Ronan woke up the next morning with a pounding headache. He sat up in bed and held his head in his hands, waiting for the wave of nausea that hit him to pass. Then he rolled out of bed and put his uniform on.
Gansey looked alarmed when Ronan walked out of his room with a pen shoved in his pocket and his purple sweater clasped in his hand.
“You’re coming to school today?” Gansey asked, eyes raking over Ronan’s messily tied tie. “But we don’t have Latin first period.”
“I have Technology,” Ronan said.
Ronan didn’t elucidate, but Gansey was so thrilled that Ronan was getting up for the first class of the day, that he didn’t question it. He drove them to school, chattering happily all the way about Glendower and Blue and his sister. Ronan kept his eyes fixed out of the window.
Parrish was already in class when Ronan walked in. He didn’t look up from his perusal of his notes, but Ronan saw that he tensed when Ronan sat down behind him.
“Parrish,” he said.
Adam didn’t respond. Ronan took his pen out of his pocket and poked him in the back of the neck with it. Adam swatted it away.
“Parrish,” he said, again.
“What?” Adam demanded.
“Can I see your notes?”
“Don’t be a fucking dick, Parrish.”
“Can’t you go annoy someone else?”
“There’s no one else here, Poorboy.” Adam turned to glare at him. Which is when Ronan saw the bruise on his cheek. His blood spiked. “What’s wrong with your face?”
Adam quickly turned back to his work, ducking his head. “None of your business.”
The motion was shameful, too hasty. Had he gotten into a fist-fight after Ronan left the garage? What was his deal?
“For fuck’s sake, Parrish. I’m just asking to see your notes so I know what’s happening in class.”
Adam kept his head lowered, but he passed his book to Ronan. Even completely furious, Adam couldn’t deny Ronan the opportunity to get his grades up. What a loser. Ronan took the notebook and glanced down at the neat handwriting before him. He let his eyes skim over the letters, but nothing registered.
He prodded Adam again.
“Parrish,” he said.
“What?” Adam asked, dully.
“Look, I fucking…” He bit into the leather bands on his wrist, trying to calm his pulse. “I shouldn’t have said all that shit yesterday.”
Adam turned slightly, glancing at him from the corner of his eye. His expression remained infuriatingly unreadable. Ronan noted again that he was turning toward him in an awkward way, looking over his right shoulder instead of his left. He’d been behaving oddly for months - overall seeming like he was just a little off balance - ever since that time he’d been sick for a few days and missed school. Ronan wished he could ask what that had been about.
“I don’t fucking hate you because you’re not like me. I mean…” Ronan exhaled. “I don’t fucking hate you. I don’t know why you think all that shit.”
“You’re an asshole to me,” Adam said.
“I’m an asshole to everyone. You’re not special.”
Adam scowled. The part of Ronan’s brain that he hated and wished he could burn, pointed out that he looked fucking adorable when he was angry. Ronan internally growled at that part of his brain and shut the voice down.
“I wasn’t trying to pick a fight. I was just… Fuck. Look. You were willing to help me out the other day, with keeping the thing with Blue quiet, and I… appreciate it. I didn’t mean to be a dick to you. I was drunk yesterday, right? So, I wasn’t saying shit properly. But I shouldn’t have said that thing about you not having fun. It was too much. Even for me.”
Adam was looking over his shoulder now, watching him with a steady expression on his face. The silence that followed Ronan’s words seemed to stretch on forever.
“Fine,” Adam said. He nodded at his book. “Can I get that back?”
Ronan tossed him his book. Adam buried his head back in it. Ronan observed the way his dusty hair curled up at the back of his neck. Not adorable, he told himself.
“Gansey invited me back to your place today,” Adam said, still not looking at Ronan. “Something about some Welsh King.”
“Fantastic,” Ronan said. “You really are part of the club now.”
Even though his words were dripping with sarcasm, Ronan felt giddy. He had no idea why.
* * *
When Gansey saw Adam’s face, he was positively stricken.
“Adam!” he said, his hand flying to his mouth. “What happened?”
“Nothing,” Adam said, quickly. “I walked into a door.”
He thought he could feel Ronan’s eyes on him, but when he turned, Ronan was looking at his nails.
Adam had gone insane with happiness when Gansey had called the night before and asked if he would like to come to searching for some lost Welsh king with them. Adam didn’t know what it meant, and he’d never heard about this Glendower before, but the point was that Gansey, the most incredible boy in school, was asking if he wanted to come along with him on a non-school related activity. As far as Adam was concerned, they could have been going to feed pigeons on the street for all he cared.
The only thing that had lessened said excitement was his father’s reaction to Adam getting personal calls on the house phone late at night. He had to remember to tell Gansey that his phone was broken and that he shouldn’t call him.
He touched the bruise on his cheek. It really looked dreadful. He’d gotten choked up that morning, looking at himself in the mirror, knowing he had a day full of kids staring at him ahead of him.
At least he’d expected the staring. And the sniggers. He hadn’t expected Ronan to come to class and apologise to him. And he certainly hadn’t expected him to glare daggers at anyone who was whispering about Adam’s face. By lunchtime, no one was even making eye-contact with him. It became like any other day.
Adam was still spinning from the unexpectedness of it all, until he walked into Monmouth Manufacturing, and was then spinning from the incredibleness of where Gansey lived.
The place was massive. It had multiple floors, each one cluttered with so many things, Adam wasn’t sure where to look. Books and clothes and food littered every open surface. The ceilings were high, and the windows were wide. Everything smelled of mint. Gansey led them to the living room, where a comfortable sofa set surrounded a table that was covered in maps and bits of paper. Ronan threw himself down on the biggest couch, tossing his shoes over the armrest and slinging an arm across his eyes.
“Wake me up when it’s time to eat,” he said.
Gansey rolled his eyes, but crossed over to an armchair and planted himself down in it.
“I’ll catch you up on what we’ve been doing,” Gansey told Adam.
Adam settled into the other couch, feeling oddly at home, and listened as Gansey began telling him about the history of Glendower. Adam was a skeptic, not someone who believed things easily, but he listened with all the fascination of a small child listening to a fairy tale. Gansey’s excitement was infectious. When he was done talking, Adam felt ready to charge outside and start looking for clues along the ley-line.
“I’m thinking,” Gansey said, spreading a map across the table, on top of some open books. “That we should start…”
“I’m hungry,” a voice said.
Adam started, looking up into the face of a smudgy boy. Ronan peered out from under his arm.
“Shut up, Noah,” Ronan said.
“Adam,” Gansey said. “This is our roommate, Noah. He goes to our school as well.”
Adam shook his hand. It was like ice to the touch. He tried to remember this boy from school, but he couldn’t seem to place him. Maybe he was a grade younger than them.
“You have really nice hands,” Noah said.
Adam stared down at his hands, confused. There was nothing special about his hands. In fact he found them awkward looking; dry with big knuckles and prominent veins. They were all rough and calloused from work. Noah, however, looked pleased with himself. He glanced at Ronan who, as usual, was scowling.
“Do want to go to Nino’s?” Noah asked Adam.
Adam remembered with a flip of his stomach that Blue would be there, working her evening shift. He tried not to sound too eager when he shrugged and said, “I don’t mind.”
And if he went there with Ronan, maybe there was a chance she’d be able to see the very stark difference between them and reevaluate certain things in her life.
Gansey agreed and the four of them made their way over to Nino’s. Gansey and Ronan ordered a pizza each, but Adam was relieved to see that, like him, Noah wasn’t ordering anything. Ronan watched him suspiciously, but said nothing. Adam tried to look past their waitress to find Blue, but he couldn’t see her anywhere.
“Where’s Blue?” Gansey asked. “Isn’t she working today?”
Ronan shrugged. Adam was impressed by his acting. No wonder Gansey hadn’t caught on to the fact that he and Blue were dating. Ronan really looked like he didn’t care. He was looking out of the window, pointedly not at Adam. Gansey started telling Adam a story about a failed attempt at finding a Glendower clue when Ronan abruptly sat up straight.
“Fuck,” he said.
Adam followed his gaze. Ronan was staring at a car in the parking lot. It was a Volvo that looked almost brand new. In it sat a boy with golden hair, who was playing some sort of Nintendo game. Adam squinted. The boy looked oddly familiar.
Ronan turned to Noah.
“Move,” he said.
Noah slid out of the booth without protesting, and Adam watched interestedly as Ronan stormed towards the front doors of the restaurant.
“What’s happening?” Adam asked.
“That’s his younger brother Matthew in the Volvo,” Gansey said, already slipping out of the booth after Ronan. “That means his older brother Declan is here.”
Gansey hopped out of the booth. Ronan stopped in his tracks and turned around.
“Wait here,” he said, his voice steely.
“Gansey,” he said. “Please.”
Gansey pressed his thumb to his bottom lip.
“Be civil,” he said, finally.
Ronan grunted. Adam watched as he pushed open the doors and marched across the parking lot to the Volvo where his brother sat. The golden-haired boy peered out of the window and waved joyfully at him. Adam’s heart caught in his chest. Even Ronan Lynch who hated everything and everyone, had people in his life who looked at him like he was pure sunlight. Adam wondered how his life would have been different if he had brothers. Ronan nodded at Matthew, but kept walking. Gansey slid back down into the seat, looking worried.
“What’s going on?” Adam asked.
“Declan and Ronan do not get along,” Gansey said, with a sigh. “Ever since their father was murdered two years ago, Ronan has been… well, he’s been a little… let’s just say, he’s been different. There’s been a lot of tension between him and Declan. He resents the way Declan’s been behaving.”
“What’s Declan supposed to do?” Noah asked. “Their mom isn’t exactly all there anymore, you know?”
Gansey stiffened. “Still. Declan could have handled it better.”
Adam was only half-listening. His heart had stilled in his chest. “Ronan’s father was murdered?” he asked, disbelievingly.
This did not match up to the story Mason had told him about Ronan’s childhood.
Gansey nodded. “He’s still pretty sensitive about it. It’s why he acts out, you know? Drives too fast, drinks too much. Everything Declan says grates against him. I can’t tell you how many fights of theirs I’ve had to break up.” He sighed miserably.
Adam looked out the window again, at the blonde boy who was back to his game, golden curls falling into his eyes.
Something twisted in his gut. Yesterday, he was sure he knew exactly who Ronan was. Today… well, today, he wasn’t.
* * *
Ronan rounded the corner to find Declan and Blue standing by a large blue pick-up truck at the back of Nino’s. Blue had her hands on her hips, and Declan looked annoyed.
A good sign.
Ronan stopped before them.
“What’s happening?” he asked. Venom seeped into his voice as it always did when he was talking to Declan.
Blue turned to him, letting out a sharp puff of air. “Your brother,” she said, “is harassing me.”
“Didn’t I tell you he was an asshole?” Ronan asked her.
Declan rolled his eyes. “I’m not harassing her.” His voice was clipped. “I was just passing by and I thought I’d stop by Nino’s. I should be able to stop wherever I want to, right?”
“He pulled me out of work!” Blue said. She turned to Declan. “I get paid for this, you know.”
“And I said I’d compensate…”
“Oh, you think you can just buy my time?” Blue demanded. “Am I a prostitute? Is that what all girls are to you?”
If Declan’s presence wasn’t such a complete damper, Ronan would have laughed out loud. He felt relieved that the one girl he happened to be friends with was Blue Sargent. The girl almost as impossible as he was. Declan was already looking slightly ill.
Blue turned to Ronan. “Do you know what he asked me? He asked me what my intentions were for you.”
Ronan felt a flare of fury in his gut. “What the fuck?”
“That’s what I said,” Blue said. She straightened her apron. “I told him my intentions were none of his business.”
Declan rubbed his face. “I just wanted to meet her,” he said.
“If you wanted to meet me, you could have invited me for dinner,” Blue said. “Like a normal person.”
“That’s precisely what I was going to do,” Declan said, spreading his arms. “I just didn’t trust Ronan to pass along that type of invitation.”
“No what you wanted to do was make sure I was a good fit for him before you invited me to have dinner with you, isn’t that right?” Blue said. “I bet you wouldn’t have done that if I was a Victoria’s Secret model, or some rich prep-school girl.”
Declan definitely looked ill.
Ronan scowled at him. “Just fuck out of my business, Declan.”
“I have introduced you to every single girlfriend of mine,” Declan reminded him. “It’s not fair…”
“What’s not fair is that I had to suffer through meeting every single girlfriend of yours.”
It truly was a distinct form of torture. Declan’s girlfriends changed so frequently, Ronan would probably get whip-lash if he tried to keep up.
Declan sighed, a long-suffering sigh trademark of the oldest Lynch brother. “We’re family, Ronan. Whether you like it or not. If you don’t tell me things, how I am supposed to know what’s going on with you?”
“Family would have let me see mom,” Ronan snarled. “Now leave Blue alone.”
Declan looked from Blue to Ronan, then back to Blue again. “Fine,” he said, curtly. “I will send the dinner invitation through Ronan.”
“And if I decide to take it,” Blue said, sweetly. “I’ll let Ronan know.”
Declan gave her a tired look.
“Fine,” he said.
Declan nodded at them both, muttered his goodbyes and then walked slowly back to his Volvo. Ronan and Blue trailed behind him, heading towards Nino’s. As soon as they reached the restaurant, and Declan disappeared from view, Blue turned to Ronan, smirking.
“Blue Sargent,” Ronan said, grinning at her. “You really are one annoying fucker, you know that?”
“You love it,” Blue said, grinning back at him.
Ronan punched her in the shoulder.
“Yeah, I fucking do,” he said, pushing open the door. “You’re fucking amazing. I could kiss you right now.”
He looked up to see Adam watching them, his eyes wide. Ronan’s words caught in his throat.
Blue just laughed and slapped him on the arm. “I’ve got to go back to work,” she said. “I’ll make sure to annoy your brother some more if I see him again.”
“You’d better,” Ronan said, but his eyes were fixed on Adam.
He wondered if Adam had heard him tell Blue she was fucking amazing. If he’d heard him say he wanted to kiss Blue. He didn’t care if Gansey or Noah heard - they wouldn’t think twice about it; Gansey, because he was completely oblivious, and Noah because he knew everything anyway. But Adam… Adam was different. Ronan didn’t know why the thought of Adam having heard made him uncomfortable, but it did.
When Ronan slid back into the booth, Parrish caught his eye again. For a second, Ronan felt disoriented, but then remembered with a jolt that Parrish too thought he and Blue were a couple. That’s why he was looking at him like that. He was asking him how things had gone. Ronan looked away.
“Are you alright?” Gansey asked. His mouth was pressed into a thin line.
“I just had a run-in with Declan,” Ronan muttered. “How do you think I am?”
“At least it didn’t end with fists this time,” Gansey said, glancing at his knuckles.
Ronan shrugged, and refrained from saying anything more.