Ronan fell, and then he didn’t move. Adam had nothing to spare to help him, couldn’t even let his thoughts linger much on the bloody gash on Ronan’s forehead, because he was crouched on the forest floor with his fingers dug into the dirt and thorny branches were erupting around him to fight off Piper and the Third Sleeper. The dream creatures were still fighting on his behalf, so Ronan couldn’t be dead. He and Adam were on the front line, being the only two who had any kind of offensive capabilities against the skeletal creatures the Third Sleeper was summoning. They were supposed to be Gansey’s knights, but now Ronan was down and Piper was shooting at them and Adam’s trees couldn’t grow fast or thick enough to stop bullets, where was Blue--
Adam heard Gansey cry out Ronan’s name, and he saw Piper turn towards him with gun raised, and then Cabeswater lunged up from somewhere in his ribcage and everything went dark.
It wasn’t the first time Adam had dreamed of Ronan, and these dreams were always the same. He and Ronan were on the edge of a forest (not Cabeswater, eerily close but not a forest Adam could in any way control), then Ronan took his hand. He led Adam into the trees, and then he let go, and then Adam couldn’t find him. He always woke up at that point, lost and alone in the woods. He’d had the dream two or three times in the span of just a few weeks, and he didn’t know what it meant.
But this time the dream was different, because Ronan was speaking. Adam couldn’t understand him at first--he was speaking Latin, or maybe it was just a garbled kind of English that Adam could parse if he only paid enough attention.
When Adam said he couldn’t understand, Ronan rolled his eyes and put his hand on Adam’s sternum, over his heart.
“I said, trouble’s what you’re in.” The voice didn’t sound anything like Ronan. It sounded more like Glendower, the few words Adam had heard him speak before they were attacked.
The rest of the dream continued like it always did: Ronan took Adam’s hand, led him into the forest, then let him go when they were in deep enough. The trees were dense, pressing in all around and blocking the sun, and Adam shouted Ronan’s name but there was no answer.
Adam woke up to Gansey’s face peering over him. Gansey was so close that he was mostly nose, and then when he saw Adam’s eyes open he pulled back, grinning.
“He’s awake!” Gansey called out, presumably to Blue and Noah, who swiftly appeared in Adam’s line of sight. All three of them looked relieved, and it was Gansey’s hand on his chest now, his palm pressing down reassuringly warm and solid.
“You had us worried,” Gansey was saying. Adam blinked and tried to sit up, but dizziness forced him back down. He was looking up at the ceiling of Monmouth, and he was pretty sure he was on Gansey’s bed. He didn’t know what time it was, what day it was.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Blue saved us,” Gansey said, sliding an arm around Blue’s shoulders. She didn’t shrug him off like she might have once. She gave Adam a shaky smile, her eyes bloodshot, her shoulders slumped. “Those awful bone creatures got past your thorns and then they were attacking us, and when they touched Blue she did something marvelous to them, I’m not sure what, but they all turned right back around and went after the Third Sleeper instead.
“And Piper?” That gun was the last thing Adam remembered, but he didn’t feel pain anywhere, so he must not have been shot.
Gansey winced, and Noah put a hand on his shoulder. “It was Cabeswater. When she aimed at you, it was like--you passed out and at the same time, this tree erupted around her, or from inside of her, or something--it was really confusing, but before she could shoot you she was basically swallowed up.”
Noah’s voice was soft and neutral, like he was describing some sort of objective event that just sort of happened, rather than something Adam had definitely caused. “So she’s stuck in a tree?”
Gansey met Adam’s eyes again, sad and exhausted. “She’s dead. So is Glendower.”
They had been attacked as soon as they’d gotten Glendower above ground. Glendower had been dying from the moment they revived him, suffering from some curse that probably came from the Third Sleeper, and Gansey had stayed with him while Adam and Ronan stepped forward to try to be action heroes or whatever. Fuck--he struggled to sit up, brushing away Gansey’s helping hands. ”Ronan?”
“He’s going to be all right,” Blue said. “We took him to the hospital, I think he might still be unconscious but the head injury wasn’t major. They promised to call us if there was any change.”
Adam’s head started to hurt as soon as he sat up. He pressed a hand to his eyes, fighting back the pain. “Why didn’t you take me to the hospital?”
Noah laughed softly. “You fainted because of Cabeswater!” Gansey said, defensive. “It was magical in origin, or something, we didn’t think the hospital could help.”
“Also we were worried they’d do an x-ray and find out you were half-forest,” Blue added. Adam snorted, the closest thing to laughter he was capable of at the moment. He took his hand down and blinked his eyes open, looking at his three tired friends. “How long was I out?”
“It’s been a couple hours,” Noah said. “We’re glad you’re awake.”
Adam swung his feet out onto the floor, standing carefully. The other three stepped back to give him space, but as soon as he was upright they were right there again. He wasn’t sure who initiated it but somehow they were all crowding in and arms were opening around him and he was getting hugged by a ghost and a king and their apparent savior. Adam was too worn out to do anything but let it happen and hug back.
“Thanks for saving the day,” he mumbled, and Blue laughed.
“I guess being a mirror’s good for something,” she said.
They all felt it when Gansey’s phone vibrated. The group hug ended and Gansey fumbled in his pocket, stiffening when he saw who was calling.
“It’s the hospital.” He stepped back to answer it, facing away from them.
Adam looked at Blue and Noah. “The favor--?”
Blue shot a quick look at Gansey, but he was wrapped up in his phone conversation, not paying them any mind. “He thinks Glendower died before he could give it,” she said, her voice hushed and conspiratorial. “But Noah says he asked him during the fight, when Gansey was distracted, and Glendower said yes.”
Adam looked at Noah for confirmation, and he nodded. Adam opened his mouth to say something, he didn’t know what--how do you properly thank someone for passing on the opportunity to live again, for trading their life for your friend’s? But then Gansey was hanging up and turning back to them, relief clear on his face.
“Ronan’s awake, they say he’s fine, let’s go,” he said in a rush.
Adam didn’t feel like getting in a car and driving to the hospital, he felt like he could crawl back into bed and sleep for another 24 hours, but when he thought of Ronan all he could see was that blood on his forehead. He needed to see Ronan healthy and alive, needed to verify it with his own eyes.
It wasn’t until they were arriving at the hospital, the Pig climbing up the levels of the parking garage, that Adam remembered the Ronan from his dream. Trouble’s what you’re in. But they’d been in trouble and come out the other side; they had Glendower’s promise that Gansey would live, and nothing else really mattered.
It felt like it took forever to get their visitor badges, and the whole time Adam felt himself swaying on his feet, barely conscious. When they finally got to Ronan’s room, Declan was already there. He looked up when they entered, his mouth twisted into an ugly shape.
“He’s not well enough for more visitors right now,” Declan said, but Ronan was already struggling to sit up, ”Gansey.”
“I’m here,” Gansey said, coming to the side of the bed not currently occupied by Declan and taking Ronan’s hand in both of his. Ronan stared up at him with a gratitude that looked foreign on his sharp features, and Declan was shuffling to block Adam and Blue and Noah’s access to the bed. He looked at them with naked suspicion and hostility, his jaw set.
“He’s not--have the nurses told you anything?” Declan asked, and there was something strange in his voice, an apprehensive note that gave Adam pause. But he only had eyes for Ronan, who looked strangely small dressed in a white hospital gown, who had a black line of stitches marching up his forehead.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” Ronan said, and then turned to look at the rest of them like he’d just now realized they were in the room too. “Hey, Noah,” he said, and then his eyes slid to Blue, then Adam. His eyebrows came together in confusion, and before he spoke Adam felt dread curl in his stomach. He wanted to reach out and clap his hand over Ronan’s mouth, because whatever was coming was bad, Ronan was not all right--trouble’s what you’re in--
“Who the fuck are you?” Ronan said.
Declan wanted Ronan to stay overnight in the hospital, because Ronan’s head injury had been nowhere near bad enough to cause the kind of amnesia he had, and the doctors were worried. But Ronan outright refused, insisting that he return to Monmouth with Gansey. He hated hospitals and he wanted to sleep in his own bed, and besides, they’d already given him stitches for the head wound and couldn’t actually do anything to help his memory.
Adam and Blue heard this from Gansey, out in the hall, since Ronan had demanded they leave the room. He’d stared at them with wide eyes, the closest to panicked Adam had ever seen him, and when Gansey had said “But--it’s Blue and Adam--” Ronan snarled and snapped “Get out, I don’t fucking know you.”
Adam didn’t need to be told twice. Blue was right behind him as he turned on his heel and walked out into the hallway, not stopping until he was yards away and Blue was yanking on his sleeve, telling him to stop.
Adam leaned against the wall, his heart pounding. The bright glare of hospital lighting hurt his eyes. Blue was right next to him, her eyes darting around the busy hallway like she expected to be attacked.
“He just hit his head, is all,” Blue said. “I’m sure he’ll get over it. Probably best to give him space.”
Adam pressed his sweaty palms to his jeans, willing himself to stop shaking. It was probably that he was still drained from Cabeswater’s stunt. That was it. “Yeah,” he said, and tried to stop seeing the look on Ronan’s face, his eyes wide and confused like he was afraid of them.
Eventually Gansey came out of Ronan’s room to explain the situation to them. Ronan’s memory seemed to end right after his father had died, right after he’d moved into Monmouth. So he knew Gansey and Noah, but that was where it stopped.
“Declan says that this kind of thing is usually temporary,” Gansey said. “That’s what the doctors told him. So we just have to--” he rubbed at his face, the mask of competence slipping for a moment. “We just have to give him time. He doesn’t have any lasting injuries, there’s no physical reason for him to have amnesia, so--so they’re hoping it will just pass.”
“He’s the Greywaren,” Adam said. “What if it works different for him?” What had the doctors seen when they’d taken a peek at Ronan’s brain--did it look weird, inhuman? Did it give away any of his secrets? Secrets that, Adam realized, Ronan might not remember telling them.
Gansey frowned at him. “Why would it be different? I’m sure he’s going to be fine. But--well, he wants to go back to Monmouth, but he doesn’t, um…”
Gansey didn’t want to say it. Blue crossed her arms over her chest and said it for him. “He doesn’t want to go back with us, because he doesn’t know us. It’s fine. We’ll call a cab.”
What Blue meant was they’d call Calla--neither of them had money for a cab, but Gansey wasn’t about to realize that, not as distracted as he was by Ronan. He went back into Ronan’s room, promising to text them updates on the situation, and Blue and Adam took the elevator down to the first floor, signed themselves out and then went outside to wait for their ride. Neither of them spoke. Adam wondered if Blue was thinking what he was thinking: that this wasn’t how their story was supposed to go, they’d made it through the big battle at the end of their quest and somehow everyone was alive, yet they weren’t together.
It wasn’t like Adam had actually expected any kind of happy ending, but he hadn’t expected something like this. He’d never worried about Ronan, not the way he worried about Gansey and Noah and even Blue. Ronan was the powerful one, beloved by Cabeswater and able to dream up whole armies if he needed to, a thief and a snake and somehow unstoppable. The image of Ronan in his mind didn’t fit with the Ronan he’d just seen, scared and confused and angry in that hospital bed, the skin of his forehead marred by black stitches. Ronan had clutched at Gansey’s hand like it was all he knew, and Adam had been jealous of Gansey for so many things before but never for that.
Blue broke the silence as they waited, sitting on the curb. “You can spend the night at my place, if you want. We have like three guest beds and the couch is also pretty comfy.”
Adam was surprised by the offer. He looked down at the top of her head; she was staring down at the road, the asphalt new and deeply black. It didn’t sound half bad, actually, being around Blue’s family tonight instead of going home to his empty apartment. “Why?”
Blue shrugged, and looked up at him. “I guess I just don’t feel like any of us should be alone, not tonight. It doesn’t feel right, you know?”
When she said that, Adam realized that on some level he had pictured himself crashing at Monmouth tonight. It didn’t feel right for them to be split up, not after everything that had happened, and Gansey wasn’t about to invite him or Blue to come to Monmouth tonight. 300 Fox Way was probably the best place to go, considering.
“All right, sure,” he said. “Thanks.”
Blue smiled at him. Her smile still made some warm part of him unfurl, and maybe that would always be the case--maybe his affection would never truly die, even if it had mostly morphed into a different kind of fondness. Adam was too tired to resent the ghost of his feelings at the moment, and he smiled back.
They both received a text from Gansey during the dinner that Maura had insisted upon making for them, despite the fact that neither Blue nor Adam were hungry.
Ronan’s home and Declan is finally gone. Ronan seems fine other than the amnesia, but he is pretty tired and has already fallen asleep. Maybe he’ll remember more when he wakes up??
A second text came, a minute later. I think it would be good for you guys to come over tomorrow regardless of whether or not his amnesia is better. I don’t want to have to explain everything on my own.
Blue and Adam both texted back that of course they would come over. Blue said, maybe if his memory isn’t fixed he could come over here? my mom or calla might know something to help. and it couldn’t hurt to at least give him a reading.
Adam doubted very much that Ronan would agree to that--he hadn’t wanted to be read by the Sargent women even when he knew who they were. But still, it was a good idea, to look towards magical remedies for a magical person. He texted back, we can also try taking him to cabeswater. and maybe the barns? although he probably doesn’t remember he’s allowed back at the barns. so maybe not.
Gansey texted, These are all good ideas! It all depends on how Ronan feels in the morning. I’ll let you know!
Blue met Adam’s eyes over the dinner table, frowning. “This feels super shitty,” she said. Adam nodded. He felt shut out, a stranger to the Monmouth trio, and it wasn’t in any way Gansey’s fault but Adam still felt annoyed with him.
Adam fell deeply asleep that night, almost as soon as his head hit the pillow on the guest bed he’d been given. But he woke up just a few hours later, unable to remember his dreams but certain they’d been alarming.
He stared up at the ceiling of the guest room, which was actually a craft room--he shared the space with four sewing machines and several bolts of cloth. He felt wide awake and full of energy, and there was an idea in his head that was almost definitely bad.
Only Orla was awake when he crept through the house. She was standing at the kitchen counter, holding a mug of hot cocoa and texting with someone. She looked up when Adam paused in the doorway, and raised an eyebrow, but said nothing to give him away. Eventually she shrugged one bronze shoulder languidly, turning back to her phone, and Adam kept going. The women of 300 Fox Way kept a small bowl on a table next to the door, and the bowl held all manner of keys and receipts and mail that no one felt like opening. Adam fished out the keys to Calla’s car as quietly as he could, but Orla still probably heard him. He didn’t know why she was letting him do this, but he appreciated it.
It was an unseasonably warm night for February, which was good because Adam had accidentally left his jacket in the guest room. Adam sat in the driver’s seat of Calla’s car for a few seconds, holding his breath after he got it running, convinced that one of the women (or the sole male, somehow Adam still forgot about Blue’s dad) was going to walk out here and catch him and yell at him for treating their hospitality this way. But no lights flicked on inside the house, and no one came to the door. Adam eased the car down out of the driveway and onto the road.
The drive to Monmouth was short and didn’t give him much time to contemplate what he was doing, which was good because he was trying not to think about it. But when he parked next to the BMW and cut the engine, there was no avoiding the idiocy of this. He sat with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the keys in the ignition, staring up at the windows of Monmouth’s second floor. He wasn’t welcome here, not tonight, so what the fuck was he doing?
Adam was doing what Ronan would do in his place, if their situations were reversed. Of course. The Greywaren and the Magician, fucking locked into each other. Adam could choose not to do this, just as he could have chosen not to help Ronan frame Greenmantle, but he wasn’t about to.
He took the keys out of the ignition and got out of the car, walked around the building until he was directly beneath Ronan’s window. There wasn’t any convenient way to climb up, and if he went through the front door he’d wake Gansey. But Adam remembered what he’d been able to do when they fought Piper and the Third Sleeper, and he wasn’t in Cabeswater here but maybe, still?
He put his hand on the brick wall, closed his eyes and felt around for the ley line. It flowed willingly through him, and it was trickier to do this here than it had been in the forest, but he could feel it working. He concentrated, putting into it all his will and his urgency and his worry for Ronan, and when he opened his eyes strong vines had grown from his feet to Ronan’s window. They were as thick as his ankle, and supported his weight when he tested them.
He had not been able to do anything like this before they found Glendower, at least not consciously. It was disturbing, to have this kind of power, but Adam shoved his nervousness to the side to think about later. He climbed until he was at Ronan’s window, which was shut but not latched. Somehow it didn’t squeak or creak when Adam pushed it open, and he was miraculously able to get inside without making any noise.
It still woke Ronan. He sat bolt upright, then shoved his sheets to the side and scrambled out of bed, his hands clenched into fists. Chainsaw, sitting on a dresser across the room from the bed, flapped her wings but didn’t caw.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing,” Ronan hissed. Adam waited for him to shout for Gansey, but he didn’t--which made sense, actually: of course Ronan would prefer to handle an intruder himself, with his own fists. Adam braced himself but Ronan didn’t attack him, but just stood there, crouched and ready.
“It’s me,” Adam said, then immediately felt foolish. “I mean--do you remember me? From the hospital?”
Ronan was silent for several moments. When he spoke, nothing about his posture relaxed; he still looked ready to deck Adam. “Gansey brought you to the hospital. Along with that girl.”
“Yeah.” Adam swallowed. The shadows of the room gave nothing away, and he couldn’t tell what Ronan was thinking. “My name’s Adam.”
“So? Am I supposed to care?” Maybe once Adam would have heard this voice from Ronan and thought it only blunt or cruel, but now he could hear the fear, the defensive snarl, the brittleness beneath the caustic surface. “And you haven’t answered my fucking question. What the fuck do you think you’re doing here?”
Adam realized he was holding his hands up defensively, in the universal sign of ‘don’t shoot.’ He lowered them. “I came to see you. Because I was worried. Because we’re friends, or at least, we were.”
It was hard to say the words. Had Adam ever called Ronan his friend before, out loud to his face? Had he ever told Ronan he worried about him? Maybe not, and that probably had everything to do with what had drawn Adam here tonight in the first place. Adam had woken up in the middle of the night with a burning need to see Ronan for himself, without Gansey or Blue or anyone else around, because Ronan had always been the one to come to him and this time, this time it had to be Adam reaching out.
Ronan’s stance shifted slightly, making him look slightly less eager to be violent now. He was shirtless, wearing only dark blue boxer shorts. “I don’t know who you are, so I guess we’re not friends anymore.”
Adam was glad it was too dark for him to properly see Ronan’s face. He didn’t want to know how Ronan was looking at him. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
Adam had almost forgotten what it was like, to be faced with the hostility that Ronan deployed any time he met a new person. This Ronan was probably even worse, if this was him right after his dad died, as Gansey had said. “My name is Adam Parrish. I go to Aglionby, I’m in your grade. I’m in your Latin class. We’ve been friends for more than a year now.”
“That doesn’t mean dick to me. And you obviously don’t have anything important so say, so.” Ronan took a step forward, bringing all his menace to bear. Adam had to admit that it was actually intimidating, especially when he reminded himself that this was not the Ronan he knew, who had fought his father for him and showed up to court for him; this was a Ronan who might legitimately mean him harm. “I think it’s time for you to leave.”
Adam stood his ground. “I know what you can do with your dreams. I know you can take things from them.”
Ronan went completely still. It wasn’t a good sign: if anything, it made him look all the more dangerous. “How.”
“I know because you told me. You told all of us, me and Gansey and Noah and Blue.” Adam hesitated, but continued, feeling like he was escalating a dare Ronan had thrown in his face long ago. “I know you like men. But that one you didn’t have to tell me.”
Ronan’s movement was silky and fluid as a predator’s, and then he had the front of Adam’s shirt in his fists and was pressing Adam up against his closet door. Up close, Adam could see that his eyes were red rimmed and sunken, and this must have been an incredibly stressful day for Ronan even before a stranger had broken into his room in the middle of the night. He looked like he was cracking.
“Who the fuck are you really,” Ronan said. “Tell me everything, and tell me why none of this could wait for the morning. And,” Ronan continued when Adam opened his mouth, “if you tell me we’re friends one more time, you’re gonna lose some teeth. You are not my friend.”
That hurt, badly enough that Ronan might as well have actually hit him. Adam was surprised at the pain, circling it in his mind and prodding it for validity and truth before carefully filing it away to look at later.
He held up his hands in surrender again, and Ronan’s grip on his shirt loosened slightly. “All right, fine. How much do you know about Gansey’s Glendower quest?”
Ronan glared at him, his jaw working, and Adam was starting to think that he wasn’t going to answer. Then Ronan dropped his hands from Adam’s shirt and took a step back. “He’s told me about it and wants me to help him look.”
“Okay.” Adam said. He was having trouble figuring out where to start, and most of this felt like Gansey’s story to tell--why wasn’t he waiting for Gansey to tell it? Adam thought he knew the answer to that question, and it made him uncomfortable and a little embarrassed. “You… might want to sit down. It’s kind of a long story.”
Ronan bared his teeth, but let go of Adam’s shirt, taking a step back. “I’ll stand.”
Adam rolled his eyes. He didn’t know what to do with his hands, sticking them in his back pockets. “Suit yourself. So--you moved into Monmouth with Gansey, do you remember that?”
Ronan swallowed. “Yeah. That was three days ago.”
If that had happened three days ago, it meant that for Ronan Niall’s death was… jesus, five days ago. Sympathy pulled at Adam’s stomach and he wanted to say something, anything, but he didn’t know how Ronan would react to sympathy at the moment. “I met Gansey a few months after you moved in to Monmouth.”
Adam had never felt like he was a good storyteller. That was all Gansey, and Ronan in his own way, and every time Blue told stories about her family Adam was happy to listen. But it wasn’t one of his strengths, which he had never minded, but it felt important now. Adam tried to relay the events of the last year and a half as faithfully as he could, and realized part of the way through that he’d been forgetting to add in anything about Ronan’s reactions to the events--he’d described meeting Gansey and Ronan as well as them all meeting Blue, but he’d left out that Ronan hated both him and Blue at first. (Maybe Ronan knew himself well enough to realize that of course he would have.) He’d described the finding of Cabeswater and their discovery that Noah was dead, but didn’t point out that Ronan took this hard, considering how close he’d gotten to Noah by that point.
This made him stumble when he got to the part of the story that involved Ronan fighting his father. Would Ronan want an explanation of why he’d thrown himself into a fight that had been none of his business? Would he want to know whether or not Adam was worth it?
Adam also found himself stumbling for other reasons. It had been one thing for Ronan to know who he was, where he came from back when they’d first met, back when Adam hadn’t been able to hide the bruises and when they knew he lived in a trailer park because that was where Gansey picked him up for school. It was quite another to have to explain all that in the dark of Ronan’s bedroom, with Ronan’s unsympathetic eyes trained on him and his arms crossed over his chest. Nothing about his body language spoke of kindness or understanding.
He’s still Ronan, Adam reminded himself. He’s still the same guy who went to bat for you. He fought next to you just yesterday.
Adam took his hands out of his back pockets and stuffed them into his front pockets, licked his teeth, looked away and back again. “You were driving me home. I--back then I lived in a trailer. My family situation wasn’t great, my dad would. We got in fights a lot.” Fuck, he sucked at this. “Anyway, he was yelling at me when you were dropping me off. I fell down--he pushed me--and I hit my head. You saw from your car, I guess, and you got out of your car and hit my dad. My mom called the police. It was… bad.”
Ronan’s eyes bore into Adam as he talked. He started to frown, and Adam felt desperate to know what he was reacting to: confusion at his own past behavior? Anger at Adam’s father? Adam’s mouth felt dry and sticky, and he wanted a glass of water, he wanted out of Ronan’s bedroom. It had been foolish to come.
He kept going. “They were going to arrest you, but I pressed charges. Against my dad, I mean. So they let you go, and I had to move out. I have my own apartment now, above St. Agnes church. Do you remember St. Agnes?”
“Yes I fucking remember St. Agnes,” Ronan snapped, but he uncrossed his arms and rubbed his palms on his thighs. He looked like he wanted to shove his hands in his pockets, like Adam was doing, but he didn’t have any. “Your dad sounds like a shitbag.”
Adam let out the shaky breath he’d been holding. “Yeah.”
Ronan crossed his arms again, looking out toward the window. “Then what?”
Adam didn’t know whether or not he appreciated Ronan’s lack of emotional display. They hadn’t discussed the incident in depth when it happened; had he ever even properly thanked Ronan? Adam didn’t remember feeling particularly grateful--at the time he’d been mostly numb.
Had Ronan expressed any sentiment beyond ‘your dad’s a shitbag’ now, Adam wouldn’t have known what to do. So it’s probably for the best.
He moved on to tell the rest of the story, summarizing his sacrifice to Cabeswater as best he could, explaining how Ronan had told all of them about his dream abilities. It was difficult to convey the whole bizarre thing with Kavinsky, since Adam hadn’t witnessed all of that firsthand. Ronan’s shoulders stiffened when Adam mentioned the kidnapping of Matthew, but he didn’t interrupt.
He did interrupt when Adam started to explain the Gray Man. “What the fuck? You’re saying my father’s killer is here?” His voice shook and broke, and his hands clenched to fists at his side.
“Not anymore. He left, not too long ago.” Adam left out that he’d dated Blue’s mother before the return of her father, and he didn’t dwell on the fact that the Gray Man had helped them. Ronan was looking to the side and blinking furiously, and Adam realized that he was fighting back tears.
He felt immediately guilty. It would be one thing for this Ronan to cry in front of Gansey, his best friend. It was quite another to cry in front of Adam, whom he barely knew. Adam should have let Gansey be the one to tell him these things, this was wrong. He felt like he was forcing an intimacy upon Ronan that Ronan had never asked for or wanted. Why had Adam wanted to do this so badly? Why was it important to him to be Ronan’s link to his memories? There were, of course, things that Gansey wouldn’t have been able to tell Ronan, namely the whole mess with Greenmantle, but that felt like a hollow excuse.
“I’m sorry,” Adam said, even though he doubted it was what Ronan wanted to hear. Ronan looked back at him, his eyes glistening, and his features pulled into their familiar scowl.
“Tell me what happened next.”
Adam kept talking, and didn’t stop until he’d gotten to their fight against Piper and the Third Sleeper. He didn’t know how much time had passed, but he felt like he’d been talking for hours when it was all done. Silence hung heavy in the room until Chainsaw ruffled her feathers. Ronan stood still.
There were gaps in Adam’s story. He hadn’t mentioned Ronan adjusting his rent with St. Agnes. He hadn’t mentioned manibus: for your hands or the mixtape that was still in Adam’s car. The omissions burned in Adam’s throat like smoke, but he wasn’t going to put words in Ronan’s mouth, couldn’t present Ronan’s crush as an unchangeable fact of his life.
Ronan no longer liked him. Ronan didn’t know him. The hurt from earlier was trying to crawl out and take over, and Adam couldn’t let it, couldn’t think about it, couldn’t open the door to loss. This whole thing was so much worse for Ronan than it was for him, and that was what he had to focus on.
“Gansey told me I’m seventeen now,” Ronan said. “Eighteen in a couple months.”
Adam nodded. “Gansey turned eighteen a couple weeks ago. We’ll all graduate soon.”
Ronan finally moved to sit down, his limbs collapsing heavily onto the edge of his bed. “Most of everything you just told me sounds impossible.”
Adam wrestled with himself for a few seconds over whether or not to join Ronan on the bed, before moving to sit next to him. Ronan didn’t move away. “Yeah, well. It wasn’t impossible for us.”
Ronan ducked his head, staring at his knees. “I still don’t get why you had to break into my fucking room in the middle of the night. Gansey was gonna tell me everything in the morning.”
Adam’s fingers twitched. His mind raced before something honest tumbled out. “I don’t know. You didn’t want to see me and Blue in the hospital today, and I was worried, and--” no, he couldn’t tell Ronan that if their situations were reversed Ronan would have broken into Adam’s apartment without hesitation; couldn’t tell Ronan that if Adam had lost anything as crucial as his own history, Ronan would have never let anyone kick him out of the hospital room. Adam was not a manipulator, not of Ronan. “--I just thought that maybe I could help.”
“Did you want a fucking thank you? Did you expect--?” Ronan cut himself off and covered his face with his hands, bending over his knees. Adam knew better than to touch him, but he wanted to.
“Please don’t thank me,” Adam said. “And I don’t expect anything from you.”
Ronan didn’t respond. What little light there was in the room glinted off his bare shoulder blades, and his tattoo looked like it was swallowing him up. Adam hadn’t said anything about the tattoo, because he knew nothing of its origin. Gansey would have to fill in the blanks there.
“Maybe--your memories could come back, right? I think that this kind of amnesia often passes. And there are things we can do, people that could help.” Maybe this wasn’t the right thing to say, but it felt viscerally wrong not to offer Ronan any kind of comfort at all.
“Can you please just go?” Ronan said, his head still in his hands. The ‘please’ was all wrong coming from him, an unmistakeable sign of just how terrible he must have been feeling. How terrible Adam had made him feel.
Adam stood up slowly, staring across the room at Chainsaw. “Yeah. Of course. I’m sorry.”
Ronan didn’t respond, didn’t look up when Adam went to the window and climbed through it. It was trickier to climb down the vines than it had been to climb up, and when Adam reached the ground he realized that he had no way of disappearing the vines. Just like Ronan’s dream things, they were here to stay, fully real and implacable. Gansey would surely notice them in the morning, and want an explanation.
Exhaustion hit the back of Adam’s eyes as he drove Calla’s car back to 300 Fox Way. He’d only slept a few hours before getting up, and now he only had another few hours before the morning came. He wanted to sleep, he wanted to forget he’d ever done this stupid thing. All he’d managed to do was make Ronan feel worse.
The reality began to sink in once he’d fallen back onto the guest bed, his face pressed to the pillow. Without quite realizing it, Adam had become quite used to Ronan’s crush on him. He’d grown comfortable with the shape of it, he’d enjoyed Ronan’s looks and the time he spent in Adam’s apartment and even the horrid secrets they’d shared. Saving Gansey and finding Glendower had been the priority, so he hadn’t given himself space to figure out whether the crush was mutual. Ronan hadn’t seemed in any kind of hurry to make a move, content to let Adam figure things out, and Adam had counted on having time.
Time was exactly what Ronan had now lost, and Adam had been a fool to think he could ever allow himself to take a good thing for granted.
Adam rolled over onto his side and hugged his knees to his chest. His body thudded with a sad song’s beat, and he wanted to be asleep, he wanted to escape the sour grief on his tongue. The whole thing was worse for Ronan, so much worse, and Adam was stupid and selfish and greedy to even be thinking this way. It was second nature to let anger at himself rise up and swallow the sadness, and the self-loathing was at least quiet enough (familiar enough) to let him fall asleep.