing around his balcony was different than even five minutes ago, there was a slight shift in the way he pronounced words, the way his head tilted as he read. It was... bewildering to say the least, watching his performance come to life like this. It was kind of amazing. "Nothing's been a good idea since we started this shit," he said with irritation, "but this is probably one of my better ones." He continued to pause, thinking as Levi and not as himself. He then stopped, turned to the camera on his laptop, and his lips twitched with terrifying smile. Adam as Levi was intense and this was just him rehearsing. "I think we should do it."

For a moment all he did was stare, forgetting he was a part of this and not just watching the performance. He was absorbed in Adam's performance, invigorated with watching him suddenly reshape into someone else. It was powerful. Fuck. And sort of a turn on. He wasn't sure how, but it was.

Fleetingly, Adam came back to the forefront and gave him an expectant look, tilting his brow for Ronan to say something. Flustered, Ronan quickly looked down at his own script, searching for his next line. With reddened cheeks, he read it. Badly, he might add.

"You could die ," he said.

"I don't care." Adam jerked away from the laptop, and him, and walked around again. He was angry at who Ronan was reading as, like they were denying him of something. He wasn't even sure what happened before his scene or what happened after it, since it was all Adam gave him. He had to guess it had something to do with the aliens, since Levi was the most intense about finding them. He was twitching as he glared for just a second back at the screen. If Ronan didn't know he was acting he would've felt horrified and upset by the way he was looking at him. Like he had broken his heart. It still made him feel a little uncomfortable to look at, and he turned away back to his script.

"You've known me for months now," Adam said, talking with a manic tone, shrill like on the edge of crying or shouting. "You know how much this means to me. I need answers. If I die trying to get them, so be it. I need to know why they took me, why my life has been this huge mess, if that was their intention all along or...."

Then Adam, as Levi, sniffled. He shrunk back, head turning so he wasn't looking anywhere near the camera. All at once he came crumbling down. Falling to his knees, almost out of visibility, he started to sob. It was hard to watch, and yet he couldn't look away. Adam deserved any and all praise for his acting. This was fucking phenomenal shit.

"I-" Ronan had to force himself to focus. "You're not a mess, Levi." The girl he was portraying was meant to come and touch at Adam's shoulder then, and wipe away his tears. He couldn't do either of those, acting through a screen. But he left a pause as if he was. Adam's crying relented enough he must have been acting it out in his head, too. "I don't think this is going to help you the way you want it to, because what you want is a clear cut explanation for things that are unexplainable," Ronan said. "Not everything happens for a specific reason. Sometimes bad things just happen to good people because the world fucking sucks."

As Levi, Adam laughed breathily through his tears. He angrily shot a look over his shoulder as if the girl in this scene was by his side like it was intended.

"You don't know my life," he said.

"You're right." Ronan watched as Adam wiped more at his tears and rolled his eyes. "I don't. But I know this is suicidal, and you're better than that."

Still on his knees, Adam sighed, using both his hands now to dab at his cheeks. He continued to speak without need of his script. "I'm still going to do it, with or without anyone's help."

"Levi..."

Adam flinched as if he had tried to touch him, moving to rise in an angry way.

"You don't even like me," he hissed. "Why do you care if I die?"

"That's- not true." Ronan flipped the page and continued on. They were nearly finished, he realized. "I like you. Even when you're being an asshole, I like you."

The next action was to kiss, which sounded unfair since he couldn't do that. Adam moved closer to his laptop, leaning over into it with his elbows propped up on the table. He didn't even seem bothered that Ronan wasn't continuing with the rest of his lines. He probably knew why he stopped.

"Is that why you chose this scene?" he asked. "To tease me?"

As Adam wiped more tears from his eyes, real tears that made him look tired as his eyes were rimmed with red. Juxtaposing this, he grinned haughtily into the camera, nearly chuckling by Ronan's guess.

"Maybe," he said.

"You're a real dick, you know that?" Ronan huffed. He was horny and alone.

Adam grinned wide. His shirt was a little loose, and Ronan could see inside it a little. Even though he'd seen that sight plenty, every time he got to again it was just as exciting as the last time. Adam began to chew on his lower lip as he looked back down at his script, fingering it with commitment that Ronan wished was geared more toward him. He so desperately wished he could afford a visit to New York.

As he thought this, Adam peeled away from his computer to stand again, examining the pages of his script with that continued passion.

"Kay, can we run that back one more time?" he asked.

"Uh, I guess." Ronan had to take a second to guess what that meant. It didn't take a genius to figure it out, but when your brain was touch starved and you were thirsting through a video call, it was hard to keep focus long enough to understand just about anything, new phrasing or otherwise.

"From, from where?" he asked. Like a fumbling mess, he one handedly started going through the pages in his lap. He could hear Adam's soft, charming laughter before he looked up again to see it.

"Top of the scene?" Adam asked gently.

"Okay." Ronan would've been annoyed at any other time, and well okay he was still a little annoyed now, but mostly at himself. For getting so distracted. He so wished Adam lived in Los Angeles. It would make this mildly easier.

"I know this must be boring to you-" Adam started.

"Yeah, it kind of is," Ronan found himself saying, all too eagerly and all too quickly. When he realized that, he blushed and ducked his head, humiliated.

"Okay, you didn't need to agree with me."

Adam was laughing when he looked up, and he smirked a little in response. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Could someone fall in love with a laugh?

Together they ran through the scene again, with Adam's performance killing him even more the second time. He could see how much Yale paid off, his potency even in rehearsal like this so incredible. Nothing was held back. His voice cracked through several lines the second read through, and like a switch when it was over he was smiling as he swept away the evidence.

It led Ronan to curious thoughts. Adam once mentioned how he tried to pick roles now he connected with in some way, particular about them when they weren't big blockbuster hits. This was going to be an indie made with non-indie money, so he assumed it meant he chose it for a reason other than exposure. Levi was definitely a layered character, but Ronan was curious what about him attracted Adam.

"Hey," he said, as he watched Adam stretching across the patio. He was bent over touching his hands to his toes, giving Ronan visuals he did not need like this. "Um," he looked away when Adam's eyes met his, his shirt riding up his stomach. "Uh, why did you pick this role by the way?" he finally asked.

Adam hesitated. His stretching was over, as he diverted his gaze elsewhere. Standing straight, he shifted uncomfortably like Ronan asked him instead if he ever masturbated to him.

Now that's all he was thinking. Ronan, focus.

"I, uh, connected with Levi a lot," Adam said, clearly not looking to continue this conversation.

"Were you also abducted by aliens?" Ronan asked anyway.

Taking the reprieve into absurdity, Adam snorted out a thin laugh. "No, can't say that I have been," he said, rolling his eyes as he smiled and came forward.

Letting the question die, Ronan still didn't quite let the subject pass in his head. It lingered like a bad smell, and he was overanalyzing it internally while Adam clearly moved on. Since Ronan hadn't yet finished the book, he still didn't know the end or Levi's fate, as it was long as hell and he was pretty sure Levi was going to die. So he was slower at reading it since he began to think that. The scene they read today hadn't helped him any. It only made him more suspicious.

"When does this start filming?" Ronan thought to ask.

"End of November, I think?" Adam shrugged. "I don't remember."

His schedule was so fucking jam packed it was understandable but also absurd he couldn't remember that. Wendy probably did, though, who suspiciously hadn't said anything to him since they kissed.

"Shouldn't you know that since you're in the movie?" Ronan said.

Waving him off, Adam said nothing. He was reading his script again, making notes in the margins, studying it like it were a scholarly essay or a heavy math equation to work out. On his side of the chat, Ronan watched him work, a highlighter hanging out his mouth, pen between his fingers tapping at the page of his script already worn. Wrinkles forked at the center of his brow right above his nose as he was leaning into the camera, spread across the table instead of sitting. Ronan could watch him all day, and he'd been known to on occasion before, muting him as he worked so he could still be there in some way. His phone tended to die relatively easy when he did that.

"But you're still coming to California in November, right?" This time Ronan couldn't just let the silence sweep in. He was desperate to confirm when they would see each other next, when he could make a date.

Hearing this, Adam looked up at him again, the pen falling from his mouth.

"Hmm? Yeah. Of course." He then leaned into the camera, face propped up on one hand. His smile was, for lack of a better word, dreamy. Asshole. "I'm excited to see you," he said. "Only two months away."

Ronan smiled back. "Two months," he repeated.

He could handle that. Two months. In agony, he ached for him in new ways, ways he didn't think possible. The months they already spent apart were torture, and each passing day as his feelings grew stronger, he became more emotionally attached, the torture only growing in its intensity. Another cold shower awaited him tonight.

When Ronan's lunch hour was up, Adam said his goodbyes and went back to his script.

A few hours later, after a long day of customers flowing in and out, Ronan was riding off the small (reprieve from them. But then the door banged open followed by angry stomping and a dump of books and backpacks all over the floor and desk.

Opal was out of class.

"School sucked today!" Opal exclaimed, eager to voice it. She came and sat behind the desk while Ronan was filling out a phone in order.

"Doesn't it suck everyday?" Ronan replied.

She narrowed her eyes at him.

"You don't get to make jokes like that when you're forcing me to go," she said, in true thirteen year old fashion.

"I'm not-" He rolled his eyes and slacked his jaw. "Why did it suck today?"

"Some boy."

Ronan waited for the rest of it, but it didn't come. When he glanced in her direction, he saw her looking back at him, awaiting his response. "Is that it?" he said. "Some boy?" As he said it, it dawned on him how cruel boys could be and he stopped looking for books. "Did he hurt you? Did he call you any names? Who is this boy? I'm going down there right now and-"

"Oh my god!" Opal groaned. "It's nothing that serious. Chill, alright? Jesus." She was blushing like he was embarrassing her. There was no one else around to embarrass her in front of.

"I don't get it," he said.

Opal continued to say nothing, sourly looking down at her homework. Slowly another thought crept into his head.

"Do you.... like this boy?" he inquired.

For a fleeting moment she shot him a look that told him fuck off, but then she looked away again.

"Ew. No." She wasn't very convincing. "I don't know," she then said, quieter. "I don't know what I like."

Ronan stepped off the stool he was on and came over to her, standing across from her at the checkout counter. He almost reached for her hand, but wasn't sure if that was appropriate right now. His hands were there as offerings in case it was.

"You don't have to know that now," he said. "I didn't at thirteen. Not exactly."

She stayed quiet, fiddling with a turned in edge of one of her books. God it hurt his brain just to see how many she carried with her for school.

"So he didn't hurt you?" he checked again.

"No, no one hurt me." Opal rolled her eyes.

"Because boys are assholes," he clarified.

"I'm aware." Her eyes shot up to meet his. "I'm talking to one right now."

"Hey." He gently flicked her in the nose with his finger.

She smiled a little longer, until looking back down at her pile. The frown returned, as she sighed and bitterly picked up the book on top.

"I don't want to do all this," she said. She banged her head against the table, groaning into the stack and leaving an imprint of her breath on the glass countertop.

"Well, don't look at me," he said, turning away from her to find the book he'd been looking for. "I never did my homework. And look where it got me."

"Being your own boss and independent shop owner with a house?" Opal said behind him.

"Uh..." He fucked up. "No, having to hang out with a thirteen year old in a declining economy while sharing my house with an annoying roommate."

When he turned to her, he saw her glaring at him. But after a few choice seconds, she opened a textbook.

"Parrish could probably help you with some of that, you know," he suggested. He already wanted to talk to him again and it had only been a few hours. He was so fucked.

"He's probably busy," Opal moaned.

"He's just reading his script today," he said. "I don't think he'd mind. You can't use that as an excuse."

"Fine!" Opal grumbled and grabbed her stuff. That was easy. "Fine. I'm going to the office to work. Someone won't leave me alone up here."

He smirked. "You're the one who decided to take AP courses," he called out to her

"Shut up, old man. Mind your declining economy store."

He could laugh if he weren't also annoyed she called him an old man. Before she disappeared into the back, he called out again.

"Did you see I bought a pumpkin?" he said.

"Yeah," he heard nearly muffled by the books. "You could do better."

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It shouldn't have made him paranoid, but not getting any sort of contact from Wendy or anyone else in Adam's team (entourage? was that a real word and not a shitty show?) made him paranoid. In fact, he was suspicious that Wendy didn't try to talk to him since their kiss. Did he not tell her? Didn't he tell her everything? He worried then what this meant to Adam. If he expected more from it than Adam did. He wondered if Adam was seeing anyone else, and the thought made him sick. Why he didn't think to clarify at the beginning of all this that he didn't do casual, he couldn't tell. It felt too late not to say anything, but they only kissed the once. Adam didn't owe him anything.

And yet....

It was finally October. Blue was off in another country again for work for a little while, and Henry and Noah were busy with their Halloween issue of their magazine. Gansey was Gansey and insufferable.

"Malory loved Halloween," he cried the other night. Ronan had to sit through an Adam marathon to make him feel better. It was harder watching him have sex with other people when he didn't even get to have sex with him.

Opal was dragging Ronan to a Halloween shop over the weekend to look for costumes for her. She didn't want to go alone, she said. Adam thought it was a nice idea, for bonding. He did not agree.

Just a couple weeks shy of Ronan's birthday someone he didn't think to ever see again walked into his store. Ryan, that blogger guy Henry and Noah set him up with, walked in with an obvious agenda the second he saw him through the glass door. He froze as Ryan didn't even pretend to peruse the store, but went straight up to him at the counter.

After dealing with a few other customers, Ryan was next, and Ronan stood a little straighter. He didn't know what he wanted but he didn't like this.

"Hi," he said.

"Hi," Ryan replied. "The shop's getting a lot of business," he noted. "That's good."

"People like buying Irish books in the fall," he muttered. "I don't know why. Can I help you with something?"

Ryan was gnawing on his lower lip with his teeth, annoying Ronan with the habit. If this was pre-kiss, maybe Ronan wouldn't have found it annoying. But now he could only think of Adam, only want Adam. Just that kiss ruined him forever.

"I was in the neighborhood, and I was curious what your store was like," said Ryan. He began to play with the cover of a book left on the counter. Uncomfortable with him touching anything or thinking to stay longer, Ronan peeled it out from under his hand. "Did you want to grab some coffee sometime?"

"No." Ronan turned away.

"Oh-I-I mean, it doesn't have to be coffee."

After tucking the book somewhere he could find it later, since it didn't actually go back here and he just didn't want to talk anymore, he forced himself to turn back around.

"No, I'm fine," he said. "Our set up date was bad. Wasn't it bad for you?"

Ryan sort of shrugged, smiling like he found this whole thing endearing somehow.

"I mean, I've had worse," he said. "I thought maybe you were just nervous."

"No." Ronan shook his head. "I wasn't."

"Oh." Finally Ryan was starting to take the hint, and his arms slinked back and away from Ronan's side of the counter. "I see."

"Did you want any books while you were here?"

Ryan frowned. "No," he said. "No, I'm set on books. Thanks."

Awkwardly, he ducked his head and started to leave. Ronan felt a little bad, not sure why.

"It's- it's not you," he called out.

Ryan turned back to him at the door, and he laughed something cynical and snarky.

"I get it," he said, a little bitterly. "It's the whole it's not you it's me business."

"No, it's-" Ronan closed his eyes. "There's someone else," he said. It felt weird to confess that aloud. To confess that at all.

"Oh."

He wasn't sure why he told him that, why he felt like letting him down easy. Maybe it was because no guy ever tried a second time with him before, after he purposefully blew up the first date.

"He's lucky, whoever he is," Ryan said. "You're very cute."

Ronan could die. "I'm very much an asshole," he said.

"Ha." Ryan smiled. "So am I."

When he left, Ronan didn't know what to make of that exchange. He didn't know what to make of most of them when people flirted with him.

"Who was that?"

Ronan nearly jumped out of his skin as he started from the voice directly behind him. His heart was racing in his chest so fast it was possibly about to crack.

When he turned, he remembered Opal had been in the back reading. It was a half day for some reason. He swallowed, finding his throat dry, and then rolled his eyes.

"Nobody," he said. "You finished with your homework?"

"No."

"Well, go finish it."

"Ugh. You're so boring now."

Ronan didn't know what to say to that. To any of this.

After work, he drove Opal home, still dodging her questions about Ryan. Upon her door shutting he promptly received a text from Adam as he headed home himself.

 

adam parrish : call me

 

He hadn't heard from him all day, barely all week really. These days Adam was so busy he barely even had time to text. So when he got that message his heart rate went up again in a gleeful way. He drove home a little too fast, but he didn't care.

Gansey was passed out on the sofa as he came in, and he tiptoed around him to head up to his room. Since the night Gansey walked in on him, he was smarter about locking his door. So he locked it this time and then threw off his jacket, preparing himself for a good long phone call.

Adam answered on the second ring.

"Hi-"

"You got asked on a date?"

Ronan wasn't excited anymore.

"How did you-?" His jaw clicked. "Opal told you?"

"So you were?" Adam scoffed into the phone. He sounded like Ronan accepted. This was unbelievable.

"I said no, obviously, asshole." Ronan was going to kill Opal. Her meddling worked the one time, but this time it was making this terrible. He could cry. "I don't wear a neon sign over my head that reads I'm sort of dating someone long distance," he growled. "That's too wordy of a sign anyway."

"Were you going to say anything?" Adam hissed.

Ronan couldn't believe this. "I just got home," he snapped. "It just happened. It doesn't even matter. I don't like him in the slightest. You're probably being flirted with all the time too."

Even as he said it he felt it wasn't smart to say, but it was too late. He could just feel the conversation deteriorating in the silence between his and Adam's responses, like it was a rotting fruit. Falling back onto his bed, he shut and pinched his eyes closed, desperately fighting back tears. This was so stupid. Why was Adam so upset?

"What does that have to do with anything?" Adam said angrily. "I wasn't set up on a date with the people that occasionally flirt with me. Half the time I don't even know who they are."

"That's comforting," Ronan muttered.

"How is this suddenly on me?" Adam snapped. "How am I suddenly the bad guy here?"

"You're not. I-" Ronan sighed. This wasn't going to go his way no matter what he said. That much was obvious. Even then, he knew he had to ask the one thing that had been on his mind for months now. "You haven't told Wendy about us, have you?"

Adam groaned, like he expected this to come up at some point or something. He really wished he didn't call now. "So what if I haven't?" Adam said. "Aren't I allowed some privacy?"

"But don't you tell her everything?" Ronan really couldn't shut up.

Even through the line, he could hear Adam falter. His breath hitched like he'd been caught lying or something. Or maybe he, too, was trying desperately not to cry. Ronan felt like a real jackass, but at the same time he was downright pissed that Adam was getting so upset. It was one bad date asking him out for a second, likely equally bad date. They never declared they were monogamous, not that Ronan would even think of agreeing to something other than that. But this wasn't fair that he said no and now Adam was mad at him. "You're right," Adam said, his voice wavering like he really was trying not to cry. That just made Ronan sniffle. "This is my fault for getting jealous that the man I like very very much was being flirted with by someone else."

Ronan wiped at his eyes, and his mouth got the better of him.

"Well you said you don't seriously date," he said.

"I also said I don't date actors . It was a hint , you dick."

The tears were coming down now. He sat up, a mixture of emotions. Tired. Jealous. Happy that he said he was the man he liked very very much. Angry. Sad. Every emotion under the sun it seemed. He sniffled again away from the receiver, so Adam couldn't hear.

"Well, as we've already established your hints suck," he said, trying for a lighthearted joke. It fell flat.

"How's this for a hint?" Adam hissed. "I don't want to be with anyone else. I don't care about anyone else. I've never felt this way about anyone before."

Ronan stuttered, all his feelings swirling around in his head and his heart. Nothing made sense today.

"Is this about Harrison Ford?" he said.

Adam hung up on him.

"Shit!" Ronan could kick himself.

At once, he called him back and was rejected.

"Shit shit."

Again, he tried. Rejected on the second ring. He left a voicemail this time, desperate. His voice cracked on the beep.

"Call me back," he pleaded. He didn't know what else to say, and so he left it at that.

This was so fucked up.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The next day Ronan found it fortunate that he didn't have to drive Opal to school, because he was too pissed off to speak to her right away. He was pissed at everyone, especially himself.

On his way out the door that morning, Gansey was up already and making breakfast in the kitchen. That was new, something he hadn’t done in ages.

“Hey, Ronan-“

“Fuck off, Gansey.”

He was in no mood. Before he caused more problems, he left.

At work that day he mainly hid in the back until he heard someone calling out for him to pay. The lack of his presence soon dwindled the amount of shoppers, which he knew was going to hurt in the long run, but he really couldn’t care today. He felt like shit. Adam didn’t message him, or return his calls, or even post anything on his social media. The paparazzi didn’t photograph him doing anything, so he couldn’t even at least have that.

When school was out and he heard the front door swing open and the tiny bell ring, he angrily walked out to the front to greet Opal with a grimace.

“You,” he said.

Opal looked to have been in a good mood, but that quickly deteriorated when she saw him.

“What?” she said. “Your pumpkin’s rotting, by the way.”

So it was. He didn’t care. Let it rot. It was a physical depiction of his insides.

“You told Adam about Ryan,” he said.

“So?” Opal folded her arms defensively over her chest. “Were you going to tell him?”

“That’s not the fucking point, Opal.” At his sides, Ronan’s hands were balling into fists, his jaw clenching, his eyes narrowing. It was all the tell tale signs of his anger, his anxiety. He could feel himself on the verge of lashing out at Opal, which he really didn’t want to do, but the kid didn’t seem to understand the consequences of her gossiping. “We got in a fight. You can’t just go telling people things like that. You’re smart. Use your brain once in a while.”

“Hey!” Opal scowled. “Don’t be a jerk to me, okay? God, the two of you. Now it makes sense why Adam was being one, too.”

Adam. He talked to her. Somehow that made him angrier.

“What did he say?” he asked.

“Nothing.” Now Opal wasn’t going to share? Like she could read his mind, Opal caught something written on his expression and she pointed at it. “I’m serious. He literally said nothing. He snapped at me, too, but didn’t explain why he was in such a butt mood. I didn’t mean to make you guys fight. I just wanted Adam to step it up. I was hoping he would come back.”

While Ronan couldn’t necessarily forgive her, he could maybe understand her reasoning. He just wanted him to come back, too. But it didn’t excuse her behavior.

“Please don’t talk about that sort of shit with him again, okay?” Ronan sighed. Even though he was still mad, his hands flattened against his thighs, his teeth stopped grinding, the tension in his forehead loosened. “Think before you talk.”

Opal rolled her eyes. “Maybe if you two talked about that shit, I wouldn’t have to meddle,” she said.

“Swear jar.” Ronan pointed to the jar under the counter on the employee side of his check out desk. They implemented it a few weeks ago when Opal started dropping f-bombs everywhere and a customer looked on in horror. Blue was the one who suggested it. Something to make use of her swearing. Initially he was meant to put money in it, too, but of course Ronan wasn’t going to do that.

As if she had been told to clean up cow manure in the fields of a farm, Opal gaped in horror.

“But I-“ She threw her hands up in the air in protest, but he didn’t relent. When he said nothing, did nothing, but continue to motion to the jar, she scowled again. “Ugh!”

As she stomped over to put in a dollar, Ronan grinned like the dick he knew he was being. “You’ll thank me someday,” he said, and she looked to want to give him the middle finger. “With your level of swearing, you’ll be able to afford a Maserati before you graduate high school.”

Her eye twitched.

“You swear all the time!” she argued.

“I’m an adult.” Ronan touched at the collar of his sweater as if that was proof of it. Really, there was very little about him that acted like an adult. Mid twenties was a weird age, and he didn’t even really act like that either. “And don’t use me as your role model, kid. I’m like the worst role model. Use Parrish or something.”

Opal huffed at him and walked off toward the back to his office, her pink backpack flapping about on her back loosely. Suspiciously loosely.

“Did you even bring homework today?” he said, following after her. She turned to glance over her shoulder at him and frowned deeper.

“None of your business. Don’t follow me.”

After dropping Opal off at home, Ronan made a pit stop before heading off to his. The day was still fairly young, since he closed early today. He couldn’t handle any more customers, his customers earlier in the day having taken the brunt of his anger enough. Instead of seeing Gansey right off the bat of this very tired and long day, he went and visited Henry and Noah at their place.

Adam still hadn’t called or texted, which killed him. He really fucked up.

The second Noah opened the door to Ronan his expression dismally soured, and Ronan pushed on to enter without so much as a hello to his Ronan? He came and collapsed on their sofa, face first into the pile of autumn colored pillows. He screamed into them as he could hear both of his friends off to the side of their living room, investigating him like he were a newly discovered mammal.

“What’s he doing?” Henry asked, and he couldn’t see either of them but he could just tell they were hovering and staring with wide eyes and uncertainty.

“Just… lying there.”

Ronan almost snidely pointed out that that was obvious, but he wasn’t the one being talked to, and also he was very sad. This wasn’t his intention when he drove here, but the sight of Noah happy and smiling when he opened the door, it just rattled him.

“He was your friend first,” Henry whispered. “Go talk to him.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Noah argued. “You’re better in these situations.”

“I can hear you,” Ronan muffled into a pillow.

“Then tell us why you’re sad,” Henry said, defensively.

After a second, Ronan then rolled over onto his back, staring up at their nice ceiling. He shut his eyes to the setting sun coming in from outside through the window. He shut his eyes to his friends staring down at him with questioning expressions.

“Because I think I had a boyfriend and I don’t anymore,” he said, sad. His voice began to quiver and he couldn’t stop it.

“What!” Noah balked. “What does that even mean?”

“I fucked up with Adam,” Ronan confessed.

“Oh my god you were dating ?” Henry gasped.

Ronan rolled his eyes. “Not the time,” he hissed.

Noah then pushed Ronan’s legs so there would be room on their sofa for him and Henry, too. Ronan resorted to having to sit up, and then immediately place his head in Noah’s lap with a pillow in between. He could cry if he tried, but he didn’t want to.

“Yes, right.” Henry sat on Noah’s opposite side, patting at Ronan’s head with some sympathy. “Sorry.”

Ronan closed his eyes, then opened and shut them again. When his eyes were closed he saw Adam’s face, how happy he was when they kissed goodbye at the airport, and how sad he pictured him on the other end of that horrible phone call yesterday. When his eyes were open he could see the world where Adam didn’t exist in it, the world where Adam was somewhere else living his life, probably already forgetting Ronan even existed.

Unquestionably, these thoughts were more his nightmares than reality. His hands clenched at the sides of the pillow he held under his head, desperate to rid the thoughts from within him. It was just one fight. But one fight could easily unravel something he worked so hard to have.

“I can’t tell if we were,” he confessed, his voice sloppy from the oncoming onslaught of tears. “I can’t tell if this fight is serious or what. Ryan came to my work and asked me out. I said no, obviously.”

“He-“

“Let him finish,” Noah said softly.

“Then Opal told Adam, hoping he’d visit or something.” At that, Ronan sniffled. He owed her an apology probably, for just being a teen who had no real parents anymore and found them in Adam and him for some reason. He wasn’t a parent. He could barely keep himself together.

“Poor kid,” Henry said gently. Ronan wholeheartedly agreed.

“And then we fought about it,” Ronan resumed. Finished, really. That was the end of his story.

“I wouldn’t have taken Adam to be the jealous type,” Noah confessed.

Ronan sat up at that, wiping at his eyes and realizing how open he was being. He didn’t like it, and so he moved to sit somewhere else, away from them. Noah’s hands reached for him when he pulled away, but he ignored them. This was ridiculous, he thought. Coming here solved nothing.

“Well, he is,” he said, none too happily. “And so am I. And so we fought. And I feel like a huge jackass.”

He was still holding the pillow from before, now to his chest and under his chin. Sitting across from him still on the sofa, Noah and Henry exchanged a small look. They then looked together at him, making him feel sadder seeing his own sadness expressed back at him through their eyes.

“Have you tried to talk since?” Noah asked.

“I told him to call me,” Ronan said.

“There's your problem.” Henry leaned forward. “You need to call him again and beg. Plead. Text him I'm sorry again and again.”

“That's a little much, Henry,” Noah argued.

“Ignore him,” Henry replied, waving Noah off. “Listen to me.”

Now the real reason Ronan came here swam up to the surface, visible for him and visible for them too. He twitched as his hands gripped tighter on the pillow.

“How do you two make up after a fight?” he asked.

Noah and Henry looked at one another again, then Henry shrugged.

“Uh, we have sex,” he said.

Ronan rolled his eyes. “That's not going to help me,” he replied.

“We talk it through first, Henry,” Noah corrected.

Henry turned to him, and he smiled something so soft it made Ronan want to barf. A hand came to rest on top of Noah’s on his lap.

“So we do,” he said.

Ronan blinked back the sadness, swallowed down the lump of denial, and breathed through the fear of more rejection.

“I just... am not good at talking,” he said.

“We're aware.”

Henry promptly slapped Noah at the shoulder. Noah gaped at him as if it was undeserved.

“He said it first,” he said.



blue sargent : hey. bozo.

ronan lynch : hi blue. how’s malaysia?

blue sargent : it's fine. fucking humid as hell. but I saw a monkey yesterday on my jog.

don't distract me. have you talked to adam?

ronan lynch : no

blue sargent : talk to him

ronan lynch : did henry and noah put you up to this

blue sargent : no. adam's sad as fuck

 

Ronan briefly forgot they exchanged numbers. He didn't think Adam would actually text her, but Adam was constantly surprising him.

 

ronan lynch : he talked about it with you?

blue sargent : we talk about a lot of things. talk to HIM

seriously

do it

i won’t stop annoying you until you do it

are you doing it?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

ronan lynch : hey

hey you

I'm sorry

are we really going to fight about this?

i’m a moron

please talk to me

Adam? :(

 

Nevermind, he thought. It was too late to put in any effort. Already, everything was wrecked. Of course it was. To think that he could ever actually be happy in a relationship with someone like Adam was so fucking absurd. It made him sick to think of how close he was to… something.

His dark thoughts were interrupted by an incoming video chat request. From Adam.

He had to pull over on his drive back from the grocery store, where he had gone and bought a bunch of brownies to eat sadly in his room. When he answered, Adam was there, alive, beautiful as ever, bleary eyed in the dark with his face awkwardly illuminated by his phone’s screen. He was asleep, it seemed, which meant either he went to bed very early back in New York, or he wasn’t in New York.

“What do you want?” Adam grunted.

“Where are you right now?” Ronan let his curiosity get the better of him, despite the fact that he was trying to apologize about their fight.

“Does it matter?” Adam rubbed his eyes with his one hand, hair a mess from what he could see. It was so dark on his end. Ronan desperately wished he was there with him.

“Fine.” Ronan was letting his annoyance get the better of him when he could see Adam was still mad. “I’ll leave you alone—“

“Wait.” Adam whined on his end of the call. Ronan was parked on the side of a relatively quiet street, but even so he couldn’t hear him as well as he would if he were home. He was only five minutes away, but between those five minutes so much could happen. So he awkwardly held the phone a little too close to his face, to try to see him and hear him best he could. He heard him whisper under his breath, like a sigh or a yawn, “Don’t go.”

Pulling away from his phone just a little, he could see how sad he appeared, his eyes not just worn from sleeplessness.

“I miss you,” Adam said, and he could sense there was great effort to say it.

“I miss you, too,” Ronan replied. He was instantly relieved to hear that. He didn’t want to fight anymore. “I’m sorry about-“

“Forget all that.” Adam shook his head. “Let’s just move on.”

But Ronan couldn’t move on, not completely. He still needed to say it.

“I didn’t mean to make a joke of you confessing to me,” he said, still feeling terrible about it. “I just was surprised and that's usually my go to for when I can't handle….” He shut his eyes and shut his mouth, realizing he was just making up reasons as to why he did it. “There's no excuse. I'm sorry. I don't even know why you would be jealous of anyone anyway. I mean, look at you. All you've accomplished. No one compares.”

Even in the faint dark, he could see Adam roll his eyes. He grunted, pulling away from the camera, but with the light of it he could still see his face even as he turned away. Adam tried to discreetly wipe away a tear, but Ronan could still see him do it, the heel of his palm to under his eye. It broke his heart.

“Adam,” he said.

Finally, Adam looked back at him. “Yeah?” He couldn’t tell if the wear in his voice was from being tired or hurt. A little of both, probably.

“No one compares to you, you know,” he said, and before Adam could react, he was quick to add, “And it's not because you're a movie star. I don't care about that. I don't care about anyone else. I like the guy who gets excited about free breakfast and chooses to hang out at museums in his spare time. Who helped me find a young girl who I also am prone to pissing off, and comforted her like an old friend. I've never felt this way before, either. I don't do casual, either. I'm a commitment kind of guy, and I'm committed to... you.”

Sniffling, Adam smiled at him, streams of tears coming down his cheeks. This time when he wiped them, he didn’t seem to care Ronan could see him do it, crying harder than before. He never wanted to make Adam cry again. Not being able to be there and wipe those tears away hurt him most of all.

“We need to both work on our jealousy issues, that’s for certain,” Adam mused.

“Yeah…” Ronan really agreed on that. He didn’t want to voice that it was already hard for him when he had to watch him fake being in love with other people and they were only in the start of this.

“God, I wish I was there.” Adam’s voice cracked as he kept sweeping more tears away. Ronan could only continue to ache.

“Just hop on a plane,” he joked. “You're rich enough.”

Adam choked out a laugh. “I wish, asshole. I wish I could.”

Ronan smiled back at him, feeling lighter already. All that anxiety and anguish that was pent up inside him all day started to wash away. Suddenly he could see the sun again, although not literally as it was night. He started his car back up again, holding his phone in his lap.

“Can you give me five minutes until I get home?” he asked.

“Sure.” Adam was still lying there in his bed, looking so sleepy and beautiful. He could nearly cry, himself, at how grateful he was they weren’t still fighting.

He drove in peaceful silence, sans listening to Adam breathing. At the few stop signs he hit on the way home, he stole a peek down at Adam through his phone, seeing him staring back at him with the warmest, smallest smile. His heart jittered every time. When finally he was home, he was quiet as he set the brownies down on the sofa next to Gansey, then walked upstairs to his room without looking anywhere else but Adam.

“Are these an apology for-?” Gansey asked from downstairs, but at that point Ronan was already shutting the door to his room.

Upon collapsing onto his bed, his whole body felt softer and warmer thinking of the parallels now in his position and Adam’s. If he lay facing the opposite direction, he could almost pretend they were sharing the same bed.

“Tell me, then,” he said, leaning into the phone as if it were really Adam. His voice was quiet, though there was no one else who could overhear them. Gansey was probably eating the brownies he gave him. The world was only them. “What have you been up to? It was weird not talking to you yesterday. Not talking to you all week because you were so busy.”

“Yeah. It felt lonely.” Hearing Adam confess that made him sad. He didn’t like the thought that Adam was lonely. Pushing on, Adam cleared his throat, blinking away his tears as he sat up. He moved and turned on a lamp, making it clear to Ronan he wasn’t at home.

For one, the walls were beige. The sheets were brown. Adam looked so beautiful but so worn out. Seeing him better made Ronan feel more regret for him ever feeling lonely. He could only lie there feeling for him, unsure how to confess his guilt without Adam then telling him it was okay. Because it wasn’t. They needed to be better at communication if this was to ever be anything serious, and dear God he wanted it to be so very serious. Already it felt like he put his whole heart and soul into this, and it was just two young men longingly looking at each other through phone screens. Even though he was very aware Adam couldn’t feel it, and that Ronan wasn’t touching him, he stroked the screen for just a second as if he could.

“Well, I arrived in London.” Adam said it so casually, like it was something one heard in usual conversation. Then again, it probably was for him.

“Oh yeah.” Ronan vaguely remembered Adam telling him he was going there at some point. Sometimes he didn’t tell Ronan all the details because either there were a lot of things going on, or because he didn’t want to constantly remind Ronan he wasn’t going to be anywhere remotely close to California. But he remembered this conversation, because Adam had been excited about it. “You told me you were going for a play.”

“Supporting my friend from Yale's play, yeah,” he said. “Also doing some interviews while I'm at it. My space film, In Space and Time is finally premiering here tomorrow. And there's a festival here we sent To Love A Soul to.”

“Jesus, when do you sleep?” Ronan asked, only slightly kidding. Genuinely, he wondered if Adam was actually a robot like he was that one time in a film. It would explain his capability of handling an overwhelming schedule like he had.

The camera on Adam’s end was moving about as he shuffled around in his bed.

“Never, apparently,” Adam said with a yawn. Even sleepy, he was gorgeous. “Have you been to London?”

“Oh, yes,” Ronan replied. “With the cricket and the tea and Harry Potter.”

Adam rolled his eyes. “There's more than that to this place, asshole,” he said. Then he started moving. Ronan got a little dizzy watching, so he stopped, turning his head.

“Blog entry number 486: Adam makes fun of me for never having been to England.”

“I would never do that,” Adam replied, sounding a little offended. Ronan pressed on, not thinking he was going to take that one seriously.

“What are you doing?” he said, when he looked back at the screen to find Adam standing. “Shouldn't you go back to sleep?”

“I’m up now.”

By his calculations it was sometime around four am London time, and Ronan wondered if he was meant to be up this early, but seriously doubted it. It meant then, that if he was in London when he called last night that they fought also around four in the morning. Fuck, he felt even worse than before. He groaned, a hand coming to muffle the noise so Adam couldn’t hear it. When he looked back again, he could tell Adam didn’t hear a thing.

It was then he was aware Adam was only in his underwear again. His hair was a mess, eyes worn from being up late two nights in a row, but he was smiling regardless of his lack of rest. There was faint light on his face again that didn’t originate from the phone, as he stood against a wall in his room. With his free hand, Adam peeled back a curtain to show Ronan the street view from his room. Of course, it was spectacular, overlooking a nice view of London. A world apart.

Shyly, Adam glanced back at the phone, reminding Ronan of how he looked at him back at his hotel room here his last visit. There was that softness again, of the real Adam underneath all other facades he wore for work, for fans, for everyone else.

“Maybe someday we could come here together,” he said.

Ronan struggled to contain his reaction. Inside he was jumping up and down on his bed like a teenager, but on the outside he grinned, fond of how Adam said the word together . “I’d like that,” he said.

Adam smiled with such a warmth in it Ronan felt like he melted into his sheets. After a few seconds of very intense eye contact, he turned the camera back to the street, and Ronan could see again what London looked like at four am, just on the verge of waking up but not quite yet. Excitedly, Adam began to talk about the history of the area he was in, because of course that nerd googled that sort of thing. Ronan closed his eyes and listened, his voice so energetic as he talked about things he truly enjoyed. He barely got a breath in the whole time, not stopping for a second as he talked and talked. But Ronan didn’t mind. He would listen to him talk about anything.

After a while, Ronan was disturbed by Adam’s silence, and he realized he was finished with his story. He opened his eyes to see Adam staring back at him, looking at him with mild amusement that he had potentially and very briefly fallen asleep.

“Shit. Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” said Adam, and he sounded like he meant it. “I should go back to sleep anyway. Could you talk to me until I fell asleep?”

Ronan started to sit up in bed, watching Adam crawl back in bed too. He watched as Adam pulled the covers over himself all the way up to his neck, holding the phone snugly close to his face.

“So you want me to bore you to sleep?” Ronan asked.

“Yes, exactly,” Adam agreed.

Ronan tried to think of some comment to respond to that, but couldn’t. He watched Adam’s very close mouth spread to a grin, laughing lowly like a secret between them. He could just lean in and kiss just there, but it wasn’t real . He hated this.

“Before you go to sleep, I made an instagram,” Ronan remarked. He forgot he did that today, in the midst of all his anger he made one to angrily follow Adam’s public one like some weird response to their fight.

At once, Adam sat up at a dizzying speed, suddenly not under all his sheets anymore.

“You did?” he said, his voice brighter, his smile wider.

“I’m not posting shit on it,” he clarified. “But I want to see what you and Opal post. I guess.”

Adam continued to grin at him knowingly, and then the video said it was paused, but he could still hear him on the other end. Oh, fuck. He was already on instagram, wasn’t he? He learned a few video chats ago what it meant when it said video paused, that someone was in another app on their phone.

“What’s the username?” Adam asked. “I’ll follow you on my private before I forget.”

“It’s greywaren,” Ronan muttered.

“Okay.” Adam said it with such glee, like a kid that just got the gift he wanted for Christmas. Ronan got a notification of a new follower, which he promptly investigated to follow back. The icon was a picture of a book, the username magicianchameleon. “I followed you. Now that you’re on here,” he said, and there he was again in his all his glory, smiling so bright it could outshine the sun, “it won’t take long to persuade you to post something.”

“Fat chance, Parrish,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Take what you can get.”

“I am.” Adam then lay back down again, the covers once again covering him up to his neck. Breathing close to the phone, he spoke with such simple sweetness. “Will you send me a photo of you today?” he requested. “You look good.”

“I look good everyday,” Ronan argued.

Adam moved the phone so Ronan could see him roll his eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shortly after Adam went to sleep and Ronan ended the call, Ronan then went to his account and checked Adam’s profile again, examining it properly unlike before. He already combed through Adam’s public instagram many times, obsessively he would unfortunately admit. His public account was nice, updated once in a while, but his private had more posts he soon realized. It had its own aesthetic. There were less photos of him, and more of what was around him. There were tons of posts from his trips before. Private moments he didn’t wish to share with his fans. Of gardens and woods and animals and crew members. Each was carefully selected, and each post had a paragraph describing why he took the picture, ranging back to at least five years when he made it down to the bottom to start. There was a lot to get through, which he knew he would because this was a new piece of Adam he was allowed to see. Him and only 98 other people, instead of 11.5 million. But the most recent picture struck his eye. Posted two days ago. Of them on the boat, smiling and squinting into the camera. Hair a mess. The caption under it was simple: I like this boy.

Fuck. They were out to 98 people.

He was publicly dating Adam Parrish in front of 98 people.

Chapter Text

On October 1st, Opal forced Ronan to put up more decorations in the shop. She came in one day with a bag of them, and Ronan didn't dare question how it was she came to get her hands on them, only why she brought them in the first place.

"Because this place is the only one on the block that doesn't have anything remotely themed to the holiday," Opal replied. She was holding a string of bat lights.

"I don't see the point," Ronan said. "This doesn't sell my books."

Opal rolled her eyes. "It's fun," she argued. "You remember fun, right?"

"I will ban you from this store," he said.

Knowing him, she openly dared to smile as she started stringing the lights up without his permission. "You wouldn't dream of it," she replied.

"Oh watch me!"

She stuck out her tongue.

It took him another ten minutes to cave.

After suffering the unwanted makeover to his store, Ronan eventually settled back into his ways behind the counter, and Opal settled in too with a book she was reading for English class. Quietly they went along the afternoon, serving customers that occasionally came in, Ronan ignoring comments about the decorations while Opal openly thanked people and smirked winningly his way. He nearly tore them down out of bitterness.

Eventually it was late, not quite late enough to close, but late enough the amount of customers were dwindling, and Opal took out her phone for something.

Ronan glanced over her direction.

"You're done with your homework?" he asked.

Opal did not reply, moving her thumbs at a rapid pace across her screen. With her gaze still held downward, she said, "Have you seen the trailer for To Love a Soul ?"

At once, Ronan set down his book.

"It's out?" he said, with all too much energy it was obvious his excitement. He caught himself, editing his reaction to a somber response. "No," he said.

"Subtle," Opal called out. She moved closer to him with her seat, scooting it against the ground to show off her screen. "Do you want to watch it? I haven't seen it either."

Together they watched. Adam's English accent was unsurprisingly superb. The cinematography was nice. The music was nice. The other actors in it were all good and well. It was definitely going to be an emotional period film, as most of them often were.

When it was over, Opal squeaked directly into his ear, startling him.

"It's going to be so good!"

He put on a smile in agreement, although his head was not in the same space hers was. All he could see was Adam once again kissing someone else and not him, reminded that there were sex scenes in this one, too, on top of that. He didn't look forward to that part, but it was undeniably going to be a good film.

Since it screened already in festivals, reviews were pouring in about it. He read several of the spoiler free reviews, learning that it was definitely going to break his heart in a good way. Which meant it was probably going to have some sort of happy ending. There was already Oscar buzz around it.

That part made him proud, a proud boyfriend to Adam. Boyfriend. He started using the word more in his head, but still hadn't the balls to say it out loud. In time, perhaps.

That same day, only earlier in the morning, Ronan went to get coffee to stay awake after a long restless night. The coffee shop down the street was by the bodega on the corner, and so of course his eye caught on the rack of magazines staring back at him. There were at least three out now with Adam on the cover, promoting his film. Two of them featured the other cast members of the film as well, but still. He was on them. One of them, he remembered Adam telling him, even had his current Burberry campaign run inside as an advertisement. Ronan already knew about those photos, though, since they were online. It didn't matter. These were physical copies. It was raining Adam all over again like when his space film came out, only this time he ached in a good way. A proud way.

He bought all three magazines.

"Hey, why are there magazines inside these books?"

Opal was fishing around in the back at Ronan's desk, trying to find a notebook she claimed she left behind. But he was back there nearly all morning and didn't see one. When she found his stash of Adam magazines, he paled.

"Uh...." He peeled away from the doorway, ready to bolt. But this was his store. Where was he going to go exactly? Hide under a rock at Golden Gate Park?

"Aw. They're Adam's." Opal held all three messily in her hands, and he wanted to scream. He didn't usually care for the condition of a lot of things, but these were special. "I'm stealing these," she claimed.

Quick, he tumbled back into the room.

"No you goddamn aren't," he said. Opal pouted as he took the magazines out of her hands, holding them carefully in his. "I'll buy you your own," he said, realizing how dickish he came off.

"Cool." She didn't seem the least bit upset about it.

He fell for her bluff.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Later that same night, Ronan was reading them in his room. He held off reading them until he could fully enjoy them, enjoy reading Adam's words. Now that he knew him better, interviews were a funny thing. He could pick up on his tone better, his humor and his downright asshole comments that sometimes sounded more charming in interviews. Granted, Adam was charming, but sometimes it was clear cut to him when he wasn't trying to be.

Only two of the magazines had interviews in them, the third was more a report on the film as a whole and its representation for the LGBTQ+ community. He still read all three anyway, starting with that one and moving down the line.

The first interview was a generic one about the film with him and his costars, Adam not really talking as much as the other two, perhaps intentionally. In the photos, Ronan tried not to pay attention to the way they were all touching each other. It was to sell the movie. He knew that. But again he was a little jealous, annoyed at himself for being so. He fingered where he saw hands on thighs and one of the his female costar's hands at one point drifting into the collar of Adam's open shirt.

That magazine quickly went to the bottom of the pile.

In the second interview, it was more honest and emotionally connecting to Adam on a personal level. The interview talked about playing a bisexual character as a bisexual man. The photos in this one were definitely memorable. For some reason he was posing in a pool.

Later in the interview it went deeper, talking to him about his skyrocket to stardom and his life before all this. Of course he answered simply and plainly, dodging the questions like he always did. Interviewers must find it painful to interview him. He barely gave them anything when they tried to go deep into his personal life. Not that they were owed anything, because fuck that they weren't, but the article sounded familiar to a dozen others in Adam's past, other than his openness about enjoying being in this film because it talked about the B oftentimes gone silent in the community.

And then he got towards the end.

Even though I was aware of the answer before I even asked it, all this discussion of love and freedom to love had me on the edge of my seat to ask the usual "Are you dating anyone?" question. That being said, I already prepared my notes for a no comment, because really readers, you all know Adam in interviews by now right? The guy is wonderful, but it feels like torture trying to get him to give me more than a generic response.

So I asked him the question, grating my teeth already with the answer forming in my head as Adam's expression shifted to something a little more closed off. He pondered a second, laughing the question off as I remember him doing last time I interviewed him and asked.

"I'm currently happy with where I am in my life," he said. It was the usual Adam business.

"And where's that?" I had to push.

He smiled, handsome as always, and then nervously touched at his face. I immediately knew this was different. He was challenging himself to speak.

"I'm talking to someone and enjoying my time," he said. "I'll leave it at that. Next question?"

People, Adam isn't single. The world weeps.

Ronan took a photo of that part and sent it to Adam, dying inside in the best way possible. He could float, as he read that over and over again. That was the closest Adam's ever committed to an answer about his relationship status, and it was about him . What a strange world.

 

ronan lynch : who are you talking about here? :)

adam parrish : Harrison Ford

next question?

ronan lynch : you prick

adam parrish : this was from a couple months ago, but i'm so glad it's still accurate. i'm enjoying my time with you a lot, Ronan

ronan lynch : me too

adam parrish : fifty one more days

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Blue came home from her work venture about a week into October. Of course, she dropped by the store to say hello, intentionally arriving when Opal was there. They had grown closer lately, same as she grew closer to Adam. Everyone was knowing everyone, and Ronan got a headache from all the bonding.

Upon sight, Opal jumped off the chair she was on and barreled through the store to hug her.

"Hey, little one," she said, and she pulled out something from her bag.

"What is it?" she said, excitedly looking at the bag but a little confused.

"It's Durian chocolate," she said. "I think you'll like it."

"Awesome!"

“Don’t spoil her,” Ronan said flatly.

Both women looked in his direction and rolled their eyes.

“Says the man who took her to Alcatraz and the science museum,” Blue shot back.

He couldn’t think of anything to say to her in response, and his muteness was very telling. Having his jaw twitch, he looked away, catching Blue grin before he turned.

“I’m going to go put this in my backpack,” Opal said with enough energy it could jump start a car, and she darted down the small hall to the back of the shop, leaving Blue and Ronan alone at the front. There were a couple customers perusing the shelves near the entrance, but they were happy being left alone and Ronan was happy leaving them that way.

Leaning against the counter a couple feet away from where Ronan was on the other side, Blue untangled her gaze from Opal to better position it to him. He could feel intrusive questions coming on.

“How are you?” Blue thought to ask. He was glad that’s all she asked so far. Since she talked more to Adam, he thought she was going to say something else , something more .

“I’m good,” he said. For the first time in a long time, when he said that there was no reason not to believe it. “Happy.”

The word hit him like a truck, and he had to grip the book in his hands a little tighter than before. He even smiled. Adam was ruining his stoic persona.

“That’s nice to hear,” Blue replied. “All thanks to me, obviously.”

He was still smiling when he rolled his eyes. “Not in the slightest, asshole.”

She grinned back at him, as Opal slowly trudged back with a piece of chocolate in her mouth. Her silence and her gleeful expression must have meant she liked it.

“Is, uh, Gansey at home?” she then asked.

“Ew!” Opal almost spit chocolate on him. He gently pushed her shoulder to cover her mouth. With her hand hovering over her lips, she frowned at Blue like she said something offensive. “Why do you want to talk to him?”

“Don’t be rude, Opal,” Blue replied, disappointed.

“Nah, I kind of agree.” Blue shot him a look he knew well, bitter frustration. “Why do you want to talk to him?”

Acting casual but not, she removed herself from the counter and shrugged, shadowing her eyes with her bangs so they couldn’t look into them. Blue’s behavior was fishy. “Just wondering what he was up to,” she said.

Her fingers rapped on the countertop, and he knew what that meant. She had something more to say she wasn’t going to. He did not like where this was headed.

“Bumming off me still,” he said. He narrowed his eyes. “Don’t tell me you like him?”

“No!” Blue laughed. That felt genuine, at least. Opal even looked a little satisfied by her reaction, violent and loud. “God, no,” she said when her laughter teetered off. “He’s a mess. And i’m done with messes. I am not going to ‘build a boyfriend’.”

“Good.” Ronan couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. “Because that shit would be a disaster.”

A little offended, Blue frowned again. She didn’t like him pointing that out, apparently. But it was true. Especially with the way Gansey was now, still sad and crying on occasion if he was reminded even in the slightest of Mallory. The house wasn’t as much a mess as it was before, and Gansey slowed down on the drinking, but he still barely left the house or his bed. The quiet was the worst of all.

“Okay, Lynch,” Blue said sourly, defensive. “I get it. How’s things with you and the A-word?”

He knew she was going to get there eventually. He shrugged, trying his best to act casual. With practiced precision he said with little interest, “Fine, I guess.”

“They talk every day,” Opal said, ruining his cover. “It’s disgusting in a cute way.”

“Shut up, Opal,” he hissed.

Both women smirked at him, and of course Opal did not shut up.

“He's going to be here in 43 days,” she went on. “Heard him say that to Ronan earlier.”

Opal ,” he snapped.

“You’re counting?” Blue ignored his tone, and the fire in his eyes from anger. “That is cute.”

Ronan’s eye twitched. At one he gruffly put his book down and pointed to the back. “Opal, go do your homework,” he said. “You’re annoying me.’

Opal didn’t even look concerned by his reaction.

“You’re annoying me, too,” she said. “Can you go do your homework? I wanna talk to Blue.”

Blue laughed as Ronan rolled his eyes.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Things with Opal were a constant back and forth, arguing in their way but never seriously. She got under his skin all the time , but never in a serious way that made him not want to have her around. It was weird, unnatural for him. Sometimes it still scared him, how close they were getting, how much he cared about her, how on some days if he didn’t see her he got…. worried. He couldn’t understand how one of the people that meant so much to him in his life was a thirteen year old girl.

That weekend they went shopping, as per Opal’s request. They went across the bridge to a Halloween store that was mildly more affordable than those in the city. Opal had no idea what she was going to be for Halloween, and so that meant several hours of standing around in a store waiting for her to try things on and find something wrong with each and every one of them. He was eyed by several other adults in the store, thinking Opal was either his sister or his daughter. To avoid the confusing and strange explanation, he just went with it. Although who the fuck would think he had a daughter her age? Did they think he was old?

Upon her three hundredth outfit change, Opal came back out of the dressing room with another no. They started perusing the section for classic costumes, ones that were so generic and outdated that they were almost cool again. That was Opal talking.

“Can you drive me to a party tonight?” she thought to ask, standing with her back to him as she picked out a mummy costume, feeling the fabric and promptly setting it back down.

“You mean, like a chaperone?” Ronan didn’t expect this.

Opal wheeled around, gaping. “You wouldn’t stay,” she said fast. “Oh my god! Don’t be uncool. No, you would just drop me off.”

His brow folded. “And pick you back up?” he asked.

“I mean, ideally,” Opal said with a shrug, looking away again. She practiced disinterest in a similar way he did, and he could see all the signs that she wasn’t just asking out of curiosity. She really wanted him to drive.

He picked a wolf mask off the floor as he followed her slowly down the aisle, calculating why it was she was asking him.

“Your foster mom can’t do it?” he said. Even as he was asking he knew the answer.

He watched as Opal flinched a little, subtle enough that had he not been scrutinizing her reaction he wouldn’t have caught it. She then dropped her hand from the row of costumes before her.

“The same woman who didn’t know I wasn’t going to school for a year?” She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, let me get back to you on that one.”

She walked off and down another aisle, not even bothering to finish this one. Unsure how to fix it, he grabbed the first costume he could think of and followed after her, catching up to her when she stopped, blocked by a family down the next aisle. He lifted up the witch costume for her, and she grimaced.

“Do I look like I could be a witch?” she said.

His hands fell. “I have no idea how to answer that,” he said.

She rolled her eyes, although not as angrily as she could have. It was her usual god he’s old eye roll she often used. “I don’t even know why I’m bothering,” she said, voice choking a little in her throat. Her gaze dropped as she folded her arms definitively protective over her chest. “As if I can go anywhere in a costume anyway. Everything is too far to walk, and I don’t want to take the bus in a costume.”

“Where’s the party?”

Sheepishly she looked down at her purple sneakers. “It’s in Ingleside,” she said.

That was still within the city of San Francisco, but it was across it, and sometimes the other side of the city felt like a thousand miles away if traffic was truly shit.

“Why the fuck is it out there?” he said.

“Because that’s where they live?” Opal groaned. “I go to the middle school for smart kids. So kids from all over the city commute there. Haven’t you picked up on that at all? Jeez.”

Ronan rolled his eyes at her, ignoring her tone and thinking back on the fact that it was true none of her classes were very generic or easy. He was an adult and some of what she had to do confused him . Doubtful it confused Adam, though. He was so smart. Now Ronan was missing him.

“Will you take me?” Opal said, pleading without pleading.

“When?”

She brightened a little, speaking with more energy. “It starts at eight,” she said, “so obviously I don’t want to be there until nine.”

“Your curfew is at 11:30,” he said, giving in.

“What!” Opal’s voice drifted out to the rest of the store, catching some eyes, making her drop her voice when she realized. “That’s not fair,” she whisper hissed.

Ronan really did feel like an adult now. “If you want me to pick you up and not be a dick about it, then it’ll be 11:30,” he said.

“Ugh.” Opal kicked at nothing. “You suck,” she said, and she started walking off. When Ronan didn’t follow her, she looked back at him over her shoulder. If this was how she was going to react, he didn’t see the point in- She doubled back and came right up to him, staring up at him for a length. He didn’t know what she was doing. Was she going to kick him now? Wouldn’t put it past her.

In a complete turn of events that surprised him, she embraced him, hugging him tight.

“Thank you,” she said softer, quieter.

He was frozen by the gentleness of the moment, so much he didn’t raise his arms to hold her back.

Half an hour later, they found her a costume, which somehow he ended up buying. That shouldn’t have been a surprise. At this point his income went toward three people: him, Opal, and Gansey.

Opal was going to be a satyr for Halloween. Although, when she initially picked out the costume, he couldn’t make sense of it.

“How is this a satyr?” he said, staring at her as she came out of the dressing room. “It’s just a brown dress and tights that sparkle, with boots.”

“The antlers,” she said, motioning to the headband on her head. “The hooves?” Upon closer inspection, the boots were meant to be hooves. Apparently. “Duh.”

Trying to understand teenagers became a greater mystery the further and further he pulled away from being one.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

That night Ronan dropped her off a block from the party, hearing it in the distance. She asked him to, and he didn’t really want to get swallowed up into an argument about what is cool and isn’t cool for a thirteen year old, so he just did it.

“Be careful,” he said. He felt like a dad. He didn’t know how to feel about this.

“Yes,” Opal groaned, rolling her eyes in an exaggerated way. “Okay.”

“Call me for any reason,” he replied. “Don’t feel afraid to do it if it’s an emergency, too,” he said.

She was standing outside the car, bent over to look through the open passenger side window to frown at him. “ Okay ,” she said.

“Don’t do drugs or have sex,” he thought to add.

Opal’s blush was noticeable even in the dark. “Ronan!” she shouted.

“What?”

“Oh my god this is so embarrassing,” she said, flinching when she saw other youths walk by. She looked around, living up to feeling the embarrassment. Her hoodie over her costume was sliding off her shoulder, and she pulled it in to try to hide under. “You are so embarrassing.”

“I’ll see you in two and a half hours,” he said, pointing at the clock on his car’s dashboard.

She shook her head, like he really was her dad, embarrassing her like one. “Whatever, weirdo,” she said.

He watched her until she went into the party, because being out alone at night wasn’t exactly the safest thing. When she went up the stairs into the front door, he drove off.

While Ingleside was only a twenty minute drive from home, he didn’t want to bother going back, being home for only an hour, and then driving right back here. So he pulled over around the corner, parked there and took out his phone. At first he thought of watching something, but there wasn’t anything of interest he wanted to watch. He thought of reading, but he stopped reading Wires two days ago and had no intention of picking it back up again for the foreseeable future.

So he called Adam.

“Hello?” Adam’s voice was rough around the edges. He was still somewhere in Europe, so it must have been a terrible time difference. Shit. He didn’t think this through.

“Were you asleep?” he said.

There was the sound of something shuffling, sheets or papers or something that crinkled. Ronan felt bad regardless, and he thought of just sitting there in the car in still silence until the party was over, because that was better than keeping Adam from sleeping.

“Ronan?” Adam said. He definitely had that sleepy mumble going on. “Mm, hi.”

Ronan unbuckled his seatbelt and reclined his seat, lying back to disappear into the sound of Adam’s voice. “Hi.” He noticed he specifically ignored answering if he was asleep, which meant he was.

“What’s up?” Adam asked.

“Nothing,” said Ronan. He was debating internally if he should let him go back to sleep, or if he should talk to him about what he called him for. The desire to talk to Adam outweighed his knowing the boy should be asleep. “I stopped reading the book.”

“Why?” Adam sounded a little pained when he heard that.

“Because Levi went missing,” Ronan confessed. “You’ve gotten me attached, and now he’s gone.”

“Ah.” Adam sighed. Ronan closed his eyes. “I was wondering when you would get there.”

“It’s gotten so sad and tense,” Ronan explained. “Why is he so obsessed with the aliens? I keep yelling at my book.”

Hearing Adam’s laugh worn by sleep and distance filled Ronan’s stomach with something warm and filling. He smiled into the phone.

“Keep reading,” he said. It prompted Ronan to want to finish, if only to please him. Even though it felt masochistic to read something that made him so sad. He hoped it had a good ending.

“I will, I will,” he said. He knew he didn’t sound very happy about it, because he wasn’t. Adam laughed again. He almost groaned at the sound. A swell of the noise swooped up to his throat to come out, and he bit down on his lip so hard to suppress it he cut his lip open. “Fuck.”

Then on the other end, he heard Adam yawn again, performing for him with how awake he sounded, but he knew it was brutal keeping him up. They were both miserably terrible at keeping normal hours while Adam was still over in Europe. Just the other night, Ronan stayed up late while it was a decent hour for Adam to talk. But Ronan knew it was easier for him to do that, because his schedule was limited in comparison to Adam’s.

“I got the book you sent me yesterday, by the way,” Adam then said, eager on the other end. “That was a nice surprise.”

It was a book on the history of Broadway theatre, which he thought Adam would appreciate. When he was looking for books to order for the shop, he saw that one as a recommended and he ordered just one copy, for him.

“I’m glad it found its way to you,” Ronan said happily.

He heard Adam’s tired little sound of happiness he made, not quite a sigh but something more so a hum. He wondered what he looked like right now, with messy hair and soft eyes and a smile that even in his imagination was making him recline more in his seat. Ronan wished he could melt through the car, melt through the cement, through the magma at the center of the earth, and come out the other side wherever Adam was, to be with him instead of a world away.

“How did you know where to send it?” Adam asked curiously. Ronan was back in his car, that world away.

“Wendy,” he confessed.

Ah, Wendy. She called him up the day after Ronan saw Adam’s instagram picture of them. She and he had a long, long, long talk about Adam’s commitments, his scheduling, his life and his need for privacy. He has a reputation, and I know you know this, but it’s my job to say it again anyway - don’t do anything that could wreck that. The talk led to Ronan confessing how much he wasn’t going to wreck anything, that Adam meant so much to him that he’d rather stick a fork in his eye than do anything that could damage Adam’s career. He was very aware of who he was dating, and Wendy didn’t need to give him any “talks.”

She surprised him by saying, “I believe you.” And surprised him more by saying, “You’ve been good for him. It might be hard to believe, but I’m rooting for this.”

They weren’t friends, but after that he was friendlier with her, and that meant that sending something to Adam became a little easier.

Unrelated, but since Adam came out on his private account he posted three more photos of them intermingled with other pictures of other things. The first one was of Ronan frowning at him at the pier, the caption under it reading: His name is Ronan and I am so happy. This is him frowning. A constant state of his face. The second picture was another from their boat ride, Adam staring at him with such wonder in his eyes Ronan felt completely foolish not to have seen it sooner. Sixty more days. The third picture didn’t even have a caption. It was a picture of Ronan again, one he snuck the last time they saw each other in person. He didn’t notice him take it that afternoon they had lunch with Opal. Opal wasn’t featured, only Ronan. How he didn’t see him sneak that picture, he still has no idea, but there it was. Ronan smiling, looking probably at Opal. He hadn’t seen himself smile in so long. Seeing it in photograph form kind of hurt, in a good way.

“I was wondering when she would contact you,” Adam said, and he sounded a little aggravated by it.

“Obviously she's one of the 98 people you follow on your private account,” Ronan said, unsure what else to say.

“Yeah, she is,” Adam replied. “She wasn't surprised when she found out.”

“Neither were my friends," Ronan said, announcing it to him not for the first time. But reminding Adam that this time he didn't keep it from his friends, well it felt like a promise that he meant more to him than a secret.

"Mine were," Adam confessed. Ronan didn't know that. "Happily surprised, but they didn't think I'd have the balls to say anything."

Ronan laughed. He felt gooey inside. He shouldn't stop being surprised that Adam liked him, but knowing he told his friends meant a lot. "Technically, neither of us did," he said, alluding to the Incident. Even now, he couldn't believe a child had to out them to each other. Would they still be floundering in that unknown if she hadn't? Would he have gained the courage to say he missed him more than as a friend? That he dreamed of kissing him, touching him, calling him his? He still dreamed of these things, but now he knew they were attainable things.

"How is she?" Adam asked, referencing the gremlin in question who was hopefully not doing anything stupid at that party. Though he knew there wasn't really anything to worry about with her. She was a brilliant kid. She could take care of herself.

Still.

"I'm currently sitting in my car waiting for her while she's at a party," he said.

"A party?" Intrigue rounded Adam's mumbling words. "Is Zach there?"

"Who the hell is Zach?"

"Uh, the boy she might like?" Adam said, only adding to Ronan's confusion. Was this the boy she referenced once and never again? He assumed she changed her mind about him. Evidently not. "Did she not tell you?"

"I didn't know his name was Zach," Ronan admitted. He closed his eyes again and thought about her attitude as of late. He couldn't tell if she was saltier because of this boy, or something else. Something he didn't want to admit was still a problem, too. Her home life was constantly something on his mind, and he knew she was in a mess, but he didn't know how to save her from it. Opal of course would respond to this with I don't need saving jackass . But she was thirteen. She kind of did. "Jesus, this is getting hard," he sighed.

"You're hard?"

Ronan nearly dropped his phone into the abyss under his car seat.

" No ." Even though they were miles away from each other, Ronan blushed madly and covered his face with the palm of his hand. He couldn't believe Adam just said that. " This is . Whatever this is with Opal. I'm not cut out to listen to her talk about boys or go shopping with her. Or... What if there's no one else to give her the birds and the bees talk? How did I default to be that person?"

Even Adam's inviting laugh couldn't quell his concerns. This started off so easy, being the awkward older person Opal interacted with in a silent way at his bookstore. Now he bought her Halloween costumes, took her to school, bought her a calculator and drove it to her during lunch because her other one broke. He was more her parent than her foster parent. And it fucking terrified him. Because, if he was being honest with himself, he wanted to be that person for her. He wanted to be her person.

He loved her.

"Because she loves you most of all," Adam said. The word sounded magical when he said it. "And, I mean, I could always give her that talk when the day comes. In the far, far distant future. I mean......" His voice stuttered at the end, fading away from the phone, like he was nervous to confess these things.

Ronan could feel himself smiling so wide it hurt his face. That he believed he was going to be in their life in this far far distant future. That he wanted to be.

"You would probably do better at it," he said.

Especially considering he hadn't even had sex yet.

On the other end, Adam sighed, full of relief or something. Like Ronan quelled his nerves same as he quelled Ronan's.

"God, you sound so hot on the phone," Adam muttered.

Ronan snorted. He couldn't take this confession seriously, same as he couldn't take any of them seriously, and while he was blushing madly again he was also incapable of taking a goddamn compliment. "Do I not sound hot all the time?" he inquired sarcastically.

"Fuck off," Adam said with a quiet tone. "I'm complimenting you."

In the dark of his car, Ronan could fantasize Adam sitting there somewhere else, eyes closed, phone in his good ear, content in hearing the sound of his voice. It did things. Terrible things. Wonderful things. He ran a hand over his throat, the stubble from three days of not shaving present under hand, and wished he didn't have to fantasize.

"Why did you stop talking?" Adam moaned.

"I dunno." Ronan's voice sounded weird. He could die.

"Keep talking," Adam begged.

Hearing the little crackle in Adam's voice was overwhelming. It sent blood pulsing in places it shouldn't. His whole body was burning, red all over. "Um, about what?" he mumbled angrily.

Adam being Adam ignored his tone. "Anything," he said. "I had a shitty day and I just want to listen to you talk."

For a moment Ronan wondered if all he was doing was listening, in the dark of his hotel room alone.

God. No. Stop. No. God.

"You still there?" Adam whispered, his voice so quiet for a second it sounded like he was here, physically present and whispering directly into his ear. A shiver tingled the back of his neck. He swallowed hard.

"Yeah."

"You get stage fright or something because of what I said?" Adam laughed a little. He sounded so tired.

Ronan choked. "No. Dick."

Adam laughed more.

"I love your laugh," he said, sighing and closing his eyes to the sweet, sweet sound. "It's the best laugh."

Still chuckling, Adam grunted. "Well, it's my only one, so thanks," he said dryly.

"I mean it. Every time I hear it I just... feel so proud of myself that I was the cause of it, even if sometimes you're laughing at me not at something I said."

"I'm always laughing at you, though," Adam replied.

"Asshole." Ronan smiled and opened his eyes. The street lights overheard patterned down the street tricked his eyes for a second, and everything became blurry as he accidentally stared straight at the one above his car. He frowned as he tilted his head back against the headrest, pinching around his eyes to try to sate the burn.

"Forty one more days," he said.

"And then?"

Adam never asked that before. What did he mean by it and what did he want to know? What was there to say?

"And then we see each other?" he answered, perplexed.

"What'll we do when we see each other?" Adam's voice had gone deeper, sweltering with a want that he never vocalized like this before. Jesus Christ .

This was teetering on the edge of phone sex. Or maybe he was reading too much into it. Or maybe not enough.

Swallowing again, he licked his lips to speak. His tongue running over the cut in his lip burned, but he pressed on. His eyes were still closed, still burning. It was better that way, as he began to dream.

He pictured picking Adam up at the airport. Seeing him through the crowd. Walking fast to him and scooping him up. Not quite kissing yet there. But almost. Taking him to the car. And not quite kissing there either. They'll hold hands. Adam's hands are so nice. And he'll drive him home. No stops. No anything. They might talk. How was the plane ride? Oh fine. How was driving here? Oh fine. How much do you want to pull over on the freeway and have at me? A lot. That one... unrealistic. But so real at the same time. When they're at his house he'll almost be too nervous to kiss him. But he knows Adam won't be. He'll guide him in. Embrace him. Kiss him. Make him ache in the best way. And then Ronan will poof disappear into smoke. Just poof. Like a fucking magic trick.

"I dunno," he said, painfully trembling. "Take you out to dinner?"

"That's it?" Adam said at once. There was obvious indifference in his tone. "What the fuck, Ronan. I haven't seen you in months and all you suggest is dinner?"

Ronan sat up in his seat.

"It's not like it's happening right fucking now!" he pressed. "This - I - There's too much pressure on me."

There was a wild and loud laugh in his ear. Ronan drank it all in.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Obeying Adam, Ronan continued with the book. Wires made him nervous, because he sensed there was more in this than just a simple book to be read. There felt to be more behind Adam's interest, more in the weight of every word. But it didn't yet make sense. So he said nothing, and only read.

Adam was still traipsing around Europe at festivals and interviews and shit. He missed him so much. Their calls became sporadic because of the time differences, and it only reminded him of what it felt like when he was in Ireland filming when they first started to talk.

Opal came back from the party happy and bouncy, not drunk or high, but she did blush when he mentioned Zach's name. He didn't know what to make of that, other than he accidentally did a parental thing and embarrassed her.

A new Burberry spread of Adam's came out, one that was plastered on billboards and television ads and tortured him on the sides of busses.

The universe was laughing at their distance, mocking him for his affection.

All the happiness Ronan felt was slowly dissipating the closer he got to the day he would see Adam, because for fuck's sake it was taking too long. He was growing impatient. He begged the universe to move faster, even though it wouldn't.

There was a day when Ronan woke up to an eerie silence, and for a moment thought he was still asleep and that this was a dream. Or maybe Gansey finally went outside for once and he had the house to himself. But when he went into his room he found him in there lying in bed, staring emptily at the door. His window had long since been covered by sheets, and the lights were off. Introduction of light from the hallway caused him to wince and roll over, not even so much as groaning to signal he was annoyed.

"Hey, DJ, where's your shitty music today?" he said.

There was no response.

This did not sit well with Ronan, reminiscent of when they were in high school, when Ronan was the one on the bed, Gansey the one trying to get him up and active.

He came and sat down on the corner of the mattress. There was still no movement or sounds, Gansey silent and still.

Not thinking, he moved and lay down on the bed next to him, Gansey's back still to him even as he did so. He lay there a while, staring at the ceiling, glancing at his friend beside him. The bed needed washing. The room smelled like Gansey in the worst possible way. It was filthy in here.

"What are you doing?" Gansey finally said, muffled against the pillow he had his face pressed into.

"Oh, so you are still alive." Ronan neatly elbowed him in the back, nothing hard or serious, just a gesture to get him to move. He didn't. "I was worried there for a second."

"What's the point?" Gansey sighed.

"In?"

"Life."

Ronan couldn't answer that. "I don't know," he said honestly.

"We just move forward every day towards death. Our goal in life is to die. Why do we even bother doing anything?"

This wasn't going anywhere good. Ronan noted Gansey's lack of pants and moved a blanket to cover him, his room cold as ice and his skin even colder.

"Because a life not lived is a life wasted," he replied. "Or so someone says."

Gansey still made no effort to move, having gone mute again in the effort Ronan made to tend to him. He noticed the half empty bottle of scotch on the floor, seemingly new, but who could tell in here. Gansey was doing what Ronan had done years ago, but a poor imitation of his own darkness. "You know, Mallory would be pissed with you if he knew this was what you were going to do after he died. Wasn't he all about adventures and shit like that?"

"He's dead," Gansey hissed. "He doesn't care about anything anymore."

Without meaning to, Ronan groaned. This was unbelievable.

"Gansey, you were doing so well," he said.

"Go away."

"Gansey...."

"Why don't you just fuck off?"

"I-" At once his voice died in his throat. This wasn't about Mallory at all. Not today, at least. Not for a while.

"You're my best friend, you mopehead. I hope you know that." He leaned into him to offer him some sort of comfort, although he wasn't sure if Gansey could even feel him. His skin was so cold he must have gone numb from the temperature in here. "You're like a brother to me. Closer than, sometimes. I wouldn't let just anyone be annoying like this for months in my house."

For a while, Gansey was quiet again. Deep down, Ronan knew pushing again wasn't going to do anything, and so he remained quiet. He pondered what could be going on in poor Gansey's head. He was wearing one of his shirts, he just realized. Jeez, the guy ran out of his own clean clothes so he must have snuck into Ronan's room and borrowed some of his. He would be more annoyed about that if Gansey wasn't currently on the edge of being catatonic.

"Sometimes I think you're forgetting me," he whispered.

"How can I forget you?" Ronan nudged into his back. "You're too annoying to forget."

Gansey did not reply.

This was going great. Ronan was really good at this. Really, fucking great. He leaned closer into Gansey, and he pressed his face to his back, the center between his shoulders. He smelled okay, his room the worst of it. Gansey didn't move, flinch, react in the slightest to his position.

"Hey," he whispered, feeling him tingle a little, a movement out of his control. He stayed quiet.

"I've been dating someone," Ronan said.

Finally, Gansey rolled over to face him. When he met his eyes, they looked dead inside. His expression was void of anything resembling emotion.

Ronan wanted to angrily shake him until he came back to him, until he was the Gansey he used to know, but he knew that was such an asshole thought to have. This was still Gansey, a part of him that had been hovering underneath the surface for some time, come to the top to reveal himself. He poked him in the cheek instead, at the very least wishing there was something he could do to help him.

"He's everything I've ever wanted," Ronan found himself saying aloud. "I think, I mean I know, I'm falling in love with him. But I haven't seen him in months."

"Was he your clown porn?" Gansey said it with the straightest face possible.

Ronan wheezed. Even though Gansey said it with no emotion, he reacted for them both. He smiled. "Yeah," he said. That was the first time he confessed he was falling in love with him, even to himself.

"Are you embarrassed by me?"

Ronan's smile fell. "Why?"

"Because you haven't brought him over," Gansey said sadly.

"He doesn't live in San Francisco," Ronan confessed. "He doesn't live in California at all actually."

At that, Gansey narrowed his eyes, full of disbelief. "How did you meet him?"

"What is this, fucking jeopardy? What's it to you?" Ronan rolled over to lie on his back and face the ceiling again. Gansey's smell emanated off the sheets.

"That makes absolutely no sense," Gansey replied, not moving. He still stared at him, even if it was just his cheek. "You're deflecting."

Ronan couldn't help but roll his eyes and sit up. "Whatever," he groaned. "I was trying to make you feel better, and you don't even believe I'm dating someone."

"That's not it." Gansey followed him up to a sitting position. In the dark Ronan couldn't make out the dried lines of tears on his cheeks, but when the light from the hall struck his face they were illuminated like a headlight on a car shining down a dark, empty road to reveal the median. He reached and brushed the tear dust off his cheek.

"I just wonder how you met someone that wasn't from California," Gansey confessed.

"It's Adam Parrish," Ronan admitted.

A knee jerk reaction erupted from Gansey. He laughed. A little life came back into him as he shook his head.

"Good one," he said.

Ronan couldn't believe he didn't believe him. And yet it wasn't surprising why. Who would believe him?

"Made you laugh, didn't I?" he said, playing along. "Get up. You're coming to work with me."

"I am?" Gansey touched at the collar on his band tee that was actually Ronan's band tee.

Ignoring this, Ronan nodded, motioning for him to get up.

"Yes."

And that's how Gansey started working at the bookstore. It wasn't everyday. Some days Ronan needed a break from him. Some days he wanted to spend his lunches with Adam video chatting rather than listen to Gansey wailing shitty old British man music.

Once, Gansey was working on a day Ronan was too, and Ronan was helping him ring up a customer that decidedly purchased a lot of books on farming, when Ronan's pocket went absurdly loud. The sound of his facetime ringtone went off, and he quickly hurried into his pocket to take it out. It was Adam on the other end, and he quickly excused himself for a second.

He felt like shit declining him, but the store was too busy and Gansey didn't know what he was doing.

 

ronan lynch : i'm busy at work :( showing gansey the ropes still. video chat in an hour?

adam parrish : :( boo, I won't be free in an hour

ronan lynch : blog entry number 515. adam won't let me make money at the bookstore

adam parrish : I'll just buy all the books

ronan lynch : tonight?

adam parrish : I can't buy the books on such short notice

ronan lynch : are you free tonight?

adam parrish : oh, yeah. tonight

adam parrish : [1 attachment]

 

The attachment was a selfie of him while getting his hair done by someone out of frame. In it, he was winking and sticking his tongue out. The tease. The fact he was willing to video chat with someone else there definitely didn't get past him, either. They were adapting.

"Ronan!" Gansey called out, wailing like a man desperate.

"Shit. Coming."

Opal didn't like Gansey's new position much, rarely talking to him as he rarely talked to her. Somehow Ronan found himself in the middle of a very heated.... whatever Gansey and Opal were doing. Glaring competition was one possible description. They did that a lot. It made no sense to him.

Of course, Adam thought it was hilarious. He didn't have to be here to deal with it. He didn't know Gansey and his moods, or the way Opal was starting to get very short tempered. She fought with both him and Gansey constantly. It started not long after the party, but it didn't feel like it was related to that. That night when he picked her up, she looked almost the happiest he'd ever seen her, but now she showed no signs of happiness. He didn't know what to do. He never knew what to do.

Thirteen year olds were a mystery to him.

Another time, Blue came into the shop. It was just on a whim. No reason behind it in the slightest. Gansey happened to be there, which Ronan wasn't sure if that was her reason or not.

They made eye contact upon her entry, and Gansey stiffened like he had been immobilized, frozen even.

"Hi," she said.

Gansey immediately turned round and walked straight into the back.

"Gansey, stop being weird!" he shouted after him. He heard him whine from across the building. So did Blue.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Just shy of thirty days until Adam was to come to Los Angeles and Ronan was to drive down to visit, Ronan was in bed video chatting Adam as was the usual.

It was very nearly Halloween. The city was warmer as a result, which has always confounded him but he never complained

Business was rising, as it often did in fall. He became grateful for Gansey because he sort of needed someone around the shop, and his needling came at the right time.

Adam was still doing the festival route, although he was back on the same continent at least. Currently, he was somewhere in Canada. The east coast end, more likely.

When Ronan answered the chat request, he was dumbfounded to find Adam upside down on the other end.

"What are you doing?" he said. He tried tilting his laptop to the side to see if the screen would change, but no. No, Adam was still upside down.

"I've been sitting on a plane for twelve hours," Adam said, straining to speak every syllable. He was now doing crunches upside down, hanging off the back of what appeared to be a sofa.

It was hard for Ronan to concentrate on him as he did this. Thank god at least that he wasn’t shirtless. Upside down, crunch-doing Adam was hard to talk to either way. It was making him dizzy watching him. It was making him also a little hot with each grunt per crunch. Gradually, his laptop slid off his lap and onto the bed next to him.

“So,” grunt, “do you think,” grunt, “Blue and Gansey,” grunt, “will actually ever,” grunt, “have a proper conversation?” Adam asked, grunting again, because god forbid he didn’t grunt every time.

“I fucking doubt it,” he said, replying coolly and not at all hot and bothered like he really was. “Blue has sworn off dating again, and Gansey's such a mess I worry he'll be living here with me forever.”

He swore he saw Adam pout about that one, and for a moment he let his dreams get the better of him. He could see it now, his future of living with Adam. Him, Adam, and their shut in Gansey. Like all dream families.

Still doing crunches, still grunting, Adam asked, “Have you looked online lately?”

“You mean in general?” Ronan said.

Finally, by the grace of god, Adam stopped doing crunches. He stared, upside down, at Ronan with a quizzical look. After a second of estimating something with his furrowed brow, he sighed. “There's photos of me and my ex that were leaked,” he said.

Why the fuck was he telling him this?

“Congratulations?” Ronan muttered miserably.

Adam rolled his eyes, hands coming up to push his sweaty hair out of his eyes.

“They're old,” he said, a little breathless, “but they’re trying to pass them off like they aren’t. And we're making out in them. Probably the first time a photo of me kissing someone outside of a film has been seen by the public. It's nothing risqué. Just trying to embarrass me, I guess. I didn't want you to think I was back with him.”

While he was earnestly thrown that Adam thought to talk about this with him, he didn’t understand why he was still lying like that on the sofa. He was grateful he was wearing a button up shirt that was tucked into his slacks, keeping it from sliding down his stomach and show more of him than Ronan could currently handle.

“Why are you telling me all of this upside down?” Ronan asked.

“Oh. I forgot.”

Watching Adam flip over the sofa was a new experience, and before he knew it Adam was rightside up, fixing his hair and his shirt. Ronan was made dizzy watching the whole thing, and then quickly made aware Adam was properly giving him his undivided attention again. Awkwardly he sat up, pulling the top half of his laptop down so he could see him too.

Out of breath, Adam took his laptop and walked it to the bed of his hotel room. Ronan watched in quiet splendor as he lay down onto the bed, sprawling out like he were about to go to sleep. He stared wondrously at Adam, touching at the screen. He couldn’t help himself.

“I don’t care about your old photos,” he said.

“Okay,” said Adam. It was clear he didn’t believe him.

“The tabloids can go to hell for doing this,” Ronan said agitatedly, wishing he could somehow fix this. But he supposed Adam smiling at him like he was meant he wasn’t too upset about it. “Don’t they have something better to do?”

“No, “Adam said. “This is all they do. This is the purpose of tabloids, Lynch.”

“So it is.” Ronan tried not to show humility for forgetting that. “They’re still trash.”

Adam nodded along, fixing his hair. His long, slender fingers pushed back his messy mane. “I don’t disagree,” he said.

While admiring Adam’s beauty, his freckles free and not hidden by makeup today, his eyes sparkling in the bad hotel lighting, Ronan could only think of how much he appreciated being told. He could only imagine what he would have felt if he saw those pictures and thought they were recent. His heart would have probably shattered.

“We haven't even gone on a date yet and we're at the point where old photos of your ex are leaked,” Ronan said, trying for humor, but instead he sounded sad about it. Because he was sad about it.

“Actually, you could argue that we've been on several,” Adam said gently. “The boat ride. Meeting your friends. Breakfast in my hotel room.”

“So we're practically an old couple then,” Ronan mused.

Adam snorted. His nose scrunched up as he tilted his head back a little, shaking only slightly with some laughter. He was biting his lower lip to suppress more laughter.

“You could say that…” he said.

Ronan so badly wanted to just give in, call him boyfriend out loud, but it hurt to think of doing all that when most of their relationship was like this. He wanted something solid before he let himself completely give in.

“I don't know if it's fair to call you my boyfriend if I've only kissed you once,” he confessed.

Adam softened. His smile twitched, before comfortable and easy, now a little fake around the edges. “That's fair.”

But Ronan sometimes said the word to himself. To hear what it sounded like. To dream of what it really meant when they were going to see each other in 29 days.

“But I’m not saying I don’t want to be,” Ronan added. “Because I do. We just have to make out again first.”

Adam smiled so wide it seemed impossible he could smile any wider.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

They talked for ages more, about what Adam was doing in Canada (another festival and location scouting 2-in-1), what Ronan had done today at work (halted Gansey from toppling a whole row of books on a customer when he was dusting), amongst other things. Eventually the conversation led back to the talk of Halloween, which was only two weeks away.

“Are you doing anything for Halloween?” Adam inquired.

“No,” Ronan said. “My friends are having a party-“

“You should go.”

"I'm not dressing up," Ronan argued.

"Why not?" Adam frowned, like he expected something else from Ronan. "It's fun."

"Of course you would think that," Ronan grumbled. "That's what do you for a living."

"So?" Adam scowled back at him. Ronan half expected them to start fighting about this. He couldn't believe they were going to fight again about Halloween . But then Adam rested his chin in his hand and leaned closer to the camera, pouring. "Still fun. Come on," he begged. "Dress up."

"I'm good." Ronan had to shut his eyes to ignore Adam's distracting pout that only continued to grow the more he denied him. "Plus it's always like right around the corner from my birthday and-"

"Birthday?" Adam's voice rose, and Ronan's eyes opened again. He fucked up. When he looked at Adam, he was grinning like he discovered a new element for the periodic table. "When's your birthday?"

"No."

Adam's grin only broadened. "When's your birthday, Lynch?" He ran his fingers over his lips. "You have to tell me now."

"I don't have a birthday," Ronan said. "I just came into existence, and they never wrote down the date."

Adam laughed. "What the fuck does that even mean?" His laughter eased, as he tilted his head to one side. He could see Ronan's hesitance, that he hated that he confessed this to him. His entire expression shifted from that, to something more inviting, more playful. "Come on," he said. "You know, I already was thinking of doing something special for you for Halloween. I'll do it now as a birthday gift if you tell me when it is."

His voice and his expression were both so seductive, the way he bit his lip, stared right into the camera. The bastard.

"It's the 21st," he said. He didn't want Adam to know, because his birthday wasn't a big deal. It was just getting older. And to top it all off, he wasn't getting to spend it with him.

Adam sat up, all the playfulness in his face gone. He was upset. "That's in two days."

"Uh, yeah," Ronan said, none too happily.

"I-" Adam cut himself off, still frowning a little. "Well, happy early birthday. I wish you told me sooner."

"It's no big deal." Ronan didn't want to make it into one. "Really. Just another day. Another year. Isn't that how you see it, too?"

"Yeah, but..." Adam looked down at his keyboard. There was often more to him than meets the eye, than what he wanted people to see. "I don't know. I like doing things for other people's birthdays."

"Talking to you is enough." Ronan mechanically reached out like he was going for his hand, but when he touched the computer screen he remembered they weren't actually there together. "Can we talk about something else?"

"Actually, I should get going," Adam said quick. He pulled from his laptop.

"Really?"

"I meant to only call about the photos," Adam insisted. "I'm actually meant to go out tonight with Wendy and a few others."

"Oh, I see." Ronan was a little dumbfounded that this was how they were going to leave it. This felt like an argument, only there wasn't one. But the repercussions were still the same. Adam was leaving a little hurt, Ronan a little guilty. He didn't like this.

"Will you be getting in late?" he asked.

"If you're trying to assess whether I'll call before bed, the answer is I can if you want."

Hearing that made him feel a little better.

"Yes, please," he said.

"Kay, I will," Adam then said. "I miss you. Even when you don't tell me it's your birthday in two days."

"We've already established I'm a dick," Ronan said.

"Yet somehow I can look past that and still want to be with you." Adam shrugged, smirking like the smug bastard that he was. "Gotta go!"

He hung up before Ronan could do anything beyond a small wave goodbye.

Ever the masochist it only took him a minute to debate whether or not to google the images they discussed. His reasonable side lost, and he found the photos just by typing Adam's name.

They were everywhere on the internet. Photos of him and his cinematographer ex on the beach, visibly older pictures because Adam's hair was different, but people are idiots. They'll believe anything. Adam had on small bright blue swim shorts, while his ex was wearing a shirt and looser floral print trunks. Adam looked happy, somewhere with white sand and clear blue water. But a selfish, prideful part of Ronan could see Adam was happier with him.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

"Good morning!" Gansey said quite loudly into the early morning that it rattled Ronan right up, jump starting his heart an unhealthy speed. "Happy birthday! I made you breakfast."

When Ronan had the strength to sit up it was too bright for his eyes, too early for his body, and too loud for his patience.

"What the fuck , Gansey?" He groaned, rolling over to at the very least see what it was that smelled so good. Practically salivating, he noticed the tray in Gansey's arms hovering above him. It smelled like bacon was on the plate, which alone made his stomach ache for food. "Why did you wake me up so early?" But not even food could satisfy his exhaustion. He wanted to sleep. He wanted to sleep through the whole fucking day.

"Come on, sit up." Gansey gestured for him to ride, and reluctantly he agreed to it. With a hefty moan, he sat up, head throbbing from the few hours he managed to sleep. He may have stolen some of Gansey's alcohol last night to rid himself of nerves of today.

Because Jesus Christ he was twenty-five now. A twenty-five year old virgin who was sort of dating one of the most famous celebrities in the world.

Everything was a little jumbled when he finally bothered sitting up, everything was a little hazy. His head was pounding, and Gansey's usually plain voice was grating in his head like someone took a knife to his skull.

The plate of food was set gently beside him on the bed. Eggs, bacon, toast, even pancakes and hashbrowns. Gansey must have been up for ages to make this.

"This is very domestic," Ronan noted, picking up the juice beside all the food, downing it in one like a shot. That was a mistake.

"You've done so much for me, Ronan," Gansey said, choosing to ignore his comment. He sat at the foot of the bed, full of such happiness Ronan hadn't seen in him for years. "You're helping me day by day by just giving me a place to live, a place to find myself again. I love you, man."

Ronan saluted him with his empty juice glass.

"And as a second birthday gift, you don't have to work today!" Gansey said.

When Ronan winced, Gansey's voice lowered to a near whisper.

"Sorry," he said.

"You think you can handle the shop all by yourself?" He began to slab butter over the pancakes, digging a fork into them to start eating away.

"I can open and close and all the in betweens," Gansey replied. It was true, he knew all that stuff finally after watching Ronan for weeks. "You go out there and enjoy yourself. Do whatever it is you want to do. You do you."

Ronan couldn't argue with that.

 

ronan lynch : what's my birthday gift

adam parrish : nice try

ronan lynch : :( please tell me. it's my birthday

it's a rule you have to answer any and all questions I ask truthfully

adam parrish : I've never heard of this rule before

ronan lynch : that's unfortunate, but it doesn't mean it's not a rule

adam parrish : mmmm here's your gift

[1 attachment]

 

Attached was a photo of Adam flipping off the camera with major bed head and his eyes closed. Ronan could see his muscled bicep in the folds of the sheets of his bed. As a result, Ronan sunk deeper into his for research into this poorly designed but well received gift.

 

adam parrish : happy birthday <3

ronan lynch : that's a terrible gift I'm returning it

adam parrish : nonrefundable <3 <3

ronan lynch : what kind of jackass gets a nonrefundable gift

adam parrish : ok I'm very sleepy and don't wanna play this game anymore :/

ronan lynch : sorry...

adam parrish : it's ok. I wish my gift to you was a surprise visit from me. but I couldn't work it out. :(

ronan lynch : don't tell me that. that's the opposite of a gift

adam parrish : do you want to video chat later? when I'm properly awake?

ronan lynch : I was going to ask you that actually. I was thinking of going to the de young. you said you love impressionist art and there's a current exhibit of it there. if we video chat while I'm there it's like you're there, too

adam parrish : okay :) it can't be for very long but I can manage an hour :)

 

Around noon Ronan drove over to the de young museum, wearing a nice outfit like this were a real date. Maybe in a way it was, even if it was just an hour over the phone. He wore a button up shirt, light blue, something he asked Opal's opinion about.

Blue is nice with your eyes and your pasty ass complexion.

Swear jar, he said back to her.

He had on decent pants for once, although it was doubtful Adam was even going to get to see them. When he answered the phone, Adam was in a very nice clinging sweater, pink with the white of his dress shirt's collar draping out the top. He smiled and complimented Ronan, and Ronan did the same with him. Adam was still in his hotel bedroom, while Ronan was outside the museum, headphones in his ears, talking to him as he walked around the nice day.

Ronan never went inside the museum before, even after living here for years. Golden Gate Park wasn't traditionally somewhere he liked to go, because he built a life around the few blocks where he lived and worked, venturing outside them was usually saved for rare occasions.

Now here he was, sort of with Adam, doing this more for Adam than for himself.

If he tried hard enough he could pretend that it was like they were walking the museum together quietly. Whispering to each other like he was really here.

Together he and his camera phone walked the halls, moving along steadily to the Impressionism exhibit.

"Oh," Ronan said excitedly when he found the first one in the set. "This one's by Degas." He knew that because he researched them all previously, to impress Adam if Impressionism should ever come into conversation again. When he heard about the exhibit here, he excitedly knew he could take Adam, impress him. He didn't realize he basically recited his whole Wikipedia page out loud until he was done, and noted Adam's expression turn in response.

With a tilt of his head, his face intensified, brow raising a little but his lips catching that small grin he had when he was either sleepy or pining.

"Tell me more," he said, eyes doing a wondrous thing.

Ronan blushed and cleared his throat, taking a finger and hooking it in his collar, pulling it away from his neck a second so he could breathe. Then he continued on, talking about the art and the artists, those he knew at least. There were moments where he stood and admired the paintings, something that he would've mocked even a year ago probably, but standing here now with Adam he could see in some way why this was nice. Maybe not the way it was intended, or the way Adam even admired it, but he enjoyed just spending these solemn moments staring at old paintings with Adam, doing something Adam very much liked to do.

As he talked, Adam would hum and nod along. He seemed heavily invested, listening with eager attentiveness and responding with questions or comments, engaging in conversation that used to make Ronan want to tear his hair out (when he had hair).

There were still bad jokes. Ronan was still Ronan. He pointed at an image of a tower and said, "Looks like a penis."

No one around him thought it was funny, but Adam laughed. That's all he cared about.

In the end, his hour became two, which Ronan didn't comment on and neither did Adam. It just happened, the flowing of time getting the best of them. When the second hour was over, however, Adam really had to go.

"You know," he said, as Ronan was walking back and out of the museum. His lips were tauntingly pink, having been thinking and biting at them all afternoon. He proceeded to lick them, either unthinkingly or very much teasingly. With his eyes hooded and full of indescribable things, Ronan estimated it was the latter. "This felt more like a gift for me than a gift for you."

Ronan was very aware of that. "Talking to you was my gift," he said. Initially he planned to say something less gentle, but it was the truth. He owed Adam the truth once in a while instead of his bad jokes.

Scoffing, Adam's cheeks may have been a little rosier than before. He mockingly swept a nonexistent tear from his eye, pretending he wasn't endeared by what Ronan said. Sometimes, he noticed, Adam pushed off Ronan's comments like Ronan would. They really were perfect for each other. Ugh .

"Sweet talker," Adam then said, smiling into the camera.

"Now send me a dick pic," Ronan insisted.

Adam's expression withered, unimpressed.

"Okay, moment ruined," he said.

Amused by his annoyance, Ronan smirked. The blush was still very much present in Adam's face, so he knew he was at least a little tempted. Though Ronan was glad he didn't think he was serious. If he did send him a dick pic he was sure he'd die.

They later hung up, and he walked back to his car with a mixture of feelings writhing inside him like two separate waves crashing together. One was joy and exhilaration at a successful birthday date, while the other was a hard and cold sense of longing that was the undertone of every day he didn't physically share it with Adam.

In the car he nearly cried. Instead he turned the radio on high, listening to his terrible EDM for a good few minutes before starting his drive back home.

He was barely out of the parking lot when he got a text message from Opal. Very nearly he forgot they exchanged numbers, because she never messages him.

 

opal : pick me up

ronan lynch : take the bus

opal : this is child endangerment

ronan lynch : don't joke about that shit

opal : i have a gift for you

ronan lynch : let me guess. your presence?

opal : well that's a gift that keeps on giving

but no

come through

 

Of course he went. Opal was at a diner in the Financial District, which was a weird place to want to meet up. It was even weirder that when he walked in he found she had already ordered them each a milkshake.

"Look at you!" she said, and she motioned to his outfit like he was wearing a onesie. He frowned at her. "You didn't have to dress up for me," she said.

"I didn't." He noticed she got him his favorite, Oreo, but hers was plain vanilla when he knew she liked Neapolitan. "Why did we meet here?"

"This is a good diner," she said. "Good milkshakes."

He didn't believe her. He knew her favorite milkshakes came from a place in the Haight district. She was twitching, suspiciously so. Her fingers were fidgeting at the straw in her shake.

"Did you see the pictures of Adam and-"

"Yes," Ronan groaned. He was hoping she would never mention them.

"Adam's upgraded," she noted. "He looks like a cyborg."

"Opal," he said, stern like a parent and hating himself for it.

"Well, he does," she argued. "I can't help but notice."

"I don't even know what that means," he confessed.

"They just look boring," she explained, tired like she'd explained it a thousand times before. "He looks bored."

"He doesn't look bored," Ronan argued.

"He does!"

"I'm not going to fight about this." He pushed his shake away, and Opal huffed, pushing it back. Her behavior was weirder than usual.

"Did he get you a birthday gift?" she asked.

His brow raised. "You mean there's something about him you don't know?" he said in a dry tone. "Shocking."

She threw a balled up napkin at his head.

"Don't mock me because I talk to him more than you do," she said.

He eased into their argument like a familiar sweater.

"You do not ," he said. Although, now he was calculating if that were true. Opal visibly smirked.

"Bet that's going to bug you all day isn't it?" she said.

He frowned. The milkshake was melting, and Opal wasn't even pretending to drink hers. While he took a sip of his, to at least show his appreciation that she tried, his eyes flickered down to the rest of her side of the booth. It was then he noticed she had two backpacks today.

"Did they give you more books?" He was completely bewildered.

“Huh?” Opal glanced then in the direction he was staring, her face getting red as she looked like she’d been caught. “Oh. Ha! No. That’s, um, just some clothes. For the goodwill.”

They were obviously not.

Without thinking about it, he reached for her hand across the table, stilling it where it had been playing with the thin end of the spoon she had removed from her milkshake. Her hand flattened underneath his, like it were playing dead. Her expression darkened when she felt his hand curl around to hold hers more clearly.

“Are you doing what I think you're doing?” he whispered. His front pressed hard against his side of the table, while she worked fast to recoil from him. As if she weren’t antsy enough before, now she was doubly so, receding like a snake back into the tall grass to hide. In her panic she grabbed for something in one of the bags, the one he knew she used for school.

“I, uh, got you a card.” She held up a small card in her hands, not lying about that at least. On the front was a cartoon dog that said It’s Ruff Getting Old . Ronan’s heart was breaking watching her, muted as he stared. “And I’ll buy the shakes. It’s the least I could do. Happy birthday, Ronan.”

“Opal-“

Finally he lost his voice, but it felt all too late. Her lower lip quivered as she then angrily rubbed at her eyes. She threw the card at him, nearly knocking his shake into his shirt. Awkwardly she took a clump of change and threw it down on the table, then staggered to her feet with her bags in tow. He chased after her before she could disappear, not forgetting the card as he followed.

 

Thank you for all you've done for me, Ronan. You're the best. I never thought someone could be so nice to a random girl reading books in his shop, but you were always nice to me.

 

I love you, I guess

 

Opal

 

Outside he grabbed her second backpack, pulling her to a stop. The bag dragged behind her, and when she glanced back at him she very nearly let it go to run. He quickly came and held her arm.

“Let me go!” She jerked out of his reach, and the only reason he let her go was because he didn’t want to hurt her, to force her. Even though the thought of watching her disappear into the city streets terrified him more than anything.

“Where do you think you're going?” he said, not showcasing how hurt he was inside that she was just going to leave like that.

“I don't know.” Her voice worked against her and showed all the emotions she was trying to hide. “Wherever the first bus out of town goes, I guess.”

Her gaze flew to somewhere else, to stare at a building across the way or a car passing by. Somewhere that wasn’t in his direction, that much was known.

“Why are you leaving?” he said. “Without even really saying it?”

“I can't live like this anymore,” she said, hissing the words like they were poison. “My house is a nightmare. I never get any time to study and I just don't want to be here.”

“You could've talked to me. I'm here.” He felt helpless as he watched her start to cry.

“I didn't want to get in the way of you and Adam.” With the back of her free hand she swept away tears, and he watched as they ran down her hand and onto the concrete ground, leaving spots. “You're so happy. I remember the way you were before he came into the store. You were miserable inside, like me.”

“Oh Jesus. Opal.”

He reached for her and she recoiled, slapping him away. Never did he think that Opal could truly break his heart, but she was certainly breaking it now, and the pain of it froze him as she retrieved her second bag and tried to swing it over her second shoulder.

“It would just be better if I left,” she said.

The bag slipped, but she held tight.

“To whom?” he said, not believing she truly thought that.

“To everyone! To you, to Melissa, to Gansey, to Zach and Becca and-“

“No, don't think that.”

Opal started to walk away, and he quickly followed. It all made sense now why she wanted to meet here. It was a short walk’s distance to the Greyhound bus station. She worked it all out.

“You can't stop me,” she shouted. “I’ll yell.”

“Opal-“

He caught her bag again and she jerked.

“I’m not going back there!” she screamed.

“You don't have to.”

At once, Opal froze. Her bag fell, but he caught it, holding it in his arms. It was heavy, even for him, which meant it was probably painfully heavy for someone half his size.

“What?” Opal said it so quiet, unsure if he had said what he said at all.

“We'll-“ He had no idea what he was doing, but he knew for certain he wasn’t going to let her just leave. “I’ll figure something out, okay? You don't have to go back there if you absolutely hate it. Tonight, you can stay with me.”

Her eyes widened. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“But- but it's your birthday,” she said, as if she was waiting for him to take back the invitation.

“So?”

Opal’s mouth kept opening and closing, her eyes likely stinging as more tears came running down her face. She was impossibly stubborn, but she looked to be giving in. Slowly he watched her shoulders slouch, her chin quiver rightfully, as she wheezed on her own words that weren’t coming out how she wanted.

“I….”

“Come on.” Gently he took her hand, feeling how small she really was, how young she really was, by how small her hand was in his. He pulled her along a couple steps, slow and steady toward the door to the diner. “Let's go back inside. Eat lunch. That milkshake didn't really fill me up. After, we'll go back to my house so you can leave your stuff there. Is this everything you own?”

“Everything I could fit into my backpacks,” she muttered.

His heart was breaking into a million pieces.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Opal didn’t have to pretend to be excited when they pulled up to his house, which he motioned to with relative uneasiness. This was probably illegal, but like hell was he going to let her just run away, become a statistic. It hurt enough knowing the amount of homeless youth in this city, that the thought of losing Opal to that was just gut-wrenching.

“This is like a sleepover!” she said, when she stepped inside to see the mess his house was in. Although, lately it wasn’t so bad. Since Gansey started working at the store, he was getting better about cleaning up after himself. He had to at the bookshop, so it was slowly filtering its way into their home life here too.

“This isn’t a sleepover,” he said. He couldn’t help but roll his eyes.

Leaving Opal alone to investigate the place by herself, he quickly called up Gansey on the phone.

“Hi, this is-“

“Come home now,” Ronan hissed, whispering with his back to everything as he could hear Opal gasp in surprise to him having a backyard.

“Whoa!” He heard the sliding glass door open. “This is amazing!”

“Opal-“

“Opal’s there?”

“Yeah,” Ronan replied. “Close the shop up early and come back here.”

“Uh… Okay?”

He hung up when Opal was seen opening the fridge. She poked her head into it, checking everything out.

“Didn’t you just eat?” he said. Opal frowned at him.

“I’m just seeing what you have,” she replied. “Don’t be so rude.”

After fifteen painful minutes of not knowing how to host a child in his house, Gansey came back like a gust of wind had entered the place. He threw his jacket onto the coat rack at the front door in a panic, and then walked breathlessly inside to see Opal reading a magazine at the dining room table, and Ronan staring at her doing so.

“What’s happening?” he whispered.

“Opal’s sleeping over,” Ronan pointed out.

“Why?”

With one long winded look, Gansey slowly caught on to the situation.

Then the doorbell rang.

“Blue!” Opal said, pushing past the two of them to run to the door. Gansey then looked daringly horrified at Ronan when he realized what he walked into.

“Blue-?”

Opal was opening the door before Gansey could properly react, and Ronan realized his mistake in not telling him. He had called Blue, too, to ask for help with the situation. There was no way he could just magically know how to take care of a kid, even for a night.

“Hi, all,” Blue said. Her eyes found Gansey all too easily, who was clinging to the fridge like it were his lifeline. “Gansey.”

“Did you know the callosobruchus maculatus beetle lives only to 14 days, while the dynastes tityus beetle can live up to six months?”

No one said anything for a second after Gansey’s panicked blurting of words.

“Okay…” Blue said, feigning fascination.

“Ronan, can I speak to you for a -?” Gansey didn’t even finish what he wanted to say, he just grabbed Ronan and pulled him down the hall and into their coat closet on the first floor. He pushed Ronan in first, then walked in after, shutting the door behind them both.

In the dark, Ronan banged his head against something metal, immediately regretting not just yanking his arm free of Gansey’s grip. If this was happening ten years ago, it would have felt very ironic.

“What’s happening?” Ronan reached for the light switch, but only came up with touching at Gansey’s arm.

“Why didn’t you tell me she was coming?” Gansey was speaking in such a shrill voice it almost made him laugh.

“They’re all coming,” Ronan said. “My birthday dinner is here instead of at a restaurant. I thought I told you.”

Gansey began to flail his arms about, smacking Ronan in the face in the process. He hit his head again.

“You sure didn’t!” he exclaimed. “This- this is unacceptable. I'm in panic mode now.”

“Not my problem.” Ronan reached for the door, but then Gansey was blocking it.

“She probably thinks I’m weird now,” he whined.

This was ridiculous. Trying to calm his friend down, Ronan grabbed both his shoulders and gently moved him out of the way.

“Newsflash Gansey, she already did,” he said. “And hiding in a closet isn’t helping you anyway.”

Finally, Gansey calmed down a little, breathing slower and steadier.

“You’re right,” he said, coming down from his freak out. “What do I do?”

“First, exit the closet.” He found the handle and opened the door for them both. Graciously he allowed Gansey to leave first. “Maybe talk to her too,” he said, motioning to the two women in the living room on the sofa. “After that, I have no idea. You’re on your own.”

“Fuck you,” Gansey said, and Ronan grinned a little.

The rest of the afternoon was spent very strangely, like Ronan had stepped into a bizarro version of his life. Gansey sat there quiet and immobile in the corner of the living room while Blue and Opal talked personally about Opal’s living situation and what she hoped could be done to change it. Ronan stood there, hovering like a creep or a shadow, hearing her explain and not knowing what to say.

Sometimes Blue tried to bring Gansey into the conversation, and he stuttered and laughed his way out of a response and briefly left the room, only to come back in and sit somewhere else in another corner immobile and silent. Gansey was… trying.

 

adam parrish : a hint for your birthday gift :)

[1 attachment]

 

It was a picture of a whip.

 

ronan lynch : is this your idea of telling me you're into bdsm?

adam parrish : uh no. is that a thing you're into?

ronan lynch : no but now I'm gonna go throw my phone into the bay

adam parrish : haha please don't

I said it was a hint by the way. you aren't going to guess what the whole thing is?

ronan lynch : well I mean I kind of guessed

adam parrish : guess again

ronan lynch : nah just tell me

adam parrish : there's no fun in that

ronan lynch : maybe not for you

adam parrish : ronan, please indulge me

ronan lynch : did you buy me a farm. is that for sheep herding or something

adam parrish : no

ronan lynch : that's all I got

adam parrish : wow you give up so easily

ronan lynch : one of many reasons it will go over badly if it's secretly a sex thing

adam parrish : I already told you it isn't a sex thing

ronan lynch : you're annoying. tell me what my gift is

adam parrish : never mind. you're just going to have to wait

ronan lynch : I'm calling the police

adam parrish : you need to stop hanging out with opal so much. her teen language is rubbing off on you

ronan lynch : fuck you

adam parrish : we've already established you want that. please stop repeating yourself

 

Ronan was blushing too hard to reply immediately. In the wait for his brain to cool down, he looked up to find three pairs of eyes staring back at him.

“Is that Adam?” Opal asked.

“What?” He set his phone down and glanced at Gansey, who clearly had no idea who they were talking about. “No? What makes you think it’s Adam?”

He was terrible at this.

“Your face is red and you're smiling like a hanger got stuck in your mouth,” Blue replied.

“Bastard,” he said to her. She rolled her eyes fondly.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Eventually the whole situation became less tense. As Blue went outside to take a phone call for work and Gansey sat in the living room with his head in his hands, Opal went upstairs to take a shower. She was singing loudly and obnoxiously in the shower, and while Ronan waited he went into his room to call Adam.

“I'm not going to tell you any more over the phone, no matter how nice your voice sounds,” Adam groaned. He did not sound like he was up for any of Ronan’s jokes, which was fine because he wasn’t calling about that anyway.

“Opal was going to run away earlier, but I stopped her,” he said.

There was instantly an eerie silence on the other end of the line. It was so quiet that Ronan had to check that the line didn’t disconnect. When he could see the phone call was still ongoing, he put his phone back to his ear, waited a while, then had to interject with whatever was happening with Adam.

“Parrish, you there?” he said, a little worried.

“Why did she want to run away?” His voice was thicker, like he was swallowing back the urge to cry. Oh god. He should’ve blanketed the situation by talking about something else first. “She said everything was fine at home.”

“Kids lie,” he said with a heavy sigh.

“Jesus.” Adam’s s’s had a soft hiss to them, like he was on the verge of breaking down. Ronan very much wanted to hold him, but again the universe had to remind him he couldn’t when he reached and remembered there was nothing to reach for. “This- I could’ve stopped this.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” Ronan said, a little more forcefully than he intended. But it wasn’t his fault. Blaming himself was not in Opal’s best interest. “I’m the one that’s here. I should’ve seen more signs. It should’ve been more obvious to me-“

“Okay, this isn’t helping Opal,” Adam argued. “Neither of us should blame ourselves. I mean, she’s good at hiding things from both of us.”

“Yeah.” Ronan hated to agree, but it was true. The kid could be private as hell. Getting her to open up willingly took a lot of persuasion and stealth.

Adam’s voice still had that lilt of sadness in it, but his breathing was starting to even out on the other end, like he was coming down finally. Ronan was grateful he didn’t break down where he couldn’t help him.

“Is she okay though?” Adam said. He swore he heard a sniffle. “How did you get her to stay? You did get her to stay, right?”

“Yeah,” Ronan groaned. “She's staying over here for the night.”

“At your house?” Adam sounded shocked.

“No, at the bookstore,” Ronan said dryly. “I’ve made her an alcove in the stacks.”

“Don't be a-“ Adam grunted. “You live very much in a bachelor pad.”

“Is that meant to insult me?” Ronan could almost smile.

“A thirteen year old girl shouldn't be in that place. She might sit in something disgusting,” Adam reasoned.

Now Ronan was definitely smiling. He was startlingly amused by Adam’s tact.

“That's on Gansey, not me,” he said, aware he was teasing Adam’s frustrations out.

“I hope you cleaned,” Adam said, sounding a lot like his mom.

“Adam.” Uncontrollably, he laughed a little.

On the other end, Adam went quiet again, and then it hit Ronan all too quickly and too much what Adam was saying, what Ronan was already thinking about. Admittedly, he had these concerns too. He still did. He was no real adult. He couldn’t take care of a thirteen year old long term. This was very temporary. But it was all he could do.

“I don't know what else to do,” he confessed.

“I’ll think of something. Don't worry.”

Ronan couldn't begin to think what that meant, but he was grateful to have Adam regardless. That he wanted to help was more than enough the way to calm his nerves. Still hearing Opal down the hall singing in the shower, Ronan gave in and sat on his bed, then felt himself close his eyes and slip back to lie on it instead.

“I’m taking her back to that place tomorrow,” he said. He was getting a headache already just thinking about it. “After that, I'm shit out of ideas.”

“We'll figure it out together,” said Adam, like a promise. “Okay?”

“You're the best, Adam. I really mean it.” For the first time since the diner, he felt like he could breathe again, really breathe.

“Tell me something I don't know,” Adam replied.

Ronan laughed. “Fucker.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Henry and Noah came over, and the six of them had dinner together scrunched up at Ronan’s small dining room table. It was a nice night, although Gansey kept awkwardly starting and not finishing conversations with Blue, immediately going silent whenever Opal would interrupt. She was a menace, that one, and he could see Gansey wasn’t going to like this if it became more than one night. But fuck that, it was his house. And it wasn’t going to be more than one night. He couldn’t handle that. He was barely an adult, only one in the default sense of the word, but emotionally he was anything but.

After dinner, it was just him, Gansey, and Opal. Gansey went to bed fairly early, probably to drink his sorrows away, only Ronan swept his room earlier when he wasn’t aware of it and dumped his alcohol down the sink. When he helped Opal set up the sofa to sleep in it, he found himself awkwardly bending over and kissing her goodnight on the forehead.

They both froze, startled by his actions.

“What was that?” she asked, confused, when he stood straight after he realized.

“I don’t know,” he confessed. “Let’s never speak of it again.”

“Agreed.”

Year twenty-five was off to a weird start.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The next morning Ronan came stumbling sleepily down the stairs, his shirt forgotten sometime between when he went to bed and now, his sweats hanging loosely on his hips, and sleep still ever present in his veins. He rubbed his eyes awake, yawning into his wrist, when he passed by the sofa. Halfway to the kitchen he then remembered something, and doubled back to the sofa, noticing a very small youth lying asleep under his blankets.

Fuck. He forgot Opal was here. For a second there, today was like any other day, only it wasn’t. Quick, he skipped back up the stairs and put on a shirt, fixed his sweats, and then started the trek to coffee all over again. This time Opal was up, too, already waiting for him at the foot of the stairs.

They mutually said nothing to each other, and Opal, wearing a pajama set with birds on it followed him into the kitchen. They grabbed their breakfast favorites, Ronan toast and eggs while Opal seemed satisfied with cereal. As Ronan was cooking, Opal went and sat at the table with her cereal, milk, and a bowl.

The eggs were only just cracked and poured into the frying pan when Ronan had to say the inevitable.

"You know I have to take you back," he said.

Her hand froze midair as she was pouring cereal down into her bowl. For a moment, all they heard was the soft tap tap of it hitting the sides of the ceramic.

"No you don't," she replied, none too happy about it.

"Just temporarily." He turned away from his frying eggs, just for a second, to look at her. "I mean, where else can I take you that'll ensure you're safe?"

Opal was quiet again, pondering. Her little brow came together as she insistently considered the question. He was right, and she knew he was right. Clearly she hated that he was right.

Breakfast was uncomfortably silent.

After, he took her over. The little blue house was strange, unkempt. In today's economy that wasn't all too uncommon in San Francisco, unfortunately. It was less and less affordable here for even those who lived here generations deep. But this house seemed unkempt because of not caring, not wanting to try, simple laziness. The porch step gave way under his foot and he felt like he was walking into a horror movie.

Opal snorted a little when she saw what happened.

"Clearly no one over 5'6 walks up these steps," he mumbled.

This was the first time he was allowed inside the house, and Ronan couldn't tell if it was because she didn't want to be here anymore or because her foster mom wasn't home. The other kids weren't either.

"Are they out looking for you?" he asked. He knew she had a cell phone, but he couldn't remember it going off frantically yesterday. Maybe she said she was okay.

"No," Opal said with open disgust. "She has work probably. The kids, I don't know what they do. We don't talk."

The house was, in a word, a mess. It was like Gansey's bedroom but if his mess had taken over the whole house. There was old pizza just lying there as they walked past the living room towards her room.

Her room wasn't wholly her room. It had bunk beds. Four kids in one bedroom.

"Jesus," he found himself muttering out loud in surprise. He could barely stand in the room it was so packed in. No wonder she couldn't study here.

"It's cramped, sure," Opal grumbled. She threw down her backpack and sat on the lower bunk with floral sheets. "Anyway. Thanks for nothing."

He frowned at her. "Don't say it like that."

Opal swept a hand over her face as she started to pick at her pillow.

"How long do I have to stay here?" she asked.

He took in the mess of the house, of the smell that didn't look to be leaving anytime soon. Ronan knew there were good foster homes out there, good foster parents, people that genuinely loved and adored the kids they helped and housed. But this did not appear to be one of them.

"Grab the rest of your stuff," he said, without much thought.

"What?" Opal's eyes bugged wide.

"You're coming home with me."

"Are you serious?" Opal looked absolutely shell shocked. So did Ronan, but he did better to pretend he knew what he was doing.

"I'll probably get arrested for this, but yeah," he said. "I'm serious."

At once Opal rose to her feet and started grabbing more things from around the room, putting them on her bed to pack. Her smile was the widest he'd ever seen.

"Don't look so smug, kid," he said, trying to combat the emotions he currently felt inside. "I'm not your official guardian. This is so completely illegal."

"You're not it yet ," she said, with hope in her voice. Hope and determination.

"I---" Ronan couldn't take care of a kid. He could barely take care of himself. Of Gansey. God. Gansey.

For a moment he began to panic at this decision, a decision he couldn't take back because that was just shit if he did. But when he looked at her, at her smiling and eager, he was overwhelmed with the desire to protest her. He wanted to help her, watch her grow, be there for her for anything.

Jesus.

"I don't have a room for you," he reasoned.

"The sofa's fine," Opal said, without even looking up. "I'm small. Besides, I've been sharing this room with four other kids."

Four . Where did the fifth one even sleep? "Jesus Christ."

Back home, they were arriving when Gansey was only just waking up. Opal had four bags now, which she left at the front door when they both noticed Gansey walking through the kitchen.

"Gansey. Meet our third roommate"

Gansey looked up, confused.

"Third room-?" His eyes found Opal behind Ronan. "Opal, hello again." His back straightened and his shoulders stiffened. She stood there like she belonged, challenging him to say otherwise. "I thought it was just for one night," he then said looking back up at Ronan.

"Nope. She's staying."

"I.... see...." Gansey seemed to be having some sort of a dilemma, and Ronan's nerves caved in.

"Say anything and I'll kick your ass out," he said.

Gansey opened his mouth and then closed it.

There were ground rules, which he told her about in the car already and then relayed to Gansey. School every day. She had to help out with chores.

"Isn't living with Gansey enough punishment?" she had asked.

"You can help out at the bookstore on weekends, but only if you finish your homework first," he said, ignoring her.

"Done and done." Giddily she held up her phone and jerked it near his face. "Do I get a real cell phone now?"

"Is that one made of chalk?" He swept it away.

"No, but I don't actually have data," she said. "I can only use it on free wifi."

"We'll figure all that out," he said, realizing this was a bigger gesture than simply room and board. "In the meantime, just... don't try to run away again."

"I won't. I promise."

Opal smiled so wide it distracted Ronan's focus on driving for a moment. Luckily they were hitting a red light.

Once they did, he turned to her, still feeling that ripping concern in his chest.

"Now, I don't know how to take care of a kid-"

"I'm thirteen," Opal argued. "I'm self reliant. It may surprise you, but I can even use a microwave by myself."

"Wow," he said sarcastically. "Very mature."

The rest of the afternoon was forcing Gansey to clean his room and the guest bathroom, to make the house a little more suitable for a teenager to stay.  For dinner they ate breakfast for dinner, waffles and eggs and bacon and the like. It was possible Gansey even made Opal laugh at one point.

By the time it was Opal's bedtime, though, Ronan knew he should've been promoting her to get to bed. She had school tomorrow, and being the adult he should've been more insistent on sleeping.

But instead the three of them were staying up watching the age appropriate Adam films.

Gansey, of course, was excited about this. He was eager to fish out his collection of Adam's filmography. They were on the third movie of the evening when Gansey thought to speak.

"I didn't realize you two were such big Adam fans," he said.

Opal and Ronan just looked at each other and smirked.

At some point time slipped away from him, uncertain when that was or how it happened. It was a laboriously long day, and before he could comprehend the lost time he was being woken up by Gansey slapping at his shoulder.

"Hey," Gansey said, all too closely to his face.

"What?" Ronan flinched, rubbing at his eyes. "What time is it?"

"Midnight," Gansey said. He was whispering, and when Ronan glanced over at the heavy weight on his one side, he realized why.

Opal was still sound asleep, lying on him with her head resting at his arm. Gently he peeled out from under her, noticing Gansey at some point turned the television off.

When he was free, Ronan spread a blanket over Opal, sighing at how this was probably his life now. Instant-Kid.

"You know now that we have a kid in the house you might actually need to start getting your act together," Ronan said as they started up the stairs.

Gansey frowned, and Ronan snickered at his frown.

In bed he looked at his conversation from yesterday with Adam. Adam was so busy today he didn't even try to talk to him, knowing if he hadn't messaged first he was probably unavailable.

He called Adam in the morning instead, and before Adam could say much more than hello he explained the entire situation.

There was a momentary pause, Adam likely thinking of what to say, and so he quietly awaited that.

He could hear chit chat in the background on Adam's end of the call, which meant he was somewhere public, and Ronan wondered if it wasn't a good time to call him. But Adam wouldn't have answered if it were.

"You sure you can handle a teenager?" Adam then asked.

"I'm already handling one kid," said Ronan. "Why not add a second one while I'm at it?"

"Gansey's different," Adam reasoned.

"Yeah. Gansey's harder."

Adam didn't find it funny, but he didn't disagree.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The following morning Ronan woke up especially early, woke Opal up against her wishes, and together they drove down to her social worker’s office and explained the entire situation to her. They had three options to take away from this. Either he could let her go back into the system and risk the chance of going into a home similar to what she had before or somewhere not in the same school district as the one she was in now. She could live with Ronan and he would have to file to be her foster parent, which required a lot on his part to be certified to be one. Or, the wildest of the bunch, he could adopt her.

“I’m not little Orphan Annie over here,” Opal said after the meeting, where he was given temporary custody over her while they sorted all this shit out. Neither he or her social worker wanted her to go anywhere, so she pulled some strings in their favor. It helped he owned his own business, otherwise they were shit out of luck. “I don’t need you to adopt me, Daddy Warbucks.”

Ronan pressed the paperwork he had in his hands to his forehead. “Don’t ever call me that again,” he pleaded.

“I’ll be fine if you put me back into the system,” she said, but he could tell she was lying. He could tell it was just a front. She was scared.

“I already told you, you’re living with me,” he groaned. “That’s what you want, right? Because, if you do, it’s not going to be until you feel like moving on. It’s permanent. Once you’re eighteen, you can make your own decision about what you want to do with your life, but until then it’s with me or with someone else.”

Opal stared at him, mystified by the certainty in his voice, the demand in his tone for a decision. Before when they talked about this yesterday it sounded less official, less permanent. Neither wanted to admit that this was a serious issue. Her future wasn’t a joke.

“Living with Gansey isn’t forever, though, is it?” she asked. That was her way of answering yes, he supposed, because he never got anything else more than that as confirmation.

“God, I hope not,” he replied.

They were stuck with each other.

Chapter Text

Before they knew it, it was Halloween. Opal's school let them out early to celebrate, and she came to his work dressed as her satyr costume, makeup and everything. He wasn't surprised she picked such an odd costume.

"I have a costume for you," she said, and before Ronan could argue he wasn't dressing up she pulled out a devil horned headband.

"Funny," he said.

"You have to wear them," she said. "Adam insisted."

"Of course he was in on this," Ronan said with such disdain, but he was also already reaching for the headband.

"Say cheese!" Opal took out her phone and snapped a picture of Ronan looking annoyed at the camera. "Aw, man, I owe Adam five bucks. He said you would let me take the picture. I thought you'd knock my phone out of my hand."

"Thinking about it..." Ronan said slowly, and Opal tucked her phone away with a speed unmatched in anything she'd ever done before.

After settling into their routine, as Gansey had gone to grab them all some boba tea, Ronan still had the horns on. He figured it represented his opinion on the whole matter, and all it did was chafe his head a little.

"Why are you still dressed in that?" Ronan muttered, when he realized Opal was still traipsing around the shop in her costume. "Are you trick or treating later or something?" Would he have to go?

"No," Opal laughed, finding him absurd. "There's the Halloween party tonight, remember?"

"Didn't you go to one already?"

Her expression withered quick, much like when Adam looked at him with that same bout of disinterest and disbelief. “You’re joking, right?”

He frowned, nearly yanking the horns off his head in protest to her attitude. Since he was her guardian now, temporarily official after being sanctioned by her social worker and filling out an annoying amount of paperwork, he temporarily could say things like, “You’re grounded. Go to your room.”

But he wouldn’t do that, because he wasn’t an asshole. Well, not about this. Opal spent most of her time studying or hanging out here. She needed more of a social life with actual people her age.

“And you’re getting there how?” he asked, with the practiced amount of concern in his voice, but not too much.

“Becca’s mom is picking me up,” she said. “I thought Gansey would’ve told you, since I told him .”

Ronan snorted a little under his breath. “You told Gansey, but not me?”

“He was there when I made the plans.”

Ignoring the sheer lack of thinking on her part to trust Gansey with information like this, when the poor guy still couldn’t remember their orders at the boba shop without having it written down on his phone, he sighed. He knew she made safe choices, for the most part, and especially now that she was living with him. She knew getting dangerous shit like running away or skipping school wasn’t going to go by unnoticed by him.

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he said, thinking back to his youth and how he spent it. Those were stories Opal would never hear.

“I’m already breaking that rule by going out and having fun,” Opal said with a smile.

He scowled at her for a few seconds before a customer came in.

“That’s no way to talk to your elders,” he said, greeting the customer with a head nod and returning back to his copy of Wires , which he still hadn’t finished.

“I don’t see any elders here,” said Opal, walking very fast and away from him since she knew what she said would piss him off. “Just a big baby.”

“Opal…”

She squealed out a laugh when he started to walk after her.

 

adam parrish : look out for me at some halloween parties tonight :)

ronan lynch : ugh is this my birthday present? torture?

adam parrish : again, it’s not bdsm

ronan lynch : you said it this time, not me : )

adam parris h: shut up >:(

 

As Ronan was over at Henry and Noah’s Halloween party, still wearing his horns and only wearing those as a sign of his holiday spirit, he was lingering in the corner near Gansey, who he invited to come to have someone to sit bored with. This wasn’t his thing. He didn’t know half these people. Ryan was there, and he was avoiding him like the plague. Blue was running late, but when she arrived he hoped she would be of some entertainment, but he also knew she loved Halloween, so he expected being berated.

When Ryan walked back into the living room, Ronan awkwardly leaned into Gansey and put his arm around his shoulders. Gansey stared back at him confused.

“What are you doing?”

“Pretend you’re my boyfriend,” he hissed.

Gansey balked. “What? NO .”

Ronan rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to try to kiss you, if that’s what you’re worried about,” he whispered.

“Why wouldn’t you want to kiss me? I’m insulted.”

“I- Jesus.” Ronan nearly took his arm away so he could cover his face with both hands.

“Don’t you have a real boyfriend for this?” Gansey then asked, insistent on not playing along and nearly ruining the whole thing. He didn’t want Ryan to come over, and he didn’t want to have lied to Adam earlier when he said Ryan’ll be there, but I doubt he’ll talk to me . He didn’t want to talk to him anyway, but he especially didn’t with the worry it would somehow inspire another fight. Even though, Adam did reply with thank you for telling me :) but i don’t care if he does because i know us better now <3 . Never before did that stupid heart emoji mean so much to him.

“Yeah, but he’s not here,” Ronan said, noticing the bitterness in his tone. His arm jerked at Gansey’s shoulders, prodding him closer. “Come on. I’m trying to keep that guy off my back. He’s the blogger.”

“Oh, yes, I can see why you would want to avoid him.” Gansey pushed up his glasses on his nose, fixing at his hair. He came in costume as Old Gansey, the one who wore polo shirts and boat shoes and khaki pants, when he hadn’t worn any of those things in at least a year.

And just like that, Ryan glanced in their direction, Gansey happily waved with interest like he knew him already. His second hand came and touched at Ronan’s knee, and Ronan almost laughed. The absurdity of this, of having to use Gansey. This was so weird on so many levels.

Ryan hesitated to wave back, but did so with grace, noticing the hand that moved to Ronan’s knee. With swift measures, he acted like someone called him over back into another room, and off he went.

They parted like the red sea, and Ronan sighed with relief.

“Thank god that’s over,” he said.

Gansey mumbled something incoherent into his cup of soda. Ronan specifically made sure he didn’t drink tonight.

As the party continued on, music and dancing and drinking and conversation, Ronan sat there scrolling through newsfeeds of celebrity Halloween parties, looking for Adam and coming up with nothing. Either he was pulling one over on Ronan, or somehow none of the photographers had eyes because why weren’t they photographing Adam?

“Hello, losers, why are you sitting here like you were banished?”

Ronan looked up to see Blue, standing there in a tree costume. She smiled down at him and at Gansey, who flushed red at the sight of her and stood up on instinct.

“I need to refill my drink,” he said in a panic.

“I’ll come with.” She followed him along and away from Ronan, who bit back a laugh as he watched Gansey’s reaction. The man was nearly about to faint by the looks of things.

 

opal : hey, i found him

[1 attachment]

[1 link]

 

Ronan never opened a text message so fast before in his life. When he did, he flipped and immediately made up an excuse to go home. His heart was racing very, very fast, and he didn’t even react to Gansey’s silent HELP behind Blue. Gansey was fine. Blue wasn’t going to hurt him. He needed this, he felt. So he left.

He wanted to be home and alone to enjoy these pictures, and when he got home he promptly sat in bed and looked again.

There he was. Adam made the wonderful and terrible decision to dress up as Indiana Jones. He stood there next to friends in costumes too, but he didn’t care about them. He only had eyes for Adam, posing like a model for the cameras with his shirt collar undone and hanging very open. The whip sat there visibly at his waist. He had the hat, the boots, the pants, even the stubble. Everything. Ronan was hypnotized.

 

ronan lynch : you bastard

adam parrish : something i said?

ronan lynch : this is less a birthday gift as it is torture

adam parrish : I can only say I'm sorry so many times

 

Ronan knew that movie so well that he could tell he was quoting it, and he was possibly swooning. That asshole.

 

ronan lynch : well say it again

adam parrish : happy belated birthday, ronan xx

ronan lynch : I'm jealous of everyone at that party

adam parrish : I'm jealous of everyone in san francisco

ronan lynch : is this a competition now?

adam parrish : no, because I'd win. 21 days.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Having Opal around wasn't as weird or terrifying as Ronan initially thought it would be. He dreaded the thought of a teenager or small person in his house, but she was cleaner than Gansey, for the most part. While she left shit around the house and on the floor, it wasn’t dirty socks or old plates; it was books and homework and shoes. Her participation became almost natural after such a short period. He was so used to her anyway, that having her around the house became only an extension of that. Over the course of weeks they lived together they created a pattern on weekdays. He would wake up, make breakfast, then wake her up and Gansey after. Gansey would open the bookstore while he drove Opal to school. Then after school she would either come by the store or go home early to start on homework there, and then they’d have dinner all together after work. It was nice.

On the other side of the country, Adam finally had some reprieve of his own. He was back in New York, getting a break from his own chaotic schedule. Ronan wished he would come surprise him with a visit, but he knew that he needed this time off to just relax and to catch up on his sleep.

“I’m nearly finished with the book,” Ronan said one late evening, video chatting while Adam was in bed reading too. He was reading another book that Ronan had picked out for him, lying in bed shirtless with his hair a mess after a recent shower. They were meant to video chat in quiet, just to see each other for a little while before bed, but of course Ronan couldn’t shut up. Adam perked up at the sound of his voice, closing his book when their eyes met through the screen. “Levi’s come back, and there’s a whole thing with the aliens I don’t care about.” He almost said that if he wasn’t reading this book knowing Adam was playing Levi he would care, but he didn’t say that. “Levi’s private, and he won’t say what happened. I’m getting angry at my book.”

Adam smiled a little. “It definitely keeps you wanting to read more, doesn’t it?” he said. “Hopefully that’s how the film goes, too.”

“I can see why it was adapted,” Ronan confessed. He then noted how far Adam was in his book. “How’s yours?”

Looking down, Adam played with the bookmark he had sticking out from where he was, which wasn’t all that far. “It’s interesting,” he said. It was another book about theatre, which Ronan was glad he liked. “You know, I was actually thinking about going back into theatre.”

It would mean Adam would have to stay in one place for a while, which intrigued Ronan, but he knew it was still a place halfway across the country. “When would you find the time?” he asked.

Adam shrugged, leaning into his laptop with the full intention of ruining Ronan’s thought process. “I could make time,” he said. “It would only be a small run. If I do it.”

“You should,” Ronan said, finding himself sitting up in excitement over the thought of Adam going back to doing what he truly loved. When he talked about his past in theatre he talked of it with such joy, more than he did when he talked of half the things he had to do now. Theatre was so different to film work, and he wondered if Adam would be happier if he went back, even for a little while. “You're so powerful to watch live on a video. I bet in person would be intense. In a good way, I mean.”

Adam was doing his best not to smile, although Ronan could see the corners of his lips twitching with the intent to. “Would you come if I did that?” he asked, his voice thick with fatigue.

“I’d find a way to see every show,” Ronan admitted.

Adam’s gaze drifted off to something not on screen, his expression shifting to something more melancholy. He then closed his eyes, his long eyelashes casting shadows on his cheeks.

“That would be nice,” he said, quieter than he’d been talking this whole while. Ronan wondered if he was even meant to hear it. He almost started to cry, he missed him so much. Dreams were not enough.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

On another night when Opal was sleeping over at a friend’s house, and Gansey was out doing god knows what for the first time since he moved in with him, Ronan was alone in the house and he didn’t like it. So he went out on the town, and by that his standards were simple. He went to the theater, saw a really shitty movie that didn’t have anyone in it he recognized, and then he went to get dinner by himself.

In the parking lot of the fast food joint he went to, he called up Adam because Adam asked him to. He did not expect for Adam to answer the video call while he was in the shower.

Ronan blinked, confused, looking around in a panic as he held his phone closer to his face. Did Adam know he answered? On the other end, he could hear Adam’s shower, the camera a little misted and the room full of steam. Adam’s skin was pink from the water, his hair slicked back. This wasn’t a dream was it? No, because if it were he wouldn’t have wasted $11 on a really bad movie.

“Are you going to talk?” Adam said, amused.

“Uh, yeah.” Ronan’s cheeks were burning. “Hi. Why are you in the shower?”

“Because I needed to shower,” Adam answered, not at all catching why Ronan was acting strangely.

“And you thought now was a good a time as any to talk to me?”

“I don’t have much time today to spare,” Adam said, shrugging as his skin continued to get wetter and wetter from the water. From the placement of his phone, Ronan could only see from the belly button upward, and this made for a very strange bookend to his evening. “Texting can make me restless, because I like seeing your face. Calling can be hard because-“

“Yeah. I remember.” There was once when Ronan called Adam and he said texting was better, not because he didn’t want to, but because sometimes he couldn’t hear anything else around him when he was on a call. But this time around, he was pretty sure Adam was being suggestive. Who the fuck video chats in the shower? “What was so urgent?” Ronan asked, trying very hard not to make it obvious he was coming undone with each bead of water that ran down Adam’s chest.

When Adam said to call he said right away . This… was not urgent.

“Can't I miss you?” Adam asked. He dipped his head back into the water and Ronan nearly dropped his drink.

“Miss me,” he parroted. “While you're naked.”

His throat was getting dry, and while feeling parched he started to drink some more to try to help that feeling.

“You know, I do that more often than you think,” Adam said, so casually it made it word.

Startled by the confession, Ronan choked on his soda and it spilled everywhere. He dropped his phone. He could hear Adam laughing as he struggled to search for it in the chaos of his front seat. Ronan was going to get back at him for this… someday. When he wasn’t a virgin that hadn't been touched at all in months. Ignoring the mess he made on himself, he set his cup in its holder, desperate to grab his phone before he missed anything important or Adam hung up on him.

Finally, he found it as Adam stopped laughing so hard, finding that Adam was further away from his phone. He was dipped back, rinsing soap from his skin.

“Where am I right now?” he said.

Adam looked back at him, brow folded in. “I don't understand the question.”

“Do you have a specific spot for your phone in your shower?” Ronan was asking this only to distract himself from what he couldn’t see, what he could imagine, what he was currently trying very hard not to bring up. His skin was sticky from the soda.

“No, I have a very terrible system where it's currently pinned between a shampoo bottle and a body lotion bottle,” Adam said, none too proudly. “Any minute now, it could fall.”

“For such a smart guy, that's not very smart,” Ronan said, and he smirked childishly when Adam did not find him the least bit amusing.

In fact, Adam rolled his eyes.

“Why are you in the car right now?” he asked.

Ronan settled his stomach at the memory of his meal not ten minutes ago. He wished he savored it more, but he was definitely savoring this. It was possible he might have taken a screencap of the view.

“I went to get In-N-Out,” he said. “Have you ever had it?”

“Can’t say that I have,” Adam said, not realizing how horrifying that confession was to him.

“Wow. Relationship over.”

Adam laughed. His fingers were brushing through his soaked hair, something purple lathered in his hands and created suds at his scalp. “Is it that good?” Adam asked.

“It's incredible,” Ronan declared. One of the things he liked about California was the food. One of the things he didn’t like about California was the people who argued about the food.

Adam rinsed his hair of what Ronan could only imagine was shampoo, his throat visible and expanding as he tipped his head back. He was every bit a god in his right, and staring at his lean, fit frame Ronan looked down at his own and wondered for a second what he saw in him. He caught himself before the thought got away from him, reminding himself that he was worthy. He was deserving.

“Maybe that's where you can take me on our date,” Adam mused aloud. “Fifteen days.”

Then Adam bent over for something out of view, and Ronan tried to follow where he couldn’t. As a result, he ended up hitting his head.

Adam stood straight again at the sound, as Ronan came back down into his seat, feeling at his head with little stealth. He was wincing when he saw Adam smirking back at him.

“What happened?” he said, though he seemed to already know.

“I hit my head,” he confessed.

Adam frowned. “You okay?”

“Fine, Parrish,” Ronan grunted. It hurt to speak. “No thanks to you.”

It took Adam a moment to gather what it was that had happened. As the realization slowly crept onto his face he glanced down at himself, at what Ronan couldn’t see. He then gestured with his eyes and his very expressive eyebrows, hands pointing.

“Do you want to see?” he said.

“I’ve seen it already,” Ronan blurted out. He couldn’t believe he just said that. For one, it wasn’t true. For another, he did , but he was also new at this . Flirting and foreplay weren’t necessarily new to him; but them being with someone he truly and genuinely liked, with someone he knew where it was leading to and where he wanted it to lead to, now those were new. He gulped.

Adam laughed, a few good shakes of it at his shoulders, but then he stopped midway through, catching the truth in his words. A quizzical look distorted his face.

“Wait, which film was that?”

“I, uh….” Ronan hid his face in the shadows to avoid showing he was red with humility.

“It’s okay to admit you want to see more, Ronan,” Adam said, his voice softening and cool. “I want to see more of you. We're dating, after all.”

“I’m in public,” Ronan said with a jolt of surprise. They hadn’t gotten this far before in expressing their wants, almost as if they silently made a mutual agreement it would be harder if they did. So close to the end of their wait, he expected Adam was getting impatient.

“Pity,” Adam noted, and he took a step back. Ronan worried he was going to slip. He worried about a lot of things.

He swallowed again, noting the reveal of Adam’s hips, the curves of his frame that had been invisible before.

“You’re wasting water,” he said.

“I don’t care,” Adam replied. He looked to be taking another step back. God, how big was his fucking shower?

“You should care,” Ronan mumbled. “Climate control is a serious issue.”

“You seem so nervous,” Adam said. His expression was shifting with more concern than desire. “Why are you nervous?”

“I’ve never had sex before!”

Fuck.

Adam blinked, his mouth falling open a little in surprise. He faltered, or maybe he just slipped, but either way Ronan couldn’t believe he just said that. Out loud. To Adam.

“Wait, really?”

In a panic, Ronan hung up. His heart was racing, his palms were sweaty, his chest hurt. All the classic signs of Ronan freaking himself out.

His phone buzzed again, vibrating in his hand. Adam was requesting another video chat call, but Ronan could barely see straight. He did not answer.

On the drive home, Adam was constantly texting and calling again, visible as Ronan had his phone in his lap and occasionally looked down in case it was Opal. It was not Opal. She had a life. Ronan, however, was about to hide from his forever. Become a recluse. Die a virgin. That sounded plausible.

He was home not long after this whole mess started, parking down the street. When he checked his phone again he had a voicemail and five texts, with six missed calls.

 

adam parrish : not the greatest response I know. I was just surprised. there's nothing wrong with not having sex. do you abstain because you're catholic?

not that the only reason someone doesn't have sex is religion. that was stupid of me to presume

i can't tell if you're ignoring me or you're just driving

can you at least message me back that you're not mad at me

i’m sorry

 

For some reason, Ronan expected an entirely different reaction from Adam, something more along the lines of Oh. Well, I don’t really have any interest in dating a virgin. Thank you, but no. He dealt with it a couple times before, and now he was dealing with it again. Ronan could almost laugh. The absurdity of it, that Adam was apologizing to him when he literally had nothing to apologize for. When Ronan was the one that hung up before even talking. When Ronan was the one who had the panic attack on the drive home.

In his voicemail, he couldn't hear the shower anymore. That was good, hopefully meaning that he was done showering. That was less to fret about, except there was still the whole I think of you a lot when I'm naked .

God.

“Hey, so I'm terrible at this, and I don't know if you were kidding or what. But I'm taking your silence to mean that you weren't kidding. I'm obviously fine with it, because I'm not an asshole like that. I like you a lot. I appreciate that you felt you could tell me and I hope I didn't fuck it up. I just wanted you to know that. If we can't have sex, or you don't want to have sex, or you aren't interested in sex, that's totally fine. It's not what defines a relationship, obviously. I just want to hear from you. Lynch.”

Inside he walked past Gansey already home from wherever he had gone. He was watching television in the dark of the living room and didn’t even respond to Ronan as he walked past, listening to the voicemail again for the third time since he got out of the car.

He couldn’t believe he accidentally made Adam panic like that. Adam really liked him, and worried he upset him.

Jesus, he just kept being amazing it was annoying.

Adam was requesting another video chat before he could even figure out what he would say when he called back. Ronan answered on the second ring, to find Adam standing there with wet hair but clothed.

“Jesus, asshole,” Adam said sharply. “I thought you were dead.”

“What a sweet way to greet someone who you left a very nice voicemail for,” Ronan replied, rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, well, that was me fifteen minutes ago,” Adam frowned.

Ronan rolled his eyes again, sitting at his desk and wondering what to do here. He didn’t really know what to say, wasn’t sure if they were even going to broach the subject again or pretend it was never mentioned. This was the first time he told someone he was a virgin and they weren’t weird about it. Well, weirder than Adam usually was.

“So.... about what you said,” Adam said, and he was staring directly into the camera, directly into what Ronan felt like was his soul.

“I’m not going to have sex until I'm married,” he blurted out. “I should've told you sooner.”

“Oh.” Adam sighed. “Yeah, no. That's fine. I'm glad you told me now.”

Either Adam was being a real gentleman or he was just that amazing of an actor. It was bewildering to hear Adam be so goddamn charming about this. Ronan could barely hold it together.

“I mean, sex doesn't define a relationship, like I said—“

“You would seriously not have sex with me?” Ronan said, cutting him off before he heard too much.

“Not if you didn't want to.” Adam looked confused with why Ronan was confused.

“I was kidding,” he admitted.

“You were kidding?”

“Not about the virgin part.” Trying his best to not stutter on the word he waved his hand in the air in front of his face, acting like it was a casual conversation topic. “That was true. I was kidding about waiting. The only reason I've waited this long is I was waiting for the right person.” He stole a look in Adam’s direction for the first time in a minute, and he started to blush by the intensity of Adam’s smile. “But Harrison Ford is old now and—“

“You're a real prick, you know that?” Adam said it with such playful annoyance, but his smile was giving him away.

Ronan couldn’t control his expression anymore either, grinning to where his cheeks hurt. “Hey, half an hour ago you wanted to show this prick your dick, so really I'm doing fine,” he said proudly.

The mention of that made Adam’s cheeks go pink. Now he was the one feeling shy, hiding his face in his free hand.

“Yeah, well that invitation has been rescinded,” he mumbled.

“Because I'm a virgin?” He didn’t feel as weird about the word anymore. It was losing its power the more he said it, the more Adam smiled when he said it.

“No, because you're an asshole,” Adam said.

Ronan laughed, and it was easy to laugh. It felt like bubbles as he chuckled, moving to strip himself of his soda stained clothes. Adam laughed, too, although his face was still obscured by his palm, still red in the places he could see.

“Blog entry number 577,” Ronan said, but then he stopped when Adam’s hand fell down. There was such desire in his eyes, such heart aching want, that Ronan was stopped altogether when their eyes met.

“I’m dying here,” he said, moaning the words almost like a whine. “I just want to touch you so badly. This is so unbelievably unbearable.”

“Tell me about it.” Ronan turned the camera away a moment as he removed his shirt and found another to change into. “I’ve waited twenty five years for you, and you're across the country or the world 90% of the time.”

“I like that first part,” Adam whispered, when Ronan turned the camera back on himself. “Say it again.”

“Which part?”

“I think you know.”

Ronan closed his eyes as he said it. “I’ve waited twenty five years for you.”

“You know, it feels like I’ve waited my whole life for you too,” Adam confessed. He was smiling when Ronan opened his eyes. “I can wait a little longer.”

There was a terrible shiver that ran down Ronan’s back.

“I really like you, Ronan,” Adam said, like a confidential secret. “I miss you like hell. Which is bizarre, really, when you think about it. We've met in person, what, four times? But we've known each other for much longer. I'm glad to have you in my life.”

They were getting sappy. He sprawled out on his bed feeling that sappiness pool through him. It felt like being immersed in water slowly, and then all at once. Now it wasn’t so bad having told him he never had sex before.

“I’m glad, too,” he said. “You have no idea how much.”

“Did you-?”

“Want to video chat until you fall asleep?” Ronan beamed. “Always.”

For a moment there they could only smile, looking like two ridiculous fools as they stared so longingly into their phones. Then Adam started to move and lie down in his bed, staring at Adam the opposite direction Ronan was staring at him.

“I don't sleep as well on nights we don't do this,” Adam confessed.

“Soon we can do this for real.”

“That sounds nice,” Adam said. His sleepy smile was the last thing Ronan remembered before falling asleep.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“I have to pee!”

Gansey was shouting this in Ronan’s ear as he was getting dressed in his room. He hadn’t heard the door open or Gansey storm in, but there he was shouting at him like it was somehow Ronan’s fault he had to pee. This had become a theme of sorts since Opal moved in.

Her arrival made Gansey more proactive in self care, more aware of himself and his issues, things he needed to work on. It made Ronan aware of things he also needed to work on. One of them was boundaries. Another of them was Opal and Gansey’s incessant competition with each other, which Ronan didn’t really understand.

It was early afternoon on the weekend, and Ronan was supposed to be taking Opal to meet with her social worker again, to work more on his paperwork with the foster care system. It was so goddamn complicated and trying, but slowly he was figuring it all out. He wasn’t about to quit just because it was boring and tedious.

But now Gansey was here, shouting at him, holding a book in his hand.

“Can I help you with something?” Ronan asked.

Gansey looked to be infuriated enough already, it was comical how Ronan’s calm tone pissed him off more.

“I have to pee!” He was twitching strangely, which explained a few things.

“Go pee, then.” He realized Gansey was holding one of Opal’s textbooks. “What are you doing with that? Light reading while in the bathroom?”

Gansey noted the book in his own hand and then threw it on the ground. It made a large thwack sound as it hit the floor, heavy and thick. “She leaves them fucking everywhere!” he shouted, his voice squealing at the edges of words because it was so terribly pitched. “I tripped on them just walking up the stairs. I could’ve died .”

“Now you know how it felt with all your shit lying around all these months,” Ronan muttered, tucking his shirt in to his pants. Gansey noted the gesture with a shifting gaze, easing a little in his tirade at the strangeness of Ronan’s dress. He looked more like Gansey now than himself; but that’s what he expected the foster care people to want. He didn’t like this look. He was doing it for Opal.

“What?” He glared. “Thought you had to pee.”

“I do ,” Gansey said, regretting the reminder. “But she’s in the bathroom. She’s been in there for ages.”

“Opal!” Ronan shouted from where he stood.

“Yeah?” he could hear, a muffled shout over the sound of running water.

“Hurry up,” he said.

“I’m almost done,” her muffled voice said back.

Ronan turned back to Gansey, who was still standing in his bedroom for some reason. “She’ll be out soon,” he said.

“I have to pee now ,” Gansey argued. He was starting to hop about Ronan’s bedroom. Christ, he wasn’t going to pee in here, was he?

“There’s another one right there,” Ronan said, motioning to the bathroom staring him in the face. With a swift glance in its direction, Gansey opened his mouth, then closed it, then opened it again. He looked to be having an issue with this.

“You said I could never go in there,” he said. “That I could never use it!”

“For the love of-” Ronan shoved at Gansey’s shoulder to move along. “Go fucking pee! Don’t pee on my floor!”

With relief, Gansey rushed into his bathroom and slammed the door behind him. Ronan sat down on the bed in his new slacks, feeling strange in them, like a foreigner to his own body. This was like most days living with Gansey and Opal.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Seven days. Seven days until Adam was to be on the west coast. Ronan couldn’t begin to explain how excited he was. He made so many plans for when he was to drive down, what he was going to wear, what they were going to do. He researched the closest In-N-Out to where the premiere was being held. There was one not far, and so he had plans already thought out for how their first real date was going to be like.

But when he called Adam up, Adam looked so sad on the other end. He was upset about something, Ronan could see that, although he was doing his best to pretend he was fine. Ronan knew Adam well enough by now to know he wasn’t fine.

“What’s wrong?” he said.

There was the faintest sniffle, which Adam was clearly trying to pass off as allergies or a runny nose. He put a tissue to his nose like it was nothing.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he argued. “I’m great. I'm talking to you.”

“That's cute, but cut the bullshit. You can tell me anything.”

He waited, staring at Adam with defiance to his bullshit. Adam didn’t have to hide his emotions from him, and soon he realized this, relenting. Tears trickled down his eyes like a bad magic trick, and his shoulders slouched at once.

“I didn't, um, get a role I wanted,” he said, and he sounded so broken about it.

Ronan saddened. “The Wires movie?” he said.

“No, another film.” Adam winced and pressed another tissue to his eyes, sitting in his living room with the light faintly coming through his balcony window. Ronan was in the back office during lunch, Gansey at home today for once. Ronan was glad he was, to not disturb this.

“Are you part machine?” Ronan said, playfully teasing. “How many movies are you doing right now?”

“Too many,” Adam groaned.

“Then why don't you take a break for a while?” Ronan suggested.

Adam sneered, dropping his tissue and rolling his eyes. He didn’t like the suggestion, and Ronan immediately regretted mentioning it, even though it did deserve mentioning. “You sound just like Wendy,” he hissed. “I can handle it.”

“Okay.”

“I can ,” Adam protested.

“I’m not arguing, Parrish,” Ronan shot back. “But it sounds like you want to.”

It was then Adam started to sob, dropping his phone in his lap face down. Ronan might not have been able to see anymore, but he could still hear him.

“Adam?”

“I’m just under so much pressure right now,” Adam wheezed. His voice sounded thick like he was underwater. “My production company. The studios. The press. A fashion company campaign. Blah blah blah. And now it looks like I can't make it to LA next week.”

He slowly raised the phone back up, his eyes red and splotchy, snot coming down his nose and a little spit had dribbled down his chin. It was the most real Adam he had ever seen, and it was absolutely gut wrenching. He seemed so stressed and so angry, and Ronan pressed his forehead to his screen, fighting back tears of his own. He was angry for him, stressed for him. His eyes were hurting from the strain of not crying, especially when he heard what Adam said last.

“Is the film not premiering?” he said, hating that that’s what he focused on, but he was only human.

“It is,” and Adam took three long seconds to catch his breath, “but I'll probably be on location for Wires instead. The production dates got moved up. It's a whole thing.”

Finally, Ronan let himself be sad too, and a few of his own tears ran down his face. They were hot on his skin, but the pressure was off his eyes and he could breathe. Adam still sounded like he was struggling with that, trying to catch his breath again and again.

“Can't you say I'm Adam Fucking Parrish and I want to go to LA to make out with a really hot bookstore owner?” Ronan opted for playful again, but it was hard. His voice was quivering just like Adam’s.

Like it was the release he needed, Adam laughed, his laugh light as a feather between his sniffles and sobs. He blew his nose into a tissue, using his long sleeve to wipe at his face. Ronan couldn’t explain it, but somehow he felt honored that Adam was crying like this in front of him. He didn’t really cry like this in front of him before. The last time he was trying really hard to hide it, but now he was wailing like a blubbering fish in front of him.

“Wendy would have a heart attack.” Adam was looking up at the ceiling as he patted around his eyes.

“Yeah, well you're going to have a stroke or an aneurism if you don't get a break,” Ronan reasoned.

“I need to expose myself more to audiences before I disappear,” Adam then argued. This sounded like a recited fight he either practiced beforehand or had with others before now. Either way, Ronan wasn’t letting him get riled up. It sounded like that’s what he wanted.

“Haven't you exposed yourself plenty?” Ronan replied. “Or do you mean a porn film?”

Adam’s infamous withered look appeared, as he paused his tears, and Ronan couldn’t help but smile a little at his ability to still give him that look while crying. After a few seconds, Adam was blowing into another tissue, gasping for air again.

“Ah, not that kind of exposure then,” he said. “You know, I've never met anyone before who can do the things you do, juggle as much as you can. You're not going to disappear. You're an Oscar nominated actor. You're amazing at what you do. You can handle a step back now if you want. I'm sure they're begging for you to be in films left and right.”

Adam nodded just a little. His sadness went away for only a second, and then it was back again. His face fell into his hands, as he let his phone fall back onto his lap. This time it was facing up, and he could see Adam cradling his face, shuddering with stress. “I can't believe I'm crying like this in front of you,” he said, moaning.

“It's fine,” Ronan said, making it clear Adam didn’t have to hide himself from him at all. “Gansey's done worse in front of me.”

Adam laughed through his tears. “I can only imagine.”

With a quick flick of his wrist, Ronan wiped his own tears away, unsure if Adam saw them but certain he didn’t need to make a big deal out of it. This was Adam’s time to be sad, to release his stress and anxiety. He needed another massage, he could tell staring at his stiff shoulders.

“You're just overworked and tired,” Ronan said gently. “It happens. Maybe if you stop taking on more roles after Wires , you can take a break.”

Adam sniffled again, his chin still trembling. There was a tiny nod as he began to wipe at his eyes with his sleeves. “Maybe,” he said. A tear dripped down onto the camera, making everything blur for a second, until Adam caught it and wiped down the phone.

“Where is Wires filming?” he asked.

“New Mexico,” said Adam.

That was only one time zone away. Manageable.

“That’s not hopelessly far,” he said. “Maybe I can visit.”

Adam’s head cocked up and he stared right into the phone, gaping a moment before his lips pulled up into a helplessly charming smile. “Yeah?”

Ronan nodded, smiling back to avoid crying more. “Yeah,” he said. “I could bring Opal during winter break. You'll still be filming then, right?”

Adam sat up, bringing his phone with him. He held it close, breathing again a little easier. “That sounds really nice.”

“I’m still in this, you know.” Ronan pretended he was stroking Adam’s cheek, running a thumb along his screen. Adam seemed to register what he was doing, and he touched where he imagined Ronan intended, brushing his tears off for him. There had never been a heavier ache in Ronan’s stomach than in this moment. “I would wait a hundred years to be able to kiss you again.”

More tears streamed down Adam’s face, but they didn’t seem to be as sad as the ones before. They were hopeful tears, relieving tears. He closed his eyes. “You're just saying that,” he said.

“No, I mean it,” Ronan said with some defiance. “I waited twenty five years to meet you. I could wait twenty five more to kiss you again.”

“Well I'm not so patient,” Adam replied. He was so stubborn. “I can't wait that long.”

“Good thing we don't have to,” Ronan said.

While Ronan felt like shit, he knew Adam’s work did come first. He worked long and hard to get to where he was now, and just because he liked a boy now didn’t mean that it was all going to be put on the backburner for Ronan. He knew that. He couldn’t feel slighted for that.

Yet, at the same time, he knew Adam was working himself to death. He knew he needed someone to tell him to take a step back, to take a vacation for once in his life. He was allowed. He was deserving. Ronan hoped that when the time came, Adam took that break, that he wasn’t going to stubbornly ignore the suggestion, and this time listen. Before it was too late.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It was the day Adam was supposed to be in Los Angeles at his premiere when Ronan finally finished Wires . Levi lives, and it’s made clear his infatuation with aliens. As a kid he thought he was hurt by them, but really it was his parents. Levi got an ending with hope and self-love, and thankfully it didn’t end with him being saved by the relationship that never started with the main character. Even so, Ronan finished the book feeling raw, because it wasn’t just Levi he was reading about.

Suddenly it all made sense. Suddenly everything clicked. Why Adam donated and volunteered with places for kids who came from abusive homes. Why he did several make-a-wish foundations. Why he didn’t talk much about his past. Why he worked so hard to get away from that life. Why this movie seemed to mean so much to him that he put his own money into it and everything.

 

ronan lynch : adam

adam parrish : what is it

ronan lynch : I finished the book

adam parrish : oh

ronan lynch : you said you connected to levi

adam parrish : yeah

ronan lynch : was this your way of telling me?

adam parrish : yeah

ronan lynch : i’m proud of you. I don't know what to say without it sounding fucked up, but I am. for all you've done. for growing into the person you are. you're amazing.

adam parrish : thank you

ronan lynch : when you're free do you want to video chat?

adam parrish : no I don't think so

ronan lynch : okay

adam parrish : im pretty busy

ronan lynch : okay

 

Somehow he fucked up. He shouldn't have said anything. He should've left it alone probably. God. He made a deal with himself to give Adam space, feeling like that’s what he wanted anyway. Work was obviously still stressing him out, and now he had to deal with Ronan knowing this very intimate part of his life. It was probably less about him than it was about Adam, but he still of course took it personally.

He did not sleep well that night. In fact, he didn’t sleep at all. Gansey came into his room the next morning and barely had to look at him to know he wasn’t going into work. He stayed home in bed all day, not even getting up to say goodbye to Opal on her way to school.

The day wasted away until he heard Opal come back from school, and finally he forced himself to get up and make something of the day. At least for her.

When he walked downstairs he found her eating snacks she knew she wasn’t supposed to have so close to dinner. She unsubtly stuffed her face with crackers when Ronan walked into the kitchen. He didn’t care. Not today.

“Hey, did you finally finish the book?” she said, spilling cracker dust all over the floor. They both stared at it a second. He motioned for her to clean it up.

“Yeah,” he said. He was still holding the book in his arms, which he hadn’t realized. “You can read it I guess. Wait, how much violence can a thirteen year old read about?”

“We'll find out!” Opal swiped the book from his hand. He rolled his eyes, but didn’t fight her.

“Did you finish your homework?” he asked.

Yes, Dad .”

The pair of them froze where they were standing in the kitchen as she said it. She looked at him, and he looked at her. Her face was as red as a tomato.

“I, uh... gotta go.”

Awkwardly she walked out into the backyard with the book under her arm, still chewing obscenely on a bunch of crackers.

It was raining, he realized, as she walked outside. Even so, she stood out there under the small patio roof, reading at the table. Everything felt a little hazy, so he didn’t think to tell her to read it inside.

As he moved through the motions, he was grabbing a glass of water when he got a text from Noah. It was asking him if they were still having Thanksgiving together. He said yes. Then somehow that reminded him Opal said she was supposed to go hang out with Blue today. His brain was broken.

He tapped on the glass of the sliding door and she jerked, understandable.

“What?” she shouted through it.

He slid it open for easiness of conversation. “Aren't you supposed to meet Blue?” he said.

“I’d much rather read this book,” she replied. Ronan wondered if it was a good idea for her to read it.

“You promised her,” he argued.

“Can't I go tomorrow?” she asked, begging. Her legs jittered under the table as she pouted.

“Nope.” He turned away, leaving the door open as a sign she was meant to follow.

“Ugh.”

She got up not long after, dragging the book with her and angrily pushing it into his chest as she walked past him to change. It didn’t make sense to him why she changed, but he said nothing about it. Afterward, he drove her over to Blue’s, where her spirits lifted somewhat upon her drop off. Blue waved Ronan off with a smile as she walked Opal inside under an umbrella.

 

adam parrish : are you free? can we talk?

 

Ronan didn't like that phrase. Can we talk.

 

ronan lynch : yeah. give me ten minutes?

adam parrish : okay.

 

Ronan never drove so slow before in his life, but he drove home real slow on purpose, lengthening the drive as long as he could before they said anything. But inevitably he made it home, whether he liked it or not. When he got out of the car he continued to stare down at the message, over twenty minutes old. It was raining on his screen, but he didn’t care. Can we talk.

He wasn't going to let him break up with him. No. That sounded so aggressive. At the very least he was going to point out how much he hoped he wouldn’t. He was going to talk it out, find out why it was happening. This was not how it was going to end. They were great together, even if it was just through a screen. These were the happiest months in his life, and he wasn’t about to let them get destroyed over this, not if he could help it.

On his walk, he bumped into something on his stoop and slipped backward onto his ass in the rain. This was what happens when you don’t look where you’re walking. It was cold and wet on the cement ground, his back soaked through. He was getting rained on in his eyes.

It wasn’t raining on his face anymore after a moment, and he was allowed to look up in the struggle to sit. Opening his eyes he saw above him a hallucination.

No, no this was no hallucination. Adam was standing above him with an umbrella. Adam was smiling, not the least bit wet.

“Surprise,” he said.

 

Chapter Text

Never in his life did Ronan scramble to his feet so fast, or jump into someone's arms so hard, or hold them so close and for so long they had to ask to breathe. With great effort, he pulled away, his hands coming up to Adam's face. To feel the realness of his skin, the smile framing his cheeks. He felt like he could breathe now, something lifting off his chest after all these months apart. With little effort he rested his forehead to Adam's, cold against Adam's warm skin.

The world cracked open and his heart had never been happier.

“You're really here,” he whispered.

Adam laughed absurdly quiet, nodding a little against the weight of him. His nose grazed Ronan's cheek. He smelled just how he remembered, even surrounded by all this rain. His heart was trembling, as was his whole body, soaked through by the fall into the street.

“Are we just going to stand out here forever, or can I come in?”

“Yeah yeah.” It took great effort for Ronan to peel away from him even for a second, even to move towards the door. “Come in. Come in. Fuck.”

He never took someone's hand so eagerly or walked into his house so fast. This was the best fucking day of his life up to this point. God, he was absurdly happy. Looking over his shoulder, he could see Adam was, too.

Inside, Adam collapsed his umbrella, shaking out the last remnants of rain out on the porch before walking inside. He set it next to the doorframe to dry, the pair of them both kicking off their shoes, standing there in their socks at the front mat. Ronan’s were soaked through like everything else. He was shivering, freezing cold, but couldn’t stop staring at Adam. He was unwilling to move from him even to get dry. This was strangely awkward, as now that Ronan had him here in front of him he didn’t know what to do. Suddenly his body felt deformed, his limbs immobile. The longer they stood there in silence just staring, the more he was incapable of doing a goddamn thing. It had become so viscerally natural over the phone, he was getting stage fright. That’s what this was.

“Shouldn’t you be on set in New Mexico?” Ronan could already tell it was a stupid question to ask, and he winced.

Adam softly chuckled, stepping into him, tugging at the jacket he was wearing that was drenched, dripping on his wood floor. His fingers were playing with the zipper, and Ronan very nearly pinned him to the coat closet and had his way with him there. But upon further inspection of Adam’s flashed smile, he knew there was something more going on in his head. He didn’t just come here to see him. Adam didn’t just go somewhere on a whim. Last time he did that he was avoiding problems. This felt bigger.

“You really don’t read the tabloids, do you?” Adam asked, and his fingers stopped on Ronan’s zipper.

“They’re all so fake and judgmental,” Ronan said, stating the obvious.

“Welcome to my world.”

At once, Adam pulled away, walking further down Ronan’s front hall, hands moving to go into his pants’ pockets. He looked so nice today, with gray plaid slacks and a graphic long sleeved tee that probably cost more than Ronan’s entire closet. He removed his dark gray peacoat and hung it up on the coat rack, and there he stayed, back remaining to Ronan.

He didn’t know the procedure here. Could he touch him? Hug him? Kiss him? Leave him alone? They still hadn’t talked about what he learned through reading Wires . Were they ever? Should they? It was Adam’s business, but he didn’t know if him not saying anything was as hurtful if he- For fuck’s sake, Ronan.

“Do you want something to drink? To eat? A towel?” Ronan followed Adam closer into his house, past a plant Opal made him buy that didn’t need much watering, and Opal’s crap that she left at the foot of the stairs. Adam seemed to catch the new additions, eyeing them with a timid smile that Ronan wasn’t sure what to make of.

“No,” Adam said after a while, “but you might need one.” He turned back around, smiling at him a little fuller. He came and playfully swept the water from Ronan’s brow. Just that simple touch gave him goosebumps.

Adam followed him to the guest bathroom on the second floor where he grabbed a towel off the rack, not yet prepared for Adam to come to his bedroom. He started to dry at his head and his shoulders, although really he needed to change out of everything. Adam was watching him from the doorway, leaning against it with glazed over eyes. Without saying anything Ronan moved out and into his bedroom, leaving the door open as his way of inviting him. It was a tiny mess, but he wasn’t really thinking about that right now.

Instead of following him inside, Adam stayed hovering at the doorway, not coming in and not looking into his room either. Ronan peeled off his shirt and his pants and his socks, shivering worse now that he didn’t at least have the wet layers on between him and the frigid air. He was kind of hoping Adam looked, but when he turned to him he found Adam was staring at the wall, saying nothing and doing nothing.

“What are you doing here?” he said, changing into new pants and a new shirt. He came back out into the hall, nudging at Adam’s hand with his. “Not that I’m not happy to see you, but…”

Their hands slid together so well, and then Adam was looking up at him, a red rim around his eyes Ronan hadn’t noticed until now. With his other hand he came and stroked his cheek.

“I pushed back the film,” he said.

“Wires?” Ronan didn’t know why he had to double check. It didn’t really matter.

Adam nodded once. His expression still seemed like he was somewhere far away, not really present. “I threatened to drop out as a producer and as the star, and they need my money and my name to get it made, so they let me. But I don’t know if I even want to finish it.”

Ronan couldn’t imagine what was going on in Adam's head right now. He was always so precise, so detailed, and now here he was saying he didn’t even want to finish a film he had Ronan read the book for in eagerness.

“You were so excited-“

“Something about it doesn't feel the same anymore.” Adam bowed his head. “I was at a rehearsal and suddenly I didn’t want to be there anymore, surrounded by fake people and doing fake things.”

“I thought you loved all that stuff.” Ronan tilted his chin up, but Adam still wasn’t quite ready to meet his gaze. His eyes stayed focused on the floor.

“I love acting,” Adam said, a little stilted, but he said it. “With every fiber of my being. Disappearing into the roles is almost cathartic. I can take on someone else's life, but still be me at the end of the day. But.... it's the other part I hate. The interviews. The paparazzi. Every moment of my life is documented by someone now. I don't have a moment for just me, to think alone.” His hand pulled from Ronan’s so he could place it to his face along with his other hand. This wasn’t what he anticipated for their reunion. This wasn’t even close. But to have Adam here at all, he was so grateful for that. “I always have somewhere to be,” he said, and his voice wavered, “and I can’t remember the last time I got to go to an art museum, or drive to a fast food place because I was craving it, or sleep in and wake up next to a very beautiful man.”

Ronan looked sadly at him. He reached for him at his waist, pulling him in closer. Adam eagerly stepped into him, feeling at his chest with both his hands. His fingers scratched at him through the fabric of his shirt.

“I’ve never gotten to relax at the park, lie in the grass as someone runs their hands through my hair while we read in the shade.” Adam touched fondly at Ronan’s shoulders next. “There’s a lot I’ve never gotten to do, that I thought I could now because of acting. I mean, I can do it now, but I just don’t have the time. I want the time.”

When he finished talking he began to cry. Something twisted at Ronan’s chest as he watched in horror, only this time he could finally do something about it. He touched ever so delicately at Adam’s face, and Adam collapsed right into him, pressing into his chest and closing his eyes. There was a ferocity in the way Adam held him, clutching him so tight he wondered if Adam worried he would disappear if he didn’t. Adam’s little shaky breaths were cold against his neck, but it made this all the more real, bringing him into the reality of this moment. Adam was here, and he came here for a reason, to be with him. With the tenderest touches, he kissed at the crown of Adam’s head, his hair smelling like strawberries and coconut. He kissed again for good measure, and again, until Adam stopped crying and shaking in his arms.

“I was serious about going back to theatre.” Adam tilted his face up to look at Ronan, and for a second he thought they were going to kiss, but when he leaned in Adam then buried his face back into Ronan’s shoulder. “It was less stressful then. Or maybe I’ll become a biochemist like I planned as a kid.”

“I still can't believe little eleven year old Adam Parrish had dreams of being a biochemist,” Ronan said. His hands began to run circles at Adam’s back, light touches that made his whole person quiver. “When I was eleven I dreamed of being pizza.”

Adam laughed harder than Ronan felt necessary. It wasn't a funny joke, but maybe it was the right joke for him to hear. He shook like an earthquake, rattling him down to the bones of his body. Again, Ronan kissed at Adam’s forehead, again and again until Adam moved and kissed his closer cheek.

Quietly, they walked back downstairs, holding hands with Adam as the lead. Ronan wanted to kiss his knuckles, and so he did when he remembered he could. He brought Adam’s hand to his lips, kissing each knuckle specially. Adam stared at him with such a faint expression of surprise.

Ronan worshipped him.

“Did you want to watch something?” Ronan suggested, as they found their way back to the living room.

“No thank you,” Adam replied, his voice still so small.

“Right.” Ronan kissed a tear off Adam’s cheek, figuring if he couldn’t kiss him yet, he could kiss around his lips at the very least. “You might know someone in something.”

Adam laughed a little, quivering under Ronan’s touch. With one hand he guided Ronan off, while with the other he used his sleeve to wipe his eyes.

“Did you want to go for a walk?” The back of Ronan’s knuckles brushed Adam’s cheek, tracing the freckles along his jawline.

“It's raining.”

“Shit.” With one glance out the back sliding glass door, he could in fact confirm it was still raining. The sound was muffled by the second floor, but upon listening more carefully he could hear it. “I forgot.”

This was awkward. Adam was still close to him, but not close enough. He wanted to hold him, to touch him, but he felt like Adam wasn’t really ready for that yet. Like he was shy about it, when Adam was the one who kept making innuendos about sex all these months apart.

He could wait. He could wait forever. Adam was here.

“Can we just... talk?” Adam looked at him with such open eyes, such joyful and simple sweetness. “We’ve been doing that for months now. We should be pretty good at it, shouldn’t we?” he said, hopeful.

“You would think,” Ronan remarked.

Adam moved to the sofa first, and Ronan followed after him slowly. He sat and tucked his legs under him, elbow propped against the back of the sofa, and Ronan walked around him to sit at the side he faced. Their knees bumped together as he sat down, and he noticed in his peripheral Adam sliding a little closer so their knees bumped again.

“I’m happy you’re here,” he confessed.

“I feel safe here…” Adam inclined his head a little. “With you.”

They went quiet out of shyness or contentment, maybe a mixture of both. This felt like they were back in that cafe when Opal first outed them to each other, unsure where their limbs went, how long to hold each other’s gaze. God, was this going to get easier or harder the longer Adam was here?

The base of Adam’s hairline, above his nape, was a bit wet. Unthinkingly he went and reached around him, and pinched a lock of hair to stop it from dripping into his shirt collar. Adam didn’t move, but his eyes shifted to Ronan’s hand, then to Ronan’s eyes. There was a flicker of that hunger he saw so frequently in their video chats, but he did nothing and said nothing. So, Ronan’s hand fell back down, fingertips wet. When he pressed them in together, he shivered. Adam’s hand came into view and hovered near his, until he moved his into Adam’s, letting him take both their hands to his lap. It was something.

“Won't you get in trouble for breaching your contract or something?” Typical of Ronan to bring that up at a time like this.

Adam shrugged. “I don't care,” he said.

“Yes you do.” Ronan knew him better than that, whether he wanted to admit it or not. “You're terrified of what you did, I bet. Why did you do it?”

Adam’s fingers spread wide, inviting Ronan’s to slip in between the open spaces. They were relearning each other, in physical form again rather than digitally. He squeezed each and every one of Adam’s fingers, bringing them to his lips again. The act startled Adam to speak. “I wanted to be here more,” he admitted. “It might not have been a very smart decision. It was rash and impulsive, but god, I got such a thrill when I just left for that plane without so much as packing a suitcase.” He was smiling, like he got away with breaking some rule. In a way, that’s exactly what he did.

“I was going to ask where that was…” Ronan realized all Adam had was his jacket and his umbrella. He began to wonder how long he was going to be here. It couldn’t have been that long if he didn’t have anything, if he acted so impulsively.

“You figured out what I was trying so hard to tell you,” Adam said, staring at their hands and nothing else. His smile was burning. “Something that took years for me to tell my friends, years to tell Wendy. I grabbed the first plane out of New York.”

Ronan reached with his other hand and stroked at the the space of freckles by Adam’s ear. There was slight hesitancy to his touch, but then he closed his eyes and leaned into the hand.

“I don't want to be Adam Parrish anymore,” he said. “Not the one they see. I don't feel real sometimes. I feel fake. I don't know when it happened, but it did. Now when I look at myself I see someone else. An imposter.” His eyes opened without warning, and Ronan felt frozen under the intensity of his bright blue gaze. “But when I've been here, with you and Opal, I start to feel like myself again. Like a person and not an image. The me that was and the me that is, the part I used to hate and hide, and the part I allow people to see. You see me. You see the real me. I appreciate you so much, Ronan.”

Ronan didn’t dare look away. “How long are you staying?” he asked.

“I don’t know that either.” Adam squeezed his fingers again that were entangled with Ronan’s. “How long will you have me?”

For eternity, Ronan thought, but wouldn’t say. He was afraid to confess it, especially when he was aware Adam shouldn’t be running away from his problems. But who was he to judge when he did that in high school? Instead of saying anything, he inclined into Adam, who didn’t move any closer to him in return, still visibly hesitant for the bigger signs of affection.

“I’ll give you one more hour,” he said.

At once, Adam broke into tiny laughs, pinching the bridge of his nose as small shakes escaped his body. He clung to Ronan’s shoulder with his once occupied hand, gripping it tightly.

“Asshole,” he said.

Hearing him say it in person again was like a much craved dessert. Sated by it, he smiled back at him, feeling warm inside and softer for it. This was Adam, familiarizing himself with Ronan again, coming back to life after crying. He leaned into Adam’s touch, his hand still at his shoulder, until it wasn’t anymore. It slid up the side of his neck and up past his cheek, to run along his scalp. His fingers seemed to know they had free range wherever they wanted to go on Ronan’s body, and they were eagerly taking advantage.

“You’ve grown it out a little,” Adam observed, touching at the hair that indeed was growing. “I like it.”

Ronan was suddenly very nervous with the imagery filling his head. Of Adam taking his curls into his fingers, pulling on them if he grew it out more. Of him making him quiver and cry out. He quickly stood up.

“You hungry?” He sounded like goddamn Mickey Mouse.

Adam’s eyes followed him at every movement. “Starving.”

Somehow there was suggestion underlying the word, and it made Ronan blush.

“I bet.” He stepped over him to walk back around toward the kitchen. “I’ll see what I have.”

As Ronan was leaving for the kitchen, Adam called out from the sofa, “You know, I was afraid of coming here.”

“Why?” Ronan asked, feeling less nervous now that he had a wall between them.

“I don’t know,” said Adam, and Ronan immediately regretted this wall. He hated that he couldn’t just guess what they had to eat from the living room. “A part of me still thinks you and I…”

His voice drifted into the ether, as Ronan opened the fridge door to look inside. Quietly, he waited at it still open, for what he had to say.

“That it’s just a fantasy,” Adam eventually said.

Ronan then appeared again in the living room before Adam could say anything else, finding him there playing with the blanket lying on the back of the couch. He came to him, grabbed his face in both his hands, and almost kissed him on the lips but chickened out at the last minute. Instead he kissed him at the corner of his lips, and then further out at his cheek, and then again by his eye and up and over, again and again until he was kissing at the other side of Adam’s mouth. Adam let out a sigh, content, and that’s when Ronan pulled back.

“This is no fantasy,” he said. “You’re the luckiest guy in the world, you know.”

Adam snorted. “Is that so?”

“Yeah.” Ronan smirked. “Dating Ronan Lynch is a real treat. Very rare.”

Adam rolled his eyes.

Back in the kitchen, Ronan looked again at what they had in the fridge. There was a lot of food, especially now that Opal lived with them and needed real sustenance, rather than the shit he and Gansey were ingesting. But all of it required time spent in the kitchen, away from Adam. His impatience was tugging at him, and he shut the door again.

“Wanna order in?” he asked him as he settled back in on the sofa. “I assume you don't want to go out.”

“Pizza?” Adam’s whole face lit up.

Ignoring the fact he had pizza yesterday, he nodded. Whatever Adam wanted.

“Sure,” he said, and Adam shifted around on the sofa with high anticipation.

He pulled Ronan in, excitedly hugging him from his side. Suddenly his lips were at Ronan’s cheek, breathing against his skin again like before. Their hands found each other as Ronan fell into him, laughing.

They took up the entirety of the sofa, lying down sideways on it, Adam clinging to him with his stomach pressed into Ronan’s side. His one arm slung over Ronan’s stomach, and his legs wrapped around Ronan’s waist, one slipping under him like a buffer between him and the sofa cushions. This felt more like Adam, and he was more than happy to welcome this behavior.

They ordered their pizza, with Adam pointing out what he wanted on Ronan’s phone screen. When it was completed, Adam put his hand back down with a delightful sigh, resting his face in the crook of Ronan’s neck, noticeably smiling against his skin.

Ronan could happily lie here forever like this, but he also knew there were others who would kill him to see Adam.

“We should text Opal, tell her to come home,” he said.

Adam’s one hand was running circles over Ronan’s chest. “Where is she?” he asked, which was a very strange question when paired up with his distracting hand.

“She’s out with Blue.” Ronan turned his neck a little so he could see him, though it was hard because Adam wasn’t light and he was holding down half his body from moving. He managed, however, and grazed his nose against Adam’s, hoping maybe now he would kiss him. “I don’t actually know what they’re doing.”

“She’s been good here, though,” Adam said, and it was less like a question than it was a statement.

“Yeah,” Ronan agreed. “Despite the fact she has to live with Gansey, she’s liking it.”

Adam’s hand came and moved to brush his fingertips along the length of Ronan’s lower lip, back and forth and back and forth. To be more comfortable, half falling off the sofa, Adam shifted even closer into Ronan’s side. As a result, one of his knees brushed Ronan’s groin by accident, and he shivered uncontrollably. He was very much aware of what they could do now, but they were still slowly feeling this out. It had only been an hour at best. His hand unthinkingly moved to the space of bare skin at Adam’s waist anyway.

“Text her later, okay?” Adam insisted. “I like this. Just us.”

He didn’t need to be asked twice.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

After the pizza arrived they devoured it and talked more, a little more openly than they had been previously that afternoon. They talked of what this might mean for Adam’s future, though not too deeply. Adam confessed he wasn’t exactly sure. It could completely implode his career, or have minimal impact because he was, as Ronan so eloquently put it, Adam Fucking Parrish. Only time would tell, and Adam didn’t sound all too eager to learn which outcome it would be.

They then got into what this meant for Ronan, and Ronan confessed he was skyrocketing to the moon having him here. He said he supported Adam in whatever decision he made, but that he hoped he didn’t self-sacrifice any more just to see him. He gave Adam a pep talk, about how he got into this life for a reason, and that he shouldn’t let other people ruin it for him. If it was what he truly loved, there may be ways to remove himself from the parts of it he hated. Some actors were world famous and were hardly in the limelight. Maybe find out how they do it, he suggested. Adam agreed that was a good suggestion.

They lay on the sofa post-pizza for hours, as the rain continued to pour outside, the wind howling against the walls and the glass. Ronan would occasionally move to kiss Adam’s forehead, and Adam would kiss him back somewhere along Ronan’s jawline or neck.

He very nearly asked why it was they hadn't kissed yet, but he held his tongue when he found Adam staring at him with a tender hearted smile. He traced the edge of Adam's hairline with the tip of a finger, and Adam in turn traced invisible lines over his face.

The rain created a nice ambiance, the patterned sound calming and suggestive. They remained cuddled lying on the sofa, full and sleepy, until eventually Adam dozed off first. His eyes seemed heavy for a while beforehand, but he forced them open each time they dropped, like he couldn't commit to missing a second of this. And then, like a candle extinguished, he was out. Not long after, so was Ronan.

Before he knew it, he heard the turning of keys in the front door, and he jolted awake at the sound. Accidentally, he knocked Adam off the sofa, who shockingly fell in silence. Not shockingly, he was glaring up at Ronan as he helped him back up to the couch.

"What was that for?" Adam grunted, touching at his shoulder. Ronan kissed at it, feeling like a dick, but he was also panicking. Calculating what time it was, it made more sense that this was Gansey. It also made more sense because he tended to take twice as long as Opal to open the goddamn door.

"Shit," Ronan said, and even worse he repeated it when Adam looked to want to lean in to kiss him. Now was not the time. "It's my roommate. It's Gansey."

"Oh." For one strange reason or another, Adam didn't seem wary with the idea of meeting one of his biggest fans, and so he didn't move. His face brushed peculiarity close to Ronan's neck, lips finally doing more than small pecks. Now was not the time.

Behind him he could hear the door open then close, as Adam's lips explored his skin.

Gansey was going to quite possibly explode.

"Hey, Ronan, did you hear that Adam Parrish got in a yelling match with another actor at a rehearsal and threatened to pull out?" He sounded strangely giddy about it. "It was unbelievable. Someone leaked a video of it. He just went off! No one's seen him since...." His voice trailed off and Ronan swiftly turned to catch his expression. He was staring wide eyed at the pair of them, with a pointed finger targeted at Ronan, then Adam, then back again. Adam awkwardly waved up at him, sheepishly smiling. Ronan could only cover his face in his hands.

"Hi," Adam said.

That woke the beast.

"Fu- You-" He looked to Ronan with bulging eyes. "He- I- Right." He nodded. "This makes sense."

And then Gansey proceeded to faint on the floor. Beside him, Adam leaned over the sofa to look down.

"Do you think he's okay?" he asked.

"He's fine."

"If you say so." Adam turned back to Ronan, licking his lips. His hand was moving into Ronan's collar. "Where were we?"

"Okay, you know I wasn't being serious," Ronan said in disbelief. He squirmed out from under Adam's hold, although he didn't want to. Adam frowned, and then stood up after him.

Together they helped Gansey to the sofa, setting him down between them. He came to fairly quick, and upon waking back up looked to Ronan with wide eyes again

"Ronan," he said, reaching for his elbow. "I just had the most bizarre dream ever."

On his right, Adam snickered, and Gansey turned swiftly to his right to see him sitting next to him. He shrieked. "Ah!" He slapped at Ronan's shoulder, unable to look away from Adam, who thank god looked amused more than horrified. "What the fuck? I thought I was dreaming. Oh my god." He moved to fall to his knees at Adam's feet, and Adam startled, looking at Ronan for what to do. "I'm your biggest fan," Gansey blurred out. "Oh my god. I've loved all your films. I made Ronan watch them. You are so much more handsome in person. I bet you're taller too. Oh my god, I'm not really into guys but I would definitely-"

Ronan's hand swiftly came and cut Gansey off by being placed on his mouth.

"Down boy," he hissed. "Calm down and shut up please ."

Gansey bowed his head and pulled away from Ronan's hands, thankfully silent when his mouth was free. Ronan couldn't begin to believe how embarrassed he was by his behavior, even though Adam appeared to be a little charmed.

"He's weird, but he means well," Adam said, as Gansey clambered up to his feet and bolted up the stairs in a panic. "I'm used to it."

"Yeah, well if he keeps acting that way I'll kick his ass," Ronan muttered, falling back into Adam on the sofa. Adam held him tight, chuckling a little, close to his ear.

"I'll be fine," he said. "He's harmless."

They were left alone to cuddle on the sofa until Opal came home. When she did she shrieked with glee at the sound of his voice.

"Oh my god!" Opal came barreling down the hallway with her raincoat still on. Adam perked up immediately, Ronan forgotten. "Yay!"

She ran to him and pushed past Ronan to hug Adam, talking at hyperspeed about a thousand things. Neither of them could keep up, but that wasn't entirely the point. Eventually Ronan wasn't really listening to what she had to say, or even the small responses Adam managed to get in every so often. What he focused on was how happy they were to see each other, the way Adam was still holding her as she was still hugging him. The way Adam glanced over her to Ronan and smiled softly, like he finally felt like he belonged, when he belonged the whole time. This felt like a family.

"Hi, Ronan. I'm sorry for bringing her back so- Adam!"

Ronan's face went back into his hands.

Adam came around the sofa to hug Blue, and he invited her to stay for dinner, but Blue of course made a joke at Ronan's expense as her way of saying no.

"I don't think he would want me to stay," she said. "You already have enough people blank blocking you here as it is."

"I know what cockblocking is, Blue," Opal groaned. "I'm not a child."

At least Adam and Blue found it funny. Ronan was dying inside. He wanted that kiss.

First, though, they had to suffer through dinner. They ordered in Chinese food from a really good place five minutes away. Blue didn't stay, like she said she wouldn't, and Gansey came back downstairs to sit and stare across the table at Adam. He kept flinching every so often, which Ronan came to realize was because Opal kept kicking him, trying to curb his staring.

"So you two are..."

"Dating," Adam clarified. "Yes."

"So when you told me...." Gansey then said to Ronan.

"I wasn't joking," Ronan replied. "You just assumed it, so I let you."

"This is, this is unbelievable. I don't know. I can't." Gansey kept staring. He flinched again, but didn't look away.

Clearly nothing worked, and Opal wouldn't stop talking either, though he wouldn't dare kick her to stop her. It was the peak of humiliation for Ronan, but Adam didn't seem to mind the slightest.

He at some point pushed their chairs together, like they were on a loveseat or a bench. His left hand was at Ronan's thigh the entire meal, running up and down it, but not in a suggestive way. He touched him in more of a familiar way, like he just wanted to touch him anywhere, to be close to him.

After dinner Adam helped Ronan clean the dishes, which surprised him because he didn't want Adam to have to help do anything. He was the guest.

"Have you ever done your own dishes before?" he joked, and Adam elbowed him.

"Of course I have," he said, laughing. It was late, they were delirious, and Adam kept laughing. It was a beautiful sound, even if it was mainly caused by his exhaustion.

"I grew up doing all of that for myself. I learned to cook, wash my clothes, and do a lot more at a very young age. I had to become independent fast, grow up fast, since I basically raised myself." He was drying the dishes while Ronan washed them, his dishwasher broken for weeks now. When Adam paused talking, Ronan leaned into him, kissing at his cheek. This made so much sense, more parts of Adam becoming evident in his discussion of his life before Yale, before fame. His parents were actual garbage.

"Sort of why I fell into acting," Adam went on. "I worked hard to rebuild a new me, the one I wanted to be and always dreamed of being. I'm proud of coming up from where I once was, of the journey."

Ronan noted Adam's drying slowed down a little, and he stopped washing.

"And now you don't want to be that version of you anymore?" he asked.

Adam's gaze lifted up to him. "I still do," he said, "but it's been malformed being in the spotlight this long. I have to reshape again."

Ronan continued washing, and he snorted. "You sound like you're that green playdough cartoon character," he said.

"Gumby?" Adam roared with laughter.

The joke wasn't all that funny, but Adam laughed like he wasn't going to stop. He laughed until he cried from laughing so hard. Ronan's heart swelled three sizes larger, watching him exist in a moment so pure.

"Okay, it wasn't that funny," he eventually said, smiling to himself as he went back to his dishes. Adam wheezed trying to stop laughing, trying to return to drying them. He wiped away his tears, grinning messily, unprepared. God he was a vision.

"Should I make that my next feature?" he jested. His southern drawl was thicker, Ronan noted. It was hard to concentrate.

"I don't think you have the range," he joked, and Adam lost it again. This time he was practically cackling.

"You know, you don't have to reshape, or whatever you called it. You're wonderful just the way you are."

Adam looked to want to roll his eyes, and Ronan stilled his hand on the plate he held.

"I'm serious," he said, and he meant it with his tone. "I like every bit of you. You should see the Adam I see. He's the strongest person I know."

Still looking at him, Adam hesitated to speak. There were words on the tip of his tongue, but they didn't come. His face dusted with color before he then dropped his gaze, leaning conspicuously close to Ronan's side for a good length.

"You punk," Adam mumbled, smiling slyly as he resumed with the dishes again. "Why must you say things like that?"

"Hell if I know." Ronan tried to play it off. He was smiling, too.

When the dishes were all clean and dry, he started for the stairs without a single word said. Ronan thought they were going to join Opal on the sofa or something, surprised to see him walking away.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

Adam stretched, revealing his stomach as his arms lifted up above his head.

"To bed," he said, and then he reached for Ronan's hand and pulled him from the couch.

"Goodnight Opal," Adam said kindly.

Ronan couldn't compute any words, so he said nothing. For some reason he thought Adam was going to get the sofa or something. Realizing this, he wasn't sure why he thought that. He looked to Opal who was grinning at the both of them.

"Goodnight, kids," she said.

They reached his closed door not long after, and Adam paused them in front of it. Quietly he touched Ronan's face, then touched at the handle while staring back at him.

"I can practically hear you having a panic attack right now about this," he commented. "Do you want to clean your room before I go in?"

"Yes," Ronan stuttered.

Adam knew him too well, and he smiled knowingly as Ronan jerked the door open and shut it again. With a panicked speed, he swept the room for anything embarrassing, picking up his clothes from earlier. There was a towel from this morning he grabbed off the floor. He stuffed it all in his closet in the hamper already full, then moved on from clothes to the magazines of Adam's. He hid them under some other things. After a few more seconds of scanning the room, he nodded. It would do.

He opened his bedroom door back open to Adam's brow rising.

"All clear?" he asked.

Ronan felt very sweaty all of a sudden. He nodded again, and Adam came traipsing in. With a casual eye, he looked over everything, though he suspected Adam was keeping it cool. His fingers were fidgeting, which he suspected meant he wanted to check out his room more deeply but held himself back. Thank god, because he wasn't prepared for this. There was shit in here he didn't want Adam to see.

As he walked past him, his hand brushed Ronan's wrist as he went, and then before he realized it was happening Adam stripped down to his underwear.

"Can I borrow a shirt to sleep in?"

"Yeah." Ronan fumbled for his dresser, unable to look away from Adam as he struggled. Adam had to walk around him and do it himself, rolling his eyes. He ached as his hands got to touch him there. This was the first time in years he touched another man's bare skin and felt allowed.

As Adam placed his shirt on, he started touching at the artwork on Ronan's walls, of concerts he'd gotten to see here in the Bay Area at venues that were trendy enough for shit like that, and of books he really liked that he got posters done for. He felt raw when Adam admired them, feeling exposed like this.

"So you'll sleep on the floor, yeah?" Adam asked.

Ronan blinked. "I what?"

"The floor?" Adam glanced at him, but roughly kept his back to him.

"Are you serious?" Ronan would sleep on the floor if he asked, but weren't they going to sleep together?

"Totally serious." Adam finally looked at him, and his smirk gave him away. Oh, that wasn't funny. Ronan moved into him fast as he rolled his eyes.

"You asshole," he said.

Adam screamed with laughter as he grabbed him, picked him up and dragged him to the bed. There he pushed him down onto the mattress and proceeded to tickle him. Adam laughed, loud and freely, his limbs jerking about as he writhed underneath him. Ronan lay above him, tickling him at his sides. He wasn't sure why he was doing this, but Adam's laughter was incentive enough. It was music to his ears.

"Hey!" he then heard from down the hall. "Shut up!"

It was Opal. Both he and Adam turned to the door. Adam was still laughing, but trying to fight it with long breaths.

Ronan groaned. "Go to sleep!" he shouted back.

"I can’t sleep with you being so noisy!"

The moment was over, and Ronan rolled his eyes while he also rolled off Adam. As he sat up, Adam cleared his throat, staring at him as he walked from the bed. Ronan proceeded to bump against the doorway to his attached bathroom, looking after him.

"Now don’t go and give yourself a homemade nose job again," Adam said with every intention of teasing him. "Didn’t really pan out the last time."

"Shut up."

Ronan touched his nose remembering that, and went and shut the bathroom door behind him. With a speed he never knew he had in him, he brushed his teeth and washed his face. Then he took off his pants to change into his pajama bottoms, but he forgot them out there. Where Adam was.

When he opened the door, Adam was standing on the other side holding a toothbrush. He held it like it was a prize of some sort.

"I bought this at the airport," he said, as if Ronan was going to ask. "Can I use your toothpaste?"

"Yeah," Ronan motioned behind him. "Use whatever you need."

"Thank you." His gaze drifted down as he passed him into the bathroom.

When he used it, he left the door open. He didn't seem to mind being viewed. While Ronan could hear him brush his teeth, Ronan was quick to change into pajama bottoms and get into bed.

His nerves were doing him in, his palms sweating, heart racing.

"Is it true you yelled at someone in rehearsals?" he called out, in a poor attempt to calm himself.

Adam spit into the sink. "It was that asshole Greenmantle," he said. "I know I shouldn’t have done it, but I just lost myself in Levi and then Greenmantle was being a prick, and I yelled at him. He was arguing with me about my take on Levi, bitter he was too old for the role I think, and he criticized my acting. When he said he didn’t need to go to school to study acting, I saw red."

"I don’t blame you for yelling." Ronan watched Adam take water from the faucet and swish it into his mouth to spit back out. "I’ve heard stories about that douchebag. I hope you put him in his place."

"Oh, I did," Adam said, smiling into the mirror which directly faced out to Ronan's bed.

"Good for you."

"Why do you sound proud?" Adam then looked curiously over his shoulder.

Ronan blushed. "I don’t know… You were taking a stand, defending yourself."

Adam didn't reply, but he swore he saw him smile in the mirror before he turned out the light and shut the door. When he came out of the bathroom he was silhouetted in the dark by the faint light streaming in from outside his bedroom window. He stood there a moment, face obscured, and then Ronan motioned for him to come closer. Eagerly he walked to the bed and then crawled on it, pushing Ronan over to one side rather than sitting in the middle. Ronan went rigid when their bare legs brushed against each others under the sheets. He was having a mental crisis.

For a while they were silent, lying beside each other but not quite touching. Ronan thought maybe Adam fell asleep, and so he shut his eyes too. But he knew it was going to be impossible sleeping with Adam there. Not holding him close. Not kissing him like he spent months dreaming of doing.

The bed shifted under him, creaking against the metal of the frame. He remembered Adam was a hugger in his sleep and eagerly awaited him to embrace him.

He opened his eyes and looked over, surprised to see Adam staring back. He had rolled onto his other side to look at him.

"What?"

Then Adam shifted closer, propping himself up on one elbow to be elevated higher than Ronan. He stared down at him.

"I forgot to do something," he said.

Ronan's brow set. "What?" but Adam didn't let him stay concerned for long.

"What do you think?"

Adam tipped his head down and kissed him, and Ronan let out the most embarrassing noise of his life. There was no laughter or snickering or anything in response to the noise. Adam only kissed him more, and kissed him harder. He leaned so his front was pressed into Ronan's, his tongue running across the roof of his mouth. A hand came and cupped his cheek, and Ronan reached in return to lose his fingers in Adam's hair. He made the sound again, a soft moan that came from surprise and delight over getting to do this when it had felt like so long ago they did this last. Last time was beginning to feel like a hallucination, but now he remembered parts of it vividly. The way Adam liked to tease his lower lip, the way he tilted his head just so, the way his hands wrapped around Ronan's neck for guidance. His own fingers gently dug into Adam's hair, and Adam made a sound in return. He lost himself in it, and turned into him completely, their legs entangling under the sheets.

Adam stroked his cheek with his thumb, tongue delving further into his mouth and awakening something in Ronan that made him almost cry out. He gently pulled away before he lost his head for good. Adam stared down at him with a smile.

"Wow," he breathed.

Looking proud, Adam smiled wide with all his teeth, and he should be proud. That was a world tilting kiss.

"Blog entry number—"

Adam was still grinning as he rolled his eyes. "Would you shut up about your fake blog?"

Ronan pressed his lips tight together, staying quiet as requested. With a delicateness, he then swept his forefinger across Adam's lower lip, pinkened and moist. Adam began to blush, the color rippling through his skin and highlighting his freckles. The flush extended from his ears and down to his neck, where Ronan then kissed with the tenderest of kisses. He felt Adam's pulse flutter under his lips. When he pulled back, Adam was looking at him as if he was an idiot, in the most charming way possible. Ronan was charmed.

"I don't know why I didn't do that sooner," Adam confessed. "I’ve been waiting to do that again for months."

"It doesn't matter." Ronan touched his nose to Adam's cheek. "Do it again."

Obliging him, Adam slowly dipped his head back down into Ronan, hesitating as their noses grazed. Desperate for more, Ronan inclined into him the half inch left, taking him by his lower lip and pulling him down. Adam kissed him a little harder, a little rougher, and Ronan for a moment thought he was going to roll onto his hips and take control of Ronan like he were a sports car ready to be taken for a ride. But it didn't happen, even as he at one point did move to rest on Ronan, half on him and half on the bed. Their legs were a jumbled mess, their hands feeling each other in new and unfamiliar places. It was like kissing a thunderstorm, wild and dangerous. He was standing at the center of the storm, drowning in the rain and risking being struck. Each lightning strike around him was a flick of Adam's tongue, every breath the cacophonous sound that followed. He almost moaned a confession of his adoration, but his mouth filled up with other words like rain, dispelling the temptation with other thoughts.

They kissed until they couldn't kiss anymore, breathless and dry mouthed. Even still, they slowly pecked each other's lips until they could hardly move at all, a mutual ache that couldn't be sated no matter how long they kissed. It was the months they didn't get to that they ached from, the time they could've had this but didn't.

Ronan looked into his eyes when he pulled back, finding his face visibly wrecked. Eyes full of yearning. He swallowed and touched Adam's cheek, a little stubble growing in and chafing at his hand. Adam then turned his head into his palm, kissing the center of it. Ronan was a puddle.

“I missed you so much,” he moaned, and Adam quieted him with a touch to his face, fingers leaving trails of cold tingles all over his skin. When they neared his lips, he caught Adam’s wrist tenderly and then held his hand there to kiss at his fingertips. It caused him to shiver, slithering forward the few inches they separated, until there was no space between them as before. They kissed again, moaning into each other’s mouths as Adam’s hands went into Ronan’s shirt, scratching at his back with his fingers. He then moved, pushing up one side of his hip, so Ronan was now the one on top, and they kissed until the rain stopped.

Breathless and a little dizzy, Ronan collapsed back onto the mattress beside Adam, swallowing hard with a dry mouth and an even drier throat. His lips felt almost numb, but he was happy. Adam came to rest his head at his shoulder, holding him tight with both arms. One of them was surely going to fall asleep uncomfortably underneath him halfway through the night, but Adam didn’t seem the least bit concerned with that. He was breathing softly against Ronan’s chin, eyes closing longer and longer each time he blinked.

“You can put your hand in my shirt,” he said, instructing Ronan of their guidelines.

Without a second thought, Ronan’s hand went inside his shirt a little, and Adam squirmed in silent insistence for more. His hand went higher up his bare back, startled with the shocking new sensation of his warm skin underhand.

“I’ve been waiting to do this for months, too,” Adam confessed. His voice had gone sleepy, sluggish.

Outside his window, he could hear the faint pitter patter of the remnants of rain dripping down onto his roof, the worst of it past for now. Under that, he could hear Adam’s breathing, slow and even the closer he came to falling asleep.

While he wished Adam came here on happier terms, he was selfishly glad he was here at all. Like reading his mind, Adam mumbled, “I’m so happy i’m finally here.”

He stole one last kiss from Adam before closing his eyes. The taste of him on his lips was everything. Having Adam here, comfortable and happy, was everything. His hand ran down Adam's back, stringing along his spine. He incited a soft hum from him.

“You can stay forever if you’d like,” Ronan said, aloud, finally. He meant every word.

Chapter Text

“Mm, five more minutes.”

Ronan swatted at the thing that was poking at him to wake up. He wasn’t going to wake up, no matter how hard it tried. His dreams were so nice, so vivid.

The thing poking him awake was then nibbling at his ear. He hadn’t owned a pet in years though.

“Stop,” he mumbled.

“Wake up,” Adam groaned breathily into his ear. “I’m bored.”

“Fuck.” Nothing like a jumpstart to your day than remembering your beautiful, famous boyfriend spent the night in bed with you. He startled upright when he remembered.

There Adam was, breathing and real next to him. For a second he forgot he was there, but there he was.

“Morning,” he said. He was grinning and bubbly just like the first time they woke up together. He’d been so blind before. “Did you forget?”

Ronan shook his head, and Adam gave him a knowing look. He was so beautiful, already sitting up in bed while Ronan was still buried under the sheets and lazy limbed.

Before he could properly wake up or move, Adam inclined into him, a hand to his cheek, tilting his face up just so. He kissed him with such energy that Ronan could barely keep up. He was winded before they even began, still half asleep. Adam bent into him more, rolling onto him and running his hands through what little hair he had. This was dizzying, but effective. Ronan was wide awake now.

Adam’s breath was minty fresh as they kissed, which surprised him, and as a hand came to touch at Adam’s back it was then he realized he was touching bare skin.

“Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yeah,” Adam answered, beginning his descent to Ronan’s neck.

“And weren’t you wearing a shirt before?” Ronan’s hands studied at Adam’s muscled back, feeling up and down it.

“Your point?” Adam sat up a moment to look at him, really look at him. Ronan smiled at him and brought him down to kiss him again.

“You nerd,” he said, and he felt Adam laugh into the kiss. There was more kissing after this, lazy and slow as there was no need to rush into anything. Adam’s hands went under Ronan’s shirt to feel his chest, guiding him to a place where he wasn’t nervous about this anymore. His own were at Adam’s back, feeling it arch into him and stretch underhand. He was still a little nervous, but adjusting to the fact that he could have this. That he could have it anytime he wanted. It helped that Adam was making the tiniest of pleasurable noises as they kissed, something he didn’t do in his films.

He needed to stop comparing, because he already knew reality was a million times better than fiction.

It was then their kiss became wet, his cheeks suddenly moist. He pulled back to touch them, and noticed Adam was crying again.

“Are you okay?” He held himself together. Panicking was pointless, even though he wanted to. Did he hurt him?

“I’m fine.” Adam angrily swatted the tears away, and Ronan helped him, kissing them off his cheeks. “These are happy tears,” he clarified.

He began to stroke at Ronan’s cheek, kissing his opposite one with a softness unrivaled. He turned into the kisses, desperate for more, always wanting more. Before Adam allowed him any, he looked at him, truly looked at him, with such wonder and tenderness. Ronan’s heart was seizing in his chest.

“God, I am so thankful for you,” he sighed.

Ronan smiled. “Sap.”

“Fuck you.” Adam moved like he intended to leave the bed, but Ronan held him tight against him, feeling his body go limp again all too easily.

“I’m thankful for you,” Ronan then agreed. He felt Adam laugh joyfully more than he heard it. “I was drowning before I met you, and I didn’t even realize it.”

“Gross.”

There were more of his tears, and Ronan’s vision blurred in reaction. Fucking saps, the both of them. Adam bent forward, ignoring their emotional state. His tongue came and licked over Ronan’s lips, enticing him in like a crook of a finger. He eagerly lifted off the mattress and into him, Adam once again rolling them so he was underneath. They kissed and kissed and kissed some more. Early mornings were bearable if they started like this.

Light snaked in through the window, and when it started drifting up to his bed, Ronan collapsed back into the sheets and pillows. He wanted to go back to sleep. They stayed up late last night doing just this, and he was spent.

“Goodnight,” Ronan mumbled, and he purposefully lay down on Adam to sleep, head burying in his shoulder.

Adam pushed frustratedly at his shoulder in response.

“Oof! It’s time to get up!” he moaned. Each word reverberated through him like a shiver. “Don’t you have work?”

Work. Who could work when they could spend hours in bed with Adam? He inhaled Adam’s smell with a brazen smile, kissing at his neck in hopes he gave up the idea of this work thing.

He grumbled, “No,” when Adam flicked his nose to stop.

“Come on,” he said. “One of us should be an adult here.”

“Aw,” Ronan groaned. “Why’s it have to be me? I’d prefer to stay here.”

“You can’t lie in bed all day,” Adam argued.

“Watch me.” Ronan buried himself further into him, hopefully not suffocating him. He liked this. Adam wasn’t the most comfortable to lie on, a little boney at the shoulders and hips, but he was warm and smelled good. He could admire that smell now, which he did greedily.

“Ronan.” Adam’s fingers began to trail across his skull like adventurers on a journey. “Do you want to spend the day with me, is that it?”

Ronan kept his eyes closed, silent, not reacting in the slightest. He didn’t want to confirm or deny Adam’s accusation. Neither answer was going to get Adam to relent, he could tell.

“I can come to work with you,” Adam whispered, and then he began to nibble at his ear like before.

“I’m awake.” Ronan eagerly sat up, only because he wanted to. Nothing to do with the erection on the brink of forming from Adam’s wet mouth on his earlobe.

They changed, Ronan standing half hidden behind his bed. He’d never been fully naked in front of someone else before. Gansey didn’t count. He shyly ducked behind his mattress to change his underwear, and Adam nearly choked out a laugh.

Meanwhile, Adam walked in just his briefs around the bed to Ronan’s dresser, the same side of the bed Ronan was on. He borrowed a few things from his drawers, including underwear. He was glad Adam was aware he could borrow whatever he wanted.

His eyes drifted downward as Adam then removed the one item of clothing he had on. For a second there he was, wholly naked and wholly real. He was gorgeous through and through, and Ronan swallowed visibly, unable to blink or breathe or move. Until, Adam bent down and placed his borrowed pair of underwear on. When the waistband snapped against his skin, Ronan came to and flushed.

“You’re so comfortable with getting naked aren’t you?” he muttered, flustered by the brief sight of Adam’s dick. That was also the first dick he’d ever seen in person. Okay, no, he’d seen a lot of dicks in person. This was the first one he wanted to see.

Adam glanced down to where Ronan’s eyes still hung, and then he looked up again. “Is that a problem?” he asked. “Do you not want to see me naked?”

“Uh…..”

There was possibly a way he could be more obvious about his lustful thoughts, but he wasn’t presently sure how. Because Adam was an asshole who very much didn’t seem to feel nervous anymore. He smirked knowingly as he walked back over to his side of the bed. There he set Ronan back down on the mattress, and then pushed open Ronan’s legs for him to stand there in between.

Ronan’s whole body was cold and hot at the same time as he stared up into Adam’s face, his eyes dark with hunger. He kissed him, while his hands found Ronan in the void. They almost tipped back, but Adam held them aloft. He took Ronan’s hands and moved them to his waist, feeling at the waistband; and then he left them there to explore. His hands hovered for a while, distracted by Adam’s mouth and his own eager hands feeling Ronan’s thighs. His own hands then began to move, fidgeting as they came to touch down his sides, stroking his legs and experiencing so many mixed emotions.

It was too early for this.

His hands then drifted toward the back, and they cupped along Adam’s rear, firmer than he imagined, like two peaches. He squeezed, because he could, and because he was a little terrified and decided he didn’t want to be. He squeezed again and Adam moaned.

There was a banging at his bedroom door.

“Will you two nerds stop being gross and come talk to me already? Gansey’s talking about some boring Welsh guy again.”

He felt Adam laugh against his cheek.

“I’m going to take a shower,” he said, and he pulled away to walk to the bathroom. “You can join me if you want.”

Ronan nervously held himself on the bed with hands digging into the mattress. He wanted to follow him, but couldn’t move.

“Hey!” The banging continued at the door. “Are you even awake?”

“I’m going to kill her,” he mumbled.

Adam laughed. “Get dressed, nerd,” he said.

~~~~~~~~~~

It was Wednesday, and tomorrow was Thanksgiving, and by the looks of things it meant Adam was having Thanksgiving with him. It was a lot to take in. So was the way Adam’s ass felt in his hands that same morning. His hands still tingled when he thought about it. His brain melted when he thought about how handsome Adam looked in his room standing there naked for five seconds. Five. He counted. And then his brain solidified again when he looked over at him, standing there in his shirt and his underwear (not that he could currently see that), an old pair of jeans, and his hoodie. The same hoodie he wore last time Adam visited. He said he liked it. Ronan told him he could keep it if he wanted. He had a lot of hoodies, and seeing Adam wearing his clothes did something to him he couldn’t explain.

Natural Adam was more wonderful than Ronan could have ever dreamed. Any bit of Hollywood left on the surface had been chipped away sometime last afternoon, amid the tears and laughs and holding. Here he was, raw and beautiful, fragile and strong at the same time. He stood with a kind of laziness to him, his motions less concerned with being perfect, with being watched. His smile was softer, as was the way he gazed at everything, with a little more wonder and joy. There were still circles under his eyes but they were smaller than yesterday. His hair was wavier now too, longer than last he saw him, to where he kept having to push it back and out of his eyes and behind his ears. It was cute. He looked less stressed, like the tension was gone in his body. This was the real Adam, the one unconcerned with presentation and poise.

“Are you just going to stare at me all day?”

Bewildered, Ronan blushed and looked away. There was a small laugh close to his right ear, getting closer.

“You’re so easy,” Adam snickered. He kissed him on the cheek, and then it turned into kissing him on the mouth. Dizzily, Ronan moved and wrapped his arms around Adam’s waist, one hand casually dropping even lower to graze where he once ventured, for only a second before moving back up.

God, they were good at kissing. If kissing were a sport they would win, surely. Adam certainly knew his way around a mouth, but Ronan liked to think he offered something as well, since Adam seemed to like their kisses enough he kept making noises from them. They were being obscene at the register of the bookstore, but he didn’t really care. Gansey had done worse things since he started his employment there (like take off his shoe and use it to try and swat a fly… off a customer’s shoulder). But he couldn’t keep his hands off Adam, and Adam seemed to agree with his inability to do the same.

“Um, do you have any books about sailboats?”

They both turned to a customer standing there across the counter, staring at them with the most uncomfortable expression on their face.

“No,” Ronan said. “We don’t.”

After they left, Ronan insisted for another kiss, but Adam stepped back.

“We should be practical,” he insisted. With a hand to Ronan’s chest, he kept him an arm’s length away. “You need to focus. Give me a job to do.”

Recklessly, Ronan watched him looking around in search of something. He tugged at him, dragging him closer with a hand to the small of his back.

“I can give you a job to do, but it isn’t very practical,” he said.

Adam gave him a blank look. “Please,” he said, almost sounding bored. “You can barely handle seeing me naked. I know that offer isn’t genuine.”

“What if it was?” Ronan teased.

Playing along, Adam raised one eyebrow higher than the other and challenged him with a smirk of his own.

“Then let’s go,” he said. “Right now. Close the store and let’s go to your office.”

That was not where Ronan expected this to go, and he stared in the void of silence, unable to think of anything clever to say back. Fuck. Flustered, he pulled from Adam and grabbed at a stack of books from the counter.

“I have to go shelve these,” he mumbled.

There was a flash of a smile as Adam pushed into his side. “I’ll do that,” he said, taking the books from him. He inclined into his ear, breathing into it. “I told you so,” he said, snickering. Before Ronan could respond, he walked away from him, leaving Ronan to curse under his breath, in utter disbelief that once again Adam won these little games. Adam was always going to win, he was fairly certain. Now that his hands had nothing to occupy them he started touching pointlessly at the counter, at the bookmarks for sale by the register, shuffling them even though they did not need to be shuffled. Adam began shelving the books in his arms, starting at the shelf directly across from Ronan. He was checking their titles and estimating where they should go, and even though he was likely doing it wrong, Ronan couldn’t care less. He liked seeing Adam in his shop like this.

“You’re killing me,” he admitted out loud.

Adam glanced around a second, as if mistaking his words for someone else. The realization they were for him came to him slow, and his cheeks burned a little, his hands lowering from the shelf he just shelved an Irish book in (in the farming section).

“Am I really?” He was clearly confused. “I can stop.”

“No—“ Ronan breathed through expressing himself without a joke. He watched him with darting eyes, catching him smile again and unable to speak while he stared at that. “I like it,” he said. “I just….”

“You were much calmer before,” Adam noted.

“That’s because I didn’t take you seriously before when you said shit,” Ronan covered his face with both hands, hiding from expressing himself completely open. “And you never said shit like that before.”

“Hey.” Ronan felt stirred to look up by Adam’s simple utterance of the word, without any tone behind it, just simply hey. What he found was Adam still smiling at him, being the gentle and kind face he needed to look at. “No more teasing. Complete honesty here. I want to have sex with you, Ronan.”

It was suddenly very hot in the bookstore. He ducked his head down again quick.

“Is that what all your innuendos have been about?” he said. “Here I thought you were trying to steal my identity or something.”

“I mean it.” Adam sounded irritable as he spoke. “You can joke all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact you want it too. I get why you’re nervous, but I don’t care that you’re a virgin.”

While that was all nice and sweet, it didn’t make Ronan feel any less jittery at the thought of the last two years' Sexiest Man Alive wanting to have sex with him. That he was falling so terribly in love with him, and that it was worse now that he was here, and he couldn’t slow down these feelings, couldn’t hold them off. They were strong, real, powerful; he ached for him every second they weren’t touching. Like now, as he said all these beautiful things. Asshole.

“I’m not ready yet,” Ronan mumbled.

“That’s fine.” Adam was too good. He expected him to be annoyed, but he wasn’t sure why he expected that. “I can wait. If you want to talk about it—“

“Maybe later.” Ronan grabbed his bookmarks he had unnecessarily shuffled and started to put them back, swallowing hard as he watched Adam approach him again.

“That’s fair,” Adam said. He was so understanding, when a part of him sort of hoped Adam would take charge and move them into the next step of their relationship. He wanted to take that dive into the deep end so so bad. His gaze followed Adam as he walked over to him, setting the books on the counter between them, then leaned over it. He had to stand on his tip toes to be able to kiss Ronan across the space. Ronan slumped into the sensation, tilting forward so Adam wasn’t putting in all the effort. His bookmarks fell on the ground.

After a few good and long moments of just this, just kissing, Adam was the one to separate them.

“Now,” he touched his thumb to Ronan’s lower lip, “what else can I help you with?”

“Are you really okay with waiting?” Ronan had to be sure.

“Of course,” Adam said, confused by his insistence.

“You sure?”

Adam’s brow knitted together. “Ronan,” he said flatly.

Ronan jerked from the counter, bending down to grab his fallen bookmarks. “I’m just checking!” he clarified. With little effort he retrieved all the bookmarks off the ground, but he remained down there on his knees to suffer. It wasn’t long before there was a pair of feet in front of him when he turned around, and a hand touching at the nape of his neck, guiding him up to stand. He dropped the bookmarks again as Adam’s arms slithered around his neck, pressing their foreheads together.

“I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not going to pressure you,” he said. “Take your time. We have all the time in the world.”

We have all the time in the world. Oh, how Ronan wished that were true. Oh, how he wished he could just let himself enjoy the moment as it was without thinking of such depressing things. Of how the longer he needed the less time they had to enjoy the new element of each other. Sick bastard, he was, to think of such things when the most beautiful man in the world was staring at him with a delightful smile.

Unaware of all the chaos in Ronan’s head, Adam removed his arms from around his neck, and took his hands in his instead. He brought them to his lips, kissing his knuckles like Ronan had done just yesterday. A shiver he hoped Adam couldn’t feel rippled through him like an electric shock.

It was at that moment the front door opened again and in came another customer, the small bell ringing above her as she entered. Adam glanced back at the new presence, then promptly ducked down behind the counter.

“What are you doing?” Ronan nearly laughed aloud at his swift reaction. He watched in wonder as Adam gently lifted himself up to peek over the countertop at the customer, who ignored them both as she disappeared into the back of the stacks.

“I thought I recognized her,” he said.

“And ducking was the first thing that came to mind?” Ronan teased.

“Fuck you,” Adam whispered.

“Not while there’s a customer right there,” Ronan protested, feeling a little more like himself. Adam pinched him in the ankle in retaliation for the comment. “Ow!”

As the morning drifted on, more customers filtered in, some acknowledging them and some not. There were brief moments when they were fully alone, which they took advantage of with great abandon. Adam asked to learn more about the bookstore, which Ronan obliged only so he could stand close to him without it being obvious why. Not that any customers seemed to care, but Ronan didn’t want any of them knowing his business like this. It didn’t help that he was actually starting to get returning customers that were learning his name, recognizing Opal when she dropped in. He didn’t sign up for this.

At one point when Adam was learning Ronan’s category system and how to log books into the computer system for scanning later, Adam leaned back into him, sitting in the stool in front of the computer while Ronan was standing. He found himself giving into informal touches, ignoring the idea that there were customers around. His hands slipped around Adam’s waist, and his chin moved to rest at his shoulder, bending down to do so. Warmth radiated off Adam like a heater, seducing his cold bones to move closer.

He kissed him on the cheek, which Adam seemed to enjoy.

“Have you seen much of California since you’ve lived here?” he asked, an offhand comment that felt like it had been sat on for a while.

Still clinging to him, Ronan nodded against his shoulder, knowing he would feel it through the movement.

“Yeah,” he said. “I’ve been up and down the state. I’ve been to the snowy mountains, to the wineries, to the beaches down south, and the desert too. Haven’t you been here a bunch of times?”

“I’ve only been to Los Angeles and here,” Adam said. “Even then, I haven’t seen a lot.”

“Have you been to Santa Cruz?” Ronan asked.

“Nope.”

“Muir Woods?”

“Nope.”

“The-”

“I’m going to stop you right there,” Adam said, “and tell you it’s most likely another no.”

“Damn.” Ronan frowned. “Can’t believe I have to take you to all these places now.”

“Don’t put yourself out,” Adam said.

To show he was joking, Ronan tilted his head back a bit and kissed him from behind, until a customer came and tapped at the counter for their attention.

declan lynch: Hey Ronan are you still dating that actor fellow?

ronan lynch: fuck off declan

declan lynch: Can you ask him if he knows that really lovely actress from the alien movies?

ronan lynch: huh

declan lynch: Siggy Beaver isn’t it?

ronan lynch: why would I ask him that

declan lynch: Because Ashley really likes her and wants her autograph

ronan lynch: oh my god you told ashley? what the fuck declan

declan lynch: I didn’t tell her anything! I just know she loves her and wants to meet her!

ronan lynch: … I’ll think about it

if you leave me alone

declan lynch: Whatever, jackass. Did you ever get your birthday gift by the way?

ronan lynch: what birthday gift

declan lynch: The new computer

Now Ronan remembered. He was happy enough with his computer but when Matthew kept pestering him about a birthday gift he suggested another, which he then regifted to Opal. The kid never screamed so loud before in all the months he knew her, she almost pierced his eardrums when he handed it off to her. She never had a computer before.

ronan lynch: oh yeah. last week

declan lynch: And you didn’t think of thanking Matthew and I?

ronan lynch: I thanked Matthew already. I didn’t know it was from you too. it only had his name on the card

declan lynch: That sneaky shit

ronan lynch: thanks for the gift

declan lynch: So are you visiting for Christmas this year?

ronan lynch: oh would you look at that? my data plan’s run out. gotta go!

declan lynch: Ronan…

While Ronan missed constant contact with his mother, Matthew, and okay maybe Declan too sometimes, he didn’t want to go back. Even if he could afford it, which he barely could, he left the tortured hurting high school Ronan Lynch behind. He was afraid going back there might bring him back to life, and he had no interest in that ever happening. He facetimed his mother constantly now that he knew how, and she had plans to come visit now that he confessed he was in the process of fostering Opal, and he talked to Matthew and Declan when he could. It wasn’t ideal, but neither was half the shit he went through emotionally when he was younger. And he liked where he currently was, thank you. He was content, especially today, especially with the way Adam looked at him. The way he smiled elevated Ronan to a new plane of existence, where nothing upset him. Maybe he’d go back to the east coast one day, but for now he was fine with where he was.

~~~~~~~~

At lunch they sat and ate in the back, away from anyone else’s attention. Adam had his feet in Ronan’s lap, sitting lazily in his seat, while Ronan’s back was straight in an effort to balance Adam’s legs and his food at the same time. It was a struggle he greatly welcomed, because he wasn’t about to tell Adam to put his feet somewhere else.

They ate in peaceful quiet for a bit, finding an ease in the silence. Ronan was glad Opal and Gansey weren’t here. He craved moments like this, of them alone. To run his hand up inside Adam’s pants leg to feel his skin at his ankle, to have Adam slide his chair closer to touch at Ronan’s chin when something fell down on it.

“So this is what a usual day for Ronan Lynch is like,” Adam mused, finishing off his lunch and setting the container on Ronan’s desk.

“Not entirely usual…” Ronan countered. He couldn’t begin to confess to Adam how glad he was now that he was here, repeating the same thoughts over and over again in his head because it was still so surreal. He expected any minute now for Adam to call him over facetime and for this Adam to disappear into the imaginary ether he belonged.

Adam smiled a little at him, so fucking handsome it was exhausting. Today felt so perfect, he was concerned with if Adam felt the same. He hoped he did, the way he sat there staring back, looking at him with that hunger expressed so openly in his gaze.

He hesitated inclining forward, but then caught himself when he remembered he was allowed. So he leaned in, pushing Adam’s legs into his chest, as he kissed him. It was something small and savory, just because.

“What was that for?” But Adam’s grin implied he already knew what it was for, and he was elated staring at him.

“No reason,” Ronan confessed. He kissed him again, this time Adam humming as they pulled apart. He guided Ronan’s noodles out of his hands to the desk beside Adam’s old container, and then he kissed him back, practically sitting in Ronan’s lap to get the angle.

“Where did Opal go today?” Adam thought to ask in the middle of their kissing. “School?”

“No, school’s out for the remainder of the week,” Ronan said, doing his very best not to think about the fact that Adam asked such questions while in such situations. When he said, “Thanksgiving,” it was with a disgruntled sigh, because he did not succeed in not thinking about such things.

“Oh shit.” At that, Adam jerked back from him, sliding his chair away, his eyes wide with the shock. “That’s this week?” he asked.

Ronan nodded. “Tomorrow.”

Adam’s eyes continued to remain wide, as his gaze fell to his lap, staring hard at it with his mouth slipping a little open. “Oh,” he said, and it became very clear Adam had absolutely no idea Thanksgiving was even close. He wondered what day he thought it was, overworked and overwhelmed. His legs were still in Ronan’s lap, and so he touched at them with a delicate caress, offering comfort in touch. His fingers slid up to his knees, then back down again to his ankles.

“You okay there, Parrish?” he asked.

For the most part, Adam didn’t look the least bit okay. There was still a lot about Adam that he wasn’t clear on, a lot he had to work out. Hopefully being here helped him with his stress, his lack of perception of nearby holidays. Then Adam was sliding his chair closer again, not quite the seductive gesture it was earlier, but rather so he could take his hands off his legs and hold them. His thumbs pressed hard into the center of Ronan’s palms, his gaze a little less intense than before but not by much, as he stared down at their connected limbs. His fancy shoes did not match his borrowed clothes, a pair of Ronan’s socks sticking out of them partnered with his old jeans. The boy needed to go shopping if he were to stay here longer than this, because having him in his clothes did unspeakable things to Ronan that he chose not to dwell on right now. Not when Adam’s brow began to turn in, wrinkles forming at the skin between them, like he was concerned with something in Ronan’s hands. Only, Ronan knew it wasn’t his hands he was really staring at.

“Did you have anything important planned that I’ve wrecked by coming here?” he finally asked.

“No.” Ronan may have said it a little fast. Adam hid a thin smile behind his hand cupped over his mouth. “Just some dinner with the others, which you’re invited to and aren’t intruding. It’s not a big deal. You’re welcome to any stupid holiday get together.”

Adam rolled his eyes and sunk down a little into his chair. “When you put it that way…”

His words died off as Ronan bravely ran his hands up Adam’s thighs. When he reached the end he ran his hands back down them, feeling their strength under his palms, muscles tight and hard. He could probably be crushed by his thighs, and now that’s all he was thinking about.

Adam sat there looking like a lavish king, head tilted back and eyes closed, a smile playing at his sweet, sweet lips. Ronan felt unlike himself, which was a sad thought because the reason for it was he was so happy. He continued to run his hands back up Adam’s thighs, just because, and then moved to kiss at a patch of freckle free skin just under his chin. Adam snatched him around the waist with his very powerful thighs.

“As for where Opal is,” Ronan said out of instinct to talk of something that wouldn’t embarrass him back here alone. His lips trailed along Adam’s neck, but didn’t kiss, just breathed against his skin. God he smelled amazing, and he smelled of only soap. “She’s joined that club at school, so half the time she’s hanging out with them. Probably where she is now.”

“A club?” Adam sounded confused.

When Ronan pulled back, he registered Adam didn’t just sound it, but he had a turned in brow and a flat line of a mouth.

“She hasn’t told you?” Ronan asked.

“No…” Adam got grumpier and his brow folded in more.

“Yeah, some science club,” Ronan said. “Real nerdy. Like you.”

“Oh.” The way he said it was so heartwarming, and Ronan caught him smiling down at his lap while his hands found Ronan’s there to connect with. “That’s nice,” he said, easily lifted by the idea that Opal took after him at all.

“Yeah,” Ronan agreed.

He was done talking about Opal, for now. He had rather important business to attend to, specifically at Adam’s mouth. When he leaned in to kiss, Adam leaned in too, only stopping when he was a breath away.

“But do you know that’s where she is?” he asked.

“I’m not her keeper,” Ronan said. His eyes were still focused at Adam’s lips, so tantalizingly close. His instinct was to lean in more, and when he did Adam leaned back.

“Technically you are, Ronan,” he said. “Have you researched any further what it is you need to do to legally adopt Opal?”

The mention of adoption froze Ronan’s joints. He didn’t want to talk about this, and he pulled back to sit properly in his own chair. His hands came to his face.

“I don’t know if I’m adopting her,” he confessed. Adam opened his mouth to speak, but Ronan wasn’t ready for whatever he had to say. It was easier telling someone to adopt someone else than to actually do the adoption yourself. “But I’ve been talking to a lawyer about the foster care program,” he went on. “And I did those meetings with other foster parents like I told you I did. Then I have classes I have to take or some shit like that. They’re making me go back to school. I don’t like it.”

Whatever Adam had to say fell by the wayside, and he laughed. “Oh, no,” he said, mocking him a little. “Ronan Lynch going back to school.”

“It’s stupid,” Ronan agreed.

“But you’re doing it anyway right?” Adam smiled.

Ronan grumbled. “I guess.”

“Hey.” Adam stood up and then walked over to him, the two small steps between their chairs. He came and sat in Ronan’s lap sideways, leaning against his chest with his shoulder. He moved so their foreheads touched, a hand swung over the back of his shoulders to touch at the nape of Ronan’s neck. “You’re good for her, you know,” he said, like he was stating fact and not opinion. “She’s benefitting a lot living with you, and she’s happier. You’re happier. I can tell it isn’t just because of this.”

His other hand touched at Ronan’s chest, where his fingers kneaded into his skin through his shirt.

“You’re too observant,” Ronan murmured.

“And yet it took me months to realize you liked me back,” Adam mused. “A thirteen year old had to tell me.”

“Precisely why I’m fostering her,” Ronan said. “Next time she pulls that sort of shit I can ground her.”

Adam lightly slapped at his shoulder. “Don’t be an asshole,” he said, but he was hesitantly laughing a little anyway.

Without thinking, Ronan gently reached and touched Adam’s lower lip. He could do this now, these little things. His hand then moved to run along Adam’s shoulder and down his arm, to his hand, which he then raised to his lips.

“Why don’t you want to adopt her?” Adam asked just as Ronan kissed his knuckles. They were hands that had seen hard work, but were still soft as if they never did.

“I can’t mentally wrap my head around that, the finality in it,” Ronan confessed. He would only confess these things to Adam. “It’s a big thing to do.”

“How is it any different than what you’re doing now?” Adam asked, and then he frowned. His hand pulled out from Ronan’s lips, who grunted. “Or do you plan to change your mind and this is easier for that?”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Ronan snapped. He was getting annoyed with this line of dialogue.

“Then I don’t see the-”

“I don’t want to argue, Parrish,” he said.

His words were grounded, definitive. They told Adam he didn’t want to talk any more, and so they didn’t. Above him on his lap, Adam hesitated a moment, and then leaned into him, understanding. Ronan wasn’t ready, wasn’t sure if he would ever be.

Against him, he felt Adam’s breathing ease, and a hand come under his chin to raise his gaze back up. He looked into Adam’s eyes, who was smiling at him with the kindest, gentlest expression. But when he kissed him it wasn’t gentle. It was harsh, hungry, animalistic almost with the way he shoved his way into him. Ronan would be satisfied with life if this was all it was. Kissing Adam forever.

His hands were at Ronan’s skull, dragging his fingers along his scalp as his chest inclined into his as best he could. When Adam made little breathy sounds, Ronan didn’t know what to do.

Then Adam got off his lap, and immediately he felt cold from the quick and unexpected separation. But then Adam was back in his lap, only now he was straddling his waist, and there were hands in his shirt. They were feeling around at his stomach and then his chest. Adam was very outgoing with what he wanted, and it still surprised him that what he wanted was Ronan.

Ronan’s hands touched where he was getting accustomed to touching, feeling Adam’s backside through his jeans. It was all a little overwhelming. Adam knew what he wanted, and it felt like Ronan accidentally walked into an expert class when he was only a beginner.

He pulled his head back from the kiss to breathe, although he couldn’t move beyond that. Adam was very much in control of the situation, where his lips trailed down to feel hot on his neck. Ronan’s eyes fluttered closed.

“Oh,” he mumbled. Jesus Christ. He didn’t mean to keep using the lord’s name in vain, but also he hadn’t been to church in a few months and there were teeth now at his neck.

It wasn’t surprising Adam was good at this.

His hands ran up Adam’s back, as his mouth continued playing with the sensitive skin at his throat.

“I need to finish my noodles,” he said. It just came out of him purely by accident, like a tick. He felt his face get hot and it wasn’t solely because of what Adam was doing to him.

He felt Adam laugh against his neck. It tickled more than when he breathed on his ears.

“Okay,” he said, voice shaking like the rest of him. Ronan didn’t want him to get off, but he was also afraid of what would happen if they continued down this route. He didn’t want to have sex for the first time in the back of his shop.

Because Adam was perfect, he moved off him like a gentleman, pecking his cheek with a quivering breath as he still combatted his amusement. As he stood straight, he looked obviously flustered and wrecked too. Ronan felt a little proud, admiring his work as Adam swallowed while sitting down again in his seat across from him. He stroked his own lips, eyes unfocused on the floor.

“This is new for me too,” he said.

“What?” Ronan rubbed his neck, where Adam’s mouth still felt present. He wondered if he had any hickies visible, and didn’t mind the idea if he did.

Adam’s eyes flickered up to meet his gaze, his shining blue eyes large and bright from the light coming in through the small window. “A relationship,” he clarified. “What I’ve been in in the past was never like this. This is the first real relationship I’ve ever had.”

“So that cinematographer guy-?”

“He was barely anything,” Adam said, waving a hand in the air. Ronan almost asked if that thing meant just sex, but he didn’t really want to know.

“I just find it hard to trust people like this,” said Adam. “I trust you.” His eyes were still glued to Ronan’s, who couldn’t look away or even blink. He knew Adam trusted him, he knew this for a while now, but the fact that he confessed it out loud that he found it hard to trust people made him ache. He knew the reason, or could assume it anyway, but it didn’t make it any less heartbreaking to hear. Ronan didn’t necessarily trust a lot of people either, but he could easily avoid having to. Adam lived in a world where people were constantly around him, pushing for information or needing it for other reasons. He touched at Adam’s knee, and then leaned in to kiss him.

This kiss was softer, slower paced, and all around better for his heart rate. His hands tangled in Adam’s hair, forgetting his noodles completely.

When they finished, they talked more about their relationship history, Ronan’s lack of one except the few times he got lonely when he first moved here, and the one time he tried with someone that barely lasted a month. They talked more of Adam’s history, how he often casually dated before, both because it was hard dating when he was so busy all the time and because he had trust issues for a long time. How he hadn’t so much as looked at anyone else since they met, and Ronan confessed to the same. They could make this work; they were making this work. Which Adam noted with a gleeful tone, before kissing Ronan again and finishing off his noodles for him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They shortly went back to work, after having the longest lunch hour Ronan ever had (it was actually two). When customers weren’t talking to him, he spent his time staring longingly at Adam, holding his hands, touching him with a familiar hand in places work appropriate.

He couldn’t believe how lucky he was, how lucky they were.

Opal arrived around three, and upon sight of Adam again ran to embrace him. As they were hugging Ronan warmed at the sight, until she caught him staring.

“Do you want a hug too, Ronan?” she asked.

“No, I’m fine,” he said.

She hugged him anyway.

“So,” she said, as she then moved to sit next to Adam on the stools, forcing Ronan to stand as he only had the two. “What did you two do today?”

Adam shot a look in his direction across the crown of her head, and then smiled.

“Nothing much,” he replied. “Lynch is teaching me all the things he does in the shop.”

“He’s not very good at any of them,” Ronan joked, and Adam rolled his eyes. Opal laughed, her eyes crinkling as she cocked her head back. She put her fist on the countertop and then pretended to wipe an eye.

“That was a bit dramatic,” Ronan mumbled. Opal laughed more earnestly this time.

“You two are so happy and gooey it’s gross,” she said. “I gotta move out of the way.”

She did, switching seats with Adam so she was now on the other side, away from Ronan. He remembered to frown as she called them gross. Though, it was made true as Adam pulled his hand from the register and into his lap, playing with his fingers like his hand was a rubix cube.

“I heard you’re in a new club,” Adam said offhandedly.

Opal’s smile withered fast, and she turned to glare at Ronan.

“You told him?” she exclaimed.

“People need to explicitly tell me when a secret is a secret,” Ronan grumbled. “I’m not a fucking mind reader.”

“Language,” Adam replied.

He rolled his eyes at both of them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At dinner, they ordered in again, and sat around the dining room table in the same seats as last night. Gansey joined them halfway through, and did his usual staring at Adam like he was a piece of art. While Ronan wouldn’t argue with that mentality, it made him uncomfortable that Gansey barely blinked, his eyes so laser focused on Adam.

After a while, he couldn’t take it anymore.

“Stop staring at him, Dick,” Ronan announced.

Gansey immediately dropped his gaze, face blossoming with color.

“Oh, uh, sorry,” he said, touching at his glasses to give his hands something to do.

Adam laughed, like genuinely laughed as if Gansey made a funny joke. His cheeks only got redder. “It’s okay,” he said.

“I’m just blindsided by all this,” Gansey replied, the first real thing he said to him since he got here. “You’re here in my dining room-”

Your dining room?” Ronan’s brow raised high.

“Okay, our dining room.” Gansey stopped messing with his glasses and frowned at Ronan, the first real sign of him in there all evening. “And you’re dating my best friend?” he added, glancing at Adam but purposefully fleeting.

Ronan felt Adam’s hand find his on the table. His fingers ran over the spread of his knuckles, until Ronan turned his hand over to let their hands interlock.

“You’re just going to have to get used to seeing me,” Adam said, and Ronan couldn’t help but smile. He ignored Opal fake gagging to his left and kissed him.

“Oh gross,” Opal groaned, though he knew it was her way of expressing joy over the whole thing. “Stop being so coupley at the table. I’m eating.”

“Opal, it’s your own damn fault for this, you know,” he muttered, and she frowned.

“Just eat your chicken,” Adam replied. He kissed Ronan again, probably just to hear Opal fake gag a second time.

After dinner, Gansey was bewilderingly pleasant. The four of them sat in the living room and enjoyed television together without him being awkward about it. In fact, he initiated a normal conversation, one Adam happily took part of snuggled into Ronan’s side on the sofa.

When it got late, Gansey went to do the dishes, leaving the three of them alone. Opal quietly pestered Adam as he had his head buried in Ronan’s shoulder. They were talking about her science club, until eventually Adam stopped replying. He had fallen asleep on Ronan, and Ronan didn’t know what the fuck to do.

Opal clearly wasn’t any help. She lifted off the sofa and took out her phone, angling it at them. He wanted so desperately to yell at her to knock off this behavior, but he didn’t want to wake Adam. Not when he barely slept for months and barely slept last night either.

She raised her phone to them and he glared. This felt like a stand off in an old western movie.

“Don’t you dare,” he whispered.

She leaned in for the picture.

He reached for her, but as he moved Adam shifted around in his sleep. His arm came and wrapped around Ronan’s torso, his face moving further into the incline of Ronan’s neck, and Ronan froze.

Opal looked to be daring him to grab her phone now, arching her brow at him with a challenging smirk.

I will, he suggested with a look.

He heard her camera go off, and he glared up at her, trying to slither out from under Adam’s hold to take her phone away. She jolted back a step, giggling, then took another photo.

“You are dead,” he whispered.

Adam gripped his waist tighter.

“Stop moving,” he mumbled.

Ronan couldn’t believe the look of achievement on Opal’s face. Even so, he wouldn’t move if Adam asked, breathing into his jaw. His arm came and draped around his shoulders, so he could thumb the shell of Adam’s ear. Adam made a sound of contentment, leaning more into him with his whole body.

“Opal,” Ronan whispered. “Go to your room. You’re grounded.”

Opal snorted. “You can’t ground me,” she said. “And this is my room.”

That was true. This was her room. It was a terrible room for a child, and he realized this, but there wasn’t much option for her otherwise. Like she could read his mind she put her hands on her hips and turned her smile into a frown.

“You know, we’re going to need to talk about that,” she said. “I need a room with a door.”

“I’ll talk to Gansey about it,” he mumbled, still talking low to disturb Adam the least. Adam, who needed to be taken to bed. Adam, who was quietly sneaking his hand into Ronan’s shirt at his side.

“Can we burn his room down and rebuild it?” Opal groaned.

“It’s either that or the sofa, kid,” he reasoned.

She looked to have other ideas and smirked again.

“There’s always your room,” she said, raising one eyebrow high above the other.

“Very funny.” He rolled his eyes. “When you start paying the bills, you can have my room.”

“Damn.”

Ronan wished he had a better option for her, but how was he to know he’d have a teen move in right after his best friend when he first moved in here. The second room used to be his office, a long time ago. It didn’t look like it was ever going to be his office again.

“Do you want my room tonight?” he asked, realizing the likelihood of not waking Adam before they went to bed was slim.

“No, dummy,” Opal sighed, like he wasn’t getting it. “The sofa’s fine. Really. Having any room to myself these days is nice.” She blinked, then noted the way Adam was cuddling into him and her smile warmed for half a second before she realized he was staring. “Now get out of my room.”

Ronan snorted and then moved. Adam startled awake a little.

“What’s happening?” he moaned.

“Bed time,” Ronan replied, pulling on his hand to stand up.

Adam rubbed sleepily at his eyes and groaned some more. When his focus returned enough, his eyes found Ronan in the dark of the living room and he softened upon the sight of him. Almost like he forgot Ronan was there, or that the reminder made him happier to go to bed. He reached up for him to help him up. Ronan did so without complaint, and Adam immediately tucked his face back into the crook of Ronan’s neck. Ronan then reached around the back of his knees and picked him up off the ground, carrying him in his arms. Adam seemed too sleepy to try and argue, though he mumbled a few choice words against his neck. He made no actual motion to leave, and instead curled more into Ronan’s front, easier to hold him.

“See you in the morning kid,” he said to Opal over his shoulder.

“Okay, losers.”

Adam was practically asleep again when Ronan plopped him down on the bed. He immediately curled into the sheets as Ronan helped him out of his socks and jeans and shirt. For a moment he let his eyes linger on Adam’s bare skin, rake over the curves and slopes of his body, and then he grabbed him a pair of sweatpants and tossed them on him.

Adam tiredly shook his head and pushed them away. “No,” he mumbled.

“You’re going to get cold,” Ronan laughed.

“I have you.” His arms stretched out for him. “Come to bed already.”

“You can wait five minutes,” Ronan replied, though he wasn’t entirely sure he could.

Adam was already drifting off again and rolled onto his side, as Ronan pulled the sheets over him before he was completely gone.

After a quick brush of his teeth and wash of his face he changed into his sleepwear. Back in bed, he found Adam completely asleep already, which he wasn’t all too surprised about. He crawled in beside him, and carefully scooped him up so he was resting closer. Adam barely seemed to register it at all, until he kissed his forehead. Then Adam split out a smile.

“I like when you kiss my forehead before I fall asleep,” he confessed.

“Thought you were already asleep- wait, when did I kiss it before?” He tried to remember if he had last night, since that’s the only time he could’ve.

Adam peeled his eyes open a little. “Last time I was in town,” he said. His eyes opened wider a moment when he took in Ronan’s bare skin, and a hand came to greedily feel at his chest. He looked more awake now, and Ronan felt more awake too. His skin tingled with the attention. “Our first night together,” Adam murmured.

Ronan smiled a little at the way he said it, and at the fact he knew. "You fucking faker," he said. "You weren't asleep then either?"

Adam smiled mischievously. "Nope." He kissed at Ronan's cheek, and Ronan rolled his eyes.

"I kissed your forehead, and Opal still had to spell it out that I was into you? You dumbass."

"Hey." Adam frowned at him, his brow set and his jaw looking to tighten. "Don't even go there, Lynch. I thought it was a platonic kiss. Besides, I've been visibly into you since we met. I gave you my phone number the second time we ran into each other. I practically threw myself at you in my hotel room after our ferry ride. I'm not the only clueless one here."

It was true; all of it. Ronan was so ignorant for so long. There were so many signs, so many times he should've realized. But he had spent all that time full of such doubt and self-consciousness that he thought he was reading into every little gesture Adam made. Looking back, he could laugh. Or cry.

But they were here now, finally. They were happy, and they were together. It might have taken a while, but it happened.

Ronan countered what Adam said with a squeeze of his arm around him, and another kiss to his forehead. At once, Adam broke his scowl and returned to his content expression, humming a little as he inclined into Ronan's touch.

"Can't believe you carried me to bed," he added, and Ronan rolled his eyes again.

"Yeah, a one time only deal. Don't get used to it."

Adam pouted, making his bottom lip look devilishly enticing. Ronan felt it only right to kiss that pout off his lips.

~~~~~~~~~~

They were to spend Thanksgiving at Noah and Henry’s, who had an elaborate meal planned out every year just because Henry really loved hosting. This year was no different, except the scream Henry made when Ronan told them Adam was coming.

“Oh my god, Noah get the nice China,” he heard him shout off the phone. “No, the nice- Noah.”

“Well,” Ronan said, hanging up on their arguing, “that’s settled.”

“Good.” Adam cozied up to Ronan’s side again with a sleepy sigh, hugging him from his side. They were still in bed, lazily exploring the early hours of the morning with touches on bare skin and kisses half awake. The two were allowed to sleep in this morning, which they did, and now they were doing this. Adam’s hands were squeezing at Ronan’s bare arms, learning the shape of him by feeling. Ronan kissed him again, tossing his phone on the pile of clothes on the floor, as he rolled onto Adam to kiss him harder.

Streaks of sunlight snaked through the curtains and onto the bed, as Ronan kissed at Adam’s chest, licking down the center line of it towards his stomach. He heard Adam jokingly say gross above him, but his shiver and shaky breath gave away how he really felt.

There were hands at his shoulders, kneading at them like a massage, working out the kinks unknowingly as Ronan kissed at the freckles on Adam’s hips. He could get used to this. By the sounds Adam was making, so could he.

“We should go away next weekend,” Adam murmured, his voice giving way a few times as he spoke, while Ronan’s lips were kissing at every freckle he could.

He lifted his head at the suggestion, surprised by it. The fact that he believed he was going to still be here was everything. He made Adam moan again with the tender way he kissed along his side.

“Is that a yes?” Adam’s voice cracked.

“You and me?” Ronan thought to clarify. He wasn’t sure if he meant Opal too, or what.

“No, I was actually talking about Gansey,” Adam said, Ronan groaned against his stomach. “You said he’s single, right?”

Not finding it funny, Ronan crawled back up him, inciting laughter as he glared at him from above. He barely grazed his hands down Adam’s stomach before he squirmed under him from how ticklish it was, and laughed even harder.

“Don’t even joke,” he said.

Adam smirked, then burst into bubbly laughs, jerking his knees up in defense to what Ronan was doing, which was tickling him without even trying. He had grown into a fond habit of tickling him; like yesterday, just before dinner, after catching Adam in his room alone while Opal was setting the table. If he could bottle that laugh, he would fill a room with the sound.

“Stop stop,” Adam said, practically giggling and gasping as he pushed Ronan’s hands away. At once Ronan did stop, but not before kissing at the spots he knew were sensitive. Adam squirmed one last time, before Ronan moved to kiss him at the mouth. His hands moved as well, up Adam’s arms to his neck, holding him there to kiss. He’d lost count how many kisses they’ve had since Adam arrived, and kissed him again until he couldn’t remember what they were talking about.

But Adam didn’t seem to forget. As the sun hit his face and lit up the freckles like stars in the night sky, he smiled with his own light illuminating from its brightness.

“Just for the weekend,” Adam suggested. “Maybe even Friday, too, if you trust Gansey enough with the shop three days.”

“What’s wrong with the house?” Ronan wondered aloud.

Adam kissed him at his nose, somehow even making that little effort a seduction in its own right.

“As much as I love being in a full house,” he said, and Ronan admittedly shivered at the way his mouth moved on the word love, “I kind of want to be alone with you.”

He reached, and he took Ronan’s hand in his, delicately running his thumb along the knuckles. Adam seemed to like doing this, a tender touch that meant something to him. It meant everything to Ronan, who swallowed visibly as Adam took his hand to his mouth, and then let Ronan’s fingers graze his lips.

His heart was racing for several reasons, one of which was solely the idea of being alone with him properly somewhere, with no risk of running into his friends or Opal. To be away from life in the city, somewhere where it was just them, it definitely did things to his brain. The other reason was the way Adam sucked on the tip of his forefinger, and the obvious suggestion it brought to the forefront of his mind. Adam was playing with fire here, tempting him without suggesting the actual act. Very lewd thoughts crossed his mind, and he had half a mind to tell Noah and Henry not to expect them.

He cleared his throat as Adam nearly swallowed his finger whole, lips hot on his skin. His tongue touched the underside of its length as he pulled his finger back out, then wiped it on Adam’s sweats.

The asshole laughed at him, and Ronan playfully bit at his shoulder in retaliation. His laughter skipped like a record, and then he was chuckling when Ronan’s bite turned into a spread of kisses.

“And Opal?” he asked.

Adam was smiling as he pressed his face against Ronan’s skull.

“She has Gansey,” he murmured against his forehead.

“I’ll be an accessory to a double homicide if I leave those two alone,” Ronan noted.

He felt Adam snort against his skin, and a small shove at his shoulder, but he didn’t dare move. Not when Adam smelled like a combination of sweat and soap and Ronan’s own lingering scent. Not when he was warm and soft and sweet.

“Maybe she could stay with one of your other friends?” Adam suggested.

“Blue.” His heart sang at the realization they were making definitive plans now. When he raised his head, Adam was already smiling at him. “Blue wouldn’t mind.”

“Okay.” Adam looked to be avoiding showing too much excitement, but he could still sense it in him, could still feel the way he tensed up with anticipation. His eyes closed for a second, and as they did his hand moved to stroke at Ronan’s cheek. Then he brought his chin up to meet with his own, and they kissed. It was something small and practical, but Ronan kissed him a little more to show how excited he was inside.

“What about camping?” Adam suggested.

“What about it?”

“We could go camping….” He came off so shy about the idea, Ronan almost thought he was pulling a prank on him, but then he was blushing as if he made a mistake with the suggestion.

“You willingly want to go hang out in nature for three days?” Ronan quirked his brow high.

Adam shrugged, looking down. “I haven’t gotten to enjoy nature in a long time,” he said, and then his gaze slowly began to lift. “I owe it to myself to enjoy every moment of this.” Their eyes met, and he raised his hand to Ronan’s cheek once more, the backs of his fingers stroking his stubble. “I really like you, Ronan. I want to make memories with you while I’m here, with my boyfriend.”

Ronan’s throat closed up hearing that word. The ability to speak was lost on him, and he was suddenly burning all over, in the best possible way.

“Does anyone in this house get up before eleven?” Opal screamed somewhere in the house.

As Adam pulled from him to shout back, Ronan was left with a world tilting body morphing life changing experience. To have Adam Parrish call him his boyfriend.

“Come on, you bum,” he heard Adam say, as he pulled on his arm to get up from the bed. “Close your mouth and stop staring.” He gently pushed up the bottom half of Ronan’s jaw with one finger.

“Did you just call me boyfriend?” Ronan said when he was able to speak.

“No,” Adam said with a snort. “I was talking about Gansey again obviously. God, keep up, Lynch.”

Ronan threw a pillow at him. At his boyfriend.

~~~~~~~~~

Thanksgiving was lovely. Noah and Henry really knew how to host a get together. This one was less strange than the last, even though Gansey joined them this time and spent half the meal sputtering out bad conversation with Blue. It was progress, though at some point Adam took the brunt of it with Gansey for her.

Opal was the happiest. She ate half the turkey by herself it seemed like, she stuffed herself to the point that she got nauseous, then seemed fine again for pie. The whole meal Adam held Ronan’s hand at the table, like a silent display of their affection to the rest of the world.

Because he was an asshole and also an asshole falling in love, he re-introduced Adam upon arrival for dinner.

“Have you met my boyfriend, Adam?” he asked, and Adam punched thoughtfully at his shoulder, then tried to hide the pink on his cheeks with an annoyed eye roll. Ronan kissed Adam in front of his friends for the first time, and he never felt so at peace before in his life.

Before dinner, Ronan texted his brothers a happy Thanksgiving, and spent an hour on the phone with his mom while watching Adam and Opal arguing over the periodic table of all things. At some point Adam came over and Ronan introduced him to her, but not the detail that he was a famous celebrity, but merely that he had a boyfriend. Adam’s eyes widened as he heard him say it, then he took the phone from him before he could respond. His rural accent was thicker when he took the phone over, making Ronan’s head spin.

They flirted by way of bad jokes after dinner, Ronan’s poorly thought up and Adam’s geeky as always.

“Are you made of Copper and Tellurium?” he whispered to him in the hall as they were putting on their coats before leaving. “Because you’re CuTe.”

Ronan snorted. “You’re a fucking cheeseball,” he said. “My boyfriend is a nerd.”

Adam laughed wickedly, and then put his hands inside the opening of Ronan’s coat.

“Thank you for today,” he said.

“I didn’t do anything,” Ronan replied, and Adam gave him a look that suggested otherwise. He knew what he meant, but Ronan didn’t believe he deserved thanks for it. Not to invite your boyfriend to Thanksgiving when he made an impromptu visit was just pure dickish, and he wasn’t that much of an asshole.

The drive home was relatively quiet. In the back Gansey and Opal bickered about something but they didn’t make too much of a fuss about whatever it was, allowing Adam and Ronan to settle into a comfortable quiet of their own, hands touching at the gear shift.

There was something resembling yearning in Adam’s gaze as he stared at him across the car. Ronan felt it, too. He’d been feeling it all afternoon, and all night.

They went straight to bed as soon as they got home, as Adam dragged Ronan off to his room and then locked the door behind them. He threw Ronan on the bed without a word, and then shimmied out of the new clothes he bought the afternoon before. Down to his underwear, he helped Ronan out of his clothes as well. Ronan was completely skeptical about where this was headed, but he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know. It was better, the not knowing. Less nervous that way.

When they kissed it was messily and hungrily, like they were running out of time to devour each other whole. Ronan spent the entire day daydreaming about how Adam could fit so well in his life here, even though it was implausible because he was a man of the world, and why would he stay in San Francisco when he had the world to see? It seemed Adam must have had similar thoughts, or perhaps he was so touch starved that tonight was the peak of his want, and he was taking what he could.

Adam’s hot mouth moved downward, down Ronan’s stomach and toward his hips. He peeled back his briefs to kiss at his hip bones, sucking at the dip there just beside one. He then bit it, and Ronan shuddered.

“Adam,” he moaned. A man never kissed so low down his stomach before, he was done for.

Adam then kissed back up him, dedicating focus to his nipples and his neck. Ronan felt so weak. He was hard and throbbing, his whole body pulsing with a silent hum. While he wasn’t quite ready to go there yet, it was so obviously on the table. He swallowed as Adam continued to flick his tongue at the hollow of his throat, and then he flipped them over so he was on top.

They were both flushed and breathless. Below him, Adam stared up with such wanting, such desire. Ronan admired him, with his lower lip sucked into his mouth by his teeth, feeling Adam with his hands almost as if it were for the first time. This was the first time he allowed himself to be openly hard in front of him, which he supposed was a step toward something.

His hands moved about Adam’s body, touching at his almost naked form, feeling where he wanted to feel without any fear or anxiety. His hands continued going down his chest to his stomach, then up again. For the first time, Ronan thumbed Adam’s nipples, and Adam closed his eyes a second and moaned, spreading his legs open for him in invitation. This was really happening. This wasn’t a fantasy, or a film. This was Adam, opening himself up to him in a way apparently few others ever explored with him before.

With a hard swallow, Ronan obliged him, shifting into his legs. His hands reached and explored Adam’s thighs, thick and strong and manly with their shape. His hands continued feeling down them where his fine hair brushed against his palms, and his fingers paused at the edge of his shorts. The question came about again as to if he could take that one extra step and make the connection, hold him in his hand and make him cry his name. With a trembling touch he ran one hand delicately over where he could see a bulge, noticeably exciting Adam as much as he excited him. He was warm and hard under his hand, which lingered there in the feeling, exploring his limits. Even with a light touch, Adam quivered at his exploration, tilting his head back and moaning softly. His hips bucked into Ronan’s hand, giving him more than he asked for.

Yes.”

Immediately, he chickened out and recoiled from touching there any longer, dizzy from the experience. He wasn’t ready yet. Boyfriend or not, he was wrecked with nerves.

“It’s too soon,” he mumbled, already feeling humiliated by his confession.

There was a soft hand to his cheek, as Adam smiled up at him from below. He smiled back, and then felt a second hand hook around the back of his neck to drag him down.

“Take all the time you need,” he said, almost cooing his words.

Their mouths were sloppily on each other again, as Adam insisted on hooking his legs around Ronan’s waist. He kissed him with enough fervor that he was made dizzy. Adam was so very good at all this, and Ronan wanted to be as well.

He was moaning loudly into Adam’s open mouth as he pushed into him insistently, knowingly. While Ronan wasn’t ready, that didn’t mean he didn’t want to feel something. His brain was a mess. Adam gasped as Ronan rolled his hips again, and the front of his briefs felt wet from something. Ronan’s dick hurt it was so hard, straining. He could burst, and he was sure Adam could too.

“Ronan,” he panted, the sound of which was engraved into his mind.

Adam’s eyes rolled back as Ronan pulled away to kiss at his neck instead, licking at a line of sweat that had appeared. His moans were softer and more refined than Ronan’s, which were jagged and loud.

“Oh god,” he said.

Adam continued to kiss him so he could feel as well as hear them, somehow intensifying the result of their sound.

This was bliss, as Adam’s hands dug into his back, and his hooked legs continued to push into Ronan’s thighs.

Adam was right there under him, ready to have sex, and he was strangely terrified. What if he was bad at it? What if Adam was unimpressed? They were bogus thoughts, because he knew Adam wasn’t superficial like that.

But, what if they have sex and then Adam immediately leaves? What if that’ll be all they have? Because sooner or later real life was going to come banging on his door and demand Adam back. He selfishly didn’t want to lose him, the feeling of which intensified more each day.

His hand then slid into Adam’s underwear. He found him already warm, wet, and hard as his thumb gently pressed into the head of his dick. His fingers curled around his shaft, spreading the wetness with his thumb, and then he began to jerk him off. Adam’s hips pulled up off the bed at the feeling, pushing further into his hand.

“You said-” Adam’s voice was raspy, desperate. He was gasping, rolling his hips into Ronan, thriving for more.

Ronan may not have been ready for penetration, but he still wanted something. This. This was still sex. He wanted to show Adam his affection for him with more than just words and smiles.

His hand continued to work him to the breaking point, squeezing a little each time his hand reached the head, and Adam whined out syllables of words that didn’t complete. His hands were fists on the bed, as Ronan’s hand had become slick to the point it was sliding easily up and down in a rhythm. He was melting into the mattress because of Ronan’s touch, something he greedily memorized.

As their lips met again, Adam cried out, “Ronan,” with breathy pants. “Yes. Yes. Jesus fuck-”

His eyes were shut as he pushed somewhat angrily at Ronan’s shoulder, like he wanted him to stop. But when his hand slowed, Adam pushed harder to keep going, bucking into Ronan’s hand with silent demand. It made him harder, torturously so, as Adam moaned his name again like he did. He could come just from this alone, with no touching involved. It was painful how close he was just from giving Adam pleasure.

And then Adam was over the edge, shuddering as he gasped into Ronan’s cheek. He barely had time to feel proud of the accomplishment, to revel in the fact he made Adam climax and wasn’t nervous about any of it anymore, because then Adam’s hand was on his dick and jerking him off. He was already so hard and aching, that he only needed a few good strokes before he came fast and shaky, whimpering into Adam’s shoulder as he reflexively shied.

He would’ve been embarrassed by this if Adam also hadn’t finished fast, too, which was a mild triumph. They were both touch starved. He could almost cry.

Breathing through the release, he rolled over onto his back, his one hand stickier than the other. He never felt such release, feeling lighter than he usually did when he touched himself. It was a curious thing, learning these things. Adam lay motionless beside him, still panting a little. When he looked over, he could see his chest rise and fall faster than usual, eyes still closed.

“Ronan,” he said, and his voice was deep and hoarse from all his spent effort.

“Yeah?”

His eyes peeled open as he turned his head in his direction. “Why are you so far away from me?” he asked.

At that, Ronan rolled over and into him again. Adam’s arms wrapped around him, even his one hand that still had him on there. He would have to wash the sheets, he realized. But for now he was fine, hot and sweaty and still shaking a little from the comedown.

“Are you okay?” Adam asked.

“I’m fine,” Ronan murmured against his chest.

“Hmm?” Adam tilted so Ronan could get his good ear, and he repeated what he said. “I can tell when you’re lying,” Adam replied. He kissed his forehead knowingly, like he was trying to better read Ronan’s mind than he already was.

All the thoughts in his head spilled out at once as his eyes refocused on his unclean hand.

“I need to wash my hand, and I want to change out of my underwear. But I don’t want to move.” Under him, he could feel Adam’s heart beating, a thrumming against his ear. It was still fast, but soothing.

“I see,” Adam said.

“I want to do it again, if you do.” He lifted his head to see Adam’s reaction. “I’ve never done that before. I mean, a guy once showed me his dick in the gym locker rooms, but it did not lead to this.” He winced, even though Adam smiled at what he said. “I shouldn’t have brought that up, but I can’t stop talking. I’m paranoid I wasn’t very good. That’s why I’m so fucking nervous all the time. I don’t want to fuck this up.”

Adam’s unused hand was tracing along his jaw, then over his lips, his smile so brazen and brilliant it was impossible to look away. The coolness of his finger delicately running over Ronan’s lip gave him goosebumps.

“You have nothing to be nervous of,” said Adam. “You’re doing fine.” A shadow of pink burned at his ears and then slowly came to dust at his cheeks. “You made me finish pretty embarrassingly quick because you’re doing so well just, uh, existing.”

Ronan hesitated, nervous still. This was Adam, and he knew he had no reason to be nervous with Adam, but he was. The anxiety rattled him to where he asked something that was on his mind a long time.

“Have you masturbated to me before?”

Adam laughed absurdly loud at the question. “What?” He squinted his eyes, even though he was still laughing. “What kind of question is that?”

Humiliated by his own doing, Ronan didn’t speak, and instead buried his face in Adam’s neckline. He wondered if at this point confessing he thought of Adam every time for a long time was worthwhile or not, but he was receding back into his shell the longer the silence lasted.

“Yes, Lynch, I have,” Adam said, close enough to his ear he shivered. He then kissed there, and raised Ronan’s head up to kiss him on the lips. It was more a peck than anything, as Ronan was riding on the high of this admittance. As Adam kissed him on the nose, he rolled his eyes and called him, “Nerd.”

Giddiness washed over him and he sighed, happily. His lips spread wide into a toothy grin.

“Ah, there you are.” Adam caressed his face with the back of his hand. “There’s my smile. You fucking weirdo.”

“Blog entry number-”

“Will you stop?”

Adam kissed him again before he could finish his stupid thought. He kissed him slowly, easily relaxing him upon the release of breath into Ronan’s mouth. Arching into him, Ronan couldn’t help but enjoy the languid roll of his tongue, or the way he ran his hand slowly over Ronan’s skull. He touched at Adams thigh, sticky fingers daringly going just under his waistband. He then put his hand in there again and stroked him until he was hard. The breathy little whimpers he made were etched into Ronan’s brain forever. He wasn’t going to forget tonight. The way Adam sounded. The way he seemed to angrily pinch his eyes shut when he was trying not to finish. How he clutched at Ronan’s back, digging into his tattoo like it was his lifeline. The way that when he did finish he twitched a little smile, breathing heavy like he’d run a marathon. He lasted longer the second time.

It made Ronan feel powerful.

While he didn’t want Adam to leave, he knew at some point he would have to go. So he knew he needed to take advantage of the time they had together, however long that would be.

After, he felt Adam’s hand at his bare back, stroking his tattoo with the trace of a fingertip feather light.

“Admiring the view?” he inquired jokingly, as Adam’s hands trailed down to new places.

“Yes, in fact, I am.” There was a kiss to his shoulder. Ronan shivered.

This wasn’t as scary as he thought it would be.

Chapter Text

On the days leading up to the Friday they were to leave, they settled plans with Blue and Gansey and Opal. Opal was annoyed by the idea of them leaving, but she was mature enough to understand at the same time. Adam promised he'd spend more time with just her alone on another visit, but it was understandably difficult and upsetting for her. She asked him to at least help out with her homework while he was here, which for some goddamn reason he was more than happy to do. Nerd.

In the mornings, he often watched Adam work out, to stay as fit as he was. He did not join, but he enjoyed watching, usually from the bed as Adam did push ups on the floor. They then often had breakfast with Opal and Gansey, unless they got up later than the others, in which case Gansey went to open the bookstore, while Opal hung around waiting for them.

They didn't really attend the bookshop again while Adam was there. A couple times Ronan would drop in to make sure Gansey wasn't having a crisis, but he was doing pretty well. The shop wasn't completely suffering under him.

For the most part, when they weren't alone, Adam and Ronan were usually with Opal.

They spent the weekend having fun. On Friday they went to the beach for the afternoon, until Opal got invited to go to a friend's house.

"You don't see Parrish for months, and you're going to ditch him for kids you see practically every day?" Ronan was shaking his head in playful judgment.

Opal gave him the stink eye. "Does Adam have gossip about the cute kid from Algebra?" she asked.

"I do not, sadly." Adam feigned disappointment in himself by shaking his head. "I can see your dilemma."

"See, he gets it."

After dropping her off, Adam and Ronan went to the camping supply store without her, to buy the supplies they would need for their trip, like a tent and sleeping bags and other things. While Ronan went camping as a kid, it had been so long ago he barely remembered any of it. It felt like dreams more than memories. Now he would be making more memories, solid memories he knew he would never forget, with Adam.

On Saturday they had pizza in Ronan's bed and watched movies all day. It was Opal's suggestion and Adam eagerly agreed to it.

On Sunday, Ronan went to go in went in for his daily checkup on the store, to make sure the place was still up and running, only to find Gansey and Blue actually having a conversation. He immediately turned back around before he spoke a word.

"What's that face for?" Adam asked when he walked briskly out.

"My worst nightmare come to life," Ronan replied.

"That doesn't explain anything to me, you know."

But Ronan didn't explain any further.

Together, he, Opal, and Adam drove to Muir Woods and walked around. Adam obsessively took pictures of everything, and sometimes trailed behind to the point that they once lost him, as they hadn't realized he wasn't still behind them. At one point he had a tourist take a photo of the three of them. At first, Ronan didn't smile and Opal made a cheesy face, which annoyed Adam to no end.

"Be serious, please," he said. "I don't know when the next time will be when we can take pictures like this."

On the next picture, they both smiled. Opal still managed to give Ronan bunny ears behind his head, though.

When she was out of earshot, Ronan sweetly asked Adam to give him a copy when he could. He turned his cell service off when he arrived to the city and had yet to turn it back on, to remain radio silent he said.

Dinner Sunday night Ronan cooked spaghetti for them, though he also enforced some salad as well when he realized how terrible their eating habits had been for the past week. 17 year old Ronan Lynch would've balked at the idea of willingly consuming a salad, but such was life. They weren't the worst thing.

As the three of them were eating, Gansey mysteriously out somewhere alone, Ronan's phone buzzed in his pocket. He thought it was Gansey, so he took it out, but it wasn't.

 

wendy : Ronan, is Adam with you?

I know you're reading this. Please respond.

I just need to know he's safe. I'm worried. He turned off his phone. He won't respond to any of us. It's chaos here.

 

"What's with the face?" Opal asked. "Did Rich get lost on the way home?"

Ronan looked up from his phone. "You need to stop calling him that," he said, but he didn't sound very authoritative as he said it, risking a laugh himself.

"Why? It's funny."

"Opal-" He sighed, but managed to resist the urge to talk more about it. In the grand scheme of things it was a non-issue. Ronan reminded himself of that as he awkwardly handed off his phone to Adam.

"What am I looking at?" he asked, but then he was immersed into what he was reading. "I see," he said after a while, lost in the message.

Before Ronan realized what he was doing, Adam started typing. He stopped not long after, and then handed the phone back to Ronan. When he looked, the conversation with Wendy was gone.

"What did you do?" Ronan said, suspicious of Adam's calm demeanor. He could tell by the twitch in his mouth he wasn't so calm inside.

"I blocked her," he said, avoiding eye contact with both him and Opal. She looked so lost, her eyes were slits as she stared between them. "You don't know how to undo that do you?" Adam asked him.

"He didn't even know how to facetime you at first," Opal answered for him. "I had to teach him."

"Don't start with me right now." Ronan angrily tucked his phone away and turned in his chair to face Adam. He touched at his closer hand, but Adam wasn't reciprocating the gesture. "What did you say to her?"

"That I wasnt here," Adam replied. He was picking at the peas still left on his plate with his fork, jabbing at them with the prongs.

"Why did you lie?" Ronan groaned.

"She obviously knows I am," Adam replied tersely. "Where else would I go? But I don't want to create a conversation."

"You can't hide here forever-"

Adam dropped his fork on his plate to create a startling noise.

"Opal, did you want dessert?" he asked.

"Yes! Sugar!" Her eyes darted to Ronan for permission, but he supposed he didn't have much say in this either. He shrugged, as Adam stood to walk off to the kitchen, and Opal jumped up to follow after him.

Later that same night he tried to bring it up again when they were alone, but Adam had learned brilliantly the art of distraction and got naked before they could argue.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

"So are we just going to never talk about it?" Ronan asked the very next morning. Adam and he just finished waking their bodies up by touching each other like they'd been doing since Thursday. They were really good at it, if Ronan did say so himself. But that was besides the point.

"Talk about what?" Adam reached over him for the tissue box to wipe his hand, and he sat up in bed, looking so serene. Ronan hated that he was about to destroy that, but there was never going to be a good time for this.

"Wendy," he said, and at once he saw Adam's shoulders tense, "and the fact that you've kept your phone on airplane mode since you got here."

"Ah." Adam balled his tissue up in his hand and then stared down at it with the emptiest gaze. All delight taken from their earlier activity was now spoiled. "I was hoping we weren't going to talk about that."

"Adam," Ronan said gently, and he reached for him.

"I don't want to fight," he replied, and he cowered from his touch.

"Who says we'll fight?" Though it sounded like they were now. As he sat up, Adam sat forward and away from him. He tossed the tissue aside on the floor, and moved the sheets to cover himself up like he was embarrassed. Even though Ronan couldn't see his face anymore, only his shoulder that stiffly built a barrier between them, he knew he was upset. It was obvious.

"Because I want to be selfish for once in my life," Adam said, the volume in his voice reminiscent of when they fought over the phone about that jackass blogger, "and I want to be selfish here with you." Adam looked over his shoulder at him, and Ronan at once took it as an invite to touch him. So he did, leaning into him and wrapping his arms around his waist. Just as quickly, Adam collapsed backward into him, using Ronan to hold him up. "I know you'll just try to convince me to be smart and go back. I just don't want to do any of that, not right now. Not when this is the best thing in my life and I barely get to enjoy it. I've been smart my whole life, and for once I want to be the guy who gets to be reckless. I deserve it."

Hearing all this, Ronan was very aware of the path that felt "right" and "smart" and the path that would give him more of this. He felt sick and pained to know they weren't the same one, and he could understand Adam's side of things as much as he could the more logical side. Ronan wanted to be selfish, too. His arms tightened around Adam, holding him closer to him, as he tucked his face into his hair and inhaled. He really wished Wendy hadn't texted him, because now all he could see was the word chaos in her message. It wasn't fair. Adam wasn't a commodity, he was a person.

Hollywood could suck a dick.

"I told you that you could stay forever, and I meant it," Ronan said into his hearing ear. "I'm not asking you to go."

Adam leaned further back into him. "Wendy will convince me to leave, and I'm not ready yet," he said.

There was a smart answer to this, and Ronan knew what it was, and he knew what the adult decision was also; but Ronan never cared about being smart or adult. He touched Adam's forehead from behind, brushing his hair out of his eyes. He kissed the shell of Adam's ear and felt him react as it tickled.

"Okay," he said.

Against him he felt Adam breathe with relief, all the tension in his body easing out as he exhaled. He slacked like a rag doll. In Ronan’s arms, he warmed when Ronan pressed tight into him in response.

“Thank you for understanding,” he said, and he rested his head on Ronan’s shoulder.

“I can't say that I completely understand, but I also don't want to be separated by thousands of miles again,” Ronan confessed into his nape.

Adam hummed as he continued tilting further into him, sliding down his front to where his head was at Ronan’s chest now.

“You could always move to New York.” Adam mentioned it so casually, effortlessly, so Ronan laughed. He thought he was kidding, but then upon further speculation realized Adam wasn’t.

“Oh.”

Below him he watched Adam’s face brighten into a full blown blush, and he jerked out of Ronan’s arms to startle out of bed. The sheets fell away as he stood, bound for the bathroom.

“I’m going to take a shower,” he mumbled as he departed.

Quick, Ronan tumbled after him, not letting him escape so easily. Fuck .

“Do you really want me to move to New York?” he said, calling after him.

When he turned the corner after him into the bathroom, he found him reaching into the shower to turn the knob. His back was to him as he shied from his gaze, avoiding looking at him at all. But Ronan could still see the tips of his ears, burnt red amidst his hair.

"Parrish, look at me."

"No."

When water came streaming out of the shower head, Adam stepped inside, and cursed upon contact. The water was obviously still cold. In Ronan's house, you had to wait a minute for the water to get warm before stepping in. He buried his face in it to hide his expression, and Ronan nearly turned the water off to talk. A better idea came to mind, and instead he undressed and followed him in.

When Adam's head pulled out of the stream, he noticed Ronan's presence and balked.

"What are you-?"

"I wish I could move to New York to be with you," he said in a rush of winded words.

Adam turned back into the water.

In normal circumstances, Adam's reaction would've angered him, and maybe it still did a little, but this was Adam, and with him everything was different. He could see the pain in Adam's expression, reminiscent of all the times Ronan said things he didn't mean to say out loud. Adam wasn't perfect; he could sometimes embarrass himself too. He was still finding his footing in this relationship as much as Ronan was.

"I have my life here," Ronan said, and he reached out to touch at Adam's wet shoulders. They reacted to his touch, but Adam didn't motion for him to get off; instead he seemed to like it. "Opal goes to school here," he continued to explain. "I have my job here. My house. I can't move. Someday, but...."

"Someday," Adam repeated, like the word was foreign to him.

Ronan's touch transferred to Adam's hips, at which point he twisted him around so he was facing him. Under different circumstances, he would be feeling very differently about all this, but now was not the time. His eyes remained focused on Adam's, which kept darting away from his.

"I like you a hell of a lot, Parrish," he said. "Every part of you. I want to be with you for as long as you'll let me. But we've only really been at this a week now, when you think about it."

There was a distinct shiver that worked its way through Adam's body that didn't appear to be from the shower. His hands came and grabbed at Ronan's waist in return and then stepped into him. After a few distinct seconds he stepped forward again, and pressed his chin to Ronan's shoulder.

"So maybe asking you to move in with me is a little..."

"Fast?" Ronan finished for him. "Maybe. I expect a proposal sometime next week at this rate."

Adam stepped back to show him rolling his eyes, but he was smiling. That's all that mattered. Ronan smiled when he did, even if just joking about marriage sent a sharp pinch to his chest.

"I'm not saying no," he admitted, and Adam's smile quivered. "I'm just saying not right now."

Even though there was sorrow bleeding into his smile, he nodded in acceptance. As Ronan kissed his cheeks, he suspected some of the lines of water down his face weren't from the shower head.

"I've always been very practical and goal oriented my whole life, but since I've met you I haven't made much sense with my choices," Adam said, continuing to confide in him. He kissed his cheeks again and stayed there, feeling him breathe against him. It was a very odd sensation standing naked in a shower with your boyfriend pressed into you, but it was so incredibly intimate at the same time. To be bare in front of each other like this, literally and figuratively, made Ronan feel raw standing against him, holding him at the waist as the water cascaded down them.

"Is that so?" he said after a moment of coming down from the high this feeling gave him.

"I never would've gotten on a plane on a whim to see a boy before," Adam said. "I've done it twice now. I'll more than likely do it again."

"I don't blame you. I'm pretty cute."

Adam groaned and stepped back from him at once, his hands in his face.

"Oh, god, you have to ruin the moment every time don't you?" he said, and he turned to the water. When his shoulders started to shake, Ronan knew he was laughing. He openly joined him, and then moved to wrap his arms around him once more.

Before he knew it, he was being pushed up against the glass of the shower door, and kissed hard and fast.

"We have to face reality at some point," he reminded Adam between breaths.

"I know," said Adam. He bit at his lower lip as he began to think. "But not now," he then urged. "Please."

"If you insist," said Ronan. They resumed their hazardous kissing.

 

~~~~~~

 

Opal had school again today, which gave the pair the house to themselves after they dropped her off. Ronan knew he should actually do his job for once this week, but the urge to put off his duties was about as great as Adam's apparently.

Back at his house, Ronan watched Adam peruse his bookshelves, commenting on every few of them. He found one he liked amongst the chaos of the shelves, plucked it from the others with a smile, and Ronan watched him eagerly hop onto the bed to start to read.

It was nearly a week since Adam arrived, and even still he had moments of pure shock that Adam was here. There he sat in Ronan's bed, feet crossed in front of him with his back rested against the mound of pillows Ronan liked to have. He gleefully opened the book in his lap, slender fingers spreading pages apart to read. His teeth sucked in his lower lip as his eyes glided over the words.

After a few minutes of watching him, Ronan sat in front of him on the bed, knocking their knees together with purpose. Adam barely looked up.

"I'm reading," he said, still trying with all his effort.

Ronan didn't make it easy for him, and leaned over the book to block his vision. He kissed his chin, and moved so Adam had to chase his lips, which he did like clockwork. The book was briefly ignored in his lap as he bound forward, catching Ronan before he completely moved away.

Every time they kissed it felt like the first time, and yet simultaneously felt so familiar. His heart jumpstarted a little every time, delightfully surprised by the feeling until he remembered he could have this forever. Forever was a long time, but he wanted this forever.

"Reading's boring," Ronan said once they stopped.

"Says the man who owns a bookstore," Adam said with mild condescension. With an affectionate eye roll, he gently shoved Ronan back so he could keep reading. It was Ronan's favorite book, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which he knew Adam was aware of, and perhaps that's why he picked it.

Since their conversation only earlier that same morning, Ronan was very aware of time slipping away from them. They had reached a point where he was hyper sensitive to the dilemma of their situation, and he didn't want to waste any more time. Even though any time with Adam wasn't time wasted, he wanted Adam to have memories here that didn't just involve the bedroom.

"Read later," he said. Adam wasn't listening, which forced him to move into his lap again. Knocking the book out of his hand, he took hold of Adam's waist and dragged him down the bed until he lay under him. Adam didn't even protest as he sat with his legs straddling Adam's hips. "Let's go somewhere today."

"Didn't we go somewhere yesterday?" Adam asked, and he arched his brow.

Ronan groaned to show his vexation, and below him Adam laughed light as a feather with a lazy smile.

"Is there a rule for how many times a week we leave the house?" Ronan insisted. "I don't want to sit inside all day. It's sort of warm out today." There he motioned to the window where the sun was snaking through his permanently closed curtains. "Come on."

Adam's gaze drifted toward the window, then up to Ronan again, where he proceeded to stare as he internally weighed his options. Even quiet, Ronan could see his mind working. He studied his expression as Adam lay there relaxed beneath him, his bedroom eyes half open as he delicately raised his hands to Ronan's thighs.

"Alright," he said. "Where do you have in mind?"

Ronan hadn't taken Adam to the park since he arrived, even though he got the sense that he enjoyed it there. But they weren't going to the Academy of Sciences. There were other parts of the park to venture to, one of them somewhere he sort of already took him.

The Impressionism exhibit was still going on at the de Young, and so Ronan planned the morning and early afternoon around it. When Adam realized that's where they were headed, after passing advertisements of it on lamp posts, he lit up with such a pure expression of joy, and nearly got them in a car accident as he tried to kiss Ronan while he was driving.

In the museum they explored not just the Impressionism exhibit, but others as well. Adam gleefully paraded around to different paintings or sculptures with Ronan right behind him. They openly held hands as they toured, kissed in front of different artworks that Adam knew enough about that he talked Ronan's ear off for a while. Adam excitedly paused to take a quiet moment in front of one of his favorite paintings that Ronan remembered he liked. He'd seen it before through their video chat date, but this was so much better.

"I never thought I'd ever see it in person," Adam whispered, like the painting would hush them if he spoke too loudly.

"Now you have," Ronan said, and he tucked his chin into Adam. "Is it as impressive as you expected?"

Adam nodded quietly, eyes glued to the artwork.

"Camille Pissarro," Ronan said, squinting his eyes at the tiny printed box to the right of the painting. "She's pretty good."

"Camille was a man, Lynch." Adam snorted out a laugh as he moved along the wall to another painting just beyond, leaving Ronan red-faced staring at the one Adam admired of a city night.

The museum wasn't very busy while they were visiting, which allowed Adam and Ronan to roam it freely, as Adam continued dragging him along to every room. Before long they had walked through the whole place, and somehow managed to double back to the Impressionism exhibit again. When Ronan realized that's what happened, he tugged at Adam's hand to follow him instead.

"You bored already?" Adam asked.

"It's been nearly three hours, Parrish. It's noon."

"Really?" Adam checked his watch, surprised to see Ronan hadn't been exaggerating. "Wow."

Ronan tried to take his attention back by kissing at his cheek, but he didn't budge from staring at his wrist.

"We've really been here three hours?" Adam frowned. "That can't be right."

"Your watch isn't lying to you, Parrish, and neither am I," Ronan laughed, kissing further up Adam's cheekbone towards the line of his jaw. "You hungry?"

Adam's eyes finally moved from his hand. "Ooh, am I finally getting to find out what you hid in the trunk of your car when you thought I wasn't looking?"

"You saw?" Ronan groaned and turned around. A few steps away he felt hands come around at his waist from behind, to hold him closer.

"You're not exactly subtle when you're in a rush running around the kitchen like that."

"Shit." Ronan shouldn't have let the cupboards slam as much as they did. Somehow the loss of the surprise made it less exciting for him, but Adam looked perked up next to him, interested more in the idea of the surprise than he had been a second ago. He was fully grinning at him, giving him his undivided attention. Even after all this, when he looked at him like that, Ronan briefly lost the ability to breathe.

"You're such an asshole for not even pretending to be surprised, you know," he grumbled, and he started to make his way toward the exit.

It felt like Adam was skipping next to him, but really his steps were just bouncier than usual, his expression smug as he leaned into him. "I've never been a huge fan of surprises," he said, shrugging as he started to walk ahead of Ronan and take the lead.

"Funny," Ronan said, "since all you've done since we've started talking is surprise me."

He started to walk faster than Adam to get ahead of him. This was strangely competitive for simply two people walking back to their car together, holding hands like couples do.

"Hey-" Adam started walking faster too. Then Ronan sped up more to compete. "What are you-?"

"Adam-"

They were full on running now through the park and down the stairs towards the street where they parked. The whole race aspect of the activity was made stranger by the fact they still held hands as they bound through the grounds of the park, past people walking to and from the museum. Like children they laughed in the wind of their own making, chasing each other across the tiled ground toward the cement sidewalk. At some point Ronan was ahead, and then Adam was, the process repeating again and again as they exerted themselves like wild adolescents. For a brief time there, as Ronan's throat burned from the sharp intakes of cold air, he felt like a teenager again. He felt unburdened by adulthood and the weight of all his responsibilities. All he was was a boy, chasing and being chased by another boy, who he very much loved.

Every inch of him was cold and yet sweating when they jaggedly made it back to his car. Adam collapsed into its side, having lost the will to stop on his own. He gasped out a cackling snort when he bumped into it, and he slipped down to fall onto his knees he was laughing so hard. Ronan ignored going for his trunk as he bent down to check on him, also laughing uncontrollably, as if he inhaled a canister of laughing gas before this. His body was quivering for a million different reasons, and ached for a million more, as he could barely go to his knees on the cement ground. Ronan hadn't run like that in a while.

"Did you mean to do that?" Ronan teased.

Adam gave him the middle finger, still wheezing out a laugh or two in the struggle to speak.

"You want some help up?" Ronan asked.

"No," Adam said, and then he completely collapsed onto the dirty ground. "I think I'll stay here."

"Okay," said Ronan. His knees hurt when he stood up from the pavement. "More food for me."

"Hey." Adam sat up fast. A bubble of laughter eased out of him when their eyes met. "You dick. You can't eat a romantic picnic by yourself."

Ronan should've known Adam knew exactly what he planned. He rolled his eyes and offered his arm out, and Adam took it to stand up. His one arm didn't seem too sore as he stood, but Ronan didn't care. He touched at it with both hands in concern until Adam leaned into him.

"Food," he reminded him.

"You don't get anything now," he grunted. "You've ruined the surprise."

"Don't be such a baby," Adam whined. "I'm hungry. Feed your hungry boyfriend."

The way he grouched as he talked made Ronan almost laugh again, but instead he only smiled, still gently feeling at Adam's arm to check if it hurt.

"I'm fine , Ronan," Adam said, doing his best not to smile. There was something to be said in the way he wanted to look exasperated, but really he was captivated by Ronan's actions. Seeing him not want to express that, Ronan's hands swiftly fell to become lifeless limbs. Adam possibly found it sweet that he worried, but didn't want to find it sweet, and so he let him pretend he wasn't struggling not to let that smile form on his mouth.

He distracted himself by walking around his car to his trunk and popping it open. In the back he packed a blanket and a plastic bag of foods that wouldn't spoil in the car. Adam was right next to him when he grabbed everything and closed the trunk, reaching for the bag. Upon retrieval he stuck his face inside the opening to look around, a hand reaching in to fish through it.

"You can't wait five seconds until we've sat down somewhere?"

Adam's hand pulled out, along with the last surprise of the morning. He was smiling now, full and soft on his sun-kissed face.

"What's this for?" he said, holding the book he was reading earlier.

Ronan shrugged, and walked casually ahead of him, locking the car up with a press of his keys. It wasn't long until Adam was at his side once more, giddily holding the bag in one arm and the book in the other so close to his chest. He liked that Adam liked books so much. Ronan somehow liked them more, because they were so adored by Adam.

"I like you," he said, without the intention of it coming out at all. It was a damn miracle it was that specific phrasing and not another, which was so much worse and way more embarrassing.

Adam whacked him on the head with his book.

"I like you, too, you big goof." He then sighed, like a reflex or a habit. "You haven't kissed me in approximately twelve minutes, you know," he said.

"So needy," Ronan answered back, before dipping forward and kissing him with something simple. With Adam, though, it was never simple. He inched into him, their fronts flush together, as he kissed him back more fervently than Ronan expected. He was left lightheaded when Adam stepped away and continued on, the world spinning around him out of control.

Golden Gate Park had lots of large patches of grass to sprawl out on, under the sun and under the shade. Like Ronan remembered Adam mentioning he never got to do, they found a patch in the shade away from all the other park goers, of which there were many. A decent weathered sunny day in San Francisco was never taken for granted, and everyone was out to soak in the sun rays, filling the park up with people. Under the shade of a few large oak trees, they made their picnic, and ate in comfortable silence. Though the surprise had been spoiled, Adam was still pleased by how they spent the better part of their early afternoon. It was evident all over his beautiful face.

Adam said he never got to lie in the grass as someone ran their hands through his hair while he read in the shade. He deserved such simple pleasures, he deserved them more than most people. So he was going to give him that today, and he was.

At some point they both spread out on the blanket to get comfortable. Adam's head found its way onto Ronan's stomach, resting there as he read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Like he knew he wanted, Ronan accepted the duty of running his hand through Adam's hair, admiring his beauty as he hadn't thought of bringing a book for himself. It didn't matter. Adam was something worthy of staring at regardless.

Lying there in the grass as he was, with his crop of dusty hair flowing effortlessly in the wind like a hair commercial, he was the definition of a god to Ronan. The very thing he worshipped for months in physical form in his lap, wearing sunglasses over his pretty blue eyes, his freckles visible on his tan skin. His skin was literally glowing only just an hour ago under the sun, as he opted for a short sleeve shirt today up until they cuddled in the shade. Now he was wearing Ronan's leather jacket, looking snug inside it as he lay there luxuriously on the ground like a king. Ronan's hand came and stroked at Adam's ribs, somewhere just to touch him without being immodest. Though he wouldn't hold it against them if they were, but sometimes Adam still worried he would be recognized, though it miraculously hadn't happened yet. No one in San Francisco paid that much attention to passerby. It helped it was windy a lot lately. No one could fucking see.

"School's almost out," Ronan noted, catching text messages from Opal since Adam had his phone off still.

"Oh?" Adam didn't look up from his book. "Invite her here."

Ronan complied, and then grumpily handed his phone over to Adam at her response.

"She's been saying this to me a lot lately," Ronan said. "I really don't get it. Is it some new teenage slang?"

When Ronan told Opal where to meet them, she sent back potassium .

Occupied by Ronan's phone screen, Adam set his book down on his chest to read the message. When he finished, he broke out laughing.

"No," he answered. "The symbol for potassium on the periodic table is K."

Opal had been saying K in the most complicated passive aggressive nerdy way possible to him for two weeks now apparently. He couldn't believe it.

"She learned this nerd shit from you," he said, and he flicked at Adam's head.

Still laughing, Adam tilted his head so he could see him from where he lay. His smile was widespread and warmer than the weather.

"I would tell another chemistry joke, but all the good ones Argon," he said.

"Don't you fucking start it too," Ronan said, and he swatted the book out of Adam's hands.

Undeterred, Adam rolled over so he was lying on his stomach, propped up by his elbows. He slipped closer to Ronan, beaming at him like the only light in the universe.

"Are you a charged atom? Because I got my ion you."

"You're lucky you're cute, because these are the worst fucking jokes I've heard in my goddamn life."

Adam chuckled under his breath as he bent down into Ronan's face, a breath away from a kiss. "You'd know all about bad jokes, wouldn't you?"

He kissed Ronan's snarky remark right out of his mouth.

 

~~~~~~~~

 

On Tuesday after school Ronan and Adam dropped by to pick Opal up, and the three of them drove to her social worker's office for a meeting to check on the update of their foster care paperwork. Adam stayed outside in the car to make things seemingly easier for them, though he was visibly nervous when he watched them leave to head inside. Opal lent him her old portable game device, which Gansey gave her a week or two ago.

"So you don't die of boredom out here," she said. He smiled as he touched at the buttons, something familiar from their own youth.

"Thank you, Opal."

The meeting was really just a status update on Ronan's process to being Opal's official foster care parent, and she said that the outlook was promising. He was going to make a great parent to her. Things that led Ronan to believe the meeting was going well.

"Everything's going well so far and I don't wanna jinx it but I think it’s safe to say you're on track and you're making excellent strides towards success."

Opal squealed and grabbed at his arm and squeezed it with both her hands.

"Did you hear that?"

"Yes, Opal." Ronan snorted. "I'm right here."

But then, towards the end of the check up, Lanie (Opal's social worker) kindly asked her to step outside for a minute so the adults could talk alone. Luckily Opal wasn't completely aware of every social cue, but Ronan was and he sensed an upset to all the wonderful things she only just mentioned.

As soon as the door shut and Opal left them alone, Lanie's smile shifted uncomfortably.

"The process is going to take a while," she warned, something she said before in the meeting, but Ronan suspected that was the case. This time, however, he was aware that it taking a while wasn't good even if unavoidable.

"There's a risk that Opal might be moved somewhere else in the meantime, depending on how long your paperwork will take to process."

Ronan jerked at the thought, sitting up in his seat at once.

"Are you serious?" He did his best not to raise his voice, but he was agitated. It was obvious why she didn't want Opal in here, but it was her life they were talking about. She should be in here.

"I'm afraid so." Lanie shrugged and started to fiddle with the mouse and keyboard at her computer, neither of which looked to be doing anything since the screen had fallen asleep. "I don't want to get your hopes up, but I've done all I can do to help you two out, and now it's just a waiting game."

This shouldn't have come as a surprise, but coming off of the best week of his life with Adam, Ronan was bewildered that this wasn't going well too. He'd become accustomed all too quickly and easily to the wonders of Adam's joy; as if it could somehow rub off on this, too.

"So I could do all that I've done and still lose her anyway?" Once it came out of his mouth he became completely aware of the added risk this created, taking her from her home before securing she could stay in his. He flinched at his own words, and dug his fingers into his leg, slipping in to the hole in his jeans at his knee so he could make contact with flesh.

"It's possible," said Lanie. It felt like a blow to his jaw, or a shot to the heart. Something bludgeoned him on the inside. He forgot he could lose Opal as easily as he found her.

"This is fucking bullshit," he said. His voice was raising.

Lanie understandably did not like his tone and she raised a hand to him in attempt to calm him. Of course that didn't work, as he rose to his feet to start pacing the floor of her office before her desk, back and forth and back and forth.

"Ronan, I know this is stressful, but it's not a guarantee something bad will happen," she tried to say. "I just owe it to you to warn you-"

He stalled by the seat he sat in before this, and he turned to her. His body was buzzing angrily, every inch of him wired to rage.

"Is there anything I can do to make sure that doesn't happen?" he asked.

"With your training and everything?" she asked to clarify. When he nodded, she solemnly shook her head. "No. You just have to wait, be hopeful nothing changes."

"What if..." Ronan chewed the inside of his cheek, as he started to pace again. Things were forming in his head. Other options. Dreams. Fantasies. Bullshit. "What if there was another option?"

He almost slammed the door as he stormed out of Lanie's office ten minutes later. Opal was sitting in the hallway of the offices with a jittery leg, the other tucked under her at her seat. She was listening to music on her headphones and looked up the second she spotted movement. Her headphones were promptly ripped from her ears.

"Well?" she asked. "What was taking so long in there?"

Ronan bit his tongue trying to think of what to say. His eyes darted around the room, making shifty eye contact with others in the building. He moved out of the way of another adult and child duo that needed to get by.

"Just more bullshit paperwork to get through," he muttered. He didn't want to talk to her about it here. Not now. Not when she was so happy before.

Without thinking he reached and touched a strand of hair that slipped in front of her right eye. He tucked it behind her ear.

"Let's get out of here," he suggested.

"Okay."

Ronan was grateful Opal didn't seem the least bit bothered other than the fact that the meeting ate into her afternoon.

Back at the car Adam was standing outside it, leaning against it looking visibly agitated. Ronan knew all the tell tale signs on him at this point, the crossed arms and the chewed lower lip, the furrowing brow followed closely by wide eyes.

"So?"

Ronan touched softly at Adam's waist as soon as he could, needing the contact to weigh him down, to guide him. He had tells as well, apparently, because he felt Adam grip at his waist in reply, silently goading him to give him the real news.

"Everything's fine," he said. For the most part that was true. There wasn't anything to worry about. Not yet. Just a lot of what ifs. If Ronan based his life around what ifs he would never get anything done. "I told you. It was just a check up basically. Showing us our progress."

Adam sensed the tension between his words, the close proximity to a lie he ventured at but didn't quite slip from. He narrowed his brow a second longer, then released Ronan's waist, moving his hand to Ronan’s hand where he gripped it just a little tighter than usual.

"Yes, well, you aren't exactly the best at judging situations now are you?" he said, and then he kissed him plainly on the cheek.

In the car, Ronan was buckling in as Adam played with a curl starting to form at his hair by his nape. He needed to shave it. It tickled his skin the way Adam felt around his head like this. His fingers slipped through his hair as much as they could with it still being quite short. He wondered what it would feel like if he tugged it during-

"Can we get ice cream on the way home?" Opal asked from the backseat.

Heat built into his face like he was flushed with a heatwave.

"No," he mumbled. "You've had enough sweets this week."

"Ugh!" Opal kicked at the ground of the car. "This whole day sucks."

"Hey." Adam's hand slipped from his hair as he turned to look over the back of his seat at her. The way his jaw shaped itself as he turned, Ronan found himself mesmerized by the little glory of the angle. He nearly reached out and ran his finger down the line of his throat, but knew better than to do that when Opal was in the back. His eyes hooked on the length of it, the freckles spotting his skin like stars, or dots that needed connecting by way of his mouth.

"Lynch, are you even listening?"

It was only when he saw his mouth had been moving did Ronan listen and catch on that he'd been talking to him. His mouth quirked into a thinly veiled greedy smile.

"You guys stare at each other way too much," Opal muttered. "Like, you've seen each other's faces enough already. What's so exciting you have to keep staring?"

Adam snorted as he looked back over the headrest of his seat. "You'll understand better someday, Opal," he said.

"Mm." She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't want to if it makes me look as much of a weirdo as you two do."

Ronan rolled his eyes back at her as he fixed his rear view mirror.

"Hey," he said. "What's with the attitude?"

"No reason." She directly stared out the window and hid her face from view. "Bored," she lied.

He knew the meeting was eating her up, although he couldn't be sure she knew why it was he stayed behind so long. Even if she didn't know, it wasn't like all the other meetings. It was obvious something was off, and it was eating her up inside as much as it was eating him up. He wanted to talk to her about it, but as much as he adored Adam he didn't want to talk about it with him there. He flustered him so much sometimes that it was hard to talk.

Before reaching home, they made a pit stop at the grocery store first. Adam and Opal were talking about her science homework. Right there in front of him. Flaunting their science nerd knowledge. He didn't really mind, as Adam's hand was back at his hair, unconsciously playing with the bits that were longer. His fingers delightfully tingled, distracted. Once he was parked he turned his cheek and bit at his thumb with a playful lightness. Adam squeaked and jerked his hand away in surprise.

"Asshole," he said fondly, grinning at him from across the car.

Opal poked her head in the middle.

"Disgusting," she said. "Can I buy ice cream for later?"

Ronan had to think about it, but Adam answered faster.

"Yeah, go ahead," he said. "Small thing, though."

As they ventured inside Adam held his hand, so casual, so domestic. He kissed at his neck because he could, because he wanted to. Opal ran ahead to grab a cart, sticking her backpack in the compartment at the front.

This could be his future. This could be his forever.

"You know, you've been here a week?" Ronan tried not to sound so thrilled at the mention of a week having passed by already, simultaneously aware a week just passed by already .

"Yes." Adam leaned into him a little in the pharmacy section. "One whole week and you sometimes still wake up surprised I'm next to you as if I'm a burglar that came into your bed."

Ronan half shrugged as he raised their joined hands to his cheek, grazing Adam's knuckles against his skin.

"It's a learning curve," Ronan confessed.

"Mm." Adam stepped away from him while smiling widely, and their hands split apart in the quiet of the separation. "You're going to tell me why you're upset later, aren't you?"

"How did you-?" Ronan eased as Adam stepped again into him, pecked him on the lips, and then stepped away again. "I'll tell you later, you creepy bastard."

"Good." Adam nodded once and started to step away, visibly being coaxed away by Opal. Before he followed her down a refrigeration aisle, he turned back to Ronan with a playful expression visible on his face.

"Have you ever eaten whipped cream off someone's body before?"

"I- No."

Adam's brow raised high as he then opened a refrigerator door beside him and reached inside. His hand came out holding a canister of whipped cream. Their eyes fleetingly met across the aisle, and then Adam flashed him a smile before turning around. Without a word, he put the whipped cream in their shopping cart.

The fucking tease.

At some point they split up in search of what was needed, Adam with Opal while Ronan acted relatively alone. He had a lot of thinking to do between now and when they got home, much of it now related to the idea of Adam with that bottle of whipped cream.

He needed to focus, distraction his worst enemy. But when one distraction came, so did a dozen others.

 

unknown number : just tell me he's safe

 

The message came as he was researching something else on his phone, and he became instantly infatuated with the message and its familiarity but anonymity. He stared down at it, perplexed as to who it could be. Smart enough, he web searched the area code to find it came up as New York, which meant it was likely Wendy again or someone else Adam knew.  They were still trying to reach out, which Ronan couldn't differentiate between a good thing or a bad thing. Good because they cared, but bad because they were worried? What was Adam doing staying here like this? Hiding. Hiding like Ronan was from his issues back East. Hiding didn't solve anything. Ronan barely saw his family as a result. Adam likely lost his job with Wires as a result. Neither of them dared take a peek at a tabloid in the week span he'd been here, which he kept his promise on and suspected Adam did as well, because he hadn't shown any signs of concern for his career in a week. He made Opal and Gansey swear, too, and they were both terrible liars so he knew they kept their promise.

As he thought about this, he knew how close to the check out lanes he was, the likelihood of at least one magazine talking about Adam Parrish and his disappearing act, the chaos he potentially left behind, so great that if his eyes fell on one magazine he would be sucked into a black hole of bullshit. He wouldn't dare look. Instead he looked over at Adam and Opal down the cereal aisle, as they were sharing a joke about something funny on a cereal box. He was hyper aware of the softness in Adam's face when he talked to her, and his heart stuttered in his chest. His heart told him it was okay to ignore the text, but his brain reminded him Adam had a life that didn't revolve around this place, even though he wished that wasn't true.

 

ronan lynch : he is

unknown number : is he happy?

ronan lynch : yeah

unknown number : ok

tell him to call me

ronan lynch : can't make any promises

 

Wendy, or whoever, didn't text back.

Before long he walked to Adam and Opal, still snickering over what they saw on the cereal box. Without speaking, he handed over his phone to him like last time she texted. Adam barely glanced at the messages before he rolled his eyes.

"Check this out," Opal said, butting in to show off the cereal box. On it was a kid looking way too dramatically eager about the spoon in his hand. "Isn't this ridiculous?"

What was ridiculous was how much it made Adam and her laugh, how wonderfully sated he immediately was at the touch at his hand as Adam closed out his text conversation. How their smiles warmed his belly like a hot fire was lit underneath.

Selfishly, he never wanted Wendy to come for him. To live out this fantasy for the rest of their lives, now that was ridiculous, but god he wanted it. It's all he wanted.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

About an hour before dinner, Ronan built up enough confidence and willpower to talk to Opal about what he and Lanie discussed. She was doing her homework on the sofa, sat in the center seat with her legs tucked under her. She was wearing varieties of pink today, from the clips in her hair holding chunks of it from her face, to the pink shirt with a daisy under her overalls, to the socks Ronan accidentally dyed pink that were once white until he forgot to separate her laundry the first time he did it for her. She looked so young, but when she raised her gaze from her book to him staring at her, her eyes were older than the rest of her. He wondered if Adam's eyes held that same look when he was younger, of being forced to mature faster than necessary because of outside circumstances. Because they didn't get the childhood they so rightfully deserved.

He sat next to her, acknowledging her homework with a touch at the page's corner, something to do with biology, which he wasn't useful with at all. Adam was visible from where he sat, through the sliding glass door sitting out on the back patio, reading a book out there in the light before the sun went down.

"Can we talk?" he asked.

Opal closed her book and shrugged, and it was uncertain if she knew what this was about and was pretending not to.

"What's up, old timer?" she asked.

The lack of permanency of foster care was terrifying, and he'd been thinking on it long before today's meeting with Lanie. The word temporary always sat wrong on his tongue, in his mind. It warped the idea of the family they could become, knowing that with one wrong step she could be lost to him in the system again. How a system like that could easily take her away at any point if it so chose. How he didn't want her to ever fear of going back to a home that didn't care for her.

"You said you were fine with me just being your foster parent," he started off saying.

"Yeah...." Opal said hesitantly. She stared at him curiously, quietly, as she held her textbook close to her chest, bringing it up as a shield. Her brow started to pull in when she suspected something off about the conversation. Her lips folded down. "What are you saying?"

"It's nothing bad, Opal," he promised. "Don't freak. I was just wondering what your thoughts were on..." He ducked his head, avoiding holding her gaze when he said the word. It felt like if he were asking her to accept him as a parent, as something more than a place to stay and a person to trust. "Adoption," he finished.

"You mean like I'm legally your kid?" she asked.

He shrugged. His gaze stayed held downward to the floor. "I've already committed to the idea of you being in my life long term, forever really, and I know there's nothing wrong with being a foster parent. I'm not expecting you to treat me like I'm suddenly your real dad or anything. I'm not even saying I am your dad in any capacity. I mean, this can be better in the long run and-"

She forced a hug on him so fast and rough he nearly fell off the sofa. Her arms raised and went around his neck quick, pulling him in as she buried her face in his arm.

"I'm okay with it," she said, quietly into his shirt sleeve. He smiled before touching at her hair. The embrace was returned as he held her too, wondering why he was ever worried to begin with.

"You sure?" he said, to double check.

"Yeah."

His smile hurt his face as he pulled back enough to be able to kiss at her forehead. She squirmed away at the act of paternal affection.

"Gross," she said, but gently like a sigh.

He rolled his eyes at her fondly, when the sliding glass door opened up behind him. He turned to see Adam come back inside, nose still buried in his book.

A flip occurred in his stomach as he watched Opal widen her eyes and her mouth spread into a full blown grin. She twitched with glee as she looked up at Adam, who was moving towards the stairs without pause.

"Don't tell-" he started.

"Adam, guess what?" Opal spoke over him. "Ronan's going to adopt me."

"Opal," Ronan groaned.

"What?" She soured. "Is it a secret?"

It wasn't intended to be a secret, but it was certainly intended to be spoken about under different circumstances. He wanted to tell Adam on his own, alone. But really, he supposed, it was more Opal's news to tell.

At the mention of the news, Adam finally looked up from his book at Ronan. He didn't visibly react at all, but he could see something working behind his eyes.

"That's wonderful, Opal," he said. He sounded plain, like he was congratulating her on an A at school.

Opal didn't even notice. She was already squealing, like a cat or something equally as gratingly loud. With a start, she jumped up off the sofa. "Can I call my friends?" she insisted.

Ronan waved his arm. "Yeah yeah," he said, eyes still hooked on Adam as Adam couldn't look away from him. "Do whatever." She walked fast with her phone already pulled out of her front pocket, headed toward the front door. It was then Ronan noticed her unfinished assignment, and he called out just as she rounded the corner into the kitchen. "But remember to finish your homework before dinner, yeah?"

"Yeah yeah," he heard before the front door opened and shut.

The sound triggered Adam to move, sparking life back into his motionless limbs. Quietly he walked around the back of the sofa to sit where Opal previously had. There was still an empty expression on his face as he set his book down, tucking one leg under him while the other curled around that knee.

"You need to take a shit or something?" Ronan mused. He touched at Adam's face. "What's with that look?"

Adam rolled his eyes and came to life, touching where Ronan had like it was a new sensation.

"Are you really going to adopt her?" he asked. His expression was still indecipherable, unknown to Ronan. At the very least, he sounded concerned.

"Yeah, I think so," Ronan replied.

"You think so?" Adam's eyebrows raised high into his hairline. "Ronan, you can't suggest it to her if you aren't serious."

This was not the conversation he wanted to have, but it was apparently the one he was having. He sighed, almost groaned, as he swept a hand over his face to build his response. This could easily turn into an argument he did not want or need. They were having such a decent day, and this was such a good thing. He understood Adam's concern, so he didn't fight it.

"I am serious," he said, his voice hitting a bite at the end which was somewhat unavoidable. "I am going to adopt her. I'm going to protect her, and love her, and be there for her no matter what. Even if she becomes a nerdy smart scientist like you almost were, and still basically are. I don't know what I'd do without her, and I don't want her to have to ever fear going back to a home where she isn't loved."

Adam was quiet, staring at him emptily again. His brow folded somewhat and Ronan questioned if he was still upset with him. He didn't know how to fix it if he was, because it was his decision to adopt her. To give her somewhere safe to call home. To rid her of the ever present and underlying fear that one day it could all be taken away from her. He was giving her a promise.

Then Adam was shoving him down and against the seat of the couch, crawling onto him to nearly sit in his lap. He kissed him like a lightning bolt that struck his lips, fast and virtually unseen if you weren't anticipating it.

"You are an amazing surprise, Ronan Lynch," he breathed, against his mouth. They kissed again.

"So are you, Adam Parrish," he repeated back, mildly mocking him in the way he responded.

Adam rolled his eyes and kissed him again.  His hands drifted to Adam's waist, feeling him there. Adam's own snaked into his shirt from the back, answering his touches with touches of his own. He was thankful Adam responded in this way, with the hopes that maybe someday... No, he wouldn't allow himself to think of that just yet. Kissing was a good place to keep his mind. Allowing it to wander was a dangerous thing.

"Ew, gross!" Opal exclaimed sometime later above them. "That's my bed!"

Adam wheezed a laugh into his mouth.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

After dinner, Ronan caught Gansey alone in his room. He wasn't sure exactly why Gansey went to his room to be alone so early into the evening, but when he caught him he sat him down on the bed.

His room was a lot less disgusting these last couple months. Since he started properly working at the bookstore he started cleaning up, both his behavior and his messy room. It smelled like clean laundry today, instead of the stench of a man who couldn't get out of bed for weeks on end not too long ago.

As Ronan took note of other, smaller differences since the last time he was in his room (clean sheets, the floor was visible again for the most part, the curtain was drawn to show the outside even if Gansey's view was the alley between his place and the next one over), he felt pride for Gansey for truly making progress in his recovery.

"Why do I feel like you're about to tell me some very heavy news?" Gansey asked. He raised a hand to his chest like he was surprised. His mouth fell open a little. "Please don't tell me this is about Adam's new feature. I haven't seen it and I will not discuss spoilers with you."

"What? No." Ronan held in his temper before it got the best of him. Gansey was constantly going off on tangents that made no sense. "I'm adopting Opal."

"Oh." Gansey's shocked look didn't differentiate between before and now, as he seemed to be clutching his chest for real. "Do I have to adopt her as well?"

Ronan frowned.

"Gansey, we aren't married," he said, and then he corrected, "I'm not even dating you!"

"I know that," Gansey mumbled. "But I live here too, or do I?"

Ignoring the implication behind his comment, Ronan answered it in another way. "At some point you're going to have to give up your room for her, you know," he said.

"Yeah, I was wondering when we would have this talk..." Gansey began to sulk, like he was being kicked out, when Ronan wasn't kicking anyone out. He made threats of the idea before but he was never going to commit to it. Gansey was his friend, and still in need, and he was willing to offer him a roof however long he needed. With that in mind, he gripped at Gansey's shoulder, suggesting he look at him. He did with a push of his glasses up his nose.

"I'm not forcing you to move out," he said, "but maybe move out of here. I don't know how to make this work."

Opal having no privacy or place to call her own was starting to wear on her even if she pretended it wasn't. He could see her discomfort every time someone sat on the sofa now, which acted as her bed.

"It's okay," Gansey sighed, sounding resigned. "I've been abusing your generosity for too long."

"You haven't," Ronan argued. "Don't say it like that, Jesus. You're my best friend, loser."

"Aw, so sweet," Gansey said sarcastically back.

Ronan did everything he could not to roll his eyes, but he failed miserably and did it anyway.

There was a light tapping at the open doorway and the both of them turned together to see Adam standing there. He was peeking in, one hand casually behind his back as he leaned gracefully against the doorway. His eyes drifted from them with a lazy smile, to somewhere further in the room. His brow twitched.

When Gansey realized what he was staring at behind them, he jumped up from his bed and moved to block his giant poster of Adam from his space film on the wall.

Adam snickered as his eyes came back to Gansey, then easily over again to land and stay on Ronan. "It's fine," he said. Under Adam's watchful gaze he began to squirm uncomfortably. He didn't know what to do with himself. His body was suddenly unfamiliar. "I've seen it already, Gansey. You leave your door open."

"Shit." Gansey moved away from his wall, but still stood on his bed. "I- I'll take it down," he offered.

"Why?" Finally Adam looked away from Ronan, and he shrugged. "It's sort of flattering, actually."

"Is it though?" Ronan asked, only mildly kidding. He felt a tiny kick by his waist from Gansey's socked foot.

Before him, Adam frowned. He didn't look the least bit amused, as he then motioned with a tilt of his head for Ronan to follow him.

"I'm going to bed," he declared. "It's late."

With a swift glance at Gansey's bedside alarm clock, Ronan was bewildered with this decision. "It's only nine," he said.

As Gansey was still fiddling with his poster, despite Adam's protest earlier, Adam showcased what he was holding behind his back. He gave Ronan an insistent look and subtly showed he was holding the can of whipped cream in his hand. He then walked away, leaving the doorway empty.

Ronan could feel the skin prickle at his ears and his cheeks, burning red and hot. He heard Gansey snicker and glanced up at him to find him staring down all smug.

"What?" He started to fiddle with his ears.

"Even I know what he's suggesting by going to bed early, Ronan," he said. "The walls in this house aren't exactly thin."

It took a couple seconds for Ronan to realize what Gansey was referencing, and promptly his whole face was hot and red. He gaped a second longer than he meant to as he tucked his face in his palms.

"Oh god ew gross no!" he exclaimed.

The bed shifted under him, bouncing him a little, as Gansey moved about it. He felt him plant himself back down at his side, but couldn't bear to remove his face from his hands.

"Yes, unfortunately," Gansey noted. "I've learned you're very agreeable. Him, not so much."

Ronan stood instantly. His whole body was flushed at the fact that he could be heard. "I'm going to go die now," he said.

"Oh, good," Gansey called behind him. "Me too. Goodnight!"

Before leaving, Ronan shoved his snickering and smug face to the right. He left Gansey's room with a shut of his door, and glanced briefly to his left to his bedroom. The door was left ajar, the table lamp on. He wondered if Adam was already naked or not, but he turned to his right first towards the stairs. She was lying on the bed with her phone hovering above her face, texting her friends most likely. He brushed the hair out of her face before he bent down to kiss her forehead. At this point he accepted this strange familial habit he picked up to be unavoidable. She didn't visibly react, but he suspected a twitch of a smile would appear later once he wasn't looking.

"Night, kid," he said.

She looked up from her phone and offered him a decent smile.

"Night, butthead," she replied.

"Don't stay up too late."

She waved him off.

Back upstairs, he made the walk to his room with slow precision. The light was off now when he walked in, instantly enveloped in the dark. Then there was a shut of the door and he was swallowed wholly by the darkness. He startled still as he staggered back into the hardness of the door.

"Yeah, I can't see, you bastard," he called out. He knew Adam was in here, and as he suspected he heard him walking through the creaky floored room.

Then there were hands, touching him at his shoulders, grabbing at chunks of his shirt, followed by warm breath on his face close enough that he closed his eyes and imagined what he could see. This was strange, this sensory exploration, having to depend on his other senses beyond sight. Adam was constantly surprising him, and he was constantly discovering new things, all in the span of a week.

Adam's hands ventured down to his stomach, slow on their descent as his fingers scraped across his chest. They dipped inside his shirt, and then moved to help lift it off. Ronan raised his arms carefully to allow him the right, and was washed over in cool air once it was thrown off. It made him shiver. His breath moved to Ronan's cheek, and there he pressed his nose against his skin. He felt him breathe him in and his whole body moved to incline into the feeling, desperate to be held. Adam's hands were still at his stomach, unmoving, even as Ronan shifted his hips against them, to suggest something else.

He reached for Adam, his hands finding him bare chested already, warm and smooth.

"Is this a game or something, Parrish?" he asked, moving to whisper it into Adam's hearing ear.

Adam shifted closer so his lips were daringly close to Ronan's ear in turn. He flicked his tongue out at the shell of it, startling a pinch to Ronan's chest. "Yes," Adam whispered close and hot to his ear. "It's a quiet game, so stop talking."

"Is this where the whipped cream comes in?" Ronan admittedly was curious what they were going to do with it. He never understood the appeal of eating food off someone else, but with Adam he would try just about anything.

"No, that's later." Adam wasn't whispering anymore. His lips weren't close to his ear anymore. Instead, he was moving back, leaving the now untouched spaces of Ronan's skin to feel colder than before. "This is something else."

"Parrish, I can't see." He squinted, and even then couldn't make out shapes or anything. It was challenging not to see. "How am I to get over to the bed?"

Adam groaned and Ronan almost laughed, until Adam's hands were gone and he stepped away from him. Like a cold splash of water had struck him, Ronan flinched. Out of instinct he reached for him but felt nothing. He stepped forward a step, and felt nothing. Adam could be heard chuckling somewhere in the distance of the dark.

"Closer," he whispered.

"Wha-" Ronan turned to the sound, but still was unsure if he turned the right way. "You sadistic bastard. What is this? Hide and seek?"

"Something like that," Adam whispered again.

"And why is it we can't see?" Ronan folded his arms over his chest, tired of this already.

"Lamps are powered by electricity, which when turned-"

"Don't nerd talk me, Parrish," Ronan hissed. He pinched his eyes shut, then opened them again, hoping to see better in the dark. Instead he inspired his vision to blur and little stars to fill the void instead. He groaned, reaching out again, finding a wall but not the warmth he was craving.

"I have a surprise for you if you can find the bed," Adam said, his voice slick with desire. It made Ronan's entire body spasm for one long second, and he was briefly thankful for the dark.

"That sounds easy-" he started to say. He then tripped on a pile of clothes on the floor and stumbled, knocking into a bookshelf with his elbow in his uncoordinated gesture. Books shuffled around against his limb, and the bookshelf could be heard wobbling just a little. In the quake, a couple fell on his hand and one on his foot. He grunted as he slid back toward the center of the room, more careful with his footing. It didn't hurt so much as it annoyed him.

"They invented electricity for a reason, Parrish," Ronan called out. He swore he felt heat build at the base of his nape, like hot breath or a risk of a touch, but when he whipped around his hands came into contact with only air.

"You have the privilege of sight, Lynch," Adam stated. "There are people who can't see, and they get around way better than this. Use your head and come to bed. I did not mean to make that rhyme."

Ronan snorted mockingly as he reached forward again, toward the direction he remembered his bed had to be. He stepped toward it, closing his eyes in hopes that would help better. It was, a little, strangely enough. Not straining to see helped him to concentrate. On the floor he felt the same pile of clothes, which he stepped over carefully. Then he stepped over shoes, which he remembered he left there this morning. After that it was a breeze, and he found the bed.

Inelegantly he crawled onto it, on all fours in case he fell off for some reason. Halfway up the bed he found Adam's bare knee with one hand, and his hand trailed up the length of his leg to discover he was only wearing his briefs, of which he could help remove. With both hands he reached inside, helping him lose the last item on his person. His hands were stopped.

"Not yet," Adam insisted.

"I thought that was the surprise," Ronan said.

"Uh-uh." Adam's hands let him feel around inside his briefs, his breath unsteady, but they weren't allowed to peel his underwear off. "It's something else," Adam said with a rocky voice. He struggled not to sound as decisive and demanding as before, until Ronan relented and removed his hands.

"You bored of me already?"

Adam touched at his cheek, thumb tenderly stroking back and forth against the skin at his cheek bone. He wondered what his expression was like, and wished he could see his eyes. His open gaze. This was more difficult than he would've assumed.

"I know you're joking," Adam said, "but I also know you worry about that."

Ronan shied his face, feeling known.

"You know I enjoy it here so much more than some of the things I've done because of my fame," Adam continued. "Exploring the world has been great, and I'll always cherish my privilege to do it, but getting to spend intimate time with a man I like a lot is even better in my opinion. You're kind," he kissed at his nose, "and funny," and again he kissed, at the skin between his eyebrows. "You're going to be an amazing father figure for Opal. You already are."

He lost his breath before Adam even kissed him. He slid down to lie on his back on the bed and Adam followed his movement to crawl onto him, bracketing his thighs together with his own. After a moment, Ronan shimmied out of his jeans, lifting his hips into the air and against Adam's taunting thighs so he could slip out of his pants and toss them away. They joined the rest of his clothes on the floor, and now he was evenly matched with Adam, colder but more familiarly bare.

Something was then deposited on his chest, something cold and metal. His heart started to stutter into full speed like a car on the verge of backfiring going over its limit as he thought of the possibilities of what it could be. Adam's fingers trailed away from it, staying on his skin, moving across his nipples and down his torso to his stomach. They each held one side of his waist, like they were bracing him for something.

Even before Ronan grabbed at the item, he recognized its shape before it fit into his hand. His fingers closed around it, and he registered it wasn't what he thought.

"It's a key," he said.

"Yeah," Adam said. He sounded excited about it, and Ronan was glad he couldn't see his face, because he was admittedly a little disappointed and confused.

"Cool," he mumbled.

Adam snorted. "Blog entry number...." He waited for Ronan to fill it in. Ronan was struggling to understand the key's purpose.

"I lost count, honestly," he admitted. He was still feeling it in his palm, the edges digging into his skin.

Adam's breath was close to him again, as he breathed in his smell from his neck. Ronan inhaled him as well, from the coconut shampoo to the lavender body wash, and underneath it all the very distinct smell of Adam.

"Adam Parrish gives me a key to his apartment in New York for when I'm inevitably going to visit. So I can just let myself in whenever I like. Surprise him as he's owed because of how many times he's surprised me," Adam mumbled, reciting it like it was the title of a post on Ronan's fictitious blog.

Even though it was dark, Ronan turned his head as if to look at him. He pretended he could, and he pictured Adam there with his soft gaze, freckles mingled with a blush, eyes dewy with tears. He kissed the corner of his mouth, aiming for the rest of it.

"I have no secrets with you," Adam said. "I've told them all to you. You've told them all to me. I've never felt safer with anyone."

Ronan swallowed hard. He could cry. At his waist he felt Adam's fingers playing with the waistband of his briefs, giving them something to do. He could tell when Adam was overthinking, and this was one of those times.

"I wanted to do this in the dark because it made it easier somehow," he confessed. "Not seeing your expression. I do hope it's a good one."

He found Adam's mouth in the dark as he also reached out for the lamp at his bedside. Adam sighed into the kiss, his muscles relaxing against him. He slacked as Ronan's one hand lifted up into his hair. With his other, he stretched and turned the light on, setting the key down on the bedside table as well so it didn't get lost in the sheets. He looked up at Adam who blinked hard at the sudden illumination.

"Sorry."

"It's okay," Adam said. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms to likely remove the blurriness that also filled Ronan's vision. Ronan closed his, as his hands started to feel up Adam's thighs, marking their way up his stomach, feeling feeling feeling to add to the tingling sensation already built into his skin from Adam's offer.

"Thank you for giving me this," he said when he opened his eyes again, motioning to the key on the table. Adam was looking down at him with the expression he envisioned, sweetly warm like a nice glass of warm milk before bed. It dated him in ways he once mocked Noah and Henry for explaining. His adoration for everything Adam did was bone deep.

"I want you to know that you're welcome no matter when you come," Adam said. His eyes had a glow from the light bouncing off them. "You will come, won't you? I know you have issues with the East Coast, but...."

Adam chewed his lower lip up as he silenced himself, voice drifting into the dark of the room behind him.

Ronan swallowed thick and nodded. "Yeah," he said. "I'll come."

With a wistful smile, Adam then closed his eyes, something to be remembered. His head tilted back a little, something Ronan adored most about him. This entire trip was just them memorizing parts of each other, taking none of it for granted. Adam was so charmed by everything he did, which he found unexplainable. He moved to kiss at his neck, but he was too high up to reach, and when he tried Adam held him down.

"That's good to hear," Adam sighed. He then opened his eyes again, his gaze dragged down from Ronan's face to his chest, where he continued to touch softly at the sensitive areas. "I didn't really have a home growing up. I lived somewhere, sure, but what I had with my parents was a prison more than anything. A reminder that I was nothing to them and that I belonged more to the dirt. My apartment in New York is the closest thing to a home I've ever had, but it can still feel more like a house than a home. Somewhere to station myself, but not exist within it. I..." Adam hesitated. He bent down to kiss Ronan's bare chest, fingering the space at the center of his ribs. He left his face there, and Ronan knew what he was asking of him.

As seamlessly as possible, without much movement involved, Ronan went and turned the light back off.

"I do hope that someday we can make it a home together," Adam whispered against his breast. "When the timing's right. I'm pretty solidly head over heels for you, Lynch. I hope- I hope that isn't too soon to say?"

Ronan snorted a laugh, unable to make words come out. It was a nervous laugh, because goddamn it he was nervous. If their relationship were remotely normal, if Adam wasn't a famous actor and he lived here in San Francisco where Ronan could see him almost every day, this wouldn't have felt so abnormally fast. Because in reality, they knew each other so deeply and so well, that it didn't feel fast at all to want to dream of these things. So he reached to find Adam's hair, his face still resting against his chest. He moved into the sensation, wanting Ronan to run his fingers along his scalp. His hand moved in motion to Adam's suggestions, who in turn moved in response to his fingers, choosing to sit up enough to reach his face. Adam kissed him so sweetly and slowly unlike before. Normally Adam kissed him with a fire set under his skin, like there was a race to be won or time was running out and they only had so much of it left. But this was like a cool spring afternoon, with a low breeze in the grass coming in from the bay, birds singing in trees and flowers blossoming in gardens.

"I'm head over heels for you too, Parrish," Ronan said as the kiss drifted along elegantly slow.

Adam moaned into the kiss, and in came the fire.

Chapter Text

In the morning, Ronan awoke earlier than Adam, unlike most mornings. He found himself curled on the bed facing Adam, Adam curled on the opposite side facing him. The room still faintly smelled like whipped cream, the canister run out and tossed on the floor.

When he could see better after the sleepy sluggish process of waking up passed, he reached out for Adam, who at some point in the night fell asleep far from him. His fingers curled against his cheek, caressing him there. Asleep he was so still, so quiet. It was like staring at a painting in an art museum, or a statue carved out of marble. He wanted to kiss him, but he also didn't want to wake him up. It was a dilemma.

Adam murmured something in his sleep and rolled over, leaving behind a tiny bit of drool on his pillow. Ronan loved this minor thing, something so ordinary from someone so extraordinary. Adam was a god, but he was also a person, perfect in his imperfections.

Sliding in closer to him to spoon him from behind, Ronan kissed Adam's shoulder as he snuggled in closer. He rested his chest to Adam's back, and sleepily Adam rolled back over into him. He didn't react, or else he was that good of an actor, as Ronan propped himself up by an elbow to lean over him. Trying not to wake him, Ronan kissed at his nose, one of his favorite patches of freckles there. Adam still didn't react, still very asleep. He looked so peaceful, and so Ronan did his best not to disturb that.

Carefully he leaned over him for the key he'd been given last night. He held it in his hand with his thumb brushing over the gold colored metal. It looked so simple and plain, but it represented more to Ronan than anything else he'd ever been given. It felt like a piece of Adam's heart instilled in an object.

"Shhh. He'll hear us," Adam mumbled, still asleep and dead to the world. He rolled back over. Ronan could laugh, but he was afraid of waking him.

He instead kissed at his shoulder, and asked him quietly there, "Who?"

Adam continued to mumble a bit more, but all Ronan could make out was his own name.

"Ronan," he said again, breathing hard against his pillow. His arm twitched out.

"What about Ronan?" he asked. He felt Adam's muscles spasm against him.

Adam grunted. "That's my calculator."

Whatever he was dreaming, it sounded nerdy.

With a quiet laugh, he faintly kissed Adam on the lips. Adam chased his lips after he pulled away, still very much asleep as far as he could tell. Ronan wasn't going to wreck that, so he kissed his forehead next and got up to start his day. His day didn't start very far, though, as he only moved to his desk to sit down at it and write something. Something he'd been meaning to write for a couple days. After taking out a notepad, he began to write on it a note for Adam for when he woke up.

 

Adam,

 

This may seem strange to wake up to, but there's some things that I still don't know how to say out loud.

I cherish your gift. I'll put it on my keychain, and can't wait to use it someday. Someday soon. I can promise you that.

You asked why it is I'm so weird about the east coast, and yeah ok I am very weird about it. I told you some about my problems in high school after my dad.

How I nearly destroyed my life in high school.... You told me something that took a lot of courage and strength and trust to say, and now I do the same with you. I don't know if I ever said thank you, but thank you for telling me. For entrusting me with something I know you don't like to talk about. And thank you for being someone I know I can talk about this with.

I hated myself and my life after my Dad died. I was still dealing with my sexuality and identity when he passed and I think I collectively combined the two, and because of that I almost hurt myself. No, I did hurt myself. But I almost made the mistake of doing worse than that. Gansey helped me piece myself back together, which is why I've been helping him by letting him stay here as long as he needs. He's always been there for me, and I owe it to him to do the same.

You already know that my inspiration to open the bookshop had a lot to do with what happened in high school, hiding away in literature and worlds that could only exist in the page and by extension the mind. It's also the reason I haven't visited my childhood house, and why I didn't follow in my father's footsteps with the farm. Why it's hard to be anywhere near those memories because I have been so worried about losing all the progress I've made in my life. I've been afraid of going back anywhere close to where I had my self-destruction that I haven't been past the state of Texas in years.

But I realize that there's nothing to be afraid of anymore and there hasn't been for a long time. I'm gay and I'm proud of it. I am technically my father's son, but I am my own person. I am nothing like him. I'm not going to die in the produce section of the grocery store. And if I do, well, that'll be a story wouldn't it.

You inspire me, Adam. My past may not be able to change, but that doesn't mean I can't work to avoid regressing in the future. I have to love myself, and our friendship helped me realize I'm pretty fucking great. I have a wonderful life here in San Francisco. I have my friends, my shop, my house, and Opal. I also have you, wherever you may be at a given time, but also know that you're - okay don't barf - always in my heart. I am far from the dark place I was ten years ago, and you are a big reason why I'm not scared of ever going there again. I might not be able to visit where I grew up, but that doesn't mean I can't visit New York City for you.

I'll use this key. I'll bring Opal with me. I'm excited to one day soon meet your friends. You can meet my mom. She already knows about you, and I'm sure the two of you will get along. We'll sync our lives together and be grossly happy.

 

R.

 

P.S. You look annoyingly cute when you drool in your sleep.

 

He left the note on the pillow next to Adam's head and then dressed to head downstairs. Gansey and Opal were found to both still be sleeping, and with Opal he delicately touched at the crown of her head, no longer afraid of his future like he used to be. He thought sappy thoughts before he left her to dream.

In the kitchen he began the process of making himself coffee, and he called up Lanie and left a voicemail to discuss later the full process of adoption. They went over it a little yesterday, but now that he knew he was serious he wanted to learn more.

When he hung up, Gansey was trekking into the kitchen. Usually this early, his hair would be a bird's nest and glasses crooked on his face, but this morning his hair was brushed back and his glasses on right. He was wearing his sweats and a shirt but they weren't the ones he slept in. He looked like he changed.

"Why are you up so early?"

Gansey startled, not having noticed him apparently. He jolted back a step and frowned at him once he recognized who was talking. His brow folded in as he fixed his glasses, eyes flickering between Ronan and the coffee pot.

"I wanted to get a jump start on my day," he said, acting defensive as if Ronan accused him of something. "I thought I'd go for a run. At the park."

"The park....?" Ronan knew Blue often liked to do early morning runs at the park. He eyed him suspiciously. "That's across town," he said. "How are you getting there?"

Gansey's frown deepened.

"There's this thing called public transportation," he said snidely. "San Francisco has an abundance of it. You should use it sometime."

He then reached for an apple next to the coffee machine and left Ronan standing there gawking at his sarcasm. As Ronan watched him go, he wiped a fake tear from his eye, feeling like a proud parent.

"Kids grow up so fast," he said in reply to Gansey. Gansey rolled his eyes.

"I'll be back in time to open the store," he said.

"I hope you left time to shower," Ronan called out after him. "You already smell."

Gansey flipped him off before he walked outside. Ronan smiled.

It wasn't long after that that Opal awoke and entered the kitchen in Gansey's wake, blurry eyed with wild hair. She walked into the kitchen grumpy and slouching.

"Why are you awake already? It's hell o' clock," she croaked. She shuffled to the fridge and opened it, staring emptily inside.

"It's seven-thirty," Ronan answered, as if he ever woke up this early on normal days. But last night Adam and he tired each other out earlier than he was used to, which gave him a deep sleep that prompted his body to wake up also earlier than he was used to.

Opal groaned at him and released the fridge door to allow it to close. She had school again today and didn't look the least bit pleased about it, especially since she probably didn't get to sleep until after he did, putting off her homework as she did. With a begrudged look, she slowly turned to shuffle her feet upstairs to shower. When he heard the water turned on, the pipes in the house creaking a little in acknowledgment of use, Ronan turned on the stove and began to make breakfast. Eggs and toast and maybe some bacon if anyone wanted it. As he left the eggs on low to cook, he quickly went upstairs to check on Adam, to see if he wanted breakfast too or if he was asleep. He wasn't all too surprised to find him awake, already sitting up in bed with one hand on his right eye as he held the letter in his other. Ronan's heart startled in his chest, a little nervous, a little afraid, a whole lot ready for him to finish it already and come downstairs. He wondered what was going on his mind, but he also didn't want to know. Adam hadn't noticed him yet, and he did come up here for a reason. With a light tap of his knuckles to the open door, Adam became aware of his presence with a little start on the bed. Their eyes met as his gaze shot up from the letter, and Ronan suspected with one look he only just started to read it.

"Morning, Lynch," he said, smiling a little sleepily as his one hand fell from his eye. "What's this?" he asked with a curious tone.

"Use your eyes, Parrish," Ronan said, playing it off so casually and hoping he passed. "I'll be downstairs. Eggs?"

"Sure, but--"

He exited the doorway before Adam could say another word, walking back downstairs to check on the eggs. Even though he forgot to ask, he decided to make bacon just to have something more to do. Eventually Opal could be heard finishing up her shower, and the pipes stopped moaning in the walls. He heard her usual scampering feet run down the stairs for the closet in the hallway, which had shortly become hers for the time being, and then he heard her run back upstairs. She often forgot to bring her clothes with her when she bathed. Another reason she needed a room with walls.

As he was finishing plating everything he heard more feet, less worrisome and quieter. It wasn't long after he first heard them approach that he felt Adam's hands wrap around his waist, sliding in to interlock at the front of his waist, hugging him from behind. Ronan's nerves kicked up ten notches in response, even as he tried to shrug off the anxiety as he felt Adam's lips ghost the shell of his ear.

"Why aren't you as sweet in our text messages?" he said.

Ronan laughed. Much of his anxiety escaped as he turned around, finding Adam standing there scrutinizing the note again. In the early hours of the day, he was more beautiful than usual. His hair was a bird's nest, his shirt off, wearing new sweats that hung on his hips so well, and wearing a pair of Ronan's socks on his feet.

"It's more fun that way," he said, noting Adam's crinkled nose as he was rereading the paper. Ronan moved to kiss him, but he pulled away at the last minute to roll his eyes.

"You're a mean boyfriend," he said. "And I am not cute when I drool."

Ronan grinned, and played along by shrugging and then chewing on his bottom lip.

"I find it endearing," he said. "Same with your weird habit of stealing my socks."

Adam glanced down at the floor. "They fit nice," he reasoned, voice echoing a whisper.

"You're a weirdo."

Adam looked back up. "You've ruined this very sweet letter," he said. His lips curled downward. "Whatever happened to love letters? Why aren't they a thing any more?"

"The fuck?" Ronan almost laughed, but couldn't tell how much of this was serious. "You want me to write you love letters, Parrish?" He rolled his eyes. "We aren't teenagers."

Adam's lips peeked a smile as he insistently moved closer into Ronan. Any closer and Ronan was going to accidentally catch his whole house on fire by bumping into the gas stove. Adam's fingers crawled up his chest and his neck, disappearing into the tiny bits of hair Adam managed to grab between his fingers and pulled on. He shuddered against his wishes. Asshole knew how to make a morning memorable.

"I wouldn't mind a boyfriend who writes me love letters once in a while," he said. "As cheesy as they are, they're a lost art. And don't say you don't know how to write." One hand left Ronan's hair and grabbed for the note on the counter. "This was lovely. I was shocked."

"Hey."

Playfully, Adam snickered, his smile splitting wider into a grin. He was his most Adam in the mornings, still a little groggy and not the least bit maintained by any means. Ronan leaned into him and pressed their foreheads together, taking in Adam's terrible breath, his own probably equally as awful. He kissed him on the nose, though Adam pushed into him thinking he was inclining to kiss elsewhere.

"I like when you use the b word," Ronan confessed. It was a morning of confessions. He was still tired enough he could admit such things. As Adam's nose crinkled post-kiss, Ronan ran the tip of his thumb over Adam's cheekbone.

"Bozo?" Adam asked.

"Boyfriend," Ronan corrected.

"Ah." Matching Ronan's gentle touch, Adam hesitantly stroked along Ronan's cheek and then down to his chin. Opal's eggs were probably getting burned behind him, but he barely had the forethought to move them before Adam's grin blossomed. "What kind of boyfriend won't write his boyfriend a love letter....?" Adam blinked. "A bad boyfriend."

"You're sinister," Ronan replied.

Adam shrugged so casually, so plainly. Ronan wished memories could be retraced, relived; he didn't want to forget the simple gestures of Adam's movements. These little things he felt so ridiculously privileged to have. To memorialize. He brushed his lips across Adam's knuckles, his boyish hands that smelled like his hand soap.

"I'll write you a shitty, stupid love letter if you really want one so badly," he grunted. Purposefully, he made it sound as if he was being put out by it, when in fact he could already think of a thousand things he would write in something so soft and gushy and ridiculous. Adam was to blame, with his smiles and his kisses and everything that made Ronan feel so happy and light.

With a quirked eyebrow, Adam moved back a step or two, taking Ronan all in. If he had the current capacity to blush, he would, but he was focused more now on not burning Opal's eggs. He turned as an excuse, and when he turned them off he felt hands at his shoulders that whisked him back round.

"That was surprisingly easy," Adam mused.

"It wasn't that easy--"

"You're an easy boyfriend," Adam noted. With a soft humming sound he inclined into Ronan until they were flush against each other.

Ronan rolled his eyes. "Shut up," he said, though he obviously didn't mean it.

Adam looked to open his mouth and speak again, but Ronan wasn't quite in the mood. So he pressed their lips together, smashed was more an affective description, and felt Adam all over him the second their mouths locked. The man pushed eagerly into him, showing just how awake he was by rocking his waist into Ronan's. A hand of his slid down the front of Ronan's chest, and slipped into his waistband. But now wasn't the time nor the place for this, and Ronan was quick to still him, just before his hand made contact.

"Opal's still home," he said against Adam's hot mouth.

"Oh." Like a switch had been flicked, Adam retracted completely, leaving everything to Ronan's imagination as to where that was going.

"You don't have to stop kissing me," he said, noting his own disappointment in his voice and allowing himself to express it so vocally.

Adam flashed him a look that said almost too much. He was ravenous, and it wasn't for food. It was an all consuming look, and Ronan had to shy his gaze after a few seconds of Adam's powerful unsaid words.  Now he could feel his cheeks begin to burn with crimson, and he whipped around to search for something to do with his hands. The eggs, he decided, as he plated them for Opal. Wherever she was. At his back he felt heat, and then hands as they ran down the center, along the line of his spine. He shivered.

"Your letter really was the nicest thing I've ever read," Adam said, his voice gone soft.

Ronan was thankful his back was to Adam. He was smiling so goofily, an uncontainable smile.

"Nicer than The Hitchhiker's Guide to The-?" he started, but was cut off by Adam's unamused tone.

"You've talked about some of that before," he said, pressing on, "but you were always vague, same as how I've always been vague about my abuse. Thank you for telling me more clearly." The eggs before him could no longer hold a distraction, and he turned around to Adam. His hands moved to the back of his waist, and Ronan's mirrored his.

Looking him square in the eye, he could see all the unsaid things in Adam's held gaze. The affection that went beyond his commentary, the want that burned deeper than his hands and lips could convey, the happiness that he didn't always fully show for reasons Ronan was sometimes still piecing together. Ronan could almost blurt out his affection for him right here, but he wouldn't. It was too soon, and he was scared Adam didn't feel the same way. They seemed to want the same thing, to be together, but Ronan had doubts he was lovable like Adam was. A sliver of his self-deprecation still persisted. He couldn't tell how much of their talking was simply that, talking.

Without warning, Adam practically slammed himself against him, knocking him out of his head. He buried his face at Ronan's shoulder, clinging to him tight. Against his shirt, he could feel ragged breath. His chest tightened.

"I can't wait to sync our lives together too, Lynch," Adam said, with a struggle to get the words out. "I can't wait to brag about you in person to my friends. As my very cute boyfriend. You'll love them-"

"I'm here, I'm tired, and I'm hungry."

Sloppily, Opal staggered into the kitchen. With sleepy eyes, she barely acknowledged them beyond the grunt that followed, though she was freshly showered and dressed.

She picked at her eggs on her plate, as Ronan noted her lack of a backpack. She was going to be late to school if she didn't leave soon.

"You have all your homework?" he asked.

Opal groaned and walked back toward the living room, leaving them alone again a little while longer.

When she was gone, Ronan then smiled at the roof of Adam's head, and waited as he slowly peeled himself off to stand separate again.

His eyes were misted with past tears, as he rallied on with a smile of his own, which was only partially bright. Ronan wanted to kiss him, but knew keeping his own impulses in check was still difficult at times with Adam. They were still in that early phase where touching was still so new and exciting. It was hard keeping that in control with a thirteen year old and a twenty-four year old roommate in the house.

"You hungry?" he asked, and he motioned to the skillet where he cooked Opal's eggs. "Thirsty? Need coffee?"

Adam shrugged a little, quieter now like he had to reboot after all that. Ronan could understand. Sometimes he needed a moment to gather himself together again after their more emotional conversations. He waited for Adam to speak by fiddling with a piece of his hair by his cheek. It was getting longer, curling just a little at the ends. When he touched him there, Adam's gaze lifted up and a sprinkle of red filled in his cheeks.

He wondered what went on in Adam's mind sometimes, during these quiet moments where there was no speaking. What was he thinking about?

"Touching your hair makes you blush now?" he teased.

Adam rolled his eyes. "Shut up." He swatted at his hand to stop. "When you look at me like that, I get overworked."

"Like what?" Even after the swatting, his hand was quick to return to where it was before, moving deeper to the roots of his hair, catching at little knots he needed to brush out. "I'm just looking."

"No you're not." Adam scoffed at him and dropped his gaze to the floor. "You know you're not."

"Mm." Ronan could admit he wasn't just looking, but he didn't realize he was so unsubtle about it. "Here, I'll close my eyes."

"No, stop," Adam said with a laugh. He held Ronan's hand with both of his, keeping it in his hair. "I like when you look at me like that. But it still... takes times getting used to. I've had a shield around me for my whole life, it's kind of hard remembering I don't need to wear it with you."

Ronan swallowed as Adam then lifted his gaze back up, and their eyes met again, followed with an intense look on Adam's end as well that could make Ronan fall to his knees. To be known, to be wanted, to be adored like this was otherworldly.

Opal's eggs were getting cold.

Like he read his mind or something, Adam's lips twisted up into a playful smile as he carefully removed Ronan's hand from his hair.

"Maybe a glass of water," he said. "I'm parched."

That was something Ronan could do for him, and he nodded to say yes as he pulled from the stove to cross the kitchen. As he passed by Adam he gently kissed him on the forehead.

"Okay."

But before he could step back, Adam grabbed his chin and held it so he could then kiss him.

"In a minute," he added.

Then they were kissing, hard, against the counter opposite the stove, his back pinned against the coffee maker. His hands didn't know what to do with this surprise that he just stood there as Adam pushed into him.

There was a groaning somewhere else inside the room, a groan of annoyance. Ronan wasn't let free to even check where Opal was in relation to them. But she was somewhere in the kitchen, witnessing this.

"Stop making out in front of my eggs," she shouted.

Adam laughed against his mouth.

He wondered if this was how it was always going to be, stealing moments to be alone when someone else was in the house. He hoped he would get a chance to find out.

 

~~~~~~~~

 

The letter Ronan wrote to Adam had long lasting effects on the day, as Adam subtly quoted it in the car on the drive to Opal's school, which confused the hell out of her. And he seemed more touchy at the grocery store, which Ronan didn't think possible, given how touchy they've already been with each other.

Ronan certainly didn't mind it; the way he walked close against him down the rows of cereals and snack bars, the way he touched a hand to Ronan's stomach when Ronan talked about dinner, or the way he kissed him when he suggested cake for dessert.

He didn't mind the rush of unpacking when they got home, so they could disappear upstairs while they were alone a little while longer. Gansey was at work, and Opal still at school.

They were fooling around as they always did, like they were fulfilling a back order of touches they didn't have when they were long distance. Ronan's hands groped Adam's ass, and Adam helped unbutton Ronan's jeans.

"I literally have to wash the sheets every night," Ronan murmured against Adam's mouth as his hands were peeling off his underwear for him. "That can't be good for them."

"You're talking about laundry to me right now, Lynch?" Adam snorted, and then he began to make his descent down his chest towards his stomach.

"Yeah, doesn't cleanliness turn you on?" Ronan jested. He couldn't see him, but he could feel Adam rolling his eyes.

"You're such an asshole." Saying those words so close to his hardening dick didn't help keep Ronan in the moment of their banter, and he shivered without intent at the feeling of his breath on him.

"What are you doing down there?" he asked. "I'm up here."

"You're down here too, asshole," Adam replied. "Can I blow you?"

Ronan's whole body went hot, like he stepped into a too hot shower or walked directly into the sun.

"Can you what now?"

"Blow. You." Adam grunted. His hands were fingering Ronan's length, and the combination wasn't helping his concentration any. He pinned his eyes shut as he struggled to breathe through the sensation. "Clean out your ears, Lynch," said Adam. That helped a little.

"Speak louder, Parrish," he said through gritted teeth, trying hard to not lose himself in Adam's nimble touched.

"CAN I BLOW-" Adam yelled, and Ronan whimpered, annoyed but aroused at the same time.

"Yes," he said, and Adam got to work.

Since this all began, Ronan had gotten better with restraint and willpower, but all that was about to be destroyed as Adam's mouth was on him. That's all it took to ruin his stamina, as he closed his eyes and tried his hardest not to climax early. Hesitantly a hand reached out into the void for Adam's hair, but it didn't make connection before Adam's mouth was off him again.

He looked down in surprise, to find Adam staring back at him from such a compromising position. Sex was weird.

"Why are you so tense?"

"I'm not," Ronan said, uncomfortable with this line of questioning happening right next to his penis. He shifted, but Adam held down his legs to hold him still.

"Lynch, I think I know your body pretty well by now," he argued.

Ronan scoffed, embarrassed. His gaze drifted off to avoid eye contact with Adam down there.

"I'm acclimating," he reasoned.

"Acclimating." Adam snorted. "That sounds like something I'd say."

Still flushed red, Ronan grumbled, "Yeah, well, I probably stole it from you." He sighed as he started to hear tiny laughter. "I don't know. It's my first blowjob, Adam."

Below him, Adam was smiling back up, a soft smile he wasn't used to seeing in this way. It looked like he'd almost forgotten about the whole virgin thing. Easy to forget, after a week of touching. Ronan rolled his eyes at the situation and blushed harder, the color creeping down his neck to his chest, while his eyes returned to staring upward at the ceiling.

Hands began to massage at the insides of his thighs, pushing at the tension in his muscles.

"Try to relax, okay?" Adam said, fingers pushing harder into his legs. "It's not rocket science. You don't have to think that hard."

"Ha. Funny." Before he could reply with something equally as witty, Ronan then felt Adam's breath on him again. Then his mouth. Then his tongue. He shivered.

"Ah."

As Adam went to work, he found Ronan's hand tangled in the sheets beside them, and he picked it up, holding it against his palm to palm. After a few good rises and falls of his mouth he moved Ronan's hand to hair. He guided Ronan's hand to grip it tight, his fingers digging into Adam's scalp. When he released his hand to move at its own volition, Ronan pulled up a little, and Adam grunted by the action. The sound, the vibration, made Ronan swell.

"Oh fucking fuck."

So this was what a blowjob felt like.

He never factored in the breath. Or the tongue. Or the risk of teeth behind the lips. He unfurled his toes and gripped Adam hard again by the roots of his hair. In the release of his grip he felt Adam moan and go deeper as a result. He moaned too, the unison of their sounds like a poorly synchronized chorus. When he felt him swallow around him, Ronan swore he could see stars in his ceiling. His whole body gave way and he relaxed into the sheets completely, immersed in the feeling to a point where he no longer had anxiety about it all. He wasn't trapped in his head, but allowed himself to experience it with just his body. Which, because of Adam's keen skills, was enjoying it a whole fucking lot. He was working Ronan through the kinks of it. His dick felt more sensitive as Adam's lips and tongue worked him through. He felt the roof of Adam's mouth and his eyes rolled closed. He couldn't believe he waited so long for this, and yet he was so grateful his first time was with Adam. Adam who knew his way through this, who was patient and considerate and generous. His grip at the end of his dick was hard, just on this side of too much. It was just enough, as Adam's tongue licked at the tip with delicate precision, almost too delicate for him to withstand. He was teasing him through, slow and intricate.

But Ronan was aching, dying for more.

"Faster," he mumbled, and he gripped harder at Adam's hair, who growled back. His free hand slid around to Ronan's backside, Adam's one hand massaged for a bit longer and then slid from underneath to his rear, and then he felt him gripping his ass tightly.

"Fuck."

It was like this for a little while. Each stroke Adam made with his mouth and his hand, his other hand followed with a squeeze of his cheek. The rhythm was overwhelming but effective. Each time filled his head with white hot heat, more and more each time Adam's tongue ran down the length of his underside.

"I'm- Fuck, Parrish," he said, incapable of being quiet or forming any full sentences. All he could do was grip at Adam's hair, and he pulled as he began to feel himself swell to a finish.

"You- You can get. I'm going to. Oh my god."

Adam's mouth left him, and he shuddered, cold.

"You trying to say something to me, Lynch?"

Ronan could barely peel his eyes open in time to see Adam's rough smirk, before he growled some vulgar swears and pushed him back down. Adam's laugh was cut off as he went back to working him to a finish. He cried out as it became almost painful how close he was, feeling himself beginning to close to a finish, shivering as he tilted up a little into Adam's mouth. Adam groaned at him as he moved his one hand from his rear and used it to push down at Ronan's hip, holding him down against the bed.

"I'm- S-sorry. I don't. I'm almost. Fuck, Adam, I'm going to come. Move your fucking mouth if you don't want me to... me to..."

In response, Adam took him deep down his throat, and Ronan shuddered in shock from the sensation. He hadn't expected it, and he bucked all too eagerly at the feeling. Gripping Adam's hair tight he moaned, held still as much as possible with Adam's one hand, the other still stroking him to a finish.

And then he hissed as Adam purposefully used his teeth just a little, just to be an asshole.

"Fuck. You. I'm-"

Adam moved off him just as he came, hot and sticky all over his stomach and the sheets. Fuck.

It was hard to catch his breath after that, hard and ragged as it was. He softened as Adam moved off him, moved off the bed completely for a moment to fetch something off the floor. He realized all too late it was his own shirt by the time Adam used it to wipe his stomach clean. He couldn't move, his muscles awake and hot but all the same jelly and sluggish.

Adam was wiping his hands clean when he leaned over Ronan to catch his eye. He smiled down at him so sweetly, as if he hadn't just blown him like that. He shivered delightedly as Adam touched at his now clean stomach, remarking silently on his work.

"Did you like it?" he asked him, studying his expression like he was an experiment or something. Ronan could hardly move, but he wanted to touch some part of him, his hand or his elbow or something.

He shrugged, the most he could manage, and closed his eyes. Still trying to tame his breath, he swallowed once, twice, and then sighed.

"I give it a three out of five stars," he said.

Adam shoved at his shoulder. "You jackass," he said, to which Ronan snickered. He still couldn't move, and Adam took advantage, kissing only the corner of his mouth. Ronan turned his head to try to catch the rest, but by that point Adam moved from him to lie down beside him. He was still clothed, while Ronan's was completely naked. It was a strange pair of opposites.

"Okay, my turn," Adam said.

"Your turn?"

Adam eyed him curiously. "Is this not a reciprocal relationship?" he said.

It sounded like a joke and so he laughed, pulling up his underwear and then rolling onto Adam.

Quietly he pulled up his shirt to kiss at his stomach, a familiar start to something unfamiliar. Sure, Ronan watched porn. He knew what to do generally. He wasn't a complete novice, but he was a little nervous. Like he was about the handjobs. It was just something he didn't want to mess up. But he was less paranoid about that than he was before, because he knew even if he fucked up Adam wasn't going to be embarrassed by it. He kissed down his stomach and towards where his pants lay low on his hips. It didn't take much to pull them down and off to around his ankles, to see his glorious thighs underneath. His nakedness was less terrifying than it was a week ago, a sight he was becoming so familiar with. They dressed easily in front of each other now. They showered together more often. Domestic life, so it seemed.

One bit was new, however. Adam's penis staring at him like a snake about to bite his head off. He held it, as he'd done many times before, urging a reaction out of Adam from above. Adam's hands fisted in what little hair he had, his grip hurting just enough. It pushed him onward. Nervously, as he began to stroke the shaft, he leaned forward to lick the tip. Adam's whole body seemed to shake in response. He moaned his praises, and it guided Ronan to continue.

His lips framed around the head, and then he breathed out his nose as he went down and took him in, feeling him against the roof of his mouth, the top of his tongue, the edge of his throat.

Adam began to gasp soft words, quiet like the prayers Ronan sometimes still made on days he felt connected to god. This was his new god, as fucking ridiculous as that sounded, and he planned to worship him properly. He took more of Adam in, angling so he could swallow. When he did, Adam shivered and gasped out his name, a breathy voice as he cradled Ronan's scalp. Ronan looked up to see his eyes tightly closed like he often did when he was trying not to finish. The sight of that made Ronan eager to please slower, to worship him longer at this makeshift altar. He pulled off, inciting a tiny whine as Adam angled into him for his return. His eyes opened to Ronan, and he pouted.

"What's wrong?" Adam asked. He was breathless already. A finger came and swept at the length of his lower lip.

"Is it okay? Not too much teeth?" Ronan asked. He took Adam's finger in his mouth and sucked on it the same as he sucked on his other appendage.

"Mm." Adam looked positively wrecked. "You're doing fine."

"Really?" Ronan grinned mischievously at him. It was possible Adam knew he was teasing this out, but he couldn't tell. Adam looked blissfully a mess as his eyes drifted closed again and his head tilted back down onto the pillow.

"Really," he said, and it prompted Ronan to resume.

The more practice he got in, the less anxiety filled him about the act. As Ronan continued on, he started slow, which only made Adam beg for him to go faster. When he listened, then Adam asked him to go deeper. When he did, Adam cried out as if in pain, hissing words Ronan could hardly make out. His name was mingled in with them, but that was the most he could get from it.

He let Adam's hands push him however they liked, prodding him to go at it in the angles he likely preferred. Ronan agreed, if only because he wanted to satisfy him as much as possible. He wanted this to be something Adam remembered long after he left San Francisco for his real life.

"Yes yes yes!" Adam moaned loud, echoing in the otherwise empty and quiet house. Ronan ran his thumb along the underside of Adam's member and sucked at the tip harder and longer. Adam's hips lifted off the bed toward him, toward his delicate and precise movements, and he pulled up to maintain the distance, to not let him get more than Ronan wanted to give. He wanted to make it worth the wait, because it certainly was for him.

Adam was warm and thick, and already he could feel him on the edge, so he worked him slowly, breaking down each step of he process to minutes at a time. Adam quivered under him, moaning his name softly in request of more.

Finally, Ronan couldn't hold out any longer himself. His jaw was hurting, and he wanted Adam to finish. It felt the time. When Adam mumbled his name again like a prayer, Ronan moaned and worked harder and faster. Adam swelled from his touch, and his breath started to stutter.

"I'm almost- there. You don't have to keep going with your mouth. You can use your- oh Jesus Christ. Ronan."

Before he knew it, he was swallowing. Swallowing a lot. It tasted unpleasant but he expected that. He stroked him to the finish, as Adam yelled out a fuck that sounded so different coming out of him. When he was finished, when the orgasm was through, Adam let go of his hair and sagged against the bed. Ronan sat up as a result, and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. Beneath him, Adam was every bit a mess of time well spent. He fixed his clothes like he hadn't done a thing, even buttoned his jeans up for him just to have something to do.

"Thank you," Adam mumbled.

Ronan never saw him so flustered before. It was interesting. Something new. He kissed his forehead as he lay beside him, nuzzling in close.

"You're welcome."

Adam playfully shoved at his shoulder, still breathing strangely.

"Prick," he said, but he eagerly slid into him, welcoming an embrace that snuggled them together close. His face rested against Ronan's chest, breathing more evenly now against him. His fingers started to play at Ronan's chest hair, something Adam didn't have much of, his hair more fine than Ronan's.

They lay like this a while, quiet and tranquil. It was nice. It was really nice. No risk of Opal asking for help on homework or Gansey saying something absurd.

"I think I'm ready," he said, as the room began to get cold from lying in bed in just his underwear. "For the real thing. For sex."

Adam lazily lifted his head to make eye contact, scrutinizing Ronan's words with a narrowed set of eyes.

"And what we've been doing is mime sex-?"

"No, no." He flicked Adam's nose with his forefinger and thumb. "You know what I mean, asshole."

In a humorous mood, Adam inclined against him, and then he rolled his tongue across Ronan's neck. His hand ventured Ronan's length and brought it back to life. Ronan excitedly closed his eyes, waiting.

"Let's wait," he said.

Ronan blanked, and his eyes burst open. "Wait, did I hear you correctly?" he said.

"I want to wait."

To counter his previous response, Adam kissed him very gently and lovingly, something small but full of meaning. When he pulled back, Ronan chased his lips but Adam held him down.

"You said I waited twenty five years for you I'd wait twenty five more."

"That was before you were here." Ronan stroked his cheek, the stubble growing on it prickly. "You're here now. I'm ready."

Adam licked up Ronan's lips and then kissed him, hard and real and full of energy. He wondered if Adam could taste himself in the kiss, as Ronan still could in his own mouth. Adam slid his tongue in, eager and excited.

And then it was over, Adam resting his head against Ronan's chest like nothing happened. If Ronan's heart weren't racing, maybe he would've believed it was just his imagination.

"I have my motives," Adam said quieter than before. He sighed against his breast. "I have it all planned out."

Ronan tilted up his chin so he could look Adam in the eye again.

"What's that even mean?"

Adam grinned at him, but didn't reply with words. Rather he kissed him again, slower than the last but more energetic than the first. He could do this for days and never need anything else.

"Be patient a little longer," Adam whispered. He pecked his lips just once more. "It'll be worth the wait."

Ronan knew that, and he trusted him, so he went quiet and just enjoyed the moment, of kissing Adam after another layer had been revealed about one another. Another thing he learned about the boy he very much adored. Ronan couldn't explain how he felt about Adam wanting his first time to be special, but it definitely made him warm inside. Just another piece of evidence that Adam was a god, and made Ronan feel undeserving.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It was the afternoon before they were set to leave for their camping trip. Ronan had it all planned out. He picked a place just along the coast a little ways away, but somewhere still private enough for them that they would get to be alone like Adam wanted. He'd never been to Half Moon Bay before either, so it was new for him as well.   It was easy enough to rent a camping spot out by the coast, it being off season. Packing all the materials into the trunk of his car was less easy, but he managed, with enough room for their clothes to fit tomorrow.

In the meantime, Adam woke up with a craving for something with chocolate in it today. After his morning workout, and after Opal left for school, he asked Ronan to go to the infamous and world changing milkshake place in the Haight district Opal was always going on about. While the thought of drinking a milkshake in cold weather was strange, he’d done stranger things, and the more Adam talked about wanting a milkshake that early afternoon the more Ronan began to crave one.

It was around two when Ronan eventually caved, at which point he reluctantly unpacked some of the shit from the trunk so they could drive over to Haight and Ashburry to grab the milkshakes.

They were exceptional, he would admit, as they walked along the somewhat warm afternoon, holding hands and exchanging sips of each other's. Adam got chocolate like he wanted, while Ronan tried birthday cake flavor. It was kind of weird, but it was something new. He was trying to be more adventurous in ways he could with Adam. He used to be more spontaneous and wild once upon a time, though not so much in recent years. With Adam he was finding that side of himself again, and maybe one day it would be back in full form. But in the meantime, a birthday cake flavor milkshake was his level of strange for the day, which he explored walking along the shops and restaurants with Adam tucked beside him. Adam was shorter than him enough that he could rest his head in the crook of Ronan's shoulder comfortably, sipping on his shake and shivering every time.

"We can head back to the car if you want," he noted, as Adam continued shivering when he stole more of Ronan's shake.

"What for?" Adam said stubbornly. "I'll be fine."

"Fuck, yeah right. Here." Ronan handed off his shake to Adam as he pulled away. It only took a moment to take off his leather jacket and move it to Adam's shoulders, but it took longer for Adam to reasonably understand what it was he was doing. With the jacket around his shoulders he simply stood there, bewildered by the act. It took him a few seconds to catch on and hand back over Ronan's milkshake along with his own, so his arms could slide into the sleeves. When the jacket was properly on, he quietly took his milkshake back, but not two feet down the sidewalk he elbowed Ronan in the side with a timid roll of his eyes and Ronan laughed, dragging him over by hooking his arm around his neck. They kissed, laughing mutually at nothing in particular. It was really nice, really minimal.

"You think you're so suave, don't you?" Adam asked, chewing on the end of his straw.

"No," Ronan replied. "You were cold, and now you're not."

"Yeah, well now you're cold," Adam said, but he didn't look to be making any motion to offer the jacket back.

"I'm used to this weather," said Ronan. "I'll be fine."

"Mm."

They went quiet, a nice quiet, as they continued to walk in absolute privacy down the street. No one recognized them. No one even cared. Adam looked positively joyful about it.

And then he stopped dead in his tracks and gasped.

"What-?"

"Oh my god. A dog."

Before Ronan realized what was happening, Adam was gone from his side in a flash and was crossing the street to an older couple with a German Shepherd.

"Adam--" he called after, chasing him across the street like he was a child run away. He dodged a car to reach him before he lost sight, uncertain what the fuck he was doing. When he managed to reach the other side of the street, Adam was already down on one knee before the dog, petting at its head with the largest smile. The older couple didn't seem bothered at all by what he was doing, as he was already talking to them, eyes focused on the animal at his eye level.

"Your dog is so cute," he said. "What's their name?"

"Oh, her name's Riley," said the wife of the pair. With an energy unrivaled, Adam was petting the dog with both hands, nearly pressing his face up against Riley's. He looked at her as warmly as he looked at him.

"Hello, Riley," he said. The sweet gooey voice he spoke to the dog in admittedly made Ronan a little jealous. Of a dog.

"Sorry, he gets like this," Ronan noted to the dog's owners. With a nudge of Adam's shoulder, he motioned him to get up. "Adam, come on."

Ignoring him, Adam continued petting at the dog. He shook his hand off.

The older couple waved him off, too.

"Oh no that's fine!" said the husband. He then looked to Adam. "Do you have a dog?"

"No," Adam said glumly. "Unfortunately."

"Adam," said Ronan. He wanted to be annoyed, but really he was a little endeared, a little amused. He was holding back a laugh against the back of his hand.

"Well aren't you just the sweetest?" Adam said to Riley. "The fluffiest? Hello, doggie. Hello. Hello. Say hello to Grumpy Pants here." Finally he acknowledged Ronan, looking up at him with that same sappy grin. "Hello, Ronan." He frowned when Ronan said nothing back. "Say hi to the dog, Lynch."

"You're joking."

Adam continued to frown until Ronan caved. "Hi, dog," he said. He rolled his eyes to try to keep his edge, but it hadn't been an edge for a while now.

When the couple moved on, taking Riley with them, Adam looked disappointed and rejected, staring after them for a while. When they rounded the corner, he turned to Ronan with a glum expression that he felt compelled to kiss away. It sort of worked, though his kisses apparently couldn't completely compete.

"You really want a dog, don’t you?" he said, and Adam nodded.

"I do." Adam started to sip on his shake again, a little melted now, but still worthwhile. He spoke with such glee about the subject. "I’ve decided on the breed and everything. I just need to find the time to be able to take care of it."

"What breed were you thinking?"

At the sign of genuine interest, Adam face lit up. His hand slipped back into Ronan's, vaguely smelling like dog as he leaned into him. This was sickeningly wonderful.

"A toy poodle," he said. "They're so tiny and fluffy and have the cutest little faces."

"You’re grossly cute right now," he said.

"Am not." But Adam was beaming like a ray of sunlight at the compliment. His straw at some point disappeared as they walked, and so now when he took a sip of his shake, he somehow managed to get whipped cream on his nose from the rim of the cup. The cold of it must have startled him, and he stopped walking a quick second.

Before Adam could do anything about it, Ronan sucked it off quick and smooth. Adam's freckled cheeks burned crimson.

"Did you—did you just lick my nose?" he snapped in surprise.

It dawned on Ronan what he had done, and when he realized he flushed as well, a deep red that hurt his face.

He gave himself a brain freeze with what was left of his milkshake. Sometimes it still shied him a little when he was forward like he was with Adam, something he hoped he'd get over in time. But it was more than evident it wasn't something he was going to overcome before the end of this trip, no matter how long it lasted.

"Maybe," he said, turning away.

Now he could feel the biting cold of the bay air, the wind cold and angry against his bare arms. Even with Adam's hand moving to touch at his sleeve, he was starting to chill, while also still feeling the creep of heat from humility attacking his face.

And that's when he saw him.

"What- Why did you stop?"

As it were, Ronan froze in place at the sight of someone down the street, someone unpleasant to say the least. Adam turned to follow his gaze, his attention perked. "Oh, is it another dog?"

No. It was something terrible.

Quick, Ronan shoved Adam into the nearest shop, just as Ryan recognized Ronan across the busy sidewalk. As Ronan suspected would happen, he smiled and waved and started to walk over.

"Lynch," Adam hissed, moving back into view. "What the fu-"

Ronan pushed Adam again out of sight and awkwardly moved closer to Ryan and away from the store's entrance. He was trying not to be obvious, but who knows what Ryan already witnessed.

"Ronan, hi!" Ryan exclaimed as he approached.

In his peripheral, Ronan caught Adam promptly cower.

"Ryan," Ronan said, more for Adam's benefit than for Ryan's acknowledgement. Again, in his peripheral he caught Adam making an annoyed face.

"How are you?" Ryan said. When he finally arrived before him, he moved into Ronan with wide arms. It took him a moment too long to realize what it was he was doing, going in for a hug, and he jerked a step to the side and into an antique desk for sale on the sidewalk to avoid the suggested embrace. He swore he heard muffled laughing.

The awkward step back Ryan had to make made Ronan more uncomfortable than he already was, having to swerve him as if they ever reached that level that they would hug hello. Ronan didn't really even hug his brothers hello. It just wasn't something he did.

"What’ve you been up to?" Ryan said. It was noted that his hands moved to sit in his pants' pockets.

"I’m fine," Ronan mumbled. This whole lying thing was weird. Everything was fucked if Ryan found out, Ryan who wasn't taking a hint and going away. He wasn't smiling or pleasantly offering him anything, being his usual grumpy Ronan self. He'd rather be kissing Adam right about now while walking down the sidewalk together. In the moment, he raised his cup to eye level for Ryan to see. "I bought a milkshake," he said.

The awkward weirdness was not lost on Ryan, at least.

"I… see that," he said. His hands clasped together as Ronan wondered what Adam was doing behind him amongst the furniture collected around them. Thank god they had been stopped by an antique shop, with tables and bookcases hiding Adam from view. "How’s the boyfriend?"

He could only imagine Adam’s reaction to this.

"He’s great," he said, answering as if they were talking about the same person when he knew they were not. "We’re doing great."

Ryan's arms defensively crossed over his chest. Ronan could sense that their one bad connection still somehow meant more to him than to Ronan by a lot. For whatever reason. Ronan wasn't even charming or funny or nice to him. He was an asshole and obsessed with a dream at that point, nevermind that the dream was reality now.

Ryan chewed on his lower lip as he raked his eyes over Ronan unsubtly. It made him uncomfortable, more than he already was. All he wanted to do was walk into the shop next to him and be with his actual boyfriend. Not talk about the one he made up.

"You seemed cute together at the Halloween party," Ryan said. He was clearly pushing for something.

"What?" Adam hissed behind him. He hoped Ryan didn’t hear, but it was so faint underneath the wind he himself barely heard it. Barely felt Adam behind him. He couldn’t exactly tell where he was behind him, but there was a large bookcase between him and the store’s entrance that he likely was hiding behind. Ryan appeared distracted enough by him not to notice, either way.

"Thanks," Ronan mumbled. There was a sadness in Ryan that, while now Ronan was happy and practically floating on a cloud all the goddamn time, he could allow himself to be a little nicer to those who weren't. "Are you, uh, seeing anyone?"

There was a jab at his back and he flinched. It hurt a little, surprised him more. He was going to get hell for this, he already knew.

"Not currently," Ryan said, the question making him even more glum than before. At first Ronan thought to say something more, but it was weird enough, and his milkshake was nearly melted into milky mush.

Then Ryan said something else.

"Say, you remember when we ran into each other at that Adam Parrish film press junket?" he said.

A pinch in his chest woke Ronan right up. Before he knew he was doing it, he squeezed his milkshake a little too hard, and the plastic began to collapse in his grip. Birthday cake flavor remnants started to slide out the cracks and onto his fingers to make a sticky mess. He was conspicuously responsive.

"Uh, vaguely?" he said.

The mention of Adam in any context, but specifically this one, was a red flag. He was overwhelmed with the fight or flight dilemma, and he very much wanted to flee with Adam in tow. Ryan was a blogger. He was part of the whole thing Adam was currently evading and ignoring. On their walk today, Ronan had to discreetly distract Adam from the bodegas they walked past, with magazine covers that had Adam on the front, talking about him as if he weren't a human being with feelings, and just a money machine that malfunctioned. Now this.

"What were you doing there?" Ryan couldn't see at all the panic he imparted. Ronan was starting to sweat, his nerves alive like live wires kicking at each other under his skin. His jaw started to ache as he was holding back a snide remark that wouldn't fit in with this clueless narrative.

"Uh, I mean," he said, and he paused, wondering how to talk about this convincingly. He didn't want Adam to have to come out and speak up, or for Adam to be discovered at all. "I run a blog, remember?" he said. “And Gansey’s obsessed with him, so I was trying to impress him."

Ryan laughed. Ronan's heart lunged into his throat. "Seriously?"

"Yeah," Ronan said. His laugh sounded like a bird squeak as he kept playing along. The milkshake was dripping onto the cement. “Worked well enough."

Ryan was still laughing as his hands moved from his chest. No longer creating that barrier between them, though Ronan wished he did. He still felt waves of nerves crashing down on him like an electric shock each time, and he shivered as Ryan inclined into him a couple steps more. Ronan shrunk from him against the window, the glass cold against his arm.

"Did you hear he's disappeared?" he asked. Ronan's jaw clicked. "I think his career is in crisis from this. I mean, what else would happen if you leave a production like that, expecting to be welcomed back after you, what, go run off with a model or something. He's probably in Bali getting his dick sucked by some Victoria's Secret girl right now."

Ronan twisted a vicious smile that twitched at his words. How he wanted to tell him he was that Victoria Secret girl, just to see that smug blogger expression fade. But it wasn't his secret to tell. It wasn't his life to discuss. He nearly threw his milkshake in Ryan's face, but Adam was somewhere right behind him, who was feeling the brunt of the burn, and he didn't want this asshole to see him.

Ronan stepped closer to Ryan to tower over him with his natural height advantage. His smile twisted like a snake that coiled around its prey. "I think when someone that talented is put under extreme pressure 24/7 they're allowed to take a sabbatical," he said. "It's his business, his privacy. We don't need to know where he went. Frankly I'm more annoyed that the people who manage his time haven't given him a moment to breathe and that the media think they can harass him back into the limelight when he obviously needs a break from it all. That movie is being made with his money and if he doesn't think he's currently up to making it he should be allowed to say so."

Ryan looked less offended than he did simply confused. His brow was furrowed deeply as he folded his arms again across his chest.

"I mean, that's what Gansey says anyway," Ronan mumbled, stepping back. He couldn't use his usual slights without outing why he was so upset on Adam's behalf.

"Is Gansey your boyfriend?" Ryan frowned.

He felt another jab on his back.

"Yeah." This time, he knew he was being asked to end this. "Ha- I uh gotta go. Meet Gansey. My boyfriend."

He was cringing. He sounded so suspicious. Then there was a hand at his forearm, an offering that Ronan was certainly not going to take. Ryan looked to be wanting something, but again he had no idea what that was.

"Nice to see you again, Ronan," he said. His hand remained, but Ronan didn't care about pleasantries. He shook it off. Ryan barely reacted. "We should grab drinks sometime. Properly talk. Henry and Noah talk about you all the time."

"I'm sure they do," Ronan said acidly. His friends weren't known to be secretive.

When Ryan left, Ronan fumbled into the store after Adam, noting he disappeared from behind him at some point. The antique shop was cluttered with furniture and objects of all sizes, a maze of old crap people didn’t want anymore. He easily got lost in the rows of nonsense.

There was a trash can around the next corner, where he dumped his shake. It still left behind the sticky mess on his hand, which he tried his best to ignore.

"Adam?" he whispered, looking around in front of him and occasionally behind. "Adam?"

When he turned his head to look over his shoulder, that's when Adam was pushing him against another bookshelf. Nothing fell, but the whole thing jittered as Adam kissed him brashly, using every body part to integrate something into this kiss. It was literally breathtaking, when Adam slipped back and left him to stagger off the shelf without assistance.

Adam appeared annoyed, though by that kiss it could be assumed it wasn't completely genuine.

"I can defend myself you know," he said.

"I'm aware." Ronan stood straight and fixed his shirt, noting the jacket shoulder falling off on Adam and fixing that too. "But he was pissing me off and I didn't want you to expose yourself."

"Expose myself?" Adam rolled his eyes at Ronan's choice of words, but a smile was visible there somewhere between the lines.

Outside, Ronan checked both directions and across the street for sight of Ryan anywhere. When the coast was clear, he stepped out with Adam in tow. Over a few feet their sides melded together. Over a few more, Ronan's clean hand found Adam's. Over a few more, Adam's head moved to rest at his shoulder, looking something like a dream.

"So that was Ryan," Adam mused. His gaze was directed far off down the street.

"Yep," Ronan said coolly, waiting for Adam to guide the conversation. He waited with baited breath, until...

"He's not as hot as I am."

That was not the reaction he was expecting, and he laughed.

Adam turned his head toward him, squinting at him as the sun beat down on their faces.

"Do you not agree?" he said.

A grin split wide on Ronan's face as he came to the realization of something, something wonderful and hilarious.

"You're jealous still, aren't you?" he said.

Adam's movements were swift, turning his head down and blocking Ronan from looking at his face as he continued to bury his cheek against Ronan's shoulder.

"I'm not," he hissed. "I just hate him a lot."

"Even before he said all he said about you?" Ronan kissed the crown of his head before he replied, concerned that this would unsettle him. It appeared to irritate more than anything, but that didn't mean something else wasn't festering underneath. Though he was better at it as of late, Adam still had a consistency of hiding some of his feelings from Ronan, from everyone.

Adam frowned up at him, squinting again. "Maybe," he said.

Ronan snagged a kiss before Adam looked away again.

"No one compares to you, knucklehead," he said.

Adam grinned at that. His grin distorted from the sun burning brightly against his face as they rounded a corner and it hit them square on. He snorted as they ducked under the shade of a roof, more for their vision than for the coolness shade offered. "He thinks you're dating Gansey?" Adam noted, more talking to himself, it seemed, than to Ronan.

"Yeah," Ronan reluctantly confessed. "I didn't want him coming over to say hi at that Halloween party I was at so I put my arm around Gansey until Ryan took the hint and didn't try to approach me."

Adam's laugh was glorious and loud. It erupted from him like lava from a volcano, spewing out the sides as he held his, tilting his head back to share it with the world around. Ronan leaned into him to capture it. He was thankful he didn't seem upset by what Ryan said, by Ryan's mere presence appearing out of nowhere. It was just practice, he supposed, for the real thing when they went public.

 

Chapter Text

Half Moon Bay was a small coastal town south of San Francisco, where people could camp on the coast by the beach or stay in a nice hotel nearby if they weren't the camping type. To Ronan, it seemed somewhere nice to take Adam, somewhere different. Close enough to the city in case of an emergency, but far enough away no one was going to bother them unless absolutely necessary.

The drive wasn't long, all but a single hour, so they didn't leave well into that morning, waiting to say goodbye to Opal before she headed off to school.

She was eager to show off a new backpack Adam bought her, since she lost her old one on the bus earlier that week. He also wanted to buy her something regardless of the loss, but even when he showered her with things, they were often practical gifts. Like backpacks and calculators. Already Ronan could tell he was going to spoil her.

But while she was eager to bring her new backpack to school, she wasn't at all excited to leave. Her hesitancy was clearest when she sat across from them at the dining table picking at her eggs, rather than devouring them quick like she always did.

Adam was preoccupied with using Ronan's phone for research purposes on Half Moon Bay, since he only learned earlier this morning where they were going. It was meant to be a surprise until they were there, but Adam used his powers of persuasion to get Ronan to crack, to come around.

Ronan wasn't so easily distracted though, and he was able to notice Opal's fidgeting. Over the course of the time she lived with him he noticed more and more of her habits. As her barrier wore down, her true feelings were less obscured under her false contentment. He could tell even now she was upset about something.

So he gently kicked her under the table to get her attention. A tiny little smile broke on her face as she set her fork down and looked up.

"Can't I skip and come hang with you guys for the weekend?" she asked, and Ronan regretted pushing her to speak.

"No."

There was a squeeze at his thigh that wasn't friendly, and Adam was suggesting with a look that spoke a thousand words. It withered as it lengthened, expressing how inappropriate his blunt response was.

Ronan rolled his eyes.

"You have homework," Ronan detailed, looking to Opal and her ever expressive pout, "and skipping was a problem we curbed months ago, right?"

Opal soured more. A slouch formed at her shoulders. That wasn't the answer he was looking for. He worried that this arrangement, this... parental thing, was going to backfire on him any day. He didn't want it to, but if he couldn't keep Opal from skipping classes then what good was he?

"Right?" he pressed.

She sighed and rolled her eyes, a familiar pattern in their conversations about her past behavior. "Yes," she mumbled.

Adam gently touched at her shoulder, even though he had to lean away from Ronan and across the table to do it.

"It's not exactly a trip for three," he said, fonder than Ronan spoke previously.

Her brow knitted together at his words, his tone. That slouch in her shoulders evened out into a stiff posture, full of intrigue at just exactly what he was implying.

"What's that mean?" she said.

"Good one," Ronan whispered to Adam, and he was quick to receive a pinch at his side from Adam in return. They exchanged a look, Adam telling him to shut up and Ronan egging him to make him. Neither wanted Opal to know what they meant by a trip not meant for three, but at the same time Ronan knew Opal wasn't brainless. She walked in on them making out too many times to count. She even got them together.

"Camping is more fun in groups, isn't it?" Opal pressed. Ronan swore he saw a smirk at the tail end of the question, but if there was one it was so fleeting that he blinked and it passed.

"You wouldn't have fun, kid," he clarified, when he watched the once brazen Adam start to fidget with discomfort in explaining this to her. "You'd be bored, wondering why nature doesn't have wifi."

Opal put a hand over her heart and frowned.

"You think so little of me," she said.

"Opal, there's no power when you're camping," Ronan reasoned. He felt Adam's hand slide into his as he kept talking, and as he talked he thought of just how perfect that sounded for them. "Your phone would fucking die after the first day, and we all know how much that thing means to you," he said. "You're always on it. You're on your phone right now." He pinched the bridge of his nose as Opal pulled out her phone to start texting someone or google something. Again, he knocked his boot into her tinier one under the table. "Put that shit away when you're talking to us."

Like the teenager she was becoming, Opal groaned violently loud and put her phone back in her pocket. Her expression shifted instantly, the edges showing more of her real emotion underneath. She slouched again, sloppier than before, and then she sighed again.

"I just...." Her gaze fell down to her hands on the table."... didn't get as much time with you this trip as I would’ve liked."

She winced at herself as she finished speaking, something Ronan could understand. Expressing himself without a joke or false nonchalance made it hard to express himself at all. He leaned into her, but Adam was quicker. Besides, it was Adam who she was talking to anyway. He touched her hand and held it in his, the size difference between them noticeable: Adam's hands perfect and manly and full of signs they'd been put to use again and again, while Opal's were smaller, fairer, though there were clear signs of being worked too. They fit together so well that Ronan awkwardly had to look away.

"Aw, Opal," Adam said. "I'm really sorry that Ronan has taken all my time."

He looked back to Adam with a start. "Hey!"

One of Adam's hands moved from Opal to hold his again, his fingers finding the gaps between Ronan's, their palms pressed tight together. He could feel his pulse beating through the layers of skin. It was steadier than Ronan's for sure.

"We'll have plenty more chances, more visits," he said, but as he said it he was looking at Ronan. He smiled. "I swear." Then his gaze swiftly shifted to Opal as she lifted hers to him. "Besides, this trip isn't over yet, and you know you both are invited to New Mexico for Christmas."

Though he was already more than aware of this, every time it was brought up again Ronan allowed himself to smile. Christmas with his boyfriend, with Opal, somewhere new and somewhere where Adam was going to carve time out for him. Without running away.

"Yeah, okay," Opal said, acting reluctant and despondent. But he could see, they both could see, that underneath her disinterested look she was actually thrilled. There was a smile poorly hidden, risking coming out. Adam was smiling back at her as if her smile was shown.

"I guess you guys can go, or whatever." She frowned, slumping down to where her chin landed on the table, still acting like she didn't care. "I'll see you when you get back."

"That's a sad goodbye," Adam sighed. He nudged at her elbow to sit upright. "Come on. You can do better than that."

Giving in, Opal cracked a small smile, hesitant in its framing. She still looked relatively sad in the eyes, but for the most part pleased at the idea of Christmas holidays with Adam.

"Don't have too much fun without me," she said.

"Oh, don't worry about that," Ronan insisted. "It's camping."

Adam smacked him on the chest.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

The drive out of the city had a few pit stops on it once they dropped Opal off at school. The hug was long, strangely emotional for something that only meant separation for a few days. Ronan kept having to remind himself for Opal it was different. Opal didn't get to stay up late with Adam, fall asleep in his arms, talk to him nearly every waking moment of the day about anything and everything, even find moments for comfortable silence together. It made him feel a little guilty for this, but he knew after this weekend there would be more. He'd make sure of it.

The first stop was at a gas station to fill the car up, where Adam came out of the station with a large plastic bag, wearing a cheap pair of sunglasses with the tag still on hanging by his nose.

"What are you-?