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As he lay on soft Cabeswater ground, Ronan was aware of small, inconsequential things. The heavy sweep of his eyelashes as he blinked slowly in and out of conscious thought; the twitching of his left foot where it lay against a pile of leaves; the warm, steadying pulse of the other heartbeats around him.

He blinked, slowly, until the blink was simply the lightly treading sleep he had not prepared for.

Behind Ronan’s eyelids, Adam lay beside him. Moss became mattress, grass became sheets. Cool air played over Ronan’s skin – so much of it, suddenly exposed. Warm breath played over his lips, and where there hadn’t been a kiss before, one grew now. Deep and flaying, searing his very core. Mouths heavy with want, gasping out question and answer in the same breath. Ronan felt silky skin beneath his fingers; the shock of an answering touch skittering down his back.

"Ronan."

He opened his eyes.

Gansey's boat shoes filled his vision, a stick poking Ronan in the rib. "Time to go, I think."

Gansey's hadn't been the voice he'd heard before being prodded awake.

He blinked and, behind the boat shoes and tan ankles, Adam's face grew into sharp focus.

He was looking straight at Ronan.

His eyes were round, shocked into complete stillness. His cheeks were pink. One hand curled around grass, and Ronan watched, with a slow dawning of awareness, the way Adam's knuckles grew white as he tightened his hold on the ground.

Cabeswater, Ronan realized. Cabeswater had taken his dream and shared it with the only other person who could ever be close enough to Cabeswater to see it.

Ronan scrambled up and, without turning around, went to where Matthew was talking to their mother. He sat in the front and didn't dare look at Adam the entire way home.

Betrayed by an ancient forest that had sworn to protect him. Some days Ronan disliked being Ronan more than he could express.

*

"All right," Gansey said, taking off his glasses and setting them down on the floor next to him. He was surrounded by misshaped paper and half-gone glue, bits of cardboard littering a confetti outline all around him. If he stood up, Ronan was pretty sure it would look like the remains of a crime scene, after the body had been taken away. "What's with you and Adam?"

Ronan hadn't been paying much attention to Gansey speaking up until that point, knowing that Gansey did not always require an active audience. This, though, made Ronan jump inside his skin a little, though he was careful to not let it show.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" he asked, tapping a single finger against the newly glued wall of a miniature Henrietta Public Library, just to annoy Gansey.

Gansey predictably slapped his hand away, then gave a gusty sigh and leaned back on his elbows. If Ronan were to look him in the eye, he was fairly certain he would see Gansey pinning him with a gaze, but he wasn't about that life, so he skittered his own gaze away and looked up at the ceiling, instead.

"You haven't been in the same room as him for days. I've been watching – he pulls in, and you leave. Are you two fighting again?"

Ronan considered and discarded saying yes. But even if he didn't know that Gansey would just try to help them "work through it" or something equally annoying in his own Gansey way, it didn't feel right to say it. He wouldn't lie, but he could evade. "I've just been busy with my own shit. I do have a life outside of here, you know." He lowered his eyes until they were slits, staring Gansey down, daring him to contradict him.

Gansey rolled his own eyes instead. "Okay, tough guy, suit yourself." Ronan thought maybe that would be that, then, but Gansey hesitated, fiddling with the cardboard, eyes trained on nothing in particular. "I just think he's worried, that's all. And you know how it is when Adam worries."

Ronan didn't even have the strength for a good scoff. He shrugged and kept on evading, plucking an invisible piece of lint from his sweats. "He always worries, man. Nothing's gonna stop him."

Gansey fixed him with a slight frown, when Ronan made the mistake of meeting his eye. "He's our friend, Ronan."

Ronan shrugged again. It felt, and probably looked, just a little too forced.

Gansey finally dropped it, though.

*

The problem was, as always, that Gansey wasn't wrong. In fact, he was annoyingly right, and avoiding Adam had become a sort of untamed monster in Ronan's head, unpredictable and difficult to manage.

He could not, sour realization dawning, avoid him forever.

Blue said as much as she bulldozed her way past him into Monmouth, and Noah, appearing as always out of absolutely fucking nowhere, nodded vigorously behind her. For a shrimp, she could pull off intimidation better than most people Ronan had ever encountered.

"You know you're hurting his feelings, right?" she said now, leveling him with her patented I will rip your balls out through your throat if you say a single wrong word stare.

Ronan, manfully, rolled his eyes. "He'll deal, maggot."

She stomped on his foot with her combat boot. He shrugged, unconcerned.

"Why must you always be such a dick?" she said, exasperated.

"Can't change my brand, I'm patented," he told her, when what he really wanted to ask was if Adam had said anything about hurt feelings, or was he simply doing his sad-face routine without realizing it? He didn't, though, because whenever his resolve became too weak, all Ronan had to do was flash back to the dream at Cabeswater and Adam's shocked (grossed out? Betrayed? He had no idea) expression and suddenly, it was the easiest thing in the world, never seeing him again if he could help it. He could try, anyway.

So, he went to the Barns and got drunk, instead, because not thinking was good.

Not thinking was great.

There were nights when all he wanted was to feel this outside of himself, this mellow and detached, and drive and drive and drive. Drive until he caught grassland under his wheels, then whipped through nothing but dust and desert, and then dove nose-first into the ocean, soaring over empty air for all eternity.

But he wasn't an idiot, and so he didn't. He used to get drunk at St. Agnes, but now – now he had a better place for it. A place where Gansey wouldn't easily catch him at it, and Ronan wouldn't have to see that look on his face. He couldn't handle that look on his face.

He stretched out on the cool grass on one of his father's fields and let the whiskey bottle slide from his grip. Or maybe he didn't let it; maybe it just did.

He didn't know anymore.

He smiled as he watched Chainsaw soaring above him, calling his name as if she too caught the bug of his nameless intoxicated passing joy, and together, they spent the night under the stars of the Barns, not thinking, not dreaming, not doing anything much at all.

*

"You look like crap. And you worried Gansey last night." Adam's precise accent punctuated how pissed off he was, leaning in Ronan's doorway way past when he should have been in school, and the angry timbre of his voice made furious demons out of Ronan's brains.

Ronan groaned and rolled over so he was facing the wall, instead. He'd texted Gansey in the wee hours of the morning as he drove back, and he didn't need a fucking babysitter checking in on him, making sure he didn't vomit in his bed. He definitely didn't need for it to be Adam.

"Fuck off," he managed through his cottonmouth. "Gansey knows I'm fine." He wiped a line of drool from his mouth. "What the fuck are you doing here, anyway? I'm fine."

There was a long pause in which Ronan focused on how his head was going to explode behind his eyelids, and then Adam said mildly, "Fine. Go fuck yourself, then," and two minutes later, Ronan heard the satisfying thud of the front door nearly coming off the hinges.

Fuck.

"Kerah!"

"Oh, fuck right off," he moaned and squeezed his eyes shut. "Don't think I won't fucking stuff you if you don't shut the fuck up."

Chainsaw couldn't slam doors as well as humans, but he still heard the rebuke in the sound of her wings fluttering out of the room.

*

Gansey gathered them all at 300 Fox Way for reasons unknown to Ronan. It was absolutely, without a single doubt, the last place Ronan wanted to be, but Gansey had given him no fucking choice, so here he fucking was.

Maybe Gansey could handle half of Henrietta's women being constantly underfoot, or the grief of recent loss clinging to the walls and the ceilings and the occupants, all diminished or dimmed, or Orla and her everything, but Ronan could not.

He felt choked by it all, and Chainsaw, sharing his agitation, fluttered anxiously over his head, landing on one shoulder one minute, and another the next.

He knew, without having to look, that Adam was watching him from his spot at the table. It made Ronan's skin itch and his teeth ache. He knew he was flushing, heat spreading across his face and down his neck, but could do total shit about it. He scowled and kept his eyes on Gansey.

"Blue, thank you for letting us use your house for this gathering," Gansey said.

A gentle clearing of a female throat.

"Uh, and Maura, of course."

A less gentle cough – more like an audible sneer, really – from another female of the house.

"Calla, too. Uhm. Thank you." Now it was Gansey's turn to flush, and Ronan felt his mouth lifting in a grin. Sheer habit forced his gaze to catch on Adam, who was determinedly not looking at Gansey, and Ronan just saw the slight lift to his cheeks that was Adam's version of a belly laugh when Adam lifted his head and caught his eye.

Shit.

Ronan looked away immediately and cursed on the inside, picking at a scab under his bracelets. The house was stifling. He scratched the back of his neck and decided that the safest course of action would be looking down at the floor.

Orla had clomped around the corner and taken up room directly beside him in her bright green stilettos. As always, he ignored her pointed wafts of perfume, but ended up studying her complicated pedicure as he listened to Gansey, who stopped stumbling now that it was established whose house they were in.

"We know something happened after we left the cave," he said, only to be interrupted by Gwenllian the next moment.

"Wake up, wake up, you sleeping dogs…"

Ronan, unable to stop himself, looked up and caught Blue staring daggers at the crazy witch. For all that Blue aggravated the shit out of him, he lived for the moments when her fury was turned on someone else.

"Jesus Christ, will you let someone finish talking for once?" she snapped, then looked away and caught Ronan's eye. For a second she just stared, stubborn, and then she smirked at him, like she couldn't stop herself, looking away the next moment, the smirk still hiding in the corners of her mouth. Ronan grinned.

"Right. Exactly, Gwenllian," Gansey continued, apparently ignoring Blue's outburst, ever the gallant gentleman. "And Adam says he's been feeling a certain…shift, like a growing change, in Cabeswater more and more each day."

Was Adam saying that? It made sense. Ronan's dreams, whenever he allowed them sober, were becoming – more. More in a way that was like when you picked up speed you hadn't realized your engine could pick up. It made him lightheaded, made him aware of his own body in ways he hadn't been before, down to the smallest molecules.

"I think this means we're getting closer, or maybe it's trying to tell us something. I think it's probably both."

He sounded so sure, did Gansey. Ronan watched him, their golden leader. Gansey was beautiful. He was beautiful like a sculpture was beautiful. Of course he was a flesh and blood boy, as real as Ronan, just as ready to bleed. But there was something about him that made him untouchable, even if he was easy to touch - a fist bump, an arm slung around his neck, a shoulder to grab when Ronan staggered. He was beautiful, and he was theirs, and Ronan would follow him to the very depths of the earth to find Glendower, but just in that moment, Gansey filled the room in a way that choked him.

He swallowed against Gansey's determination and made as little sound as possible as he slunk past Mr. Gray and tripped over a tiny child on his way out the door.

The cool air hit him all at once. Winter was close, so close. His jacket was barely enough to stop his teeth from chattering. He breathed in slowly through his nose, then watched as Chainsaw landed on the BMW as if daring him to say anything about it. He just squinted at her.

"Ronan."

Not turning around, Ronan hung his head. Of course. Mismatched furniture and a lot of human bodies had been barricading Adam in, but he caught up with him anyway.

Ronan felt the pull of his gaze at his back like an inevitability. You can run, Lynch, but you can't hide.

"What." He'd meant for it to sound off-putting, mean. It didn't.

"Stop avoiding me." Adam's voice was at once quieter and closer than it had been a moment before.

Ronan could not have possibly been able to tell the precise distance between them, but the hair on the back of his neck stood up with the closeness. "I'm –"

"Don't lie. You're not a liar."

Ronan shut his mouth. He'd spent so much of last week working on avoiding Adam, he hadn't actually considered what he would do once Adam found him. His entire body was now made of awareness. He wanted the wind to die, so the leaves would quiet, so he could listen to Adam's breathing and know what he was thinking.

That wasn't how it worked, but that's how it had sometimes felt it worked, in moments when he knew Adam. It didn't feel like it at all, now.

And then the wind died, and the leaves quieted, and he heard Adam's breathing. Even; soft; considering.

He couldn't help it. He turned his head.

It had grown dark around them, and the shape of Adam in his periphery was merely that – a shape. He was close, but he eluded Ronan, anyway. Ronan refused to turn around.

"You can fuck with weather now?" Ronan asked. He didn't need to ask, though. He knew.

A small shrug and quiet rustle of fabric. "It's a recent development." Too matter-of-fact for it to be anything but.

"And you can read my thoughts."

"No." Firm. Not a lie. "I can't."

Ronan looked ahead once more. Chainsaw had disappeared somewhere. Traitor. He forced himself to speak. "Doesn't matter, anyway, I guess. You know."

"I…" Adam paused and Ronan strained to pick up any clues from the silence. He wished himself miles away. His pits and his palms itched but he didn't scratch them. "I have known."

Ronan chewed on his lip and then he laughed despite himself. It sounded hollow, like he was a cavern inside. An old feeling, crawling back up his spine. "Right. Has it been fun?"

"Ronan –"

Now Ronan did turn, fast and decisive. He got in Adam's face, enjoying for a brief moment the intimidating lean of his own body and the two inches he had on him. "Look, I'm not an idiot. No matter what you may think, I did realize you knew. But I sort of hoped you'd have the decency not to rub my fucking face in it, you know?" He pawed at the back of his neck, scratching an itch. "But here you are anyway. What did you come out here to say? Oh, hey, Ronan, can't stop laughing about your little dream? Hot shit, am I right? Yeah, 'in your dreams' is taking on a whole new meaning – good stuff, you should fucking write about it in your goddamn diary!"

He was shouting now, keeping himself in check enough that he wouldn't hit anything; anyone. Adam, pale in the dark, wasn't backing down. Ronan had taken a step forward, but Adam hadn't taken the bait, and now Ronan was nearly chest to chest with him, and he could smell Adam's breath. Sweet tea and mint. Gum, he thought crazily. Not mint leaves. That's not Adam.

Abruptly, his voice left him and he stood there like an idiot, fists clenched, robbed of any agency because Adam – wouldn't – fucking – stand – back.

"Are you finished?" Adam asked. The whole of Henrietta echoed in his voice, lending him the cadence of native. Adam was born of Henrietta, and he had resisted Henrietta, and he had become Henrietta, his roots as deep as her roots, his mind as big as Cabeswater's.

Ronan, stupid, hopeless Ronan, longed for him like he had longed for the Barns during his exile. More now, because he was longing for something he had never had.

He stepped back.

Adam stayed where he was.

"It's the trees," Adam said, as if Ronan hadn't just yelled in his face, as if his words made any sense at all. "The trees knew what you wanted, and they told me."

Ronan, his breath still coming in fast and heart beating even faster, felt slow and stupid. "What the fuck?"

"You're the Greywaren. The trees know you," Adam explained, like they were still in school or something, and he was explaining an obvious equation. He was almost preternaturally calm. Ronan's heart refused to slow down. He had no idea what to think.

"Yeah? So?"

"And, so, they talk to me," Adam said reasonably.

Ronan's ribcage was going to shatter. No, no, no. It hadn't just been the dream, then. It had been everything. Fuck Cabeswater, and fuck being the Greywaren, and fuck Adam's fucking magic.

"Fuck this." Ronan turned on his heel – he couldn't look at the calm lines of Adam's face, familiar and so different at the same time – and reached the BMW in two strides.

"Shit, Ronan, wait – please –" Adam sounded urgent now, but Ronan couldn't. He couldn’t stay.

Without saying another word, he folded himself in and slammed the door. Through metal and glass he heard his name called out again – human and bird alike – but he stuck his key in the ignition, put his foot on the gas, and reversed the fuck out of 300 Fox Way as fast as he could without killing his engine.

*

He didn't realize where he was going until his headlights were illuminating the unknowable depths of Cabeswater in the distance. Slamming the door, he strode toward it. It had gotten even colder, and his hands were beginning to ache with it. It didn't shock him when he felt two clawed feet dig into his shoulder.

"Kerah!"

"Found me, did you?" he told her. "You were the one who left me in the first place."

He felt her hard feathers brush his cheek then settle below his jaw, ruffling in the wind. She made an unintelligible sort of noise.

He reached up and patted her head, her beak catching his fingers in a hard grip. "Sorry," he said, softer now. He didn't break his stride.

She flew into Cabeswater before his legs could reach it.

In the dark, all by himself, he thought he felt the acidic taste of fear. Was it? But he was the Greywaren. He didn't have to be afraid.

Did he?

The wind was stronger inside than out. He shivered as it got below the collar of his coat and slithered through the slit where his shirt had ridden up over his jeans. He tugged as much fabric down and over his skin as he could, but it felt like it would never be enough. Nothing would ever be enough to stave off the persistent chill that now wrapped around his body, down to his toes.

"Quare?" he yelled, looking up at the tress that seemed like strangers now. "Quid sum tibi?"

The trees rustled harder, a symphony of noise he could not parse. Then, like one voice, they whispered, "Miseria."

Ronan almost choked on his anger. "I am your Greywaren! I help protect you! I am not your unhappiness!" Then he yelled it again, in Latin.

"Not our unhappiness," came the ancient Latin whispers. "Your own."

"But it's mine!" he screamed. "Do you fucking hear me? Mine, it belongs to me, not you! This is mine!"

He gave to Cabeswater and he took from Cabeswater but it always wanted more and more and more. Was this what Adam felt all the time? This constant, insidious stripping of every secret, every hidden thing that you could no longer keep hidden, because it no longer belonged to you? "Leave it alone!"

"Via sua clarum est," they told him, and when he screamed, they only replied in a cacophony of rustling leaves. The trees were done with this conversation.

His road wasn't clear. He didn't even know where his road was.

Christ.

He fell to his knees, still shivering, the hard ground cold beneath him. For so long, he had wanted Adam to want him, to respond to him the way everything in Ronan responded to Adam. To turn towards him like a plant seeking sunlight – instinctual, necessary, wanting. But he didn't want this. This wasn't real. This was Cabeswater's caprice, not Ronan's truth.

He didn't know how long he crouched there. He was aware of nothing but the sounds of Cabeswater moving on without him and Chainsaw circling him in protective bursts.

When he came back to himself it was through a warm touch to the nape of his neck. He'd know that touch anywhere. It almost broke him, choking a sob from his throat.

"Mom," he gasped out, then looked up. She was crouched beside him, so other in the forest. She tilted her head and for a moment, she and his raven were one and the same. He blinked and the illusion shattered.

"Ronan," she said, her voice soft as always. "What can I do, love?"

Ronan shook his head. He tried to pull himself back together, but he felt like a collection of disparate parts. The only warm place was where his mother held him. His voice sounded hoarse when he tried to answer. "N-nothing. I." He'd never told her. He'd never told anyone. They either knew or they didn't. "I can't say."

He couldn't look her in the face, either. She ducked down until she forced their gazes to meet, and then she smiled. What a sad, knowing smile it was. Nothing like the happy one she would give him each morning he woke up as a child. "You do not trust a dream thing," she said.

"No!" He had dislodged her hand when he jolted up and when she made no move to put it back, he found it and gripped it between his own. She allowed it. "You're… you're mom. Of course I trust you." And he did. "But it's…"

Had Niall known? What a strange thing to wonder. Of course he had. They were the Greywaren. Niall knew everything about him.

"It isn't because of Cabeswater, you know," she said like she hadn't heard him. "He doesn't love you because of that."

For a moment, Ronan thought she meant Niall. Then he thought, has she forgiven him for dying and leaving her in Purgatory? And then he thought, oh.

He hung his head and turned his gaze away. He watched the knees of her white dress get muddy in the ground. "How do you know?" It came out in a whisper.

"Dreams know more than others." When he finally looked at her, a crease had appeared between her brows. She hadn't aged a day since he'd freed her from sleep. She hadn't aged a day since she'd first fallen into sleep at all. "And mothers know more than anyone."

He laughed despite himself, then was horrified to discover snot and tears running down his face. He wiped his sleeved arm under his nose and over his mouth, trying to get rid of the worst of it. A hiccup escaped, too. He was reduced to a five year-old, crying about every hurt to his mother. She smelled the same now as she had then. "I don't know what to do," he admitted through his clogged throat.

"Don't cry, baby," she whispered, taking the brunt of his weight onto her chest as she hugged him, as if he wasn't half a foot taller and forty pounds heavier. "You're okay. You are just fine."

He clutched her shoulders and allowed her to cradle him as he breathed through the snot. He could not remember the last time he'd done this.

"You're okay," she kept saying, rocking them both back and forth. "You're okay."

*

He drove back in that weird space between night and dawn. Turned the music up to eleven, zipped the windows all the way down, and let the road guide him.

He had fallen into a dreamless sleep for a scant few hours, his body remembering all the ways his mother could shield him from hurts. Aurora never slept in Cabeswater, and when he woke up, back and legs aching, she was simply watching him – serene and safe and smiling.

Now, he was struggling to keep his eyes open, but the music wouldn't let him pass out. He drove until he hit Main Street, and then he squealed into his spot in the lot, and he let himself out, and then he walked the opposite way from Monmouth Manufacturing.

The lock of the administrative offices' front door was easier than his own to get past. He rattled it a bit, slid a credit card through, and then slowly made his way up the stairs, automatically ducking at the turn that always threatened to brain him.

Only then did he stop and think about what he was actually doing. It was four in the morning, and while it wasn't a school day, Adam probably had work in a few hours. Ronan wasn't worth a missing shift, not with what a dick he'd been back at Blue's house. Hell, maybe his friends had made plans for today that he hadn't been apprised of because he'd used up all his chances.

He sagged against the wall and slowly slid down, burying his face in his knees. He had no idea what he was doing. Maybe if he could just get some more sleep, the world wouldn't feel so tilted and disconnected.

He tried and failed to get up. His whole body was made of lead. Was he over-reacting? Probably. He squeezed his eyes shut, blinked, then simply let them slide closed.

He didn't register the initial click and creak that should have alerted him to Adam opening the door, but then Adam's low, tired voice drawled, "You planning on coming in?" and Ronan couldn't help himself – he laughed.

It was actually half-laugh, half-groan. Never fall in love with a magician.

"No," he told his knees. It came out muffled, but everything was muffled, so he didn't move. "No, I'm gonna sit here until I'm fused to this fucking wall."

"Calcification takes a long time," Adam said after a pause. "I'd probably trip over you and fall down the stairs at some point."

Ronan finally lifted his head. It was heavy, so he let it thump against the wall. He looked at Adam sideways, taking him in.

His t-shirt was rumpled, and the sweats he had slept in were worn to threads. Ronan's gaze skittered down, leapt away. Adam's hair was up in spikes and tufts, weirdly reminiscent of Blue. Ronan scowled. Adam just looked so…warm. Warm and inviting and like he would smell of sleep and pillows and every fucking comfort Ronan could barely remember at this point.

Adam leaned against his door like he couldn't support his own weight. Ronan could sympathize. "Have you been mud wrestling?"

Ronan, slow in his movements, shrugged without looking away. "Maybe. Can't remember."

Adam's soft laugh sounded like it happened against his will. He shook his head, looking away, then shuffled backwards. "Jesus, just come in already."

It took Ronan approximately one hundred years to make his body unfold and do his bidding. During that time, he let out every curse he had in his arsenal because his every bone and joint seemed to reverberate pain. He used to swear up a storm just to make Adam Parrish, Gansey's unlikely new recruit into friendship, blush.

Now when he looked at Adam, his pink cheeks could only be attributed to having been woken up at ass o'clock in the morning and made to deal with Ronan's pathetic bullshit.

It took his legs two steps to get to the door, and a third step carried him through. Adam, still holding onto the doorjamb, looked him in the eye. He hadn't stepped back. He smelled a little bit like sleep sweat, a little bit like the fresh air that circulated through his open window. He smelled a lot like Adam and Ronan was swaying on his feet, but he could not make himself move away.

"You're like a war horse," Adam murmured, and Ronan watched, confused, as Adam's free hand lifted and fell onto Ronan's chest. Ronan looked at where it rested, a single spot of warmth on his torso, then lifted his gaze. "Asleep on your feet," Adam clarified softly, and Ronan found himself transfixed by the small lift at the corners of Adam's thin lips.

"Am I asleep?" he asked, blinking. He could honestly no longer tell.

Adam tilted his head. Still didn't move away. God, he was warm. "Do you feel asleep?"

Ronan knew, somewhere in his mind, he shouldn't have been there, knew he should have been embarrassed or angry or, at the very least, putting some distance between them, but he was, and he wasn't, and he couldn't make himself do it. He shook his head. "No. But I think I'm probably dreaming anyway."

"Probably," Adam agreed, easy as pie, and then slipped his hand down until he was gripping Ronan's hand, and finally shut his front door. Ronan's pulse skittered. "Bed's over there. I get the left side." A pause. "You're kind of filthy and I just washed the sheets, so…"

Ronan blinked and nodded. "Got it." He was barely aware of fighting with the button of his dirty jeans – his hands were still frozen – and of finally succeeding and slipping them off his legs, and then he thought he felt a cheap mattress coming up to meet him and a thin blanket settle over his legs, and then he felt nothing at all.

*

When Ronan opened his eyes, it was true morning. Sunlight filtered through the small dusty window and he blinked several times through his crusty eyes before he realized why it was slightly slanted.

Adam perched on the sill, still wearing his threadbare t-shirt and sweats, a cup of something steaming clutched between his hands. Ronan couldn't tell if Adam was watching him back. He slipped his eyes closed just enough that it might look like he was still asleep, and then watched his fill.

What time was it? The sun position suggested late morning, but it couldn't have been – Adam would have been long gone. Ronan wondered if he was drinking coffee made in the shitty dollar store Mr. Coffee Ronan had brought over a few weeks ago. Adam had frowned at it then, probably calculating how much it had cost and if the coffee was worth it. Ronan hadn't really seen him use it before, but the smell of coffee was unmistakable now in the small room.

He closed his eyes for real and wondered if he could wait Adam out and then slink away once he was at work.

He wished he could remember what it had felt like, sleeping in the same bed. The few hours had been precious now they were lost. He could barely even remember how he got here.

"Stop thinking so much." The quiet pronouncement was followed by the sound of Adam taking a sip of coffee.

Ronan squeezed his eyes shut and willed for the floor to open up and swallow him whole.

"Seriously, you're gonna give yourself a migraine." Adam sounded – amused. Not pissed off or grossed out.

It was so weird, Ronan couldn't help opening his eyes and sitting up. The blanket slipped down to his knees. "What time is it?"

"Morning. Nine," Adam said. His face was still half-hidden by the sun spilling over his back and throwing shadows where Ronan didn’t want them. Ronan needed Adam to move, he needed to see.

"Aren't you – what about work?" Ronan scratched his head, the familiar feel of the buzzed hair under his fingers grounding him a bit. His stomach was in knots.

Adam just shrugged. Then he took another sip of coffee.

Ronan rubbed his face with both hands, attempting to figure out what the fuck was happening. He felt as if he hadn't had a normal day since that fucking dream in Cabeswater. Everything was upside down, tilted on its axis. It was his father's dreaming herd all over again.

He really couldn't even be sure he wasn't dreaming, still.

He heard movement – the slide of fabric that meant Adam had moved off the windowsill – and then a dip in the mattress, dangerously close to Ronan's legs. His heart began to beat hard against his ribs.

He lifted his face and his hands fell away, listless by his sides.

Adam was watching him. His gaze was so open, it sent a shudder all down Ronan's spine. "So, you've been avoiding me." Adam said it like it was fact.

Ronan couldn't argue. It was. "Yeah."

"You know that was shitty, right?" No rebuke there, just more facts. "And stupid."

Ronan couldn't help the breath of a laugh that escaped him, and looked away. "Have you met me?" He thought he spotted Chainsaw outside but it could have been any other raven. Christ, had he forgotten to take her back again? He was losing it.

"Are you saying that you're shitty?" Adam asked, sounding more curious than anything else.

Ronan lifted one eyebrow, but bit the inside of his cheek, just short of responding.

"You can be an asshole, but you're not…" Adam paused and Ronan tightened his lips. Great. This was going really well. He wanted to get the hell out of there, but he couldn't do it without dislodging Adam and causing yet another scene. "You're not a shitty person, Ronan."

Something about the way Adam had said his name forced Ronan to look back at him. Maybe he was wrong, but it seemed like more and more these days, Adam was letting go of his carefully cultivated neutral accent. Henrietta dripped from his lips. Ronan wanted to drink it in, wanted to drink all of him in, but more than anything, he wanted to hear Adam say his given name, again and again and again.

"I'm." He stopped. He was – what? What, Ronan, what? "Look, I'm – sorry." He forced himself to stay still. To look Adam in the eye and not flinch from whatever he would see there. "I've been a shitty friend. If nothing else."

"When?"

Why was Adam so calm about this? And so – so – fucking detail-oriented? What the fuck did it matter? Why couldn't he just let Ronan go? Because everything, from how he had taken Ronan's hand last night to the way he was boxing him in so very casually right now, seemed designed to keep Ronan from bolting.

"What do you mean, when?" Ronan asked through gritted teeth. He was itchy all over. He clenched his hands in a single fist over his knees.

"This past week?"

Ronan shrugged, not dignifying that with an answer.

"Or before?"

"Jesus, Adam, all of it. Okay?" He felt his body tightening up, like it did before every fight he'd ever had with Declan. Poised on the edge of release. "Just say, okay, Ronan, and then let me fucking go, because I can't fucking take this anymore." Once started, he couldn't stop vomiting words all over them both. "Why are you doing this…this twenty questions shit? What is the point? I fucked up, all right? I fucked up, and fell – and – and decided that what I really needed to do to complete the shit-show that was my life was to like one of my best friends, and then he, apparently, figured it out, and then he saw an embarrassing graphic fucking dream about it, and now he's just fucking – what, reveling in it? Is that what's happening here? 'Cause now who's being shit-mmph!"

The rest of whatever was going to come out of his mouth got lost in the press of Adam's lips. Ronan stopped breathing. He stopped doing anything, in fact. He just – froze. Their eyes were open and Adam's two became a curious, overlapping one in this lack of distance. His face was a collection of shadows against Ronan's own.

The next second, Ronan pushed him away with a hard hand to the chest. "If you just kissed me out of pity, I swear to God I'm gonna punch your fucking lights out," he hissed, and it came out uneven and splotchy.

"Shut up, dumbass," Adam breathed, and then he grabbed hold of Ronan's t-shirt and dragged him in. And then he kissed him again.

This time, Ronan allowed himself a moment – just a moment – of savoring the taste of it. It wasn't an expert kiss or anything, but what even were those compared to Adam kissing him? It was just that – Adam's lips soft against his own. Ronan thought that if he wanted him to – if he pressed – Adam would open up for him and let him in. Adam.

But Ronan pushed him away again. This time, he held him off. "Wait, fuck. Hang on."

"What, what –" When he looked Adam in the eye, he looked a bit glazed over. Like, he was there but wasn't quite there. It was like watching him coming out of scrying.

Ronan shivered. He cleared his throat and resisted the urge to touch his own mouth. Adam was here. Fuck. "Why are you doing this?"

Adam sighed and slumped down. Ronan felt the movement of it in the balled-up fabric of Adam's t-shirt clutched in his fist. "Jesus, Ronan," Adam breathed and ran a hand through his hair. "Why do you think?"

Ronan watched him, feeling completely insane. Were they even speaking the same language? "That's why I'm asking! I have no fucking clue!"

"Because I like you, you idiot!" Adam said, and his voice went up several notches in volume as he did.

Ronan was shocked into releasing him but didn't move another muscle. "Since when?" he demanded.

Adam rolled his eyes but answered. "Since…I don't know, a while I guess."

"What the fuck's a while?"

Adam raised his chin, like facing a challenge. "What does it matter?"

Ronan paused. His heart was beating so hard, he could feel it in his wrists, in his feet for fuck's sake. He felt aware of every single part of his body. "It matters," he said, and it came out quiet.

Adam watched him, a crease between his eyebrows, like he was trying to figure him out. He looked like that in Latin a lot. But Ronan wasn't a foreign fucking language. "It was gradual," he finally replied, equally quiet. "But that doesn't make it any less true."

Ronan watched him back. He realized, suddenly, what the look Adam had been giving him last night was. The look he had on now. It was the look Ronan's father would give a spooked animal back at the farm – careful, neutral. Scared of making one wrong move.

Ronan wasn't a fucking bull, though, and if Adam had liked him, Ronan would have known. He would have picked up on it, picked up on something. Nobody watched Adam more closely than Ronan. Ronan knew this because he was always watching.

"Why didn't I know?" he demanded.

"How should I know? Maybe you don't know as much as you think you do," Adam said and there – there was the Adam Ronan knew; the prickly one, the one that got annoyed and rolled his eyes and generally considered Ronan to be a nuisance he had been forced to put up with.

It settled something in him. He tilted his head, and Adam was watching him with wary eyes, and Adam was so fucking beautiful.

"What about Cabeswater?" Ronan asked. His hands were still clenched around his knees but when Adam reached out a tentative hand and hooked a single finger in between Ronan's knotted ones, Ronan's bones threatened to dissolve right there on Adam's bed. He swallowed and deliberately did not look at where they were touching.

"What about it?" Adam was also not looking at where they were touching.

"You know, that… That… That day." Ronan cleared his throat. "The dream."

Adam nodded, and then did look down – a sort of an inward stare that Ronan could not interpret even with the help of the language puzzle box. "That, uhm…" Adam paused, cleared his own throat. "I…" Ronan watched him wince, then look away, this time turned towards a dusty corner of his room. "I already knew by then," Adam finally said. "That I liked you." He took a visible breath. "But then you ignored me for a week."

That wasn't quite what Ronan had been asking, but Adam's words rang in his ears. I already liked you. It pulsated through his veins, reverberating through his whole body.

He swallowed. "What about the trees?" he demanded.

Adam frowned. "The trees?"

Ronan would have made hand-wavy motions if his hands weren't already occupied with holding onto Adam's fingers, so instead he just tilted his chin at him. "Last night. You said the trees talked to you." A chill spread through his stomach. "Is that how you knew? Had they fucking told you everything already?"

"Knew what – oh." Adam's face cleared. "No. Ronan, you…" Adam sighed and dropped his gaze, ducking his head down. What Ronan could see of him, though, indicated he might have been smiling. "You're kind of…easy to read sometimes."

"No I'm fucking not!"

Now Adam did lift his head, and he was smiling. It changed his whole face. He looked amused, but not mean about it. Ronan felt a tightening in his stomach, his mind whirling through all the times he'd given himself away without knowing it. Christ.

"It's okay, you know," Adam said. "I liked it. Liked that you liked me." He lowered his eyes, eyelashes dusting across his cheeks. It was like a bullet to the heart, the way he looked in the spill of the dusty sunlight.

But. "You made the weather change. You stopped the breeze."

"I stopped the trees," Adam corrected. "Not the breeze." When Ronan finally caught his gaze, he blushed. "I might have over-exaggerated the weather-fucking-with thing."

Ronan bit his lip, but couldn't stop a grin from spreading. "You dickhead," he breathed.

Adam shrugged. He was grinning back, and he was still blushing. Ronan's heart was a heavy dull thud in his chest. His every cell was anticipation, despite the fact that he still didn't believe in this reality. He'd been in Adam's room a hundred times before, and it had never been like this.

"So…now what?" he asked.

Adam leaned in. Just a little, but enough that his chest bumped Ronan's arms where they were wrapped around his knees. "Now will you let me fucking kiss you already?"

Ronan swallowed. Then he dropped his hands to his sides, and he opened up his knees. He could feel a furious blush spreading all over, and he didn't care.

This time, when Adam leaned in and touched his lips to Ronan's, Ronan didn't stop him.

What he did was make a noise, just this side of embarrassing. Because it felt so good. Adam was still tentative, but Ronan wasn't. Ronan had just been given a chance and he wasn't about to fuck it up.

He hadn't not kissed anyone before, but he wasn't exactly a paragon of experience, either.

But he had dreamed. And he had dreamed. That time in Cabeswater wasn't the first dream of its kind he'd had. It hadn't even been the most vivid. Maybe if Adam knew how many times Ronan had made him groan and pant and come in dreams, he wouldn't even let Ronan near him, but he didn't. So he was still letting Ronan's lips touch his, then slip between them, and then, slowly, they opened their mouths and Ronan felt like he tumbled off a cliff without warning.

Ronan thought that one of them gasped, a wet, heavy, hot sound that he wouldn't forget in a hurry, and then Adam was on him.

Ronan fell back against the wall in sheer surprise. Adam was pushing him back, and he was between Ronan's legs, his slim hips hot and real against Ronan's inner thighs. Ronan barely had a moment to prepare himself for the moment of impact – and then he felt Adam's dick grind against his own.

It had been an accident of positioning, he knew that, but he broke off with a hiss, biting his own lip, because fuck. He hadn't realized his eyes had closed but when he opened them, Adam was staring at him with blown pupils, his cheeks covered in an uneven blush. His pink lips were wet.

"Shit," Ronan said before he could think about it.

"I know." Adam sucked in his lower lip and Ronan was transfixed by the physicality of it. He was hyped up, everything in overdrive now. "Was that too much or –"

Ronan reeled him in by the shoulder, forcing their hips together again. He was hard as a rock and he hadn't even noticed. "Come back," he begged, and this time, he was the one to start the kiss.

Adam slumped against him, and it was awkward for a moment – they were all knees and elbows and slipping sheets. Then Ronan shifted and tipped them both onto their sides. That might have been awkward, too, but Ronan hardly even noticed. He was too busy losing air as he kissed Adam, his taste heavy and incredible against Ronan's tongue.

Jesus, he couldn't stop. He could barely breathe, but he refused to stop. Adam's hands felt like they were suddenly everywhere – touching Ronan's arms, the back of his neck, running up his skull. Everywhere he touched, Ronan lit up, Adam leaving scorch marks in his wake. Ronan was burning up.

Then Adam slipped a thigh between Ronan's and Ronan ground up against him without thinking. Their edges caught, the places where there was no longer any question about who wanted whom and why and since when. There was just this now, their two bodies meeting, and it was. It was so much more than any dream Ronan had ever had.

Real, this was real. He knew it was real because Adam's sheets were slightly musty, scratchy against his skin. It was real because one of Adam's nails was ragged and kept leaving painful pinpricks on Ronan's arms. It was real because Ronan had never before smelled Adam from this close up, and he had never been this close to coming just from kissing, in a dream.

Jesus, they had to stop or this was gonna get embarrassing before anyone was ready.

He broke off the kiss but couldn't find it in himself to let go of Adam just yet. He rested his forehead against Adam's and they panted against each other for a long moment. He heard Adam swallow. Adam's skin, beneath his hands, was clammy and smooth. Impossibly soft. He memorized the feel of it all like he had with the Pig before he'd pulled it out of a dream.

But this felt like he had already done it.

"Do you," Adam said, his voice soft and almost reverent between them. "Do you want to stop?"

Ronan barely moved his head to shake it. "Fuck no." He leaned down until he could nudge Adam's nose with his own and caught his mouth with his lips. It wasn't deep, just a soft press, but it still sent shivers down his spine. "I'm just." He couldn't say it. Whatever was happening between them, he could show, but words got stuck in his throat. He steeled himself to try again. "It's just…"

"Intense," Adam supplied.

Ronan swallowed. "Yeah." Maybe if it had been dark, the middle of the night, he'd have been able to say something about how Adam was making him lose his mind, and how he would blow the second they touched again, and how badly he wanted to suck him off for hours and hours, but it was nine in the morning and he'd used up all his words already.

Adam kissed him again, but he didn't try to deepen it. It was like a confirmation – you're here; I'm here. When he pulled away, it seemed final. "Maybe we can – later?"

"God, yes." He said before he could even think. He took another breath. "Please."

When he looked at Adam, Adam was smiling. It was a small, almost insubstantial thing, but it was for Ronan and Ronan alone. Ronan bit his lip and ran a shaky hand over the line of Adam's cheekbone. Adam's eyes slipped shut.

Ronan didn't know about Adam, but he wasn't really hard anymore, and his heartbeat was slow now, and steady. "Tonight?"

"Yes." Adam opened his eyes and when he looked at Ronan like that, Ronan thought he could do anything. Be anything. Kill all hornets with a single thought. Unearth Glendower. Bring back Persephone. Pull a raven from his dreams.

*

Adam went to work. Ronan watched silently as Adam went about gathering his clothes and then, with a quick look his way, took himself into the bathroom to change. Ronan bit back some disappointment, but he got it. He could wait.

Alone in Adam's apartment, he was in no hurry to leave. Now that he was by himself, their earlier hesitation and retreat made less and less sense. They'd been so close, and he could no longer recall the feeling that made them stop; just what had come before, and the thudding, desperate want he'd felt as Adam's body had moved willingly against his.

He felt a little evil beating off in Adam's bed, and then again in Adam's shitty shower, but only a little. If Adam had decided to skip work altogether, he'd have been there to share the load.

He went through the few possessions Adam had after his shower. Walking around naked felt like an illicit thrill in itself, and he couldn't stop wondering what Adam would say if he could see what Ronan was doing. He wondered about it as he opened up Adam's Latin notebook, running a finger over the studious scrawl of Aglionby's finest. He wondered about it, too, as he peeked into a drawer that uncovered a small yet neat stack of identical boxers and undershirts and got a bit of a boner for his troubles.

Fuck, he had it bad.

Fuck, he had to get out.

If for nothing else than to have Adam peel him out of clean clothes.

He walked home in crusty jeans, his jacket covering up a fairly ripe t-shirt.

Chainsaw caught up with him halfway and nipped at his ear. "I know," he said, petting a wing. "I'm sorry. I'll do better next time." She ruffled her feathers against his ear but he knew she'd already forgiven him.

Gansey wasn't home, and with Noah nowhere to be found, he stripped off and took another, longer shower. The hot water beating down felt good, and as he ran his soapy fingers over his torso and legs and dick, he replayed, over and over, the moment when Adam had kissed him and had said, I already liked you.

"Ronan? You home?" Gansey's voice sounded fairly normal, if a bit out of breath. Maybe that was just the water.

"In here!" he called out, not bothering to give the details.

"What – oh, Jesus, Ronan, you could have said!" Gansey sounded aggrieved and irritated, which was Ronan's bread and butter.

He threw him a look over his shoulder as the water sluiced off the last of the soap. Gansey had one hand slapped over his face. "You heard the shower running, man."

"I mean, I did," Gansey said, his voice muffled by his fingers. "You are such a… Where were you last night?"

Once again, as he shut off the water and turned to grab a towel, Ronan considered lying. Once again, he discarded the possibility. "With my mom," he said, nearly casually. "And then at Adam's."

At his last words, Gansey dropped his hand – a brief look of surprise on his face – before turning around. "Please stop doing that," he begged, cracking Ronan up.

"C'mon, you've seen my junk before, man," he said as he settled the towel around his hips.

"Under duress," Gansey gritted out, and was clearly relieved when Ronan entered his line of vision covered up. "Thank you."

Ronan shrugged, grinning.

"So… Adam's?" Gansey asked, following Ronan to his room. He didn't follow him inside, just leaned against the doorframe.

Ronan sighed, then told Gansey to shut his eyes and waited until he did so to drop his towel and begin a search for clean underwear. "Yeah," he said.

"So you've stopped avoiding him, then." Stated as fact.

Ronan, underwear snapped firmly on, went for clean pants. "You saw us in the same room together last night," he reminded him.

"I saw you leave said room and not come back."

It was a valid point, but a belated one. "I came back later."

"To Adam's."

"To Adam's."

Gansey, as if sensing safety, turned around and they locked eyes. He knew, Ronan realized. He knew the reason Ronan had been avoiding Adam, and knew what had brought Ronan back. And it wasn't that he had the facts – facts were irrelevant. It was that he was Gansey. In Gansey's head existed so many pockets of worries and things he kept track of, Ronan tended to forget that there was a whole part of Gansey's brain devoted to the care and feeding of Ronan Lynch. Until something like this happened, and Ronan was reminded: Gansey knew him.

Now, as they watched each other over Ronan's threshold, he felt his back unknotting. It was the strangest feeling, relief flooding through parts that had been tense without his knowledge. He stood straighter. He felt at peace.

"Good." Gansey's lips quirked sideways, making him look like just a boy, instead of the old king-hunter who'd already died once before.

Ronan swallowed, then nodded. "Yeah, man. Thanks."

Gansey shrugged and stuck his hands in his pockets. A dimple appeared on his golden cheek. "No problem."

*

In the dark, Ronan could do anything.

Adam panted beneath him, stripped down above the waist, Ronan's fingers working on the rest. Adam's hands were hot on his skin where Ronan hadn't even bothered with a shirt at all. He'd simply waited for Adam on Adam's bed, and when Adam walked through the door, his exhaustion, visible in the low streetlight spilling through the window, seemed to dissipate as he took Ronan in.

Then Ronan took all of him in. His tongue in his mouth, his body in his arms, his hips between his legs. All of him, Ronan wanted all of him, and Adam was giving it all up, bit by bit. They needed no negotiations then, and no words.

Together, they stripped Adam down, and Ronan's hands learned and memorized all the sinew and muscle and bone that made him into Adam. Ronan's eyes drank in the sight of the slim hipbones above his pale thighs, the shadowy bumps of his ribs rising and falling fast with each uneven breath, the muscular shoulders and arms that Adam somehow managed to hide every single day beneath his bulky sweaters and baggy t-shirts.

He was powerful; so much more powerful than Ronan had ever imagined.

Ronan could no longer keep track of his own movements. He simply let his body lead him. He ran his tongue down every single inch of Adam that he could, nipping the buds of his nipples and shuddering with Adam's gasps. He slipped his hands down Adam's trembling stomach and skirted them down to his thighs, fingers catching on fine hair. Then his tongue and hands met at a single point and Adam whined above him as Ronan grinned.

He slid his tongue over the head of Adam's cock and the taste of him overwhelmed Ronan. Adam shivered beneath him.

He'd sucked cock a few times, all of them with the same Blue Mountain High kid, behind the track bleachers. He'd been terrified and even more turned on and totally shit at it the first time, but the kid never gave him up to anyone. The basketball team point guard had a lot more to lose from being outed than Ronan did. Then his family up and moved with no warning and Ronan found Niall with his brains bashed in in their driveway one early morning.

Now he emptied his mind of bullshit and lived, body and soul, in the moment when Adam reached out a hand and grabbed the back of Ronan's head, locking him in place.

Yes. God.

Ronan opened his mouth wide – wider – and received Adam's cock into his mouth with a filthy silent prayer. He took a deep breath through his nose and slipped down. His neck was turned at a shitty angle and he couldn't last with it like that so he wrestled Adam's thighs open and settled in between them. Fuck, there was nothing hotter than this – Adam draped all over him, gripping him in place with hand and thighs and dick. Ronan was so hard he'd probably come from the slightest bit of friction.

"C'mon," Adam breathed above him and thrust up. "C'mon, please, do it."

Yes.

Ronan went down. Adam's cock was built like the rest of him – slim, elegant, and too fucking much. Ronan's tongue curled willingly around the head every time he came up for air, doing his fucking best not to break stride. Adam was thrusting up haphazardly, and Ronan was liable to choke on it. He could barely breathe through how fucking much he wanted it. He did his best to relax his throat and used one hand to steady Adam's dick enough to make it good for him.

Nothing felt steady, though. It was wet and hard and it was driving him fucking crazy. He wanted Adam to come and he never wanted to stop sucking his cock. Adam's hand tightened around his skull and Ronan made a noise, completely fucking out of his mind.

He didn't realize he was humping the sheets until Adam's voice penetrated through the haze. "Don't you fucking come before – fuck, before I can touch you –"

Ronan thought he might die. He shuddered, sucked harder, jerked him faster. Adam stopped talking after that. There was probably no room for his tongue to work while he groaned – animal sounds that shot like bullets through Ronan's chest. He didn't know about Adam, but he wasn't gonna fucking last.

"Gonna – gonna come," Adam gasped out and Ronan felt a pang as Adam's hand released him, then pushed and prodded until Ronan had no choice but to slip off. Everything was wet and sticky and he gave Adam's dick a few quick hard strokes before he felt the familiar rush beneath his fingers. How strange to feel it under someone else's skin.

Adam came with his head thrown back, a near-silent gasp escaping into the air around them. He shuddered beneath Ronan's hands, gorgeous and out of control. Ronan could not look away. He didn't think he would ever get the image from his mind.

When Adam was done, Ronan pushed himself up and slowly ran his tongue through the come splattered across Adam's skin. He didn't care what Adam thought of it; he just couldn't stop wanting.

"Jesus Christ, Ronan." Adam's hoarse voice sounded both awed and appalled all at once.

Ronan gathered a bit of come on his finger, sucked it off, swallowed, and gave him a grin. "You got something to say?"

Adam watched him, eyes wide in the dark. "Come here, come up here, fuck."

So many things they could say in the middle of the night.

Ronan straddled his thighs. His dick was liable to blow any second, but when he reached for it, Adam slapped him away. "No," he whispered roughly. "Me."

He jerked Ronan slowly at first, like he was learning the feel of him, and Ronan couldn't take his eyes away from the sight of his dark dick in Adam's pale hand. The slow strokes took him a little off the edge, but not enough. He couldn't control his limbs.

He took in great gasping breaths and bit his lip and fell forward so Adam could stroke him faster. Adam did. When their gazes met, they locked and stayed. Adam's eyes looked like liquid black, like the bottomless fake-out lake in that fucking cave, like a million secrets swirling beneath the surface. Ronan watched him and felt his body tightening, felt it coming like a rushing wave. He leaned down and took Adam's mouth in a savage kiss. Barely a kiss – he was going to devour him whole.

Harder, faster, everything felt so hot, so much. Then Adam ran his free hand over Ronan's back and Ronan shuddered and came. Like a thousand flapping wings it took him, an endless moment of ecstasy, and he barely heard his own voice crying out through the pumping of blood in his ears. He felt it in his throat when he was done.

Once he was able to move again, he almost gave into the temptation of landing fully on Adam, but thought better of it at the last minute and slumped down sideways on the bed. He couldn't open his eyes or make his tongue move.

Adam didn't seem to be expecting him to. In the sudden quiet of his room, he ran a slow and shaky hand all down Ronan's body, possibly unaware he still had Ronan's come on his fingers. His every touch felt like a benediction. When Adam leaned in, Ronan took in the communion of his tongue, and gave him his own. Reverent, he kissed Adam slowly in the dark.

When he fell asleep, moments or hours later, he smelled Adam and he smelled himself and he tasted both of them, together, in his mouth.

*

"I couldn't stop thinking about that dream," Adam whispered somewhere in the vicinity of three in the morning. Ronan was the closest he could be to sleep without losing consciousness, but now he woke up completely.

Adam was facing him, cheek resting on his palm over the pillow. His foot was touching Ronan's under the covers.

Ronan blinked at him slowly. "Yeah?"

Adam nodded, looking strangely shy for someone who initiated the conversation. "I was so mad at you for blowing me off, and I couldn't stop thinking about how it would feel."

Ronan's stomach was performing all sorts of emotional gymnastics he'd come to associate with Adam. Only this time it was better, because Adam's come still clung a little to the back of his throat. It gave him courage. "Did you think about me when you touched yourself?"

Even in the dark, it was possible to tell when Adam blushed. His skin was so very guileless that way. He didn't look away when he said, "Yes."

Ronan shifted on the sheets, growing hard. "Tell me," he demanded softly.

Adam wrinkled his nose. "Why?"

Ronan never lied. "'Cause it's the hottest thing anyone's ever said to me."

"Vain," Adam said, but he gave him a crooked smile.

Later, after he'd haltingly spilled all his secrets into Ronan's ears as they ground up against each other, hard and wet and fast, Adam idly kissed his shoulder. Ronan shivered, held him closer. Remembered the feel of Adam's fingers in his mouth as he tried to stifle the sounds of coming. It felt like an unreality, another dream.

But Adam, it turned out, snored a little. And he kicked in his sleep, sometimes. And he had morning breath, when morning finally came. And Ronan had opened his palm and found a single key in his hand.

Adam looked at it with a slight frown between his brows. "That looks like…"

"Mine," Ronan said, watching it carefully. He'd know that key anywhere. He gave a short breathless laugh. "Cabeswater."

Adam snorted in response.

Ronan reached for his hand and pressed the key into it. Maybe it had been Cabeswater, but somehow, he didn't think so. In the end, it had been him. "I mean, you can break in anytime," he said, "but might as well have it, then." He'd meant for it to sound dismissive, nonchalant. It hadn't.

"Might as well take it, then," Adam responded. He missed nonchalant by a million miles.

Ronan caught his gaze. "You good?"

Adam watched him quietly for a long moment. Eyes intent, pale lips relaxed. "Yeah," he answered. "I'm good." A pause. "You?"

***