“Parrish! Wake up!”
Adam opened one eye lazily at the sound of Ronan’s voice. With a groan, he rolled over on his narrow mattress and pulled the pillow over his head.
“I know you can hear me!” Ronan continued, this time accompanying his shouting with several loud knocks on Adam’s door.
“Go away,” Adam mumbled into the mattress.
Ronan could not hear him, and Ronan did not go away. He pounded on the door again. “You’ve got mail, Parrish!”
This woke Adam up. He leapt out of bed and headed for the door. “Mail from who? I swear, if you’ve woken me up for an L.L. Bean catalogue, I’m going to-”
He opened the door to see Ronan grinning hugely and holding four official looking white envelopes. Adam’s sleep blurry eyes made out the Princeton logo on the foremost letter. “No.” he said very firmly, and moved to shut the door again.
Ronan’s face fell. “Wha- wait!” he jammed his foot in the door, “I didn’t open them.”
“I can see that,” Adam said as he continued to push the door against Ronan’s foot, “and I don’t want to open them, either.”
“I bet they’re all acceptance letters,” Ronan said, his voice oddly encouraging.
Adam paused in his futile door-pushing. “I bet they’re not.”
Ronan pushed back against the door and adopted what he probably thought was a snooty-sounding falsetto as he said, “Yes, please, Mr. Parrish, please come to our school. We would be honored to have on our list of Alumni. We’ll send a stretch limo to pick you up. You can live in the Dean’s guest bedroom, free of charge. Oh please, Mr. Parrish. Please spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at our institution.”
Adam pressed his forehead against the door and fought back a smile. He felt nauseous at the idea of opening any of the envelopes. With a deep breath, he pulled away from the door and went to sit on the edge of his mattress.
“Come in, Ronan,” Ronan said mockingly, pushing the door open and letting it slam behind him. He threw himself unceremoniously onto the bed beside Adam, and set the stack of envelopes on Adam’s knees.
Adam stared at them. He made no move to pick them up, or even look to see what schools they were from. His entire future was sitting in his lap, and he couldn’t muster up the courage to open them. It was too early in the morning for this kind of bad news. It was too early in Adam’s life for this kind of bad news.
“Hey,” Ronan said, his tone even, “you don’t have to open them now. You can have a cup of coffee first. Or something.”
Adam turned his head slightly to look at Ronan out of the corner of his eye, and said quietly, “What schools are they from?”
“Princeton. Harvard. Cal-Tech. Elon. Brown. Virginia Community.”
Adam sat up straight and looked at Ronan. “I didn’t apply to Virginia Community.”
Ronan shrugged. “My point was: A lot. The ones from Yale, Columbia, and Stanford aren't back yet. Did you apply to Cornell?”
“No,” Adam admitted, “But I ended up applying to Dartmouth.”
“I’ll stop looking for a Cornell letter, then.” Ronan said, “Where’s Dartmouth?”
“New Hampshire,” Adam responded automatically, not even reacting to the fact that Ronan was apparently screening his mail.
“How many hundreds of miles away is that?”
“Good,” Ronan nodded approvingly and gave Adam a small smile. “Gansey’s got his letters back already. He got into every single college on that list, and then he wrote them all back and said he wasn’t interested until next year. Harvard actually wrote back. They said yes. Obviously.”
“Obviously,” Adam echoed. He sighed and turned his gaze back to the stack in his lap. Two of his first choice colleges, Harvard and Cal-Tech, had responded to his application already. Was that good or bad? Why hadn’t he heard back from Yale yet?
“Shit, man, I dunno,” Ronan mumbled, “You really shouldn’t be asking me.”
Adam didn’t realize he’d asked that question aloud. Heat flared up in his cheeks. He was being childish about this, really. He just needed to open the damn letters. “Alright,” he murmured, steeling himself, “Who first?”
“Brown,” Ronan said immediately.
“Fine,” Adam said, shuffling through the envelopes to find the right one. Brown was his fourth choice, not quite a safety school, but not quite a dream school, either.
“Or maybe we should start with Elon, since that’s your safety school,” Ronan suggested with a teasing note to his voice.
Adam groaned. “One of these days you will let that go.”
“You called a school with a 57% acceptance rate your ‘safety school’.”
“Shut up,” he shot back, fighting a smile. He held the letter from Brown in his hand, between two fingers, like he was afraid it would burst into flames.
“Just do it fast, Parrish,” Ronan said, “Like a band-aid.”
“I think you’re as nervous as I am,” Adam replied, turning the envelope over and pulling slowly at the flap.
“I don’t think anyone in the history of this Earth has been as nervous as you are right now.”
With a final deep breath and a whispered ‘ok’, Adam opened the envelope. Carefully, he pulled the letter out, and unfolded it slowly. Anxiety mounted in his chest, and his vision swam. He thrust the paper at Ronan and said in a choked voice, “Read it.”
Ronan took it from him and cleared his throat before reading, “Dear Mr. Parrish, we are pleased to inform you that upon review of your application-”
“Stop,” Adam gasped, “Stop.”
For a moment, the only sound in the small room was Adam’s frantic breathing.
“Hey,” Ronan said after a moment, “You got in. You got into Brown. You’re fucking Ivy League, Parrish. You’re in.”
Adam laughed, a choked, wet sounding laugh and held his head in his hands.
“Are you...crying?” Ronan asked incredulously.
Adam didn’t remove his hands from his face. He nodded.
“Shit,” Ronan said, “Adam. Adam, you’re in.”
“I know,” Adam wailed, “I know. I’m in. I got into Brown. I know.”
“Do you even care about Harvard or-”
“Yes!” Adam interrupted forcefully, sitting up. He wiped his face with the backs of his hands and repeated, “Yes, yes I absolutely still care about Harvard. Where’s the one from Harvard-”
Ronan interrupted him by handing him the letter.
Adam ripped it open, not even bothering with formality and read, “Dear Mr. Parrish, we are delighted to inform you that your application to Harvard University has been accepted-” he threw the letter towards Ronan and reached took the Princeton envelope from the diminishing stack on his lap. This envelope was dispatched similarly to the previous one. “Dear Mr. Parrish, thank you for applying to Princeton University. We are pleased to inform you that upon reviewal by our board of peers, you have been accepted to-” he threw this letter towards Ronan as well, who caught it in mid-air and handed Adam the Cal-Tech envelope.
Adam spared a glance at Ronan. He was grinning so hugely Adam almost didn’t recognize him. Tears were streaming freely down Adam’s cheeks.
“I’m fucking…” Adam searched for a word, “elated.”
Ronan nodded, still grinning. He reached out and wiped a tear off Adam’s face with the rough pad of his thumb. “Open it,” he murmured, nodding at the envelope.
Adam smiled at him, silently grateful, and ripped open the envelope. “Dear Mr. Parrish, thank you for applying to the California Institute of Technology. We are delighted to inform you that-” Adam was interrupted by Ronan leaning forward on the bed and grabbing his hand.
His lapful of letters slid to the floor as he kissed Adam fiercely. Adam, still holding his letter from Cal-Tech, brought his hands up to either side of Ronan’s face and kissed him back.
Ronan pulled back from him, cheeks red and smile huge, “Fuck, Adam,” he said quietly, “I’m so fucking proud of you.”
“Me too,” Adam whispered, his smile mirroring Ronan’s, “I’m proud of me, too.”
“There’s one left,” Ronan reminded him.
“Elon,” Adam remembered, “I don’t even need it now. I don’t need a safety school.” He took the envelope when Ronan handed it to him, and opened it calmly. “Dear Mr. Parrish,” he read, “Thank you for applying to Elon University. We regret to inform you that-” his jaw dropped. “Ronan. Ronan. I didn’t get into Elon.”
“You’re shitting me,” he grabbed the letter out of Adam’s hands as Adam stared, shocked.
Ronan scanned the first few lines of the letter, and frowned, “Well, shit.”
“That’s…” Adam found himself at a loss for words.
“Stupid of them?” Ronan supplied, “Ridiculous? Hysterical? You’re sitting here with acceptance letters to three Ivy League schools and fucking Elon had the balls to not take you.”
Suddenly, Adam burst out laughing. He laughed until tears rolled down his cheeks again, and then he cried until he couldn’t cry anymore. When he had composed himself and wiped his face with the sleeve of his sweatshirt, he leaned down to pick the letters up off the floor where they had fallen earlier.
“This is the best day of my life,” he said, finally.
Ronan smiled again and said, “I can’t wait to see the look on your face when you get into Yale.”
Adam was in his dorm room, reluctantly packing up his books when his phone rang from somewhere inside his backpack. It was Ronan’s ringtone, some synth-heavy electronica that Ronan himself had changed it to as a means of getting Adam to answer his phone. Adam slid the button and lifted the phone to his ear.
“Hey, Ronan,” he said.
“How old are you tomorrow?” Ronan asked by way of saying ‘hello’.
“22,” Adam replied without thinking, before his brain caught up to himself and he said, “Wait. No. Ronan don’t-” he pulled the phone away from his ear quickly as the strains of Taylor Swift’s ‘22’ rattled through the tinny speaker.
He held the phone away from his head, a resigned expression on his face, and waited for the song to end. When he put the phone to his ear again, he heard Ronan laughing smugly on the other end. “You know, Ronan, I would think you’d have a little more respect for my remaining good ear.”
“It wasn’t that loud, Parrish,” Ronan replied without venom, “and besides, you’re a doctor now. You can develop a cure for deafness right after you discover the cure for cancer.”
“Haha,” Adam said dryly, “very funny. And no, I’m not a doctor. Not yet. I don’t have a doctorate yet. That’s gonna be another four years. But I’ve already been accepted into the Yale medical program, so maybe I can do the same thing I did here and take an accelerated course, which would make it two years.”
Ronan yawned exaggeratedly and said, “Sure man, whatever.”
“Don’t pretend you’re not supportive of every single thing I ever even think about doing,” Adam retorted.
“I’m supportive of the lint in the pockets of your jeans, Parrish,” Ronan said solemnly. “I sometimes wish I was the lint in the pockets of your jeans.”
“Why? Because it’s close to my ass?”
“...Yes, and no. That isn’t what I meant, but...yes.”
Adam smiled fondly at the phone, and shifted it to his left hand without thinking. It took him a minute to realize that Ronan’s voice had been reduced to a minute buzz against his left ear, and he recoiled violently, almost dropping his phone. He put it back against his right ear, and swallowed thickly as he heard Ronan say, “What do you think?”
“I…” Adam paused and took a deep breath, “I need you to repeat all of that. I forgot, and I…” he stopped again, feeling overwhelmed.
“Hey,” Ronan said immediately. “Hey, no problem. It’s alright. I was just saying that maybe next time I come visit you I could bring Opal. If I can get her to put on shoes.”
Adam sat down heavily in his desk chair and said nothing.
“Adam?” Ronan said gently. “Do you need me to call back later?”
Adam forced himself to say, “No,” before he stopped himself and said, “Yes. Yes I do. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Ronan replied, his voice still gentle, “I’ll call you back in an hour. Ok?”
“Yeah,” Adam managed.
Ronan hung up.
Adam exhaled heavily and rested his forehead on his desk. He had mostly acclimated to his hearing problem at this point; it had been years, after all. It only took him a few months to figure out which seats in the lecture halls had the best acoustics, and he purposefully placed himself on the far left side of the table during study hall. It was no huge problem, really. He only had headaches occasionally, and after Ronan had sent him some obviously dreamt up headphones that equalized the sound for his right ear only, he’d been fine. On a good day, he hardly noticed it.
On a bad day, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. With the sudden reminders of his hearing loss came several reminders of what had led up to it and what had caused it. He’d called his mom the other day to let her know he was graduating in six days, which had set off a string of nasty anxiety attacks. He’d called Ronan eight times in the last four days and just sat there, silently, listening to Ronan move on the other end of the line. Ronan didn’t question this, and he didn’t try to talk to Adam. Adam would listen to him breathe for twenty minutes, and then hang up.
He had taken sign language in his second semester, mostly out of fear that he would eventually lose his hearing altogether, and had found it to be surprisingly relaxing. His roommate, a political science major named Geoff, had taken it as well, and sometimes he and Adam would sit in the quiet of their dorm room and sign at each other. Adam had worked on building a large vocabulary of swear words just in case Ronan ever learned. Adam had never asked him to, and Ronan had never mentioned it.
Adam exhaled again, slowly, and forced himself up as he heard the front door of the dorm opening. Moments later, Geoff appeared in Adam’s bedroom door and signed a quick ‘hello’ at him. Adam smiled weakly.
Geoff frowned. ‘Bad day?’ he signed.
Adam nodded and signed back, ‘Used the phone on the wrong side.’
‘Shit,’ Geoff replied, ‘Need anything?’
‘Coffee? Time Machine? Magic wand?’
‘Coffee sounds doable,’ Geoff replied with a sympathetic smile, ‘The usual?’
‘Back in 10. Call Ronan.’
Adam didn’t have the time or the heart to explain that Ronan was the problem this time, but he nodded gratefully and waited for Geoff to leave before reaching for his phone. He opted to text Ronan instead of calling him.
What time does your flight get in?
Nah. Vetoed the shoes
Fair enough. Pick you up?
Sure. Not in the shitbox
You know damn well that’s still at the Barns.
I do. Haunts me every day. My dad’s turning in his grave knowing there’s a fucking junker in his driveway
He’ll get used to it.
Adam sighed for the third time in ten minutes and silenced his phone. He turned back to the half empty bookshelves behind him and reminded himself that it all had to be packed up by tomorrow so that he and Ronan could fly his stuff back home for the summer.
With a groan, he pushed himself out of the desk chair and continued filling the box he had been working on before Ronan called. It only took him twenty minutes to finish packing his entire bookshelf, and by that time, Geoff had come back with two cups of strong black coffee and had signed a quick ‘Going to study hall’ at him before leaving him to his task.
Study hall. They all graduated the day after tomorrow and they were still organizing study halls. He supposed he’d asked for that kind of dedication when he accepted a place at Yale, but still. Adam sat down on the edge of his bunk bed and sipped at his coffee. He wanted to call Ronan. He stood up and reached for his phone as the front door to the dorm room opened again.
“Did you forget something, Geoff?” he called into the hallway as he unlocked his phone.
“No!” Geoff responded.
Adam heard shuffling and whispering, and the thud of what sounded like someone setting down a box. Geoff never brought anyone back to the dorm. He was a notoriously private person with very few friends and no romantic partner that Adam had ever met in his four years of knowing him.
“Did you....bring someone back? Do I need to find somewhere else to go tonight?”
“No!” Geoff called again as more whispering ensued.
“Geoff, what is going on-” Adam went to the door of his bedroom, and was immediately taken aback.
Ronan was standing in the front hall with his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his sweatshirt, looking uncomfortably out of place, but smiling nonetheless.
“Ronan,” Adam gasped.
With a crooked grin, Ronan took his hands out of his pockets and signed, ‘Hi, fuckwad’.
Adam sucked in a breath and brought his hand to his mouth. He felt tears well up in his eyes as he waved feebly with the other hand. Geoff mouthed ‘bye’ at him as he let himself out.
‘I missed you.’ Ronan signed, ignoring Geoff.
Adam shook his head, then nodded, and blinked rapidly as tears started rolling down his cheeks.
‘I thought you could use some help packing.’ Ronan continued.
Adam nodded again, and after a moment, found his voice. “Ronan, you-”
“Learned sign language. Yeah,” Ronan said, like it was obvious, “Do you need help packing or what?”
“Yeah, I do, but Ronan, you-”
“I what?” Ronan replied impatiently.
Adam couldn’t think of anything to say. He wiped his face on his sleeve, and looked at Ronan.
“Fucking hell,” Ronan grumbled, “don’t you dare start crying again.”
“I won’t.” Adam said. His voice was still tremulous, but he smiled weakly.
‘I love you.’ Ronan signed.
Adam felt a lump catch in his throat, and he choked.
Ronan rolled his eyes and closed the distance between them to hold Adam in his arms as Adam cried quietly into Ronan’s sweater.
“Thank you,” Adam whispered into Ronan’s chest.
Ronan kissed the top of Adam’s head. “Don’t thank me,” he whispered back, pulling back to look Adam in the eye, “And stop fucking crying, Jesus.”
With a watery smile, Adam pulled Ronan to him again and rested his head on Ronan’s shoulder. “Do you want to pack the sock drawer or the desk drawers?”
“Neither. When I said I would ‘help you pack’, I actually meant I will find myself a good chair to watch from, and say encouraging things.”
“I should have figured as much,” Adam said. He freed himself from Ronan’s grasp and turned to go back into his room. “You can sit on the bed.”
Ronan reached out and caught Adam’s hand. “Wait.”
Adam turned back, smiling, and was caught off guard by the serious expression on Ronan’s face. “What?”
“Nothing, I just-” Ronan stopped, blushing furiously. “Did I rush you? I don’t wanna rush things. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that, I just. That’s the first thing I learned how to sign, and I-”
“What are you talking about?” Adam asked, before remembering what Ronan had signed to him moments before, “Oh. Oh you mean the…”
“No,” Adam said firmly, “No, you didn’t rush me. It was fine. You’re fine. This is fine.”
“Ok,” Ronan breathed. “Ok. Good. Thanks.”
Adam smiled at him, and held out his hand. Ronan took it. Adam laced their fingers together and smiled reassuringly at him before jerking Ronan towards him and kissing him. Ronan smiled into the kiss and squeezed Adam’s hand.
Adam squeezed back.
He didn’t say it back, or sign it back. He didn’t need to.
“This fucking thing is burning a hole in my pocket, I swear,” Ronan hissed as Blue straightened his tie.
“Stop complaining,” she chided. “It’s romantic.”
“It’s too bad Adam likes romantic,” Ronan grumbled. “It would save me a lot of stress if he didn't.”
“You could always just text him,” Blue said teasingly. “Hey Parrish, you wanna fucking marry me? Yeah? Cool. How’s school?”
“Shut up,” Ronan said without heat.
“Where are you guys going for dinner, again?”
“Italian place,” Ronan replied.
“Don’t do anything romantic like stick the ring in a roll. Or a meatball. Or his champagne flute,” Blue advised sagely as she unbuttoned and rebuttoned Ronan’s top button and pulled on his collar. “Do you know CPR?”
“Fucking hell,” Ronan dramatically turned away from Blue and her constant adjusting. “Yes, I can give Parrish mouth to mouth if he desperately needs it, but only then.”
Blue laughed. “How sweet. Adam lies there dying, and all you can think about is making out with him.”
Ronan shrugged. “He’d be flattered. Annoyed, but flattered.”
“As he usually is with you, right?”
Instead of responding, Ronan shrugged again.
“Alright, well, if it goes well, call. If it goes badly, I guess Adam will call. If someone dies, have the living person call. Have the dead person check on Noah.”
“Sargent,” Ronan said. “Shut up.”
“Rude,” Blue punched his arm, but she was smiling. “I can take a hint. I’ll leave you alone.” After tugging on his tie one last time she turned to leave the room.
Ronan huffed and rolled his shoulders agitatedly.
“Ronan?” Blue said quietly.
“Good luck. Seriously.”
“Thanks, Sargent,” Ronan replied lowly. “Means a lot. Seriously.”
Blue blew a kiss at him and closed the bedroom door behind her.
Ronan stood in front of the mirror on his dresser and un-straightened his tie. He knew Adam would straighten it for him later. Ronan reached into the pocket of his dress pants and pulled out the simple gold band that he’d been carrying around for two weeks.
He’d bought it months ago, almost on a whim, and it had taken him this long to build up the courage to ask Gansey if asking Adam was a wise thing to do. Gansey had responded with an immediate “Of course, Ronan” while Blue and Henry had shouted “YES!” and “Fuck yeah!” in the background. That had only been enough encouragement to spur Ronan into carrying the ring with him. Adam was away at Yale Medical for another six months, but he had come back for spring break, and Ronan knew it had to be soon. It had to be now.
His palms were sweaty, and he swallowed dryly. With a deep breath, he turned and opened the door to his bedroom quickly, only to find Adam on the other side, arm raised.
“Hi,” Adam said with an easy grin. His hair was wet from the shower, and he smelled like toothpaste. Ronan wanted to kiss him. “I was just about to knock.”
“I see,” Ronan said stiffly. He did not kiss Adam.
Adam’s smile didn’t waver. “Just wanted to know what the dress code was.”
“Too dressy to be comfortable,” Ronan clarified.
“I see,” Adam echoed.
Ronan cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I’ll be downstairs.”
“Okay,” Adam said. “I guess I’ll go get dressed. Should I write ‘Yale graduate’ on my forehead in Sharpie, or is that a little too ostentatious?”
Ronan snorted. “No, Gansey ,” he sneered.
Adam laughed, and pressed a quick kiss to Ronan’s mouth. “Okay. I’ll be ready in a few minutes.”
“Don’t make me wait,” Ronan said in what he hoped was a gruff tone of voice.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Adam replied as he pulled away from Ronan and headed back to his own room.
Ronan closed his bedroom door again. He softly pounded his fist against it once and whispered ‘fuck’ as he tried to shake some of the tension from his shoulders. Resolutely, he opened his bedroom door again, and after checking to make sure the coast was clear, he went downstairs and waited by the front door.
Within five minutes, Adam was coming down the stairs, his hair combed neatly and his suit pressed impeccably. Ronan still wanted to kiss him. He stared unashamedly as Adam walked towards him, smiling. In the last few years, Adam’s demeanor had gained a confidence that left Ronan both proud and breathless. He wasn’t sure how to tell Adam this, but he figured Adam knew.
“Hey, handsome,” Adam teased, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. “I’m ready for our hot date.”
Ronan didn’t answer. He kissed Adam instead.
“You look good,” he murmured against Adam’s mouth.
“You too,” Adam whispered, and kissed him again.
“Ewwww,” came Blue’s voice from behind them.
Neither of them made any move to separate.
“Aw, hell, I should have known that wouldn’t work,” Blue admitted. “Alright, well, you kids have fun. I’ll call you if Opal eats anything that looks valuable.”
Ronan said, “You’re here to make sure Chainsaw doesn’t shit on the kitchen counter. Now shut up. I’m trying to kiss my boyfriend.”
“Fine,” Blue retorted shortly. “Have fucking fun.”
“That’s after dinner,” Adam called to her as she went into the kitchen.
Her response was a wordless shriek.
Ronan laughed, and reached behind himself to open the front door. He stepped back from Adam and held out his hand. “Ready?”
Adam smiled, almost shyly, and reached out to straighten Ronan's tie. He took Ronan’s hand. “Yeah.”
Outside the weather was cool, and the atmosphere, peaceful. A few crickets sang in the underbrush, and Ronan frantically tried to remember when he had added crickets to his collection. He opened the passenger door of the BMW for Adam and slammed it shut behind him in response to Adam’s bemused smile. Ronan swallowed the lump in his throat and patted his pocket idly as he slid into the driver’s seat.
The drive to the restaurant was quiet. Adam held Ronan’s hand over the gear shift and idly stroked his thumb over Ronan’s wrist. If Ronan gripped the gear shift a little harder than necessary as he shifted, Adam didn’t comment.
Ronan had spent weeks planning this night, as soon as he decided it was going to be this week that he finally asked Adam. He’d visited every restaurant in town, scoping out the perfect ambiance and setting. He made the reservation two weeks in advance, and made sure to inform the staff of his plan. He ordered flowers, champagne, everything. The whole nine yards. Ronan had taken every precaution possible to make sure this evening went off without a hitch. The only thing he couldn’t do was make Adam say yes.
The first time Ronan told Adam he loved him, Adam hadn’t said it back. That was fine. Ronan wasn’t willing to rush Adam into anything. He could wait. It took Adam six months to say it to Ronan. He wanted to be sure, he’d said. Ronan was fine with that. Once Adam had said it, Ronan said it whenever possible. Maybe not always verbally. Ronan was not an eloquent man, but he did have an infinite, ever-expanding universe inside his head from which he could take anything he thought Adam’s heart might desire.
He’d bought the ring from a real jewelry store, knowing Adam would prefer it that way. He’d picked something simple. The restaurant was small, not expensive. Every precaution was taken. But Ronan couldn’t make Adam ready. All he could do was make sure Adam knew that he was willing to wait. He would wait forever if he had to. He’d hold onto the ring, he’d keep saying ‘I love you’, he’d wait.
They pulled up to the restaurant, and Adam moved to take his hand away from Ronan’s. Ronan held onto it. Adam looked at him and smiled softly.
“I love you,” Ronan said.
Adam squeezed Ronan’s hand. “I love you too.”
“Ok,” Ronan said, half to himself.
Adam laughed. “Ok?”
“Yeah,” Ronan said in lieu of a real response as he unbuckled himself and got out of the car.
He let Adam open the door for himself, and reached for his hand again as Adam walked up to him. They held hands as they walked into the restaurant, and didn’t let go until they had been shown to their table and seated.
“This is nice,” Adam commented.
It was nice. They were seated on the back patio, near a large garden owned and maintained by the restaurant. There were candles in hurricane globes along the short wall that surrounded the patio, and a large bouquet of flowers sat on a low table to Adam’s left.
“It is,” Ronan agreed. He had paid extra for the candles and the private patio, but Adam didn’t need to know that yet. Knowing Adam, he had probably already guessed.
“What are you having?” Adam asked idly as he pored over the menu.
“Whatever you’re having,” Ronan replied.
“I’m having alfredo,” Adam told him as he laid down his menu.
“Fuck,” Ronan picked up his own menu. He hated alfredo.
The waiter came back in a timely fashion and took their orders; alfredo for Adam and veal for Ronan. They talked easily, chatting and laughing while they waited for their food. Adam caught Ronan up on all his school friend’s shenanigans, which were considerably tame for Ivy League trust fund babies, but Ronan didn’t comment on this. His pants pocket felt like it had a lead weight in it.
It felt like it took them centuries to finish dinner. By the time they had finished and the waiter had cleared away their plates, sweat was beading on his forehead, and he was nearing his fourth glass of champagne.
“Are you alright?” Adam asked him, suddenly. “You look pale. And you’re sweating.”
“Fine,” Ronan choked. “Fine,” he repeated, clearing his throat.
He reached into his pocket and rolled the ring between his fingers.
“Are you sure?” Adam looked genuinely concerned now, and he made a move to stand up and come over to Ronan.
Ronan stood up first, almost violently, and knocked his chair backwards. Adam looked shocked, but he said nothing. Ronan didn’t bother to pick his chair up.
He licked his lips slowly, hesitantly, and said, “Adam.”
“I have been trying to…” Ronan stopped and took a deep breath. “I have been planning this for almost a month.”
“I can tell,” Adam said. “I appreciate it, Ronan, really I do.”
“No,” Ronan said. “You don’t understand.” He reached into his pocket and made a fist around the ring before pulling it out.
“What?” Adam asked quietly.
Ronan felt awkward. He felt sick. He was going to be sick. This was it. He was going to ruin his own meticulously planned moment by throwing up all over his boyfriend. Great. Good going, Ronan.
“Ronan, you look like you’re having a panic attack,” Adam said.
“I’m trying to be romantic,” Ronan grunted. “It’s difficult.”
“Oh,” Adam’s voice was very small. “I can wait.”
Ronan closed his eyes. Fuck. He moved to Adam’s side, and knelt on the cold stone of the patio. He heard Adam’s breath hitch in his throat, and he swallowed his own anxiety.
“Adam,” he said slowly. “I love you.”
Adam nodded. His eyes were wide and shiny. He was crying, Ronan realized.
“Fuck, don’t cry yet,” Ronan gritted out through his teeth. “Let me finish.”
Adam nodded again.
“I love you. Very much,” Ronan almost choked around the words. “It’s not always easy for me to- I’m not good at- Fuck.”
Adam carefully reached out and cupped his hand around Ronan’s cheek. Ronan subconsciously leaned into the touch.
“I know,” Adam whispered. “I know, Ronan.”
“I love you,” Ronan repeated. “And I want...I need...please.”
“It’s ok, Ronan.”
Ronan exhaled slowly through his nose. “Adam Parrish,” he said. “Will you marry me?” he opened his fist to reveal the ring, and he held it up between two of his fingers.
Adam hadn’t stopped nodding. “Yes!” he half-shouted, before repeating, quietly, “Yes. Yes Ronan. Of course. I would love to. Yes.”
Ronan felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of his shoulders. He pulled Adam’s hand away from where it was still holding Ronan’s face, and slid the ring onto his finger.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
Adam grabbed both of Ronan’s hands. He was crying.
“This would have been really embarrassing if you had said no. I paid extra for all those candles,” Ronan said.
Adam laughed. He was still crying, but he was laughing, too. Ronan smiled back at him. He didn’t cry, but he smiled.
the minor character death warning applies to this chapter.
It was graduation day. Adam was twenty minutes away from being a Yale Medical graduate. He was sweating in the heavy material of his suit and graduation gown. He took off his cap and fanned himself with it as he scanned the crowd for familiar faces. Ronan was sitting in the front row, as expected, with Gansey and Blue next to him. There was an empty seat to Blue’s left that Adam assumed was meant for Henry.
He didn’t see his parents. This didn’t surprise him, per se, but it still stung. With a sigh, he placed his cap on his head and moved the tassel out of his face. Ronan caught his eye and smiled at him. Adam smiled back and twisted the ring on his finger. The gold felt warm against his skin, and he felt the delicate grooves of the engraving rub on his skin.
He signed ‘I love you’ to Ronan and Ronan gave him a thumbs up before signing back, ‘Ditto’. Blue caught sight of them, and leaned around Gansey to wave frantically at Adam. Gansey grinned gamely and nodded in Adam’s direction. Adam nodded back, and turned his attention to the stage as the Dean cleared his throat and tapped the mic.
There was a long speech. If there was one thing Adam would always remember about his time at Yale, it was the speeches. Every special occasion, even every occasion that wasn’t special, there was a speech made. Adam found himself smiling as he tuned out this speech. He subconsciously scanned the crowd again, knowing he wouldn’t see his parents, but he had vain hope.
He felt his phone vibrate against his leg, and thanked himself silently for silencing it. It was probably Ronan complaining about the speech. They began calling out the names of the graduates, and Adam knew he was in for a wait. He was valedictorian, and his name would be called last. It was several minutes before he heard, “Adam Parrish, Magna cum Laude.”
The crowd clapped politely. Ronan clapped, but not politely. He was grinning from ear to ear, and Adam saw him mouth “Proud of you,” as he climbed the steps to accept his diploma.
The valedictorians gave their speeches, and Adam hardly remembered giving his. He barely remembered tossing his cap, or posing with the Dean and his diploma for a picture. He came plunging back to Earth as he was congratulated by his friends with rousing thumps on the back and many utterances of “Proud of you, man,” and “Always knew you could do it.” Henry had appeared out of somewhere, and he presented Adam with a small stack of business cards that simply read, ‘Dr. Adam Parrish’ in bold, italicized font.
Ronan swallowed a rude comment and tucked one into the pocket of Adam’s suit jacket. “Do you know CPR?” he asked seriously.
Adam looked at him blankly. “Yes. But I knew that in high school. I didn’t spend almost a million dollars to learn how to do CPR, Ronan.”
“I wouldn’t put it past you to do something like that, though,” Ronan said with a feral grin. “Just had to be sure.”
Adam’s phone buzzed again. He frowned. “Are you texting me?”
Ronan gave him a look. “No.”
Adam handed Ronan his diploma and reached into the pocket of his dress pants. He pulled his phone out and saw five missed calls from his mother’s number.
“Fuck,” he muttered.
Ronan looked concerned. “Who is it?”
“My mom,” Adam mouthed as he redialed the number and held the phone to his ear.
When he heard it connect he said, “Hi mom.”
“Adam,” it was his dad. Adam felt his blood run cold. He hadn’t spoken to his father in five years. His mother never told him how he was doing, and he never asked to speak to Adam.
“Hi Dad,” Adam said in what he knew was a weak tone of voice.
Ronan’s eyebrows knit together. He looked murderous. Adam reached out and grabbed Ronan’s jacket, staying him with his hand.
“Where you at, boy?” Robert Parrish asked gruffly.
“I’m at graduation,” Adam said. “I invited you, but I didn’t see you, so I thought-”
“Your mother’s dead,” Robert said flatly.
Adam reeled. “What?”
“Dead,” his dad repeated. “Breast cancer.”
“Breast cancer?” Adam whispered. He felt Ronan’s entire body tense underneath his hand. He curled his fingers into Ronan’s lapel. “She never told me she was sick.”
“‘Course she didn’t. What good would it have done? You weren’t a doctor yet.”
“Dad, I’m not an oncologist. I wouldn’t have tried to treat her. Why didn’t she tell me?”
“Not her decision,” Robert growled. “I don’t wanna hear you cry about it. Just called to tell you not to call this number anymore. Ain’t nobody here who wants to talk to you now.”
“Dad,” Adam said.
“No,” Robert said coldly. “Goodbye, Adam.”
He hung up.
Adam heard static. His skin felt hot. He felt his phone fall out of his grasp, and he felt Ronan grab his arms to keep him from collapsing.
“My mom’s dead,” he whispered. “She’s dead. I didn’t even know she was-”
Ronan was whispering soothing words into his ear, and Blue was rubbing his back. Gansey and Henry were looking at him sympathetically, and his Ethics professor had come up to Ronan and asked if everything was alright. Nothing was alright, Adam wanted to say. Ronan, instead, had said, yes, thank you, just some bad news from the family. Too bad, said the Ethics professor. Congratulations, Adam.
“She’s dead, Ronan,” he said.
“I know, Adam. I know. I’m sorry,” Ronan was still holding him tightly, and Adam was still holding onto Ronan’s jacket.
“I didn’t even like her. She didn't care about me. I shouldn’t be this upset. Shit. I can’t breathe.”
“Shh,” Ronan said. “You didn’t like her, maybe, but I think you loved her. I’m right here. You’ll be fine.”
“She’s gone. She never knew,” Adam furiously fought down tears and hiccuped, “She never knew I graduated.”
“I don’t think she ever doubted you would, Adam,” Ronan said evenly.
At some point Blue and Gansey had vanished, taking Henry with them. Adam pulled back from Ronan and shook himself. There were tears on his face, but he hadn’t cried. Not really.
“I’m fine,” he said, almost to himself as Ronan wiped away the tears with his thumbs and offered Adam the handkerchief from his suit pocket. “This should be the happiest day of my life. I’ve wanted this since I was six.”
“I know,” was all Ronan said.
“I should be happy right now,” Adam murmured, taking his diploma from the jacket pocket Ronan had placed it in. “Instead here I am, a grown ass 24 year old man, crying in public.”
“You will be eventually,” Ronan assured him. “Lesser men than you have cried for lesser things than this, Parrish.”
“Hey,” Adam said, “That’s Dr. Parrish to you.”
Ronan grinned at him. “I’m happy for you.”
“I know you are,” Adam said. He pressed his head against Ronan’s chest and took a few deep breaths. “Where did everyone go?”
“Buffet,” Ronan replied. “There’s a dessert tray.”
“There was a dessert tray,” Adam corrected.
“Do you know how to treat a sugar coma?” Ronan asked him in a mock somber tone.
“Nope,” Adam replied breezily. “Guess all of our friends are doomed.”
“It won't be the first time,” Ronan told him.
Adam smiled in response.
Ronan pressed a gentle kiss to his temple and said, “I’m so fucking proud of you.”
“I know,” Adam said. “I’m proud of me, too.”
“That’s enough,” Ronan said seriously.
“I know,” Adam repeated. “I know it is.”
“Did you know it’s bad luck for the bride to see the groom before they’re married?” Gansey asked thoughtlessly.
Ronan raised an eyebrow. “Do you really want to know which one of us is the bride?”
Gansey’s face reddened. “No. I absolutely do not. I’m sorry I said anything.”
“Good,” Ronan said. “Blue, damn it, stop straightening my tie. I made it crooked for a reason.”
“You’re fighting a losing battle,” Gansey said. “We should go check on Adam.”
“Don’t make any dumbass comments about brides and grooms, Dick,” Ronan said. “He’ll actually tell you which one of us plays bride more often.”
“I can’t believe I’m about to tell a gay man not to be heteronormative,” Blue said, but she opened her mouth and took a deep breath in preparation to do so.
“He started it,” Ronan gestured towards Gansey, who had turned a violent shade of crimson. “And besides, really, it’s neither one of us more often than the other, so arguably-”
“I’m going to go check on Adam,” Gansey said loudly, and he headed for the door.
“Hey,” Ronan reached out and stopped Gansey with a tap to the arm as he passed by, “Come here,” he said.
Gansey eyed him warily. “Blue, have you checked him for weapons?”
“Shut up,” Ronan said gruffly as he pulled Gansey into a hug.
Gansey hugged him back almost immediately, face mashed awkwardly in Ronan’s tuxedo, and one arm pinned between their torsos.
“I’m happy for you, Ronan,” he said into Ronan’s chest, in that cordial Gansey way of his, and Ronan knew he was in earnest.
“Yeah, I’m happy for me, too,” Ronan retorted. He released Gansey, and grinned in response to Gansey’s emotionally overcome expression. “Now, go make Adam’s tie crooked so that we can straighten each other’s ties. It’ll be cute. Go.”
“I can’t believe I just heard you say the word ‘cute’ in an unironic context,” Blue said.
“I’m a gay man,” Ronan said bluntly. “Next thing you know, I’ll be listening to Madonna.”
“I sure as fuck hope not,” Gansey said, aghast.
“It was a joke,” Ronan said flatly. “Get out of here. You’re making me antsy.”
Blue shepherded Gansey to the door and smiled at Ronan over her shoulder before giving him a thumbs up. Ronan distractedly returned her thumbs up and looked back at the mirror to make sure his tie was crooked enough to warrant Adam straightening it. He decided it was.
He paced back and forth in the small church office, waiting for the altar boy or Declan to come get him. They had decided that Ronan would walk down the aisle with Declan. Mostly because this pissed Declan off; but he agreed to it. Gansey was the best man, and Matthew was the ring bearer. Henry and Blue sat in the front row, holding each other’s hands, while Henry clutched a package of kleenex in his other hand. Robert Parrish had not been invited.
There was a knock at the door, and Ronan prepared himself for the big moment. “Come in,” he said. It was neither the altar boy, nor Declan. It was Adam.
“Adam,” Ronan was at a loss. “Didn’t Gansey tell you it’s bad luck for the bride to see the groom before they’re married?”
Adam grinned at him. “Did you tell him that you’re the bride?”
Ronan felt his face flush. “Didn’t Blue tell you not to be heteronormative?”
Adam laughed openly, before catching himself and quieting down. “They don’t know I’m here. They think they have me trapped upstairs.”
“In your old apartment? I figured they’d put you in the other office.”
“Nah,” Adam said. “I can’t stand it up there. It’s too small. I never noticed how tiny it was before. Either that or it got smaller since I left.”
“I think you got bigger, Adam,” Ronan said.
“Yeah,” Adam said quietly. He bit down on his bottom lip, and leaned further into the doorframe. “Ronan,” he started.
Ronan didn’t need to be asked twice. He crossed the room in three steps and kissed Adam. He cradled Adam’s head in his hands and pressed his thumbs gently into Adam’s jaw. Adam breathed in deeply and moved into Ronan, deepening the kiss.
They broke apart at the sound of Declan’s mock-offended voice saying, “We can’t leave you two alone for five fucking minutes, can we?”
Adam grinned and released Ronan. He reached out and straightened Ronan’s tie quickly before he ducked out of the doorway and into the hallway. Ronan silently cursed Declan, but he smiled as Adam waved at him and snuck back up the stairs to the attic room.
“Come on, Ronan,” Declan said, smiling fondly. “It’s the big moment.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Ronan grumbled, stepping into the hallway and closing the office door firmly.
The two brothers walked down the hallway towards the narthex, Ronan’s shoulder brushing Declan’s every so often. Halfway down the hall, Declan stopped abruptly and turned to face Ronan.
“Ronan,” he said, hesitating slightly, before he continued, “Dad would be proud.”
Ronan smiled. “Would he?”
“Yeah,” Declan smiled back and nodded. “He would. And so would mom.”
“Thanks, Declan,” Ronan said. “You’re not always an asshole. If you try really hard, you’re a somewhat decent guy. Not totally awful to be around.”
“Thanks, pissant,” Declan scoffed. “I figured you could not be an asshole on your wedding day, but I overestimated the extent of your good will.”
“Yep,” Ronan said cheerily. “Now let’s fucking do this.”
They walked quietly into the narthex, and waited at the door by the sanctuary. The organ began playing a dismal rendition of the wedding march, and Ronan grinned at the mental image of Gansey’s blush returning as everyone heard, ‘Here comes the bride’.
Ronan and Declan walked down the aisle, shoulder to shoulder. Adam was waiting at the end, standing next to the priest, with Matthew right behind him. Matthew beamed beatifically at Ronan, and Ronan smiled back.
‘Here comes the bride,’ Adam signed discreetly.
Ronan bit his tongue to keep from laughing.
When he and Declan reached the end of the aisle, they turned to face each other, and shook each other’s hands firmly. Declan rubbed Ronan’s head roughly, and Ronan instinctively ducked away from him.
“That felt different when you had hair,” Declan commented softly before moving to his seat, and Ronan grinned savagely at him before turning to face the priest.
He winked at Adam, and took his place on the step in front of the pulpit. The priest opened his book and began reading. Ronan was the one who had requested the service be in a church, and Adam, who hadn’t been raised with religion but had no real aversion to it, hadn’t objected.
“Do you know of a church that will perform a same-sex marriage?” Adam asked.
“Yeah,” Ronan had replied, and that was the end of that.
They hadn’t written their own vows, but it was deathly silent in the church as the priest asked Adam if he swore to take Ronan, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, et cetera and so forth.
The priest turned to Ronan. Ronan hardly heard him. He was staring at Adam, and Adam was staring back. Ronan had spent almost a year of his life staring at Adam in what he hoped was a subtle fashion. It wasn’t subtle, but Adam had always stared back, and that made it sort of alright. He remembered their first kiss now, as he was listening to the drone of the service. Adam was sitting on Ronan’s bed in his childhood bedroom, and Ronan, seized with courage, had kissed him. Adam had kissed him back.
“I do,” Ronan said, almost automatically, but not without feeling.
“You may now kiss the groom,” the priest said.
Gansey, who stood just barely in Ronan’s line of sight, blushed.
Ronan was smiling when he moved to kiss Adam. Adam was crying. Ronan kissed him gently, softly, putting everything he was afraid he hadn’t said often enough to Adam into the kiss, and Adam kissed him back, understanding what Ronan couldn’t say.
When they broke apart, Ronan was holding both of Adam’s hands, and Adam was still crying.
“This is very out of character for you,” Ronan teased gently.
Adam nodded. “I never thought I’d have this,” he whispered.
Ronan merely smiled at him. He held Adam’s hand a little tighter as they turned to walk down the aisle. As they passed the row where Henry and Blue sat, Henry discreetly passed Adam a tissue and gave him a teary thumbs up. Blue was crying too, her eyes red and puffy. Gansey had joined them on their pew, and he also had one of Henry’s tissues in his hand.
“Everybody’s fucking crying,” Ronan muttered into Adam’s ear. “And it’s your damn fault.”
“Could you wait until we got out of the church to start swearing at me, maybe?” Adam asked, feigning annoyance.
Matthew and Declan had opened the front doors of the church, and sunlight streamed into the narthex. Ronan winced at it slightly as Adam pulled him outside onto the front steps of the church.
“Where to now, Mr. Parrish?” Adam asked him as he wrapped his arms around Ronan’s waist and pressed their bodies together.
Ronan snorted. “Please. Unless you want to deal with the fact I get homicidal urges every time I hear that name, it’s Mr. Lynch.”
“Fair enough,” Adam conceded. “Dr. Lynch does have a ring to it, doesn’t it?”
“You’re going to start insisting people call you Doctor, right?”
Adam shrugged. “It’s not a big deal to me.”
“It is to me,” Ronan said. “Every single one of Gansey’s fucking Harvard reunion parties, I’m going to introduce my husband, Dr. Adam Parrish-Lynch.”
“If Gansey ever forgives me for being a Yale man and invites me to one of those parties, yeah,” Adam laughed. “So...we’re hyphenating?”
“We could have discussed this before you put the ring on my finger, y’know,” Ronan pointed out. “But to answer your earlier question, I think we’re going home, Adam.”
Adam pressed a kiss to Ronan’s cheek. “Sounds good to me, Ronan.”
They hurried down the front steps of the church as the shouts of their friends followed them to where Ronan’s BMW sat parked in its usual spot. Someone, probably Henry or Blue, had written “Just Married” on the back windshield, and the driver’s side window had BRIDE on it in big pink letters, and the passenger side window read GROOM in green letters.
“I guess I’m driving, then,” Ronan said easily.
Adam laughed as he got into the car. Ronan laughed with him.
trigger warnings for ronan crying and mentions of child abuse in this chapter. also, very brief spoilers for trk.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“You sure you’re ready for this?” Adam asked.
“Too late for this conversation, Parrish,” Ronan murmured, closing his eyes.
“I know, but still. We could at least reschedule the meeting.”
“No,” Ronan said immediately. “No. I’m fine. Let’s do it.”
Adam cast Ronan a dubious glance, but he didn’t second guess him. Instead, he took Ronan’s hand, and led him up the front stairs of the Social Services Department, and down the long front hallway to the Child Welfare office.
“Hey, guys!” their social worker, Kayla, practically sang as they came in.
Adam nodded at her politely as Ronan stared her overt enthusiasm stoically in the face.
“Are you ready?” Kayla breezed as she gathered up all the paperwork they had already signed.
“Yeah,” Adam said.
“Great!” she replied cheerily. “She’s waiting in the interview room!”
Adam and Ronan followed her out of the office and down another hallway. They came to stand outside the room, and paused in front of the large two way mirror in the wall. Inside, a little girl sat at a table, idly toying with a well loved Polly Pocket doll. She had dark blonde hair and large brown eyes. Her name was Agnes.
“I’m obligated to remind you guys that she’s still got living parents,” Kayla said carefully.
“Yeah, that was in the disclosure,” Adam acknowledged, looking away from Agnes.
Ronan continued to watch her through the glass as she set down her Polly and began to braid her own hair. She didn’t have an elastic to tie it back, so it fell out of the braid quickly. She braided and re-braided her hair five times in as many minutes while Adam and Kayla discussed the paperwork Ronan hadn’t even read.
Adam still held Ronan’s hand, understanding his silence. Ronan had woken them both with a nightmare the night before; one of his worst in a long time. It hadn’t been a magical nightmare, and he’d brought nothing back with him. Surprisingly, it had been a rather standard nightmare. As standard as any nightmare featuring both of your parents’ mangled corpses can be, anyway.
“When can we go in?” Ronan interrupted, tired of watching Agnes amuse herself in the stark, cold room.
“You can go in right now,” Kayla told him, her smile ever present and never wavering.
Ronan nodded, and opened the door to let himself in.
“Hi, Agnes,” he said as he sat down on the opposite side of the table.
“Hello,” she responded politely. “Where’s Adam?”
“He’s outside talking to Kayla about the paperwork.”
“Am I a lot of paperwork?” she asked. “When will Adam be here?”
“Adam likes paperwork,” Ronan assured her. “He’ll be here any second, I promise,” he nodded at her Polly and said, “What’s her name?”
“Jewel,” Agnes picked the doll up and handed it to him, “After my cat.”
“What would you name a cat if you had one? Since you gave your doll your cat’s name?”
Agnes considered this for a minute. She bit her lip and scrunched up her nose as she stared thoughtfully at the ceiling. Her legs swung back and forth under the table, and her heels drummed on the legs of her chair. Ronan had decided he loved her the first time he saw her do this, and he felt it now as he waited patiently for her answer.
“Snowball,” Agnes decided finally. “As long as he was white.”
Ronan nodded solemnly. “That sounds reasonable. We might be able to manage a white cat named Snowball.”
At that moment, the door opened, and Adam came in, with Kayla close behind him.
“Adam,” Agnes said seriously. “Ronan is going to get me a cat.”
“Is he really?” Adam smiled down at her, and then at Ronan. “That’s fine with me.”
“Agnes,” Kayla interrupted gently. “Adam and Ronan are going to take you home now.”
“Today?” Agnes asked, her eyes opening wide in what looked like alarm. “I can’t go today! I haven’t said goodbye.”
Ronan and Adam exchanged a look, then turned their gazes to Kayla. “Goodbye?” they inquired simultaneously.
“Yeah, her brother’s waiting for her in the other room,” Kayla replied offhandedly. “I told you that Thomas would come say goodbye after Adam and Ronan came to see you, didn’t I?”
Agnes nodded, looking subdued.
“Brother.” Ronan repeated. “What brother?”
Adam reached out and placed a staying hand on Ronan’s shoulder as Ronan continued, “Is he in the system?”
“Yes.” Kayla replied feebly, looking uncomfortable.
“I want to meet him.” Ronan demanded.
“I don’t think this is a good conversation to be having in front of the girl,” Kayla said.
“Agnes,” Adam cut in, sensing the distress radiating off of her, “How old is your brother?”
“16,” she mumbled. “Nobody wants him.”
“Who said that?” Adam asked gently.
“He did. He says he’s too big. Nobody wants him.”
Ronan stood up slowly, barely containing himself. “I want the paperwork. And I want to meet him.”
“I’ll stay here,” Adam said as he nodded his assent to Ronan and seated himself in the chair.
Kayla nodded, her smile back in place, and led Ronan out of the interview room. As they walked back down the hall to her office, she stopped him, and said in a low voice, “I have to tell you. Thomas has been in and out of foster homes since he landed in the system four years ago.”
“Okay,” Ronan said. “Why?”
“Why?” Kayla echoed. “What do you mean, ‘why’?”
“What was wrong with the foster homes?”
Kayla took a step back from him, and looked at him assessingly. “Usually people ask me what’s wrong with Thomas.”
“Well, there’s your problem, right there,” Ronan said flatly.
“May I ask you a personal question?”
“The answer to it is probably already on your paperwork, but sure.”
“Where did you get those scars?” Kayla nodded briefly at Ronan’s forearms.
Ronan didn’t even blink before he said, “I tried to kill myself when I was a teenager. How much more paperwork is there going to be?”
Kayla faltered minutely. “You-”
“I've already passed your psych eval. It was ten years ago. Can I meet him now? You said he was here.”
“Yes. Yes, you can. I’ll get the file. It’s a little bit easier if you adopt a sibling. Hang on. He’s in the room next to Agnes’. I’ll be right back.” Kayla hurried off down the hall to her office, and Ronan turned back from where they had come.
He looked in the mirror-window to see Adam and Agnes still chatting, as Agnes animatedly acted out a story with her Polly Pocket while Adam smiled and nodded.
Ronan felt a strong surge of emotion rush up inside his chest, and he didn’t fight it down. He took it with him to the window of the next room, where a thin, sallow looking boy with dark hair and eyes was seated at the table, biting his fingernails. Ronan opened the door and let himself in.
“Hey, Thomas. I’m Ronan,” he said, not coming any further into the room.
“What do you want?” Thomas asked coldly.
“I’m the guy who’s planning on adopting your sister,” Ronan explained, shutting the door behind him.
“Oh,” Thomas sat up a little straighter and pushed his messy hair out of his eyes. “She loves you guys. You’ve got a husband, right? He’s a doctor or something, she told me.”
“Adam,” Ronan supplied. “And yeah, he’s a doctor. He specializes in young adult health.”
“Cool,” Thomas said, his tone betraying barely restrained enthusiasm. “I wanted to be a doctor when I was Agnes’ age.”
“Yeah?” Ronan asked as he carefully took in Thomas’ appearance.
“Yeah, but I flunked a year of highschool ‘cus I was moving so much, so I figure no med school will take me now,” Thomas shrugged. “Which is fine.”
“Huh.” Ronan grunted. “Well, I’m sure Adam would be happy to show you a few tricks of the trade. He knows CPR.”
Thomas smiled, then, a bright, unguarded flash of teeth, before he caught himself. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously and folded his arms over his chest. “What do you want, man?”
“Nothing,” Ronan said easily. “Adam and I didn’t know Agnes had a brother. If we did, we wouldn’t have split you up.”
Thomas’ eyes widened. “Oh no, Agnes is a great kid. You’ll love her. Don’t worry about me, honest. She’ll be so upset if she doesn’t get to go with you guys. She loves you. I’ve heard all about you, and she never stops talking about your farm and your pet deer and-”
“Hey, hey,” Ronan held up his hands placatingly. “I meant we would have taken both of you, not that we wouldn’t have wanted Agnes.”
It took Thomas a minute to process this. “Oh,” was all he said.
“I hear you’ve been in the system for a while,” Ronan commented.
“What was wrong with all those foster homes? Backyard too small?” Ronan seated himself in the chair across from Thomas and rested his forearms on the table.
Thomas stared, as Ronan knew he would.
“No,” Thomas said, his voice thick. “No, the backyards were fine.”
“I, uh,” Thomas cleared his throat. “What happened to your-”
“Suicide,” Ronan answered quietly. “What happened to you?”
Thomas looked at him for what seemed like an age, before he looked back down at the table and muttered, “Nothing. I just didn’t get along with the kids they already had, that’s all. I’m too old to be a foster kid. People want babies. Or kids like Agnes. Cute, unassuming, blonde kids that they can buy toys for.”
“I’d buy you toys if you were still into that. I’ve never known a teenage boy to not like playing with LEGOs or some shit,” Ronan offered, not missing the small smile this earned him. He leaned back in his chair and tapped his fingers on the tabletop. “Adam’s dad beat him.”
Thomas flinched, but didn’t look up.
“Adam’s dad threw him down a flight of stairs, and permanently deafened him in his left ear.”
“Look, isn’t that his private business? I don’t want to hear about this-”
“Adam trusts me with his past. You may not want to hear it, but I think you need to,” Ronan continued. “He disowned Adam after Adam left. Adam took his dad to court. All his dad got was a slap on the wrist. No jail time. Nothing. People acted like it had never happened. But it happened to Adam, and he can’t forget. He still has nightmares about it. He still forgets about his ear and tries to use the phone on the left side, or he’ll sit on the wrong side of me when we’re out to dinner, and he won’t be able to hear a damn word I say.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Thomas asked, his voice cold and sharp as steel.
“Because I think you understand this about Adam better than I do,” Ronan replied. “Because I think you share something with Adam that I don’t.”
Thomas was deathly still for several moments. “Other kids,” he said, finally. “Never a parent. Other kids. I’m not exactly-” he gestured to himself, slowly. “Anyway. I guess I was an easy target. I was twelve. The first time. As I got older I thought I could stop it. I thought I could fight back. That made it worse.”
Ronan nodded. “If Adam and I wanted to take both you and your sister home with us, would you be okay with that?”
Thomas looked up at Ronan, his eyes wide and teary. “Yeah.”
“Would you talk to Adam about this?” Ronan gestured between them.
“Maybe,” Thomas whispered. “I would try.”
“That’s enough,” Ronan said. “That’s more than enough.”
“Ok.” Thomas agreed. “Ok, yeah. Can I see my sister?”
“Yeah, man,” Ronan grinned, tapping the palm of his hand against the table as he stood up. “I’ll go get her right now.”
Ronan turned and opened the door, barely registered Adam on the other side of it before Agnes flew past his legs, shrieking, “Thomas! Thomas I get to stay with you!”
Without waiting to hear Thomas’ response, Ronan shut the door and immediately reached for Adam. Tears were streaming down Adam’s cheeks as he wrapped his arms around Ronan’s neck and whispered into the crook of Ronan’s neck, “I am so proud of you.”
“Fuck, stop,” Ronan murmured. “You’re making me tear up.”
Adam pulled away from him and looked him in the eye. “Oh my God, Ronan. You’re crying.”
Ronan blinked helplessly as tears welled up in his eyes. “Fuck,” he repeated.
Adam released Ronan’s neck and brought his hands up to Ronan’s face. He wiped Ronan’s tears away as they fell, and smiled at him.
“You didn’t even cry on our wedding day,” Adam teased.
“There was enough crying going on that day without me contributing,” Ronan said defensively. “I don’t cry when I’m happy, Parrish. You should know that by now.”
“I do,” Adam admitted.
“We’ve been together for ten years, Adam. I know.”
Adam laughed, and pulled Ronan back into a hug. “I figured you did,” he said quietly.
Ronan pressed his forehead to Adam’s shoulder and took a deep breath.
“I think I love those kids,” he said finally.
“Good thing, too,” Adam replied. “Because I know for a fact I love those kids.”
Kayla appeared just then, waving more paperwork and saying something about the different rules that apply to fostering siblings.
Ronan looked at Adam for a moment, then turned to her and said, “How long do we have to foster before we can adopt?”
Kayla stopped dead in her tracks. “Well, uh, that depends, but, that’s-”
“More paperwork,” Ronan interrupted. “I kind of figured.”
if it feels like ronan did nothing but 'smile' or 'grin' throughout this little thing, he did. can't help that. this boy had to emote somehow. also, i feel like trk had set us well on the way to emotional recovery for ronan, so. by the time this concludes he's 27, and if he hasn't learned to smile by then, honestly, there's no hope for any of us.
also, i feel like you should know that i listened to my personal 'best of one direction' playlist AND the hamilton soundtrack while writing this, so that's why everyone was smiling all the time.