Ronan was a fucking asshole.
One day, he showed up with a dusty laptop the size of a brick.
"Move it," he muttered, and Adam didn't have to be told twice, because Ronan smoothly elbowed him out of the way.
"What," Adam asked as he shut the door behind him, "is this?"
Ronan leveled him with a stare. "Have you been in the forest too long?" He set the laptop onto Adam's desk. "It's a computer, Parrish."
Adam stared at him, vaguely aware that his face was probably doing ugly things. Jumping vein things. Furrowed brow things. His left eye was twitching, too, but the movement was probably too miniscule for Ronan to notice from behind the haze of his own arrogance.
"For video games," Ronan continued. He stared back at Adam with one eyebrow raised. It was stifling outside and in, and a fine sheen of sweat covered his exposed shoulders. It had also settled in the dip at the bottom of his throat. The sun had forced freckles across his skin that Adam somehow knew probably annoyed Ronan, and he liked them all the better for it. Anything that annoyed Ronan was just fine by him.
"I don't have any video games," Adam pointed out, because he didn't. He had never played a single video game in his life.
"You do now." Ronan shrugged and cranked the laptop open. "You got a light?"
Adam rummaged through his pockets and produced a box of matches he'd filched from Nino's two nights ago. Ronan's teeth were so very straight, and so very white.
Sundays, as far as Adam was concerned, were for either homework or pulling double shifts at the garage, so he wasn't entirely sure what he was doing in the holy cavern below his apartment.
St. Agnes was filled with sweaty bodies and the melodic tones of the priest. If Adam closed his eyes and lowered his head to his clasped hands, the scent of moss and mist was nearly enough to make him believe that Cabeswater surrounded him. That dry leaves prickled his ankles, and warm grass tickled his cheek.
He had never prayed, not even as a child. He had never had occasion to believe.
But Declan had failed to show up the last two Sundays, and the knowledge that the Lynch pew was off balance threw Adam. He had called out of work ahead of time, and now sat in his very expensive suit next to Matthew, his throat constricted by button and tie. Ronan loomed on Matthew's other side and Adam forced himself to sit still and not turn his head.
Ronan had also worn a suit. Adam only knew this was unusual behavior by the way Matthew's jaw had hung open at the sight of him. Ronan had shrugged irritably and slunk into his seat like he'd been reprimanded.
The hawkish movement had unbalanced Adam. It wasn't like Ronan to be cagey.
"He says he's sorry." Matthew's hot breath fanned across Adam's cheek and instinctively, Adam lowered himself until Matthew could reach better. "He's got a Congressional internship, he can't get away."
His voice was low enough, but Ronan was omniscient at times. His snort, when it came, was eloquent.
"It's cool," Adam said, presenting his fist for bumping, strangely satisfied when it met with Matthew's. "It can be the three of us for a while, right?"
Ronan must have been furious. He didn't make a sound.
Blue was sitting under a tree in her yard when Adam found her. Leaves rustled overhead as if there was a breeze, but if there was, it didn't reach the ground. Adam plucked at his t-shirt to get rid of the worst of it sticking, but it never did much good. He wiped his hands on the seat of his pants before tapping her on the shoulder.
She didn't jump, and she didn't raise her head. She did pat the ground next to her.
Adam folded himself down.
"I just keep waiting," she said. Her eyes were closed. "Do you feel it?"
Adam did. He felt as if his entire existence was poised on a precipice. He just wished he could figure out what sort. He nodded.
"Orla's thrown out all of my yogurt."
Adam looked at her, feeling genuine amusement for the first time in weeks. "Are you okay?"
She met his eye, her mouth in a stubborn line. "I'm pissed. What do you think?"
He pursed his lips in case his mouth decided to betray him.
"Don't you laugh at me, Adam Parrish. What am I gonna eat now?"
"Food?" he offered, then sidled out of the way of her flailing arm. "I can buy you a four-pack, if you want." A peace offering.
"Ugh." She fell back and began plucking at the grass around her bare feet. "I hate this."
He sighed and ran a hand over his eyes, getting rid of the worst of the sweat. "I can't feel it," he said quietly. "It won't talk to me."
When Blue looked over at him, her gaze was liable to cut him. "Cabeswater?"
He shook his head. "The…no. I don't know. I just can't feel my way around it, it's like there's something… Something interfering."
A silence. Then, "That's what Maura says."
Blue made another disgusted noise, but he knew it wasn't directed at him. He realized, suddenly, that this reminded him of months ago, when… But it was different, too. It was so different, and he had never noticed. Not until now.
"I don't like you, you know," he said, then heard the awful silence that descended. "I mean, in that way. I mean, like, you know. Like I liked you back then."
He had wanted her so much. He still knew she was beautiful. Not classically; in a Blue way. Her calves were dark from the sun and he watched them now, testing his own reactions.
"I'm glad," she said, soft but firm. "That's better for us."
"Much," he agreed.
Another silence, more comfortable now. Companionable. Friendly. A truce, at last.
Adam jumped at the sound of her voice, even though they had been having a conversation. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "You saw him yourself yesterday."
She shrugged. "But he isn't exactly demonstrative around me."
She was right. But Ronan wasn't demonstrative around anyone.
"What would he have to be demonstrative about?"
Declan, of course. His father's true killer running out of town. His dreams. His nightmares. Chainsaw. Nice shiny rims, probably.
"Dunno. There's more to him than just his terrible personality, so probably something," Blue said. She cut her gaze at him, a mere second. "Keep an eye on him, that's all."
Adam had known something had passed between Ronan and Blue in that cave, but he didn't know what. He only knew because Ronan had yelled for him and Gansey to figure out a way to find the other entrance to the cave now and he hadn't sworn.
"Okay," Adam said. He knew he never had a choice, anyway.
Ronan was a fucking asshole.
He had gotten drunk while playing video games on what was now Adam's laptop, and then passed out in Adam's bed. Adam had had a single shot of whiskey, and then he had crawled into the sliver of space Ronan had left on his bed and fallen asleep, hours after Ronan had. Ronan's knees were in the way, and his warmth, too. It was too hot. He was snoring.
When Adam woke up, Ronan was convulsing next to him.
"Shit!" He sat up so fast his head swam. "Ronan. Ronan. Ronan!"
He hadn't realized that Ronan's fist was clenching his t-shirt until Ronan came awake and stilled, the force of it pulling Adam towards him.
"What the fuck happened, did I – shit, Parrish, tell me I didn't –"
Adam shut him up with a hand to his mouth, then listened. Long seconds of no sound but their breathing. Slowly, he shook his head. "No. Just a regular nightmare." He chewed on his lip. "I think." Did Ronan ever have just regular nightmares? Maybe it had been the whiskey.
Behind his hand, Ronan's breath was coming in fast and hot. Adam should have been pulling away, but he couldn't.
He swallowed once, loud in the dark, and whispered, "Did you – do you have anything?"
It took Ronan a while to respond. He took hold of Adam's hand and pulled it off, the movement just this side of savage. Out in the open like that, lit orange by a single streetlight sneaking through the window, he looked – uncertain. Uncertain and terrifying, for just a moment, because his blue eyes had turned black. Adam blinked, not breathing, and then it was over.
Not letting go of Adam's shirt, Ronan opened up his other hand, the one tucked between them. It was difficult to tell, at first, what the dark mass nestled in his palm was. An uneven blur that sucked up all light.
Then, despite himself, Adam leaned in, and the shift on the bed brought it to uncertain light.
A tuft of moss.
He breathed through the shock of it, then leaned in and placed a single exploratory finger to its surface. Impossibly soft, and springy. He sucked in his lip, then bit it. He knew he'd have to look up at Ronan any minute, but all he could do was keep stroking the pulpy bit of earth and all he was aware of was the rapid rise and fall of Ronan's stomach just outside of his vision.
The silence between them extended.
Adam had experienced so many silences in his life. The silence commanded by a teacher's voice after the bell had rung. The silence hanging just below the surface noises of the Pig on one of their drives. The silence between the screech of his father's truck tires and the front door creaking open.
They'd all had their own qualities.
This one was new, and it really wasn't a silence at all. This silence was filled with their breath, fast and off-kilter; with the tiniest swish of cloth as Adam shifted on the bed; with the inevitability of falling, falling, falling down the deepest of rabbit holes, deeper than any cave Adam had ever tumbled into. His heartbeat, pounding in his ears. He had never felt more flesh and blood, more like a real Adam-shaped boy.
When he finally looked up at Ronan's face, he encountered a hesitation he'd never seen there before. Ronan was reckless, and he had no boundaries. He had no fear, not unless it had been born inside his head and made manifest in reality.
But Adam knew, with a shock of clarity, that when it came to this, Ronan was a coward.
If anything were to happen – what? What was this? – he would have to make it.
"What did you dream about?" he croaked, shifting just slightly enough that their knees bumped.
Ronan looked away but didn't move away. He also didn't close his hand so Adam stilled his moving fingers on it and slid them up just the slightest bit. He was touching Ronan's fingers.
"Parrish." He sounded strangled, just on the edge of something like anger, but not fully realized.
Adam tightened his hand, crushing the moss between them. "Adam," he said.
"My name," he bit out and shifted until he had Ronan practically pinned beneath him. The beat of his heart was so loud, it was drowning out everything else. "Say my name."
Their noses were nearly touching now. Everywhere Adam was, so was Ronan. His knees between Adam's, his thighs, clenched tight under Adam's. Ronan hadn't moved his other hand from Adam's t-shirt. Ronan's stomach was hard and unyielding under his, but it gave with each passing breath anyway. He was so warm.
In the end, Adam didn't wait for Ronan to say it. He leaned in, and he kissed him.
At first, there was nothing but the shock of skin on skin – not the sort of skin that protected your inside from the outside, but thinner, so much thinner and so much more. Ronan's lips were soft, a fact which passed Adam in a blur of surprise. His teeth, beneath them, were hard.
And then there was no beneath anymore, because Ronan opened up his mouth, taking Adam's with him, and then they were falling.
Adam didn't know how much kissing in his lifetime Ronan had done, but he knew that he had nothing to compare this to. Through the shock of the doing, though, he could feel the ever encompassing need. He had thought, maybe, that kissing would be it, in and of itself, and hadn't anticipated the rest of his body waking up and clamoring for more, more, more.
He breathed in through his nose and let Ronan inside his mouth as much as Ronan wanted, giving him as much as he would take.
He couldn't stop.
He was aware of so many things, all at once. The velvet softness of Ronan's tongue as counterpoint to the nearly violent way in which he used it; the whiskey sourness of their breath mingling in the spaces between; their noses slotting into place so that they could go deeper, harder, more.
Then he felt Ronan's hands – the spidery, wide-knuckled fingers Adam had once noticed and never stopped noticing – snaking around his skull and burying themselves in Adam's hair.
Then he moaned. Then he found himself out of breath as his back hit the bed.
Ronan loomed over him, heavy-lidded and real and terrifying. They neither one of them had bothered taking their clothes off the night before, and now Adam couldn't tell if it had been smart or entirely stupid.
Layers between them, and Ronan was still the warmest, most alive thing he had ever touched. He had grabbed Adam's wrists and pinned them to the bed. Bone ground against bone.
"Ronan." His voice sounded hoarse, unused, or too used – he couldn't tell.
The hiss of breath that escaped Ronan's lips was like the mist that rolled through Cabeswater. It surrounded him, felt vital in a way that he could never explain, not really. "Parrish." A pause. "Adam."
If the first word had sounded like a curse, the second felt like a benediction. Adam bucked up against him, hadn't even thought before he'd done it, and Ronan lowered himself – slowly; so slowly – until they were kissing once more.
Things happened fast after that. Adam found that as soon as you lose higher functioning, your body does as you want it to.
They were urgency made flesh. Ronan was a wave crashing over him, stripping him of breath. Adam was a counterpoint, clumsy and alive, so, so alive.
They lost their shirts first, and Adam's hands were prickling with the impossible softness of Ronan's skin, the impossible hardness of what lay beneath. Ronan's breath was like a third presence in Adam's tiny apartment. Then his hands – or Adam's – or both – were undoing jeans, Ronan's black and Adam's blue, and then they were kicking them off, and then they were off, and then Ronan was pushing him into the bed, entirely stripped.
"Fuck." It had been ripped from his throat. Adam couldn't breathe. The shock of Ronan like this – exposed; exposed completely – was almost more than he could bear.
He gave a heave, throwing all of his unimpressive strength behind it, and rolled them over. Ronan gasped.
Adam looked down.
Ronan was all pale skin in the strip of orange light that came through the windows; pale skin and shocking dark dick, hard and obvious. Adam blinked and licked his lips. He had no idea what he was doing, but he didn't think he needed to.
He lowered himself, careful not to look Ronan in the face, and touched his nose to the space between Ronan's pecs. He had never seen that space before. In all the years of friendship, he had only ever seen Ronan covered up.
He was…haunting. Hard, unsubtle, like everything that lay beneath, and soft in places you would not expect. Adam, surprised into courage, touched his lips to the spot beneath them. A hint of hair tickled, and he slid further down, explored the place where Ronan's breath was coming in fast and hard.
It was very strange to be provoking Ronan and getting silence in return.
Growing braver still, he went down and down, the long lines of Ronan's body pointing to the inevitability of his hips, the grooves throwing hard shadows over softer flesh. Adam licked first one, then the other. Ronan's dick slid across his chin and up his cheek.
Neither of them breathed.
Ronan's scent was stronger here, nothing you could ever mistake for anything else. Somewhere in this bed, their crushed moss confused Adam's senses. It was like Cabeswater, only more.
He lifted up and ran a single finger down the length of Ronan's dick. A hitch of breath above him. Biting his lip, he wrapped a hand around the head and his thumb encountered a wetness; he became aware of how hard he was himself. Fuck. Ronan was a live wire beneath him.
He'd known. He'd known for a while that Ronan had wanted him. But knowing and experiencing were, he realized, so very different from each other.
He couldn't think anymore, anyway. He lowered his face until he could wrap his lips around the place where Ronan needed most.
"Adam, fuck." Ronan's voice was barely anything in the dark, but it was a precise something, going straight for Adam's jugular. The next second, Ronan's fingers grabbed hold of his hair. Adam sucked in a breath through his nose and went down more.
There was a lot of dick for one mouth, Adam thought dizzily, but he did what he could. He did what he wanted to, and went back up, allowing his tongue to drag up along the length in a way that felt like running his hands through moss or the softest summer grass.
Then he went down again. Then he lost himself in it.
Ronan's scent filling his nostrils, Ronan's taste on his tongue, Ronan's hands pinning him in place. Ronan's legs strung tight as a bowstring beneath him. Ronan invaded him in a way he could not control, everywhere and all at once. His jaw ached.
Adam didn't know what time it was. All he knew was that it was the darkest of the night, and they floated out of space and time. He would not have dared this if it had been dawn.
"Come – come up – Adam, please." Ronan's voice floated down but it took him a while to understand. Flushing, he pulled off and made himself catch Ronan's eye.
Ronan's hand – the one that wasn't clenching Adam's hair – was clinging to the shape of his skull in a way that undid Adam just then. Ronan's biceps was curled, hard and big, but all Adam saw was the undefended underneath, the pale back of his arm, the elbow. There was a dark smudge high on his forehead, and Adam's heart yoinked in his chest until he saw it for what it was – a bit of soil from the moss.
Everything Ronan about Ronan was falling away, somehow, and Adam moved up, when urged, and kissed him because his mouth sought more, more Ronan and taste and scent and flesh.
He gave in when Ronan made to roll them over, tongues sliding against each other in a way that echoed what Adam had already done to him, and when, on impulse, he ran a single finger down Ronan's back, Ronan shuddered against him. Adam got the strangest feeling that, if he did it again, he would taste salt.
He didn't do it again. Instead, he wrapped his legs around Ronan – before he could think about it too much – and ground up, let Ronan feel him where he was so fucking hard.
God, God, God, that felt so – he did it again; again; again. Ronan met him halfway, which was a strange thought because it was Ronan, and because they were already so close, there was no air between them. They ground up against each other, harder, faster, and it was wet and hot and Adam realized he was going to come already. He was so close, and Ronan's skin beneath his hands was only making it worse. He had no defenses left, no way to protect himself at all.
He wanted Ronan to touch him the way he'd touched him, but it was too late, now, he knew. For now, it was too late. He kissed him again instead, felt Ronan opening up to him, soft and pliable and loud, like a shock, his groans lost in Adam's throat. He could barely hold on, and then Ronan's fingers dug into the side of his hip, and Ronan shuddered in his arms. He shook and swore and wetness spread between them and on Adam's lip. Ronan had bitten him.
Adam gasped, threw back his head, and came, and came, and came.
When he stopped floating out in misty space, he discovered Ronan's lips at the base of his throat. His pulse pounded through them both for a long, silent moment.
He turned his head, and outlined against the window, sitting on the sill, was Chainsaw. She hadn't been there earlier. She sat, motionless, as Ronan stirred against him and Adam released him from his grip.
They were quiet. No, silent. No. Quiet, because silences were different. Adam's breath and pulse were uneven warring beats in his lungs and veins. The wet spot on his stomach was becoming unbearable but he didn't know what to do now; how it worked.
Then Ronan held himself up over him, hands planted hard into the mattress on either side of Adam's shoulders, and looked him in the eye. His mouth was the only soft thing about him.
His skull was a concrete shape; no ambiguity. Adam, led by yet another impulse, lifted up his hand and ran his palm from front to back, the tickle of each hair like a grounder. He left his hand to cradle Ronan's neck and thought of what to say.
Before he could open his mouth, Ronan spoke. A reckless uncertainty clung to him in a way Adam could not pinpoint. "This," he said, voice quiet. Then he stopped. Adam's brain, sluggish after sex, performed a backwards dance to try to figure out what Ronan was referring to.
Then it clicked.
"It wasn't a nightmare?" he asked after a moment.
Ronan shook his head, and Adam felt the movement precisely against his palm. Bone and sinew and buzzed hair.
He hadn't been convulsing, not like that time in St. Agnes. Ronan had been dreaming, and Adam had been with him, and he had been shaking, and he'd brought back a tuft of moss.
Reaching up with his other hand, Adam traced the line of Ronan's brow, a sweep from the middle and out. Then he traced the straight line of his nose. Then he felt a warm puff of air when his thumb encountered a slack mouth.
"Scared?" he asked, feeling the very opposite.
Ronan of a few hours ago probably would have sneered. Maybe told Adam to go fuck himself and that he wasn't a pussy.
Ronan now slowly nodded his head, then said, "No."
Adam understood. He himself had felt like a contradiction until Cabeswater. Until Blue. Until Ronan.
On the windowsill, Chainsaw fluttered her wings.
"You okay?" Gansey asked. Well, shouted, really. The Pig was really having it this morning.
"Yeah." Adam gave him a sidelong glance. What could Gansey tell? "Why wouldn't I be?"
Gansey shrugged as he put the Pig into gear. "I don't know, actually. Just thought I'd ask."
Gansey would have already seen Ronan. Would Ronan have said something? Adam thought for a moment, then rejected it as a possibility. No, Ronan would have just shut himself up in his room and then done – Adam didn't know. Ronan things.
"Ronan was weird this morning," Noah said conversationally from the backseat. Adam hadn't seen him there. It was probably because he hadn't been there.
Adam was quiet, then he said, "Weird how?"
In the rearview mirror, Noah shrugged, translucent in the sunlight. "Not like Ronan."
Adam bit his lip and forced down a smile. Then he forced a shrug. "Ronan's always Ronan. Even when he isn't."
"Too true," Gansey muttered as he peeled out of the lot. "We're picking him up later, by the way. He's napping, apparently. So, Blue first."
"Worn out," Noah said dreamily from the back and Adam felt a prickle all down his spine. "Must be the heat."
"Yeah," Adam nodded, his mind racing away from the car and to the stifling room filled with dreams. Dreams and Ronan and everything in between. "Must be."
Gansey hit the radio button. They sped off to get Blue.