Adam straightened the collar of the light blue shirt he was wearing and looked at himself in the mirror. The shirt fit well and his khaki slacks, while not new, were at least clean. He looked alright. More well-fed than he had a few months ago, that’s for sure.
He turned to face Gansey, who was sitting on the bed, typing on his phone.
“Ok,” he said. “How do I look?”
Gansey glanced at him, pushing his glasses up on his nose.
“Adam Parrish,” he said, approvingly. “You are glorious.”
Adam gave him a small smile. He tugged at the sleeves. He was wearing Gansey’s shirt for the evening. Well, his shirt now. It was a shirt that Gansey had bought that was ‘accidentally’ a size too big for him, so he’d suggested Adam just take it. Adam figured that wasn’t quite the whole story, but for once he didn’t want to argue about it. He’d battled an internal war, but accepted the gift graciously.
It helped knowing that he actually could afford the shirt if he really wanted to splurge. For the first time in what felt like years, Adam actually had spending money. Instead of being berated or fired from any of his jobs for skipping work to find Ronan like he’d thought, Adam had actually been promoted in two of them. His absence helped the factory realise how important Adam was to them, and they’d ended up giving him a raise. Boyd, instead of being mad like Adam had expected, had been incredibly concerned, and had interrogated Adam as soon as he walked in the next day, asking him questions about his life and whether anything was wrong. Apparently Adam skipping work meant that something only short of the apocalypse was happening. Boyd too had promoted him, saying it was overdue, once he’d heard that Adam was paying rent himself.
The Fishbowl had given him an earful, but he hated that job anyway, so he turned his deaf ear towards the whole affair.
Gansey turned back to his phone and let out a helpless laugh.
“Blue?” Adam guessed.
Gansey looked a little sheepish. Blue and Gansey hadn’t quite admitted their feelings to each other yet, but it was only a matter of time. It was painfully obvious to the rest of them what was going on. Noah had even taken to winking at Blue every time Gansey said anything that could remotely seem like flirting - even adding in a sly smile if it was something cringe-worthy like ‘Those coveralls look very fetching on you, Blue’ or ‘Your camo shorts are delightful.’ It shouldn’t have been funny except that Noah couldn’t exactly wink, and Adam and Ronan were both smug assholes with a bad sense of humour that took pride in the fact that they could see this relationship from a mile away, while Gansey and Blue had been completely taken by surprise when they announced theirs.
“Are you nervous?” Gansey asked.
“A little,” Adam admitted.
“I would say it’s going to be alright, but I can’t ever tell with Declan,” Gansey sighed.
Adam shrugged. He definitely had it easier than Blue had it a few months ago when she and Ronan were pretending to date. At least Ronan and Declan were on better terms now.
“If Ronan thinks it’s a good idea, then I’m sure it is,” Adam said, but he wasn’t sure he believed himself.
At least Matthew was going to be there. The youngest Lynch had made his affection for Adam very clear.
Gansey gave him a reassuring shoulder squeeze as Adam left his room and went over to Ronan’s. He knocked on the door and walked in without waiting for a response.
Ronan’s room was as messy as always. The floor was littered with clothes - mostly Ronan’s, but there were a few t-shirts of Adam’s that Ronan had filched - and a variety of miscellaneous dream objects. His desk was cluttered with papers covered in Adam’s handwriting, outlining the design for a forest on the ley line. An experiment. Something to help Ronan’s mother recover. Ronan’s bee sat on his bedside, next to his car keys.
Ronan was pulling on a shirt when Adam walked in. Adam leaned in the doorway, smiling lazily at him.
“Here for the show, Parrish?” he asked.
“I was, but clearly I missed all the good parts,” Adam replied.
Ronan smirked at him. Adam’s fondness for his tattoo was common knowledge to him now.
“How do I look?” Adam asked, as Ronan buttoned down his own shirt. “Appropriate enough for dinner with the Lynch brothers?”
“It’s only Declan you need to worry about,” he said. “I don’t think Matthew cares how you dress.”
“I’ve had plenty of dinners with him anyway.”
“Except we’re not going to McDonald’s this time, Parrish. This is a disgustingly fancy place.”
“Which is why I’m asking.” Adam gestured down to his outfit. “How do I look?”
Ronan walked closer, close enough that Adam had to tip his head a bit to maintain eye-contact.
“Like a loser,” Ronan said, and kissed him.
Adam wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to the way Ronan’s kisses made him feel. He grinned against his lips.
“Definitely better than that sexy bowling attendant outfit of yours,” Ronan teased.
Adam shoved him. “You talk a lot for someone who has yet to beat me in a single game of bowling.”
“No one likes a show-off, Parrish.”
They kissed again, and then some more. Adam got a little distracted by the way Ronan pushed him against the door-frame as they kissed, eager and breathless. He ran a thumb over Ronan’s cheek, relishing the smoothness of his skin, all freshly shaved and smelling of mossy after-shave. It was only when Ronan started leaving burning kisses along his jaw and curling his fingers through Adam’s hair, when Adam remembered what they were meant to be doing.
“Don’t mess it up,” Adam complained, breaking apart and swiping at his hair.
Ronan laughed, but pulled back.
“It’ll be fine, Parrish,” he said, turning to his mirror and straightening his shirt. “Seriously. You can’t do worse than Blue did.”
Adam laughed. He walked over and planted himself down on the bed as Ronan started putting on his shoes. It seemed ridiculous now that he’d ever thought Ronan was in love with Blue.
“About that,” he said. “What are we going to say when Declan asks how this happened? I mean, I don’t think ‘I was trying win Blue over and accidentally fell really hard for her asshole fake boyfriend’ would fly.”
Ronan snorted. “He knows I came out because of you,” he mumbled. “I don’t think he’ll ask.”
Adam watched him, a small smile on his face.
Actually Declan’s initial reaction to Ronan’s confession that he and Adam were dating had apparently been consternation for Gansey and concern about how he was going to manage their living situation. Adam had heard only a fragment of the phone conversation that involved Ronan yelling the words “I was never fucking dating Gansey!” before he decided he wanted to stay the hell out of it.
Considering Adam had been answering Ronan’s phone for months, he couldn’t imagine that Declan - who was a lot sharper than Ronan gave him credit for - hadn’t caught on to the fact that there was something between them. Still, he hadn’t met Declan in person since Declan had graduated Aglionby, and they hadn’t spoken on the phone since Ronan had told him they were dating, and Adam couldn’t help but be nervous about the whole evening.
Ronan must have noticed Adam's expression because he let out a grunt.
“Stop worrying, Parrish,” he said. “You fucking enjoy studying and Kavinsky is scared of you. Declan is going to love you.”
Adam laughed again, falling back on the bed. “Kavinsky is not scared of me. I told you, that thing with the thorn was a freak coincidence.”
Ronan hummed, not believing it. It was true that some inexplicable things had been happening around Adam lately - one of which was an incident where Kavinsky’s palm had been struck by a thorn that appeared out of nowhere, when he tried to piss Adam off in English class - but Adam figured it was because he’d surrounded himself with magic. Something had to rub off on him sometime.
Adam rolled his head to watch Ronan. He liked the way his cheekbones looked in the warm light of his room, the way the lack of stubble made his eyes look softer.
“Come on, runt,” Ronan said, finishing with his shoes. “Let’s go.”
Ronan offered him his hand, and Adam took it. Ronan pulled him up and kissed his knuckles. Adam grinned. Ronan’s fondness for his hands was common knowledge to him now.
Ronan grabbed his keys and they headed out to the BMW. Adam hopped into the passenger side seat. The car felt comfortable, familiar, almost like it was Adam’s own.
They drove and Ronan didn’t cross the speed limit, even though it was obvious he was itching to. They parked outside the restaurant, and Ronan fidgeted with his cuffs while Adam tried calling Declan.
They were almost fifteen minutes early, which Ronan said would probably make Declan faint with shock when he found out. The weather was nice and cool, and the sidewalk was empty, so they decided to wait outside for the other two Lynch brothers to get there. They leaned against the car while Adam talked about the book they were reading for English Lit. He was in the middle of explaining why Waiting for Godot was a important play, even if it was painfully boring, when they were interrupted.
The two of them turned in unison. Mason Hunter stood a little away from them in a woollen sweater, holding a plastic bag full of groceries.
While Mason still went to Aglionby, Adam and Ronan never saw him. He had no classes with either of them, and had stopped going for the after-school Phys. Ed extracurricular with Adam. Blue said she saw him at Nino’s sometimes, but he was never there when any of the rest of them visited.
“Mason,” Adam said. His voice was chillier than the air.
Ronan said nothing, but Adam could feel him tense beside him. Adam was glad there was a car between them and Mason. Both of them were equally capable of doing something stupid in anger.
“Haven’t seen you two in a while,” Mason said, quietly.
His eyes were darting between them. He must have heard the two had remained friends, even after all he’d done to try and tear them apart, but he still looked somewhat surprised.
Adam and Ronan exchanged a look.
“Yeah,” Adam said. “Long while.”
After he’d found the bee in Mason’s closet, Adam had confronted him. The two had fought, Mason calling him names that still stung when he remembered them. He’d asked Mason why he’d never bothered to help him even though he knew he was in a bad place - at home, in school, in his head. He asked Mason why he’d tried to manipulate him, why he’d tried to take advantage. Mason had shrugged and said it wasn’t any of his business what happened in Adam’s life, so Adam had responded that Mason’s life wasn’t any of his business either. He’d stormed out and had iced him out completely after that. They hadn’t spoken since, which was an especially hard feat once Adam had found out what he’d said to Ronan on the phone. He hadn't got back in touch, but there were plenty of scathing words Adam had mentally curated for when he ran into Mason again.
“I’m shocked you two are still buds,” Mason said, emphasising the last word sarcastically. “But I s’ppose assholes have a way of findin’ each other.”
“Weird that you still have no friends, then,” Ronan said, coolly.
Mason gave him a dirty look. “You’re a real bastard, Ronan Lynch.”
Adam was already tired of this back and forth. He was tired of Mason letting his jealousy poison others. Adam wondered if he would have let his jealousy do the same, if he was in Mason’s place right now. It seemed very likely. If he hadn’t met Gansey and Ronan, if he hadn’t befriended Noah and Blue and pulled himself from the darkness that threatened to take over, Adam could have been Mason Hunter 2.0.
“His family has never been anything but kind to you,” Adam said, slowly. “Neither of us has ever done anything bad to you. I’d suggest re-directing your hate to the actual source of what’s making you unhappy.”
“I’d suggest you go fuck yourself,” Ronan added.
“Either works,” Adam conceded.
“I should’ve known you’d go over to his side,” Mason said, derisively. “So desperate for friends, you were willin’ to take any piece of shit’s offer of friendship.”
“That’s why you and I were friends,” Adam agreed. He tried not to smirk as he added. “And don’t talk about my boyfriend like that.”
Mason’s eyes widened. His jaw slackened, and he glanced furiously between the two of them, waiting for an explanation. None came.
“See you later, prick,” Ronan said.
He waved until Mason glared at him and stalked away. Then Ronan turned back to Adam, a corner of his lip twitching.
“I love it when you defend my honour, Parrish,” he said, his voice teasing.
Adam rolled his eyes as Ronan moved closer to him, pressing their shoulders together. Neither of them were fans of overtly public displays of affection, but Adam enjoyed their new-found closeness; the casual touches, the soft smiles and wicked glances they shared. He particularly enjoyed it when Ronan took advantage of moments like these - when they were outside and alone - to press close to him, to entwine their fingers and whisper things to him, his breath warm on his cheek. There was something electrifying about it, especially since it had taken Ronan weeks to understand that he was allowed to do it.
“You are aware everyone in school is going to know about us now, right?” Ronan asked.
Adam shrugged. “They were going to find out eventually.” He tilted his head, looking at Ronan from the corner of his eye. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“Fuck no,” Ronan said. He wrapped his arms around Adam’s waist and pressed his cold nose into his cheek. “Sooner those assholes know you’re taken, the better.”
“Your face is freezing,” Adam complained, playfully shoving Ronan’s face away. He laughed at Ronan’s grumpy expression. “You really don’t mind?”
“It's really embarrassing to be seen with you, but I’ll live.”
Ronan grinned at him with that look in his eyes that made Adam’s heart dance.
“You know,” Adam said, feeling his ears heat up. “We’ve got to give it to Mason. He really brings us together.”
Ronan snorted, pulling slightly away and letting his eyes travel slowly down Adam’s face.
“Don’t give that dick credit,” Ronan said, his voice soft. “This would have happened anyway.”
“Oh yeah?” Adam asked, grinning.
Ronan looked a little flustered, but his tone was obnoxious as always when he replied. “Hell yeah. You and Gansey would have become friends eventually, because he’s fucking obsessed with you, and you think he’s the shit. And then I would have pretended to hate you until I realised I was basically crazy about you, and then when I couldn’t pretend anymore, I would have stared intensely at you until you realised you wanted me back.”
Adam laughed. “Brilliant plan.”
“You’re the man with the plans,” Ronan said.
Adam made a face at him, but he turned so they were facing each other, faces close together. Ronan’s hands were still on his waist. Adam rested his arms on his shoulders, hands at the base of Ronan’s neck.
“Listen,” Ronan murmured, leaning in so their lips were dangerously close. Fucking tease. “After dinner, I have a surprise for you.”
“It’s at the Barns.”
“It’s a new power tool,” Ronan said. “Well, technically it’s an old one. Let’s just say, your dad is not going to be happy.”
Adam blinked at him, until it hit him. His hand flew to his mouth. “You got my dog?” he breathed.
Ronan grinned at him in that way that set Adam’s blood on fire. “Her name is Arsenic.”
“Knew you’d love it.”
“Also not a power tool.”
Ronan shrugged as best as he could with Adam’s arms around his neck. “I’m changing it up.”
Adam looked at Ronan, gaze hovering over those impossibly light eyes of his. He ran a thumb over one of his sharp cheekbones. “How?”
He wasn’t sure if he was asking Ronan how he did it, or if he was asking the universe how he got so freaking lucky.
“Well, I stole her,” Ronan said, smirking even as his voice came out a little flustered. “But good luck proving it was me.”
Adam felt like his heart was going to burst. He couldn’t help the next words from spilling out. “I fucking love you.”
Ronan’s mouth quirked, but his gaze softened. “I fucking love you too.”
Adam grabbed him into a hug, arms thrown around his neck, pulling him in.
“Declan had better approve of this,” he whispered in his ear. “Because you’re stuck with me.”