The day after Ronan Lynch kissed him was the longest day of Adam Parrish’s life.
They were still on summer break, and Adam was working three different shifts at three different jobs, which meant that he couldn’t see Ronan. He didn’t have a phone either, which meant that he couldn’t speak to Ronan.
He hoped that Ronan would show up after his shift at the factory - he showed up at Boyd’s occasionally, Adam wouldn’t put it past him - but his shift ended and there was no sign of him.
He knew what Ronan was doing. He was giving him space, giving him time to figure out what he wanted.
The thing is that Adam knew what he wanted.
He’d realised as they walked home from Cheng’s party that the reason he’d gotten so angry that Ronan had lied to him was not just that Ronan had lied for so long, or that Adam had to mentally reconstruct the entire relationship he believed existed between Ronan and Blue, or even that it kept him from realising his feelings for Ronan sooner, but that had he known Blue and Ronan’s relationship was all a farce, he might not have befriended Ronan in the first place. Which meant that he’d still be where he was - living at home, pining after Blue, best friends with Mason Hunter.
He knew that if he’d known the truth, even if it was after he became friends with Gansey, he might not have fallen for Ronan the way he did. The realisation made him feel incredibly guilty. Not to mention the fact that Ronan had apparently liked Adam for months. Ronan had liked him back when Adam was a jealous viper filled with spite and hatred for Ronan. It made his gut twist into knots. How had Adam let Mason talk him into such a thing? It seemed like that Adam had been worlds apart from the person Adam was now. But if he hadn’t been talked into it then, he wouldn’t be as stupidly happy as he was now.
And that’s what he was. Stupidly happy. And the cause of this stupid happiness was giving Adam space, wondering if he wanted anything more out of their relationship.
The answer was a total, resounding yes. He hoped Ronan wasn’t drunk, because he really wanted to fucking kiss him.
Except that he didn’t see Ronan the entire day. He thought about walking over to Monmouth at 2am when his night shift at the Fishbowl had ended, but he couldn’t keep his eyes open, and he had a suspicion that Ronan might be waiting for him at his apartment.
But Ronan wasn’t at St. Agnes either. The disappointment almost stifled Adam.
The day after the longest day of Adam’s life was another busy day that threatened to be pretty painfully long as well. Except that Adam had taken shifts in the afternoon, evening and night, which meant that he had the morning free to go over to Monmouth and see Ronan.
He wolfed down his breakfast - being able to keep all the money he earned meant that he had a little extra cash for orange juice, granola bars and yoghurt - and then started cycling towards Monmouth. He didn’t know what he was going to say, what he was going to do, but he felt like he was going to burst from the sheer happiness he was feeling.
Ronan liked him back. Ronan had liked him since the beginning.
He still had a hard time wrapping his head around the fact that Ronan’s relationship with Blue had all been a charade, but the more he thought about it, the more sense it made. He’d seen how they behaved with each other - he had tried to make sense of their sibling-like relationship by associating it with the behaviour of couples who’d been together for a long time. He’d seen how they only acted like a couple when one of Ronan’s brothers were around. And he’d definitely seen the way Ronan looked at him, but he’d assumed he was imagining it. It was what he wanted to see. It couldn’t have been real.
Granted, he and Ronan needed to talk things over eventually - maybe at some point Adam would even tell him about the plan - but that was a problem for future Adam. All present Adam wanted to do was to get over to Monmouth and kiss him. Properly, this time.
The first thing he noticed as he reached Monmouth was that Ronan’s car wasn’t outside. The spot beside Gansey’s Camaro was empty, save for angry tire tracks on the concrete.
He might have been helping his brothers move, Adam reasoned, or at Nino’s. Adam could use Gansey’s phone to call him. He didn’t think Ronan would answer his phone, especially if it was Gansey calling, but it was worth a shot.
When Gansey opened the door, however, Adam's heart stalled. He could see distress clearly etched onto Gansey's face.
“Adam,” he said. “Ronan’s missing again.”
Adam’s blood spiked. Missing? But he’d promised he wouldn’t disappear again. Not after last time. Not after the incident at Kavinsky’s party.
Adam tried to ignore the hammering in his heart. Ronan had told him the truth - he hadn’t tried to kill himself. It had just been the dreams. That’s all.
The thought wasn’t comforting. Ronan could still have been injured by his nightmares. Is that why he hadn’t come to see him the night before? Adam couldn’t stop imagining Ronan lying on a church pew somewhere, bleeding to death. Alone.
“How long?” Adam asked. His mouth was dry.
“He left yesterday morning to go see Declan, and I haven’t seen him since.”
Gansey had his glasses on, and his hair was a dishevelled mess. Adam walked into Monmouth and turned to face him.
“Where all have you looked?”
“Everywhere. Nino’s, the church. Even Aglionby. Declan is moving out right now, but he says neither he nor Matthew have seen Ronan. He says they said their goodbyes yesterday.” Gansey rubbed his face. “He hasn’t been answering his phone.”
“Did you check Kavinsky’s?” Adam asked, quietly.
“I was just heading over there,” Gansey said. “I was wondering if you would stay here? Just in case he comes back?”
Adam nodded. Gansey pressed his thumb to his lips.
“Thank you, Adam,” he said. “You’re a good friend.”
Adam felt a thick wave of guilt overcome him. He repressed it. He wondered if he’d ever have the guts to tell any of them the truth of what a bad friend he really was.
He stood by the window and watched Gansey drive away. He was full of restless energy. How could he just sit and wait while Ronan was missing, possibly harmed somewhere? What if it was already too late? A wave of emotions choked him. Why hadn’t Gansey come to him earlier? Why hadn’t he checked Kavinsky’s place first? Where the hell was Ronan, and why had he disappeared now?
He was pacing around the apartment, his thoughts an agitated tangle, when he heard a noise from the kitchen.
His heart jumped. Noah.
He almost tripped over his feet as he made his way towards the origin of the sound. Noah was sitting on the island counter. He was flickering today, barely there.
“Noah,” Adam said.
Noah turned to look at him. He offered him a melancholic smile. Adam tensed.
“Ronan’s missing,” Adam said. “Do you know where he…”
“He knows,” Noah said, sadly.
“About you,” Noah said.
He seemed to be floating an inch off the counter. Adam felt a shiver run through him. He wondered how he’d ever doubted Noah was a ghost.
“What about me?” Adam asked. He shook his head, running his fingers through his hair. “Noah, listen, if you know where he is…”
Noah sighed, clearly frustrated and upset with Adam’s confusion.
“Noah, please just…”
“He knows about that plan you made with Mason.”
The whole world seemed to stop.
“No,” he said. His voice was a whisper.
“Mason told him,” Noah said. He looked depressed. He pressed a hand to his own cheek. “He doesn’t handle these things well, Adam.”
Adam’s heart started up again, pumping at twice it’s normal pace. Everything seemed too chaotic, every thought was too much.
“Where is he?” Adam asked. There was a frantic edge to his voice. “I need to… talk to him. I need to explain.”
“Noah, it’s different now. You know it’s different now.”
“It’s been different for a while now,” Noah said. “Doesn’t make it better. You should have been the one to tell him.”
He doesn’t handle these things well, Adam.
Adam had to find him. He had to find him before he did something stupid. He had to explain.
Where the fuck could he have been hiding?
Which is when it hit him. It was so obvious.
Adam was on his bike in minutes, racing down the unfamiliar roads, trying to remember how he and Ronan had driven up the other day. His mind was in overdrive, and Adam tried to shove away the guilt, the thoughts that screamed at him - You did it, asshole. You crushed him.
Wasn’t this what he’d wanted when he came up with the plan with Mason? To hurt Ronan? To cause him pain? Well, he’d done it. Vile Adam Parrish had spread his poison to the last person he knew who deserved it. The only upside was that he’d ended up causing himself pain as well.
He couldn’t have predicted this. Couldn’t have known that Ronan would not only have feelings for him, but that his feelings had been there long before Adam had ever been worthy of them. Not that he was worthy of them now. The thought made Adam feel so shitty he couldn’t breathe. How could he have hurt Ronan this way?
He had to make things right. He couldn’t bear the thought of bringing Ronan more pain. Just two days ago he’d been upset that Ronan had lied to him, had kept him in the dark about his sexuality, had hidden his feelings for him. He’d been upset that Ronan had let him pine and yearn and wallow imagining that Ronan would never like him back. But as soon as Adam had discovered the truth, he’d just thought of himself. He’d truly believed he could keep his initial reason for befriending Ronan a secret forever. But now it was out in the open, and he’d hurt him worse than if he’d just told him the truth himself. He’d hurt Ronan, and the pain Adam felt at this knowledge was worse than all the supposed unrequited longing he’d felt before. How could he possibly fix something like this?
It took twice as long to get to the Barns on a bike, and Adam was unsure of the path, so it was well past lunch when he reached Ronan’s home, sweating and out of breath.
He’d missed his first shift of the day.
Adam dropped his bike outside without bothering to lock it up, and ran across the fields towards the barn-houses. He didn’t know where Ronan would be, but he had a feeling he was here. As odd as it was, he could sense his magic in the air.
Ronan wasn’t in the fields. Adam opened each shed and looked inside, calling Ronan’s name. In one of them, he found Jackhammer. She blinked up at him with her large doe eyes. She looked upset. Or maybe that was just Adam projecting.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered to her. She turned away.
Adam’s gut lurched. If Ronan wasn’t here, then he was in the house. He walked towards it, his pace slowing down as he reached the porch. He jiggled the handle. The door swung open.
There was no sound, no movement. Adam had thought Ronan’s mother would be here, but he didn’t pass anyone in the living room or the kitchen. He walked up the stairs and down a hallway. He tried each door, looked into each cupboard, until he found a room with Ronan’s name on the door. He scrabbled at the handle. The room was locked.
“Ronan?” he called.
He banged on the door and then pressed his good ear against it.
There was silence. His chest squeezed tight.
“Ronan?” he called again. His breath was coming out in ragged puffs.
He was about to pull away, when he suddenly heard dull thumps against the floor. He pressed closer to the door, listening to the sound.
Feet against wood.
Ronan’s voice, muffled through the door. Adam let out a strangled noise and sagged against the wall, relief making him lightheaded.
“Ronan,” he gasped. “Fuck, Ronan. You promised you wouldn’t do that again. Fuck.”
There was silence.
“I guess we’re all liars here,” Ronan said.
The words scalded him. Adam flinched.
“Just let me explain,” he said.
“Explain what?” Ronan asked.
His voice was flat, devoid of any inflection. It was worse than hearing him swear, worse than hearing him bubbling with fury.
Adam swallowed. “Noah told me,” he said. “That Mason told you. That… you know.”
“Know what?” Ronan asked. His voice was still coming out in a monotone.
“Please,” Adam begged. “Just… come out. Let me talk to you.”
“I broke up with Blue,” Ronan said. “She’s all yours.”
Another strike of the whip. Adam ran a hand down his arm as though Ronan had physically hurt him.
“I’m not leaving till you let me explain,” Adam said with a force he didn’t feel.
There was silence on the other end. Then, loud EDM began blasting from the room. Adam slumped down onto the floor, his backpack at his feet. He thumped on the door again, but the sound vanished into the thundering music.
“I’m not leaving here until you talk to me, Ronan,” he said, even though he knew Ronan probably couldn’t hear him.
He had to come out of there sometime. Adam pressed his palms to his eyes. He’d sweated all the way through his shirt. He was sure he looked - and smelled - atrocious, but he didn’t want to move. He wasn’t going to move.
Time seemed to have slowed down. Adam checked his watch every five minutes. He was aware of how much money he was losing by not showing up to work. His bosses at the factory might give him a free pass because he was a good worker, but Boyd would be furious about him skipping with no prior warning. The Fishbowl would probably threaten to sack him for not giving notice. Maybe they would sack him. But he had no phone, no way of contacting them.
It didn’t change anything. He wasn’t moving from this spot by the door. He wasn’t about to let Ronan do anything stupid. Not because of him.
He would tell his bosses he was sick or had a family emergency or something when he showed up tomorrow. Today, he was going to sit here. For as long as it took.
He closed his eyes, and as he used to do when he was still living with his parents, he let himself wallow in his pain. He knew what he had to do. He’d been thinking about it as he was walking around the Barns, guilt chewing him up from inside out. He thought back on what he’d done, and knew there was only one solution that made sense, only one way to make things right, even if it was the very last thing in the world he wanted to do.
The simple fact of the matter was that Adam was a stain. He was a contaminant, someone that spread negativity wherever he went. He’d crushed Ronan. Ronan. The boy who had been hurt time and time again, and still had so much love and tenderness to give. Ronan who cared so intensely for his friends, who took such care of the ones he loved. The same Ronan who, while Adam had been trying to infect him with hatefulness, had nothing but adoration for him.
While Adam had been trying to cause him pain, Ronan had wanted to kiss him. Since fucking forever.
The thought tore through Adam’s heart. He couldn’t deal with it. Couldn’t bear the thought of continuing to bring Ronan pain, of extending the same pain to Blue and Gansey and Noah.
There was only one way out.
Adam was going to apologise, and then he was going to walk out of their lives. For good.