By midnight on their first day in DC, Ronan caved and agreed to accompany the others on their - as Gansey put it - ‘sightseeing adventures’ around the city.
Gansey calling them ‘sightseeing adventures’ should have tipped Ronan off on what to expect, but he hadn’t been thinking properly. It was probably coming clean to Adam about the Mason Hunter debacle that did it. He was experiencing too many fucking emotions. His defences were down. In his weakened state, he became stupid, and he agreed to go along.
He regretted this decision at exactly seven sharp the next morning, which was when Gansey came charging into his room and yanked open the curtains, letting in bright sunlight that Ronan could have sworn was attempting to murder him.
“We’ve got a long day ahead of us,” Gansey practically sang as Ronan groaned and threw a pillow at his head.
Gansey was not wrong. The day ended up being obscenely long. It could have been because Ronan couldn’t remember the last time he’d woken up at seven fucking am, even on a school day, and it seemed like a month was over before lunch time even rolled around. But it also could have been because of Adam and Blue’s reluctance to stop doing things. The two of them were completely blown away by the sheer scale of the buildings and monuments, and excitedly forced Ronan and Gansey to enter every godforsaken museum and art gallery that they passed. Gansey had memorised a bunch of boring-as-shit historical facts that he insisted on forcing them to listen to, and what made things even worse was that Adam and Blue seemed to be enjoying them, so Ronan’s exaggerated groans fell on deaf ears.
In order to counter this, Ronan gave them his own brand of sarcastic commentary - And here you see a large fucking statue of Abraham Lincoln. Notice his stupid fucking beard which was all the shit in whenever-the-fuck he was president. Blue had made her distaste for Ronan’s part of the tour very evident. But while Adam had also pretended to be annoyed by Ronan’s nonsense, he hadn’t been able to stifle his laughter very effectively. Which is, of course, why Ronan kept doing it.
He did stop by the end of the evening, because by then he was sure Blue was ready to tear him limb from limb.
They had Indian food for lunch, then dinner at a diner that served greasy hamburgers and had unlimited coke re-fills. Even though Ronan had spent the entire day being a pain, he’d eventually admitted on their drive back that it had been fun.
And he wasn’t lying. He didn’t lie. He couldn’t really, when they all looked so blissfully happy.
The truth was, Ronan was a sap and he loved spending time with his friends, however odd and aggressive and ridiculous they may be. He missed Noah - who’d disappeared shortly before they left and still hadn’t reappeared - and he didn’t get the appeal of standing around staring at something that looked like a large white piece of chalk stuck in the ground, but he liked seeing Gansey in his element, liked the way Blue’s eyes lit up in amazement, loved the little crease between Adam’s brow as he listened to Gansey’s facts or studied an artefact at a museum. Most of all, Ronan loved that it was just them, hanging out. No Kavinsky crashing the party to make shitty comments. None of Blue’s annoying co-workers interrupting their conversation to ask Blue where the salt was kept. No Mason fucking Hunter.
It was almost eleven at night when they got back to the Gansey home, by which time Ronan was all set to head to bed. He normally wouldn't even imagine sleeping so early, but Gansey’s wake-up-call and his perkiness throughout the day, had whacked Ronan out. Though all the damn walking in the museums hadn’t helped either.
Chainsaw was pissed at him for not taking her along and was being fussy. It took him a solid half-hour to convince her to eat, after which he had a quick shower. He was slipping under the covers when there was a knock on his door.
Ronan had to hold back a groan. The blankets were soft and comfortable, and the thought of leaving them seemed like agony. He waited till there was another knock on the door before he begrudgingly got out of bed. He pulled on a t-shirt just in case it was Helen coming to check that they were all alright. He didn't know anything about Helen - except that the two of them had a unfortunately similar taste in dusty-haired boys - but he didn’t particularly want to find out whether or not her reaction to seeing him without a shirt was anything like the one Blue's cousin Orla had had. It had been months since that time they’d gone to the lake in search of Glendower clues together, but he was still receiving flirty text messages from her.
When he pulled open the door, however, it was Adam standing in the doorway. He gave Ronan a crooked smile and pushed his way into the room. His hair was damp, and he was in a pair of worn pajama pants, wearing a t-shirt with holes in it. He was holding a pillow.
"I'm sleeping here tonight," he said.
Ronan stared at him. The meaning of the words took an embarrassingly long moment to register because Ronan was sure it was some kind of absurd joke. But possibly it could have also had something to do with the fact that Ronan was not used to seeing Adam in his pajamas.
“Huh?” he managed.
"My AC is broken," Adam explained. "I told Gansey it wasn't a big deal, but he wasn’t exactly having it."
Adam threw his pillow onto the bed.
"So you're sleeping here?" Ronan asked.
He tried to school his voice into nonchalance, but it came out sounding offended. Adam quirked an eyebrow.
"What?" he asked. "Never had to share a bed before? Not even with your brothers?”
Ronan wasn't sure how to explain to Adam that he was most unquestionably not one of Ronan's brothers, and that Ronan was exceedingly aware of said fact. Especially after the Adam-taking-off-his-clothes incident from the day before.
Adam climbed onto the bed, settling down under the covers.
"Why didn't Gansey offer his own bed?" Ronan asked, trying to mask the waver of his voice with derision. He wasn’t sure it was working.
He was aware of how much he was staring. He told himself to look away, but the signals were clearly not reaching his brain.
"Actually," Adam said, tips of his ears flushing slightly. "He did. I told him I'd stay with you."
Ronan could have sworn the world shook just a little.
“Sorry,” Adam said, looking at him from under his eyelashes. “I didn’t think you’d mind.”
“No… I don’t…”
Something wasn’t adding up. Adam had told Gansey he’d share a bed with Ronan instead of him? Yes, Ronan was in the guest room which had a king-sized bed, a bed which was much too large for one person. But it still didn’t make sense. Nothing made sense. Why was he here? Why had he told Gansey he’d stay with Ronan?
He remembered his own words from the day before - I don’t know when we’ll be alone again. It was an absurd thing to remember in the moment.
Ronan was clearly spiralling. The panic must have shown on his face because Adam cleared his throat.
“I… um. I kind of figured you’d be staying with Blue.”
"The fuck would…"
Everything clicked into place. Ronan’s heart sank like a stone.
"No," Ronan said. "No, we don't... it's not..."
He swallowed hard. Adam’s eyebrows rose to his hairline.
“Oh.” He suddenly sounded embarrassed. “Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I assumed you’d be sleeping with her.”
The words sleeping with her had an instant reaction on Ronan. It didn’t help that Adam’s Henrietta accent had leaked out, stealing the ‘g’ off the end of ‘sleeping’. Ronan’s face flooded with warmth.
“I don’t really think the Ganseys would like that,” he choked out.
Adam quirked at eyebrow at him. Ronan sat stiffly on the edge of the bed.
Jesus, the whole bed was going to smell like Adam now.
He turned back to find Adam smirking at him. He felt a surge of irritation. He didn’t know why Adam was watching him like that, but he really had no right to be looking like that - hair tousled, shirt just loose enough to reveal part of his shoulder, the dip of his collarbone - while lying in Ronan’s bed.
Jesus Christ, Adam was in his bed.
“What?” Ronan demanded.
“You,” Adam said.
He still looked annoyingly amused. Ronan clenched his jaw. He tried to will the warmth away from his face.
“What about me?”
“You’re telling me,” he said, his voice a slow drawl now, “that you and Blue are living together, in this house, where you have your own rooms, and her million family members aren’t around… and you’re sleeping apart?”
Ronan ran a hand over his head. “Shit, Parrish. What’s it to you?”
Adam threw up his arms in a motion of casual nonchalance, sliding lower into the bed. “I’m just saying. If it were me…”
Oh fucking brilliant. As if having Adam in his bed, talking in his Henrietta accent wasn’t bad enough, now he was insistent on talking about sex. The back of Ronan’s neck was burning. He was positive his whole face was the red of the duvet.
“It’s complicated,” Ronan muttered.
“Waiting for marriage?” Adam asked, blinking innocently.
“It would make sense,” Adam said, cocking his head slightly. “I know a lot of church-going people who don’t…”
“It’s not me,” Ronan said, quickly. “It’s Blue.”
Adam raised his eyebrows. “She’s waiting till marriage?”
“She has this fucked up thing. A curse or some shit.” His words were chasing each other, rushing to get out.
Adam’s eyebrows knotted together. His amused expression disappeared, the studious one that Ronan had seen a hundred times before slotted neatly into place. “What?”
“Yeah, it’s weird as fuck. Her voodoo aunts basically told her when she was born that she’d kill her true love if she kissed him.”
“So you haven’t…” Adam paused. “You think you’re her true love?”
“I…” Ronan swallowed.
There was something odd in Adam’s voice now, something almost… anxious. It’s not what you think, Ronan reminded himself.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Oh.” Adam was now staring at the wall behind Ronan, his expression was strange, far away.
“I just… don’t want to take a chance.”
“Right,” Adam said. “That… makes sense.”
There was an odd tension in the air. Ronan could sense it, wanted nothing more than to break it.
“Weird, right?” he asked, lamely.
“Weird,” Adam agreed.
Neither of them were looking at each other. Finally, Adam caught his eye, his expression sheepish. “You know I was just playing with you, right? Before… I mean.”
He must have seen the blank expression on Ronan’s face because he cleared his throat.
“About… sleeping in Blue’s bed. It’s not like I’ve ever really…either…” Adam shook his head, and Ronan wondered if there was a chance the ground would open up and swallow him whole. “When I said you would be sleeping with her, I just meant I thought you’d be sleeping in her room. But then you misunderstood, and you got all…,” Adam gestured at his own face, “flustered.”
Motherfuck. Ronan should have known Adam was just a little shit who was only talking about sex because he was amused by how ruffled Ronan was getting by the conversation.
Evidently Adam hadn’t realised that Ronan wasn’t just getting ruffled by what they were talking about, but who he was talking about it with.
“I did not,” Ronan growled, knowing full well his face was completely red.
“It’s alright that you haven’t had much experience before,” Adam said, staring intensely at the floor. “It’s not a big deal. It’s actually… kind of cute.”
“Oh fuck you, Parrish.”
Ronan got up from the bed, a hand rubbing circles into the back of his neck.
“No, I just mean…” Adam’s ears were pink now, and he was watching Ronan, holding him in place with his eyes. “That’s not how I meant it. It’s just nice that you didn’t force yourself, you know? You obviously wanted to wait to find someone you really liked, and you did wait. To date, I mean! I just mean dating… I don’t know what you and Blue…. I mean, you obviously like her enough to…” Adam bit his bottom lip.
Ronan had to admit, watching Adam get flustered was kind of delightful. If he wasn’t still so flushed himself, there was a chance he’d be doing the exact same thing to Adam that he’d done to him just moments before.
“It’s just…,” Adam said. “It’s nice. That you have someone.”
Adam was watching him now, soft blue eyes travelling over the planes of Ronan’s face. In that moment, with Adam looking at him so gently, with his accent all warm and thick, still hanging in the air, Ronan almost came clean. Almost told him everything. About Blue. About himself. About everything he’d been feeling for so long but never had the guts to share with anyone.
For the first time in Ronan’s life, he allowed himself to think the words without cursing himself out for them, without hating himself for wanting it.
God, Adam, he thought to himself. I wish I had you.
Adam gestured at the other side of the bed.
“You can sit on the bed, you know.”
There was no way he was getting back in that bed.
Not now. Not after openly accepting the fact that he wanted the boy before him so badly he couldn’t think straight. He wanted to lay in bed with him, wanted to feel his body warm and solid beside him. He wanted to talk to him in the comforting darkness of the room, wanted to hear that soft gasping laugh of his. He wanted to kiss him.
Oh Christ he wanted to kiss him.
“You’re probably right,” Ronan said, turning away. “It’s our last night. I should… I’m gonna go sleep with Blue.”
Adam blinked up at him, confusion dissolving the small smile on his face. “Oh,” he said. “But I thought…”
“The curse is dumb anyway. Doesn’t stop us from talking. Who the fuck said anything about me not having dated before?”
Adam looked nervous. “Oh, well. Um. Mason said some stuff…”
Mason. Fucking piece of shit. Talking about him to Adam the day before had been like rubbing at a sore spot. It had been healing, but now it was hurting all over again. He didn’t really care that Adam knew about his non-existent dating life, but it bothered him that Mason had brought up that fact to Adam. They had no reason to discuss that. Maybe, like everything else he’d told Adam, Mason was bringing it up because he thought it would make Adam think less of Ronan. Even if Adam hadn’t cared, it still made Ronan uncomfortable that they had talked about it at all. He wondered if Mason had made up any lies about that too.
“And there are other things too, you know…” Ronan was saying, the words slipping heedlessly off his tongue, “that won’t affect the curse. Things that are… not kissing…”
Adam’s eyes widened. Before Ronan could say anything else that he’d regret, he grabbed his pillow and made his way down the stairs to Blue’s room.
Sargent was asleep when he crawled in beside her. He tried to be careful as he slipped under the covers, but he accidentally jerked her back with his knee as he settled down - she had the smallest bed out of all four of them - and he felt her stir. He stilled, hoping she’d ignore it and go back to sleep. When she didn’t move, he laid down on his back and closed his eyes. He was trying to turn his brain off, trying to tune out everything that had just happened with Adam, trying to stop thinking about the cornflower blue of his eyes, when he felt her sit up. She let out a yelp.
“Shh,” Ronan hissed at her, his eyes snapping open.
“Ronan!” She looked frazzled. She closed her eyes, breathing deeply. He must have really freaked her out. “What the hell?”
“I have a situation,” he said. “Parrish asked me why we don’t sleep in the same bed and I panicked.”
“Tell him that it’s none of his business and go sleep in your own damn bed.” She shoved him, and he pushed her back.
“Just… let me have this one. Please.”
“I’m too sleepy to argue,” Blue said, her jaw clenched. “But you are so going to pay for this in the morning.”
She slid back down under the covers, curling away from him.
“Your feet are fucking cold,” he muttered.
“I hate you,” she replied.
* * *
They were all back in Henrietta before Adam knew it. He didn’t really know whether he was happy about that or not. It had been an odd trip. Adam had expected the party and the sightseeing. He thought maybe he’d get some contacts, maybe he’d see some schools. He’d hoped to do some research, some preparation for his future, but he’d let himself get distracted by the city, by its wide roads and towering buildings. By his friends, and spending time with them.
And then there was everything with Ronan. He’d hardly thought having two conversations with Ronan - one about Mason, and one about him and Blue - would change anything, but for some reason he was having a hard time looking him in the eyes, because every time he did, something inexplicable and strange grew his in gut, and spread all the way to his finger tips, to the tips of his ears.
The truth was, Adam was still a little embarrassed about the night he’d spent in Ronan’s room, about the way Ronan had upped and disappeared all of a sudden. Had Adam made him uncomfortable, teasing him like that? He’d thought about it, mulled it over again and again in his mind. Logically speaking, it was possible Ronan just hadn’t considered the possibility that he could spend the night with Blue in the Ganseys’ house. The Lynch brothers went to church every weekend together, and there was a high chance their home wasn’t one where fraternising with the opposite sex was allowed.
This did, however, seem unlikely given Declan’s reputation with women, and Adam couldn’t help but persistently wonder if Ronan maybe… just maybe, had figured out that Adam was also attracted to boys. It wasn’t really something Adam talked about - much less acted upon - but the thing unfortunately was that Ronan was by no means an unattractive person, and Adam had, admittedly, found himself admiring his arms when he folded them behind his head in that casual way he sometimes did in the Pig, or thinking about that day in Monmouth when Ronan had been walking around with no shirt on. It wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility that Ronan could have noticed Adam’s occasional glances, and maybe he’d felt uncomfortable about sleeping so close to him, about Adam calling it cute that he hadn’t had much experience before. Ronan couldn’t have known the attraction was… of course, purely aesthetic. That Adam expressing that he found him endearing was meant to be a form of comfort. Maybe leaving the room was Ronan’s polite way of avoiding a situation he might find awkward. He did come from a very religious family, after all. Maybe he had a problem with it.
Adam pushed the thought from his mind. It didn’t really matter. Things had been fine with Ronan since. Most likely, Ronan hadn’t noticed anything, and Adam was just overthinking it.
He’d been overthinking a lot of things lately. Coming back to Henrietta was hard, but the hardest part was arriving at Monmouth and realising he had nowhere to go from there. No home. No family or happy dog to greet him. His gut felt heavy.
He’d lugged his suitcase to the living room and was sitting on the couch staring at it, wondering whether to open it or not. With all its charm and beauty and familiarity, Monmouth didn’t feel like home.
Somewhere, a phone started ringing. Before Adam could locate the source, it was being thrown into his lap. Adam stared at it.
“See who it is,” Ronan said.
Adam stared at him, blankly.
Ronan slung himself on the arm of the couch. “I hate answering my phone.”
Adam made a face at him, but answered it anyway. “Hello?”
“Adam?” asked the voice.
Adam saw Ronan’s expression sour. Ronan turned away, and Adam thought he heard him mutter, “So he does know my number.”
“Dude, bloody hell,” Mason said. “I wasn’t sure how else to reach you. What happened to you? I heard your parents kicked you out.”
Adam’s voice was thick when he finally answered. “I’ve moved out.”
“Sick of bein’ beaten by your dad, huh?”
Adam stiffened. He hadn’t realised that Mason had known. He’d never mentioned it. Never expressed sympathy or comfort or anger.
“You stayin’ with Dick now?” Mason asked.
“For the time being.”
Ronan jumped off the couch and walked to the attached kitchen, all restless energy.
“Damn. You know I’d offer my place, but dad won’t really allow it.”
It occurred to Adam at this moment that he’d never actually asked Mason about his family situation. Over the course of their friendship, a part of Adam had waited, expecting Mason to ask about his home-life. He was too proud and stubborn to bring up the topic himself, but he had longed just to have a conversation about it, for Mason to offer advice or any sort of comfort. Mason had never reached out, but the truth was, Adam had never reached out either. It was very likely that Mason was in an equally shitty situation living alone with his ‘whack job’ dad. Maybe this whole time, he was waiting for Adam to offer comfort in the same way Adam had been expecting it.
It was this revelation that softened Adam’s voice when he replied. “It’s fine, Mason. Really.”
“Well, do you want to come over? I’m takin’ my SATs soon, remember? You could help me study.”
Adam watched Ronan out of the corner of his eye. He was shuffling about in the kitchen, pretending like he wasn’t eavesdropping. Adam knew he was. All their food was in the fridge in their bathroom, and they had nothing in their kitchen cupboards except marshmallows and ramen.
“Sure,” Adam said. He ran his hands through his hair. “When?”
“How ‘bout 6?"
Adam had barely turned off the phone before it rang again. He picked it up without Ronan having to say anything.
The voice was snappy, obnoxious. Adam instantly hated the guy on the other end.
“No,” Adam said, cooly. “Can I help you?”
“I need to speak to my brother.”
Ah. Declan Lynch.
“He’s occupied right now,” Adam said, curtly. “Can I take a message?”
Ronan gave him a questioning glance, so Adam mouthed ‘Declan.’ Ronan smirked.
“Who is this?” Declan asked, irritation clear in his voice.
“Parrish?” Came the confused reply.
Adam blinked. He and Declan had gone to the same school for a bit, but he hadn’t realised the older boy knew who he was.
“Oh. Um. Yes.”
“Matthew mentioned you,” Declan drawled. “I didn’t realise you and my brother were so close.”
“What should I tell him?” Adam asked, impatiently.
“Tell him I’m waiting to hear about whether he and his girlfriend are having dinner with me on Thursday.”
Something spiked in Adam’s blood. Something strange and thick and painful.
“Oh. Ok. I’ll tell him.”
“Thanks.” Declan hung up. Adam stared at the phone for a moment and then offered it to Ronan. He shook his head.
“What did he want?” he asked.
“To know if you and Blue were having dinner with him on Thursday.”
Ronan kicked a ball that was lying on the floor, and Adam watched as it rolled across the carpet. “I meant Mason.”
“Oh.” Adam bit his lip. “Nothing.”
Ronan watched him for a minute, eyes hot on Adam’s skin. Then he shrugged and sauntered off to his room. The door slammed loudly behind him. Adam felt his absence like a change of temperature. He shivered.
He wasn’t sure why he was skirting around the truth with Ronan. He didn’t want Ronan to know he was going over to Mason’s, even if Adam had ulterior motives for doing so. Maybe it was because things had been feeling… odd, with Ronan lately. Adam thought it was because of Ronan’s confession about Mason, but he’d started to wonder if it had started before that. He wondered if it was guilt. It might have been. As much as he tried to deny it, he liked Ronan, and it was kind of shitty that he had feelings for his girlfriend. Even if he’d had those feelings before he and Ronan had become friends.
Maybe he should tell Ronan about going to Mason’s house. Why keep more secrets from him? Not that Ronan would care anyway.
The thing was, Adam had an analytical mind. He saw the world as a scientist did, and right now he had a hypothesis. A theory. A fact that he had two prove. And step two, was to gather evidence.
He didn’t want Ronan to know he was gathering evidence.
Ronan’s phone buzzed, and Adam glanced down reflexively. It was a message from someone named ‘Maggot’s Crazy Cousin’ that read Hey sexy, want to go to a club tonight? and Adam almost dropped the phone in alarm. His gut twisted, a little uncomfortably. He wondered if he should inform Ronan about it until a quick scan of the message thread showed that Ronan had been ignoring her messages for months.
Then Adam decided he was being creepy, even if Ronan had given him his un-password protected phone of his own volition and refused to take it back, and turned it off.
Ronan emerged from his room a minute later, a heavy bag hung over his shoulder.
“Where are you off to?” Adam asked.
“Tennis,” Ronan said, shortly.
“Um. What?” Adam asked, but Ronan was gone already.
* * *
Mason threw open the door gleefully.
“There you are!” he said. “Come on.”
He led Adam through his empty kitchen, back to his room.
Mason’s room, as usual, was a complete mess. Adam picked his way through it, gingerly. He didn’t mind messes, usually. It was when the messes involved half eaten food and spilled liquids when they made him uncomfortable.
Mason’s books were spread out on his desk, all ready for Adam to look at. Adam sighed deeply and sat down. Mason didn’t ask any questions. He didn’t ask how Adam was feeling or what happened with his dad or what he was going to do now. He didn’t even offer him food or water. He just sat on the chair next to Adam and gestured to his books.
It didn’t feel like how it felt when Ronan didn’t ask him about his life. It felt like the opposite. Ronan didn’t ask because he knew Adam didn’t want to talk about it. Mason didn’t ask because he didn’t care.
Adam swallowed thickly. “How are things going with you?”
Mason shrugged. “Same old. You?”
Adam paused. “Not great.”
It cost him something to say that. Cost him something to admit weakness. But he wanted to give Mason the benefit of the doubt. Adam couldn’t expect other people to make as much of an effort with him as Gansey and the others did, while he gave nothing in return. Maybe if he tried a little harder with Mason, they could change things. Build a new relationship out of the ashes of the old one.
“Man,” Mason said. “Your dad will get over it. He’ll take you back.”
Adam’s nails dug into the palm of his hand. He turned to him, eyes flashing. “I don’t want him to take me back. I meant what I said. I’ve left. For good.”
Mason shook his head, and Adam felt his skin burn. “Dude. This is just the way it is. You think my dad is all peaches and fuckin’ cream? Nah. But he’s givin’ me a house to stay in, you know? He puts food on the table, clothes on my damn back. So I gotta deal with his shit.”
“Does he hit you?”
“Nah. He gets too pissed after drinkin’ for that. But he’s not really here, either. It’s why I spend so much time with my cousins. At least they’re there, you know? Dad doesn’t care about all that shit - family dinners, Christmas, bondin’ with his only son. Means fuck all to him. All he wants to do is get drunk and sleep.”
Adam’s eyes were burning.
A part of him felt bad for Mason, not only for having a negligent father and an absent mother, but for being such a product of Henrietta that he truly believed he and Adam should be happy that they were being fed and clothed, instead of realising that their parents had a responsibility to care for them past the very basic act of keeping them alive.
A bigger part of him was choking with anger, because he knew Mason could never understand what it was to be Adam Parrish. What it felt like to be truly alone, truly without love. What it was to feel so much pain he couldn’t even cry, to be so tired that he didn’t even feel awake when his eyes were open. Maybe no one could understand that. But Mason couldn’t even understand why Adam had to get away from the person who caused all of that in him. Adam couldn’t accept that.
He took a deep breath and turned back to Mason’s books.
They studied for a while. Adam checked Mason’s answers and explained what he did wrong. Mason listened in the beginning, but Adam could see his attention waning as the hour trudged on.
“How’s the plan goin’?” Mason asked at one point, fiddling with a pencil.
“It’s fine,” Adam said, stiffly.
He glanced at his watch and then back at Mason’s work. He felt frustrated, stifled. He wanted to go back to Monmouth, wanted to do his own work, wanted to be anywhere but in Mason’s presence.
“You still charmin’ the pants off Ms. Blue?”
Adam made a noncommittal humming noise.
“I think it’s time you took the plunge, you know?” Mason said, licking his lips. “Go for it already.”
“I don’t think it’s the time,” Adam said mechanically, still cross-referencing Mason’s answers with the answer sheet.
“'Course it’s the time,” Mason said. “Blue likes you, and you’re like… best friends with Lynch now. You steal his girl, it’s gonna really fuck with his head.”
Guilt hit Adam straight in the lungs. He felt like he could no longer breathe. Would it really hurt Ronan that much if he were to find out? Would it really fuck with his head?
“Why is it you want to mess with him so badly?” Adam asked, keeping his voice cool.
Mason raised his eyebrows. “You kiddin’ me, Parrish? You know why. He made my childhood a livin’ hell, man.”
“Right,” Adam said. “Right. Because he bullied you.”
“Damn straight. You've seen what an asshole he is in school. He was just like that before.”
“Before his dad was murdered, you mean?”
Mason narrowed his eyes. “He wasn’t murdered,” he said, but he sounded unsure.
Adam tightened his grip on the pencil he was holding. “That’s what he said.”
“He’s a fuckin’ liar, is what he is. His family is freaky, man.” Mason waved his pencil in the air in front of Adam’s face as he spoke. “You know his brother Matthew? Somethin’ is seriously wrong with that kid. He showed up out of fuckin’ nowhere, man. Their mom wasn’t even pregnant or anythin’, but that kid just showed up one day. It was just like, boom! Blonde fuckin’ baby.”
“Maybe he’s adopted,” Adam said, even though he knew that wasn’t true. Matthew had the exact same eyes as Ronan.
“Nah,” Mason said. “There’s some sketchy shit goin’ on. Plus, you've met the kid, right? There's like, somethin' seriously messed up 'bout him. In his head, I mean. He's like fifteen, and he acts like a baby.”
“Matthew’s a really sweet kid,” Adam said, and his voice must have betrayed his irritation with the topic because Mason fell silent.
Adam tried to quell the rage in his heart, but it barely dulled as they got back to work.
It wasn’t until Mason went to the bathroom when Adam got up and started lurking around the room. He opened drawers and cupboards, looked in the bookshelves. He knew he was crossing a line, that he was violating Mason’s privacy a little. He tried not to dig too deep, but there was a darkness in Adam, and it came out sometimes in short, overpowering bursts. Maybe it was a darkness brought about by a sense of injustice, but it was a darkness nonetheless. He needed to know if what Ronan had told him was the truth.
And then, at the back of Mason’s cupboard, he found it. A little glass bee. Adam turned it over in his hand, his breath catching in his throat. Ronan hadn’t lied. Here was the proof, solid and cold in the palm of his hand. A little glass bee with delicate glass wings, not a chip on it. In Mason’s cupboard, thrown into a pile of smelling clothes.
Had he really stolen this from Ronan?
Adam thought of the way Mason was always asking him to do things for him, the way Mason was always convincing him to do things he’d rather not do. He realised that Mason never realised he was hungry, never so much as offered him a ride to school or a hand with his homework.
Why would Mason lie about Ronan? Possibly because he was jealous. Ronan Lynch was one of the most well-known boys in school. He had money, good-looks, a burning amount of talent that he never took advantage of. He had a family that loved him, that he loved. It must have grated on Mason the way it had grated on Adam. Except that Mason’s jealousy had made him tell Adam lies. Lies about Ronan that had coloured Adam’s opinions, and poisoned his thoughts.
Finding this bee wasn’t proof that Mason had manipulated Ronan, but Adam knew it was the truth. Because Ronan Lynch didn’t lie, and Mason Hunter didn’t give a damn about anyone but himself.
He’d gotten to know Ronan now, and he’d realised he’d gotten Ronan completely wrong. Ronan always asked him how he was feeling. He apologised for his mistakes. He was honest with him. He tried to cheer him up, and kept him company when he was low. He helped him when he saw Adam was in pain. Ronan Lynch was a shard of glass, but held in the sun he shone a hundred different colours.
Adam observed the bee, the way the glass body caught the light, and knew Ronan would never treat anything this beautiful, this fragile, so carelessly.
It didn’t take him very long to make up his mind. Adam Parrish was officially done with Plan B.