Ronan’s heart had been broken several times before - when Mason betrayed him, when his father died, when he found out he couldn’t return to the Barns. His heart had broken when he believed his mother had given up on life, and then when he and Declan had stopped being friends.
Now his heart was breaking again.
It was so stupid. So fucking stupid. He hadn’t even believed till recently that Adam could ever have feelings for him, but here he was mourning the fact that he’d lied to him. He should have known Adam was lying to him. What would a guy like Adam see in him anyway? Even if it was just friendship between them, he should have known it was a farce.
But it wasn’t just friendship, was it? Adam had kissed him back. He’d tried to kiss him again. Adam had realised he had feelings for him and he’d taken advantage of them. He’d taken advantage of him. To get to Blue.
Ronan lay on his bed, letting the jarring music fill his ears and overwhelm his senses.
He couldn’t hear Adam outside anymore. Maybe he’d left. He had work today anyway. He must have gone for his shift at the factory. Ronan fidgeted, and then resisted the urge to go and check. It was just another excuse for heartbreak, and he was tired of hurting.
After Mason’s call he’d driven aimlessly for a while, until the desire to go to Kavinsky’s had become almost overwhelming. Then he’d turned around and driven to the Barns. He’d spent the entire night and day here, at the Barns, and it had helped a little. The familiar smell of the air, the fireflies, the odd dream gadgets that sat on every surface - it was home. It was what he’d been missing for so long.
His mother was currently sitting in a nursing home in DC, a fact Ronan had been pissed about until Declan had assured him it was only temporary - only until they got the Barns up and running smoothly again. It worked out for him at the moment, in a sense. It would be hard being around his mother, needing her comfort and instead getting an emotionless shell of a woman who could offer him nothing. He’d rather be alone.
Ronan hadn’t slept all night. He’d sat with Jackhammer for a while, watching as she ran around the fields, but his mind kept drifting to the night he’d spent with her and Adam, how he and Adam had gotten caught in the rain, the way Adam had laughed and looked at him and run his hands down his chest. God he felt like a complete idiot. He’d actually almost convinced himself that Adam felt the same way about him. That he’d wanted him.
Was Adam still outside? Why was he outside? What was there to explain? Maybe Mason was lying to Ronan. The more he thought about what Mason had said, the more he wondered if he’d called him up and revealed all that shit on purpose.
But if he had been outright lying, would Parrish really have made the journey all the way out here to explain? Would he have banged on the door with all that panic in his voice, begged Ronan to listen to him? Noah told me that Mason told you. That's what he'd said. So a t least part of what Mason had said had been the truth, and Ronan didn’t know which he’d rather believe - that Adam wanted to be with Blue, or that Adam had been trying to fuck with him. The thought of both being true made him sick to his stomach.
Maybe Adam was here because he felt guilty. Maybe he felt guilty because he and Ronan had become friends, and things that changed between them. He did care about Ronan a little, right? He wouldn't have acted the way he had at Kavinsky's party - or in DC, or at the Barns - if he didn't care at all. He couldn't have been that good of an actor. Maybe he was going to say, I’m sorry for taking this so far, I hope we can stay friends? Maybe he wanted to ask Ronan permission to pursue Blue. Then Ronan could watch the dreadful Gansey-Blue-Adam love triangle play out while he nursed his broken heart and drank himself into a stupor.
Possibly not his best plan, but it wasn’t his worst one either.
Though Ronan was frankly quite proud of himself for not giving into the urge to go to Kavinsky’s. Things there weren’t exactly kosher; Kavinsky was always trying to push hard drugs onto him, and get him to do things that Ronan regretted the next morning. The truth was, at one point, Ronan had needed Kavinsky. Kavinsky was a dreamer just like Ronan, and he’d refused to teach Ronan tricks unless Ronan drank with him, unless he raced with him, unless he had his back, and took the pills Kavinsky offered him. Somewhere along the way, however, their relationship had changed. Ronan realised he didn’t need Kavinsky to dream, and yet, he was addicted to his parties, addicted to the adrenaline fuelled nights of racing. Their relationship was messy, tangled. Kavinsky had a sick fascination with him that sometimes tipped into the not-exactly-platonic, and maybe a part of Ronan had been flattered by it. Maybe that’s why he kept going back. The booze and the drugs and the attention - it had been an easy way to forget everything.
It was self-destructive, he knew, to constantly run to Kavinsky whenever he was down. He’d realised that, and lately he’d been taking a healthier approach. To everything. He stopped the drugs, he started calling Kavinsky out on his shit, he told him to stop saying things to him that made him feel exposed in the worst way possible. Hell, the last time he'd gotten drunk he’d actually been cheerful. He’d actually been drinking to have fun, not to be drunk or to have an excuse to be stupid. He’d actually talked to Cheng Two without it ending in anger and fists and Ronan feeling like shit.
He’d thought he was healing. But this whole thing with Adam was threatening to send him off the edge again.
He needed a drink.
He got up from the bed. It had been hours since Adam had banged on his door. He must have gone by now. He had work anyway.
Ronan stabbed off the music and then yanked open the door, jerking backwards when Adam toppled over onto the floor. Adam blinked up at him blearily, blue eyes muddled. His hair was a mess and his clothes were horribly wrinkled. He sat up, rubbed his eyes and yawned.
“Shit,” he said. “What time is it?”
Ronan stiffened, but the shock he felt was obvious when he spoke. “The fuck are you still doing here?”
“I was waiting to talk to you.” Adam staggered to his feet.
“You’ve been here all day,” Ronan said. “You haven’t eaten anything.”
Adam shrugged. “Neither have you.”
Ronan shoved past him, fuming. Adam trailed after him.
“Can we talk?”
“You have work.”
Surprise made Ronan stop in his tracks for a second. He glanced at Adam, and then continued walking.
“Fuck have you done with Parrish?”
“Ha ha,” Adam said, sarcastically.
Ronan reached the kitchen. He grabbed a box of mac and cheese from one of the cupboards and tore it open.
“Seriously Parrish,” he said. “You have work.”
“I missed my first two shifts already,” Adam said. “Might as well miss the last one.”
“You have to pay your fucking rent.”
“I’ll be fine if I skip a few meals in the next week,” he said. He rubbed his eyes again. “I don’t know… maybe soap and razors too. I don’t need to shave though. We’re on summer break.”
“You look like a creepy asshole with a beard. And you smell fucking terrible already.”
Ronan grabbed a pot, poured water in it and slammed it onto the stove. Adam watched him. Ronan didn’t want to look at him. He didn’t want to see the guilty expression on his face.
“Please let me explain,” Adam said, his voice low.
Ronan turned to face him, trying to harden his expression. It was a mistake. Seeing Adam as a distraught mess just made him feel worse. He dropped his gaze. “You think I give a fuck that you tried to break me and Sargent up, Parrish?”
“Yes,” Adam said, stiffening his jaw. “I think you do give a fuck.”
Ronan clanged the lid on top of the pot.
“Well I don’t. I don’t give a shit about what you do or don’t do.”
“Then why do you care if I go to work?” Adam asked, quietly. “Why are you making macaroni?”
“I don’t. And this isn’t for you.”
“You do care,” Adam said, and his voice was forceful, even as it shook. “Because you’re a good person.”
Ronan turned away but Adam moved around to his other side, so that Ronan had to look at him. He couldn’t stand how messy he looked. He couldn’t stand how soft his gaze was. He couldn't stand the way he had his brow set in that look of furrowed concentration that had enchanted Ronan the first time he’d seen him.
“The problem is,” Adam said, “that I’m not. I’m not a good person, Ronan. I’m broken. I’m… damaged. I grew up in a house where love was some sort of fairy tale idea, not a real thing. If I’d been a stronger person, a nicer person, then maybe I wouldn’t have let Mason convince me to fuck with you, to break you two up. I could give you a hundred reasons why I decided to do it, but they would all be excuses, and I don’t want to give you excuses. You deserve better.”
“I don’t want to hear this,” Ronan snapped, but his voice wobbled.
“Please,” Adam begged. “Just let me say this.”
He knew he would do anything Adam asked. It was totally and completely unfair.
Adam hung his head and then took a deep breath. “I did plan to break you and Blue up. I wasn’t sure how to do it - and I clearly did a horrible job - but the plan was to become your friend so I could… mess with you. So I could get some sort of revenge for... I don't even know what. But the thing is, I didn’t know who you were. I wasn’t angry at you. I was jealous of you, and angry at my father, and angry at Kavinsky, and angry at Mason for not giving a shit about me, and angry at Blue for not even giving me a second look.” He bit his lip. “And I was tired, and I was hungry, and I was so frustrated that my life wasn’t working out the way I wanted it to. So I decided to take it out on you. Because I thought it would help.”
Ronan’s heart was stuttering now. Spelling out something in morse code. That small part of his brain that had loved Adam from the moment he’d heard him say something snarky in that southern drawl of his was begging him to walk away before he got hurt anymore, before he fell in love all over again.
“I met Blue a few times,” Adam continued, “and I… I flirted with her. I said some mean things about you. I gave you advice that I told myself was bad, but it was really just advice. I mean…” he swallowed. “I didn’t actually do all the stuff that Mason told me to, but the fact that I was planning to is bad enough. The fact that I told Mason how I was fucking with you, the fact that I made up stuff, just to… I don’t know… please him? I don’t know why I did it. But then I started…” he let out a sharp breath. “Things changed. I saw how kind you were. To Matthew. How honest you were with Gansey. How you’re always looking out for your friends even though you pretend you’re an asshole.”
He wiped the corner of his eye with the side of his hand.
“You changed everything, Ronan. I mean, you, Gansey, Noah, Blue. You made me a different person… a better person. And I don’t deserve any of it. Not your love, not your time or your affection. I don’t deserve to have you all care about me when my intentions were so fucking cruel. My dad created a monster. I’ve known it my whole life, but this just proves it. I don’t belong with all of you.”
He took a staggered breath. Another tear was rolling down his cheek now, but his jaw was set, like he’d come to some sort of conclusion.
“You’ve been through so much shit, Ronan. And I’m sorry I brought more of it into your life. I didn’t mean to. And I’m not going to anymore.” His voice shook. “I think it’s better if I stay out of your lives. I don’t want to cause you any more pain. But thank you for everything, really.”
He gave Ronan a small smile. Ronan had to fight back the burning in his throat, the sting in his eyes. He felt like he should say something, but there were no words. Adam turned away and started walking towards the door. Ronan watched him, unable to move, unable to breathe. The water began to boil. Ronan turned off the stove.
When he turned around, Adam was gone.
Ronan slumped down onto the floor. The lump in his throat had grown so big, he could barely breathe. He tried to be angry, tried to will the tears not to fall, but they did anyway. He wanted to be pissed off, wanted to be broken hearted, but all he felt was the injustice of it all.
Because as upset as Ronan was with what Adam had done, how Adam had lied, he was even more upset that Adam thought he was a bad person.
This was the same Adam Parrish who’d rescued him from Kavinsky’s party even though he knew it was late and his father was going to beat him up. The same Adam Parrish that was thrown out of his house for preventing Ronan from going to jail. The same Adam Parrish that listened to him, that understood him, that kept him company when he needed it the most.
This was the same Adam Parrish who was risking getting fired from his jobs that he needed so desperately just so he could check up on Ronan, just so he could make sure he was alright and explain himself to him. God what a fucking idiot.
He couldn’t have been faking all of that. He may have been trying to hurt Ronan, but he’d just made him happier. Without realising it, Adam had given him a reason to tell his brothers the truth about himself. Without realising it, Adam had helped Ronan understand that he didn’t need destructive hobbies to feel excitement in life. He’d shown Ronan why he was wrong for being friends with Kavinsky, had given him the courage to be a more honest version of himself. He’d made Ronan want more, had made him care more.
Adam was not a bad person, and Ronan knew this because Mason had done the exact same thing to Ronan all those years ago. He’d taken advantage of a broken person in a bad situation. He’d taken advantage of Adam’s vulnerability, his lack of friends, his fractured life. And just as Ronan had then, here was Adam thinking he was a horrible person for having been manipulated.
Whatever said and done, at the end of the day, Ronan knew Adam Parrish. And only an idiot would ever let him go.
Ronan glanced up. Adam was standing in the doorway.
“I forgot,” he said.
Ronan didn’t know what he forgot, but he staggered to his feet anyway. Adam rifled through his backpack. Ronan stood stock still in place as Adam came over to him, keeping a safe distance, as though Ronan was a dangerous animal.
“I’ve been meaning to give you this for a while,” he said.
He pushed something into Ronan’s hand. It was cold to the touch. Ronan glanced down, and his breath lodged in his throat.
It was exactly how he remembered it. Delicate but strong, with wings the colour of opal. Its body transparent and shining in the light. He blew lightly on it, and watched as it took off in the air, flapping furiously, emitting a dull maroon light.
“How did you…?” Ronan started.
“I stole it,” Adam said. There was a hint of humour in his voice, but it was strained. “But good luck proving it was me.”
As Adam stood there, his cheeks smudged with dirt where he’d wiped his tears, his hair in a dishevelled mess, admitting he recovered something Ronan had been missing for years, Ronan felt like he was falling. His feelings came rushing over, crashing down on him like a wave. He was spluttering, trying to stay afloat, but it was no use.
Ronan had fallen too deep into love to ever be able to get back up.
Adam made to leave again, but this time Ronan grabbed onto his sleeve.
“Do you want to be with Blue?” he asked. His voice was rough, sandpaper against stone.
“No,” Adam said. “Not anymore.”
“Why?” Ronan asked.
Adam shifted in his place. “I think I’m falling for you,” he said, and his voice was barely above a whisper. He swallowed, and then amended. “I don’t think, I know.”
“And your plan was to take your shitty bike and ride out of my life?”
“I don’t want to hurt you any more,” Adam said, pathetically. “I really don’t deserve you.”
“You’re a fucking idiot, Adam.”
Ronan grabbed the front of his shirt and dragged him close.
Adam smelled like grease and oranges and sweat. Ronan found it a little hard to think, to breathe, with him so close. He could hear Adam’s breath hitch as he touched his cheek, ran a thumb across his cheekbone.
“I’m sorry,” Adam whispered.
“Asshole,” Ronan breathed.
Adam swallowed. His eyes flicked down to Ronan’s lips.
Ronan leaned in closer breathing in his scent, and then, before he could lose his nerve, he pressed their lips together.
From the moment their lips touched, Ronan was gone. The way Adam kissed him undid him, made him unravel, made him melt. He gave into the sensation, let Adam take the lead as they kissed again and again. Adam began softly and tentatively, careful and teasing, but then he grew more forceful, more deliberate. He pressed up against him, hands digging into skin, coaxing moans from the back of Ronan’s throat.
Ronan’s skin was on fire, his whole body electrified. He forgot where they were, who he was. There was nothing but this one moment, Adam’s lips against his, his hand on his hip, desperately wanting him back.
It was too soon when they pulled apart, gasping against each other’s lips. Adam shifted so his breath was warming Ronan’s neck, and he held onto him, as though scared that Ronan would disappear if he let go.
“Fuck,” he said.
Ronan couldn’t even form words.
They stayed that way for a moment, bodies pressed together, chests heaving. Adam gently ran his thumb over the nape of his neck. Ronan shivered.
“So, I’m forgiven then?” Adam asked, his voice husky.
“No,” Ronan said. He was still a little breathless, and Adam’s voice like that was certainly not doing him any favours. “But we’re getting there.”
Adam pulled back a little and grinned at him, eyes alighting in that way that made Ronan’s blood thrum.
“That’s fair,” he said, his nose brushing against Ronan’s. “I’ll be happy to pay the price.”
It was all Ronan could do not to make a strangled noise. “Don’t be a pervert, Parrish.”
Adam smirked. He let his a finger run down Ronan’s neck, over the hooks and claws of his tattoo. He was about so say something else, when his eyes suddenly widened.
“Shit,” Adam said. “Gansey.”
Gansey? What the fuck was he going on about? Of all the mood-killing topics, this might have been number one.
Which is when it hit him.
Gansey had called him sixteen times that morning, but Ronan had been in too much of a state to answer him. Adam pulled away as Ronan fished around in his pocket and yanked out his phone. He flinched. Sixteen more missed calls.
“He’s going to kill me,” he said accusingly to Adam as he starting dialling Gansey’s number. “This is all your fault.”
“I’ll gladly make up for that too,” Adam said, but he was beaming stupidly, his eyes filled with that same brilliant light that was filling Ronan.
Ronan didn’t know he had the power to make people feel that way. He turned around so Adam couldn’t see how flushed his cheeks were, how blissfully and idiotically happy he was.
Above, the light the bee was emitting was a brilliant yellow.
He really was done for.