Adam leaned his head against the cool, plastic siding of the plane’s interior. He was trying to pretend to sleep. The abrupt movement from the turbulence kept him distinctly on edge. Usually, he popped a Klonopin or two before taking a long flight, but with this particular trip being so unexpected as it was, he hadn’t had a chance to refill his prescription in time. He closed his eyes and tried to breathe slowly, practicing the meditation-like exercise that he’d learned from his third to last therapist.
It had been so long since he’d been on a cross-country flight, and just the thought of it gave his stomach a lurch of anxiety. Or, maybe the anxiety was more to do with his destination, rather than the flight itself. He had been trying to keep that thought out of his mind all day. Adam was great at pretending. He was just taking a flight to Orlando to meet up with his friends, he told himself. He was going to Brooklyn to visit Blue for his week-long vacation. He was going anywhere, doing anything besides flying back to the one town on this planet that he’d sworn to never step foot in again.
Seven years. It had been seven years since he left Henrietta, and he never thought he’d be back. He’d actively avoided it; his few remaining friends from his youth opted to visit him in California rather than lose touch, though he had visited Blue at least once every other year since she’d moved to New York. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about his friends, he just had too many bad memories associated with that town, and he and Henrietta hadn’t exactly parted on the best of terms.
Adam changed positions, propping his elbow up on the armrest and leaning down so his cheek was resting in his palm. He felt panic bubbling in his stomach but he tried to ignore it. The weird thing was, when he got the call from Gansey, he hadn't even hesitated. He’d ended work early, booked the first flight out and left immediately. It wasn’t until he was waiting to be boarded that he’d actively started panicking.
He had a reason for going back, and it was quite possibly the only situation that could have convinced him to return.
When he’d finally been able to leave the plane, he headed straight to the bathroom to pee, texting Blue as he went.
Adam: Bathroom. Then meet at baggage claim?
Blue: !!!! SEE YOU SOON!!!
When Adam found his way to the baggage claim, it wasn’t hard to spot Blue. Not only was the Henrietta airport a small one, but it was also 1:15am. Furthermore, Blue had a tendency to send him selfies at least once a week, so he knew she had recently changed her hair to a dark jade green color, making her stand out even more. She was wearing pajama shorts and a black zip-up hoodie, with fluffy slippers on her feet, and her back was turned toward Adam. He made his way over, moving his carry-on onto his other shoulder as he snuck up behind her and then enveloped her entire short frame into a crushing hug. Blue squealed and turned around in his arms, clutching onto him tightly.
“ADAM!” She yelled at him.
“BLUE!” He yelled back.
“I MISSED YOU SO MUCH!”
“I MISSED YOU MORE!”
The few other people convening in the airport looked over at them disapprovingly, but Adam didn’t care. Blue was his best friend and he hadn’t hugged her in six months. She pulled away and took a step back, grabbing his hands with her own.
“How’s Noah,” Adam asked, remembering the purpose of his visit. Blue took a deep breath and squeezed his left hand.
“Not great. He’s out of the ICU but the doctors say he could still be in danger, because he hasn’t woken up yet.” Blue brought Adam in again and leaned her head against his chest as he let go of her hand to wrap an arm around her.
“It was so scary, Adam,” she said, voice quiet.
“I wish I could have been here earlier,” he replied.
After one last moment in each other’s arms, Adam finally disentangled himself from Blue and headed over to the baggage that was now coming around the carousel. When he spotted his suitcase, he grabbed it and then took hold of Blue’s hand so they could walk out of the airport together.
The two of them kept silent as they moved through the parking lot, until Adam saw the car Blue was leading him to.
“This really takes me back. Calla never got a new car in the ten years I’ve known you?”
“Actually, it’s Orla’s now. It’s the only car they’d let me borrow,” Blue said as she rolled her eyes.
Adam smirked. “Well, you are a notoriously bad driver.” She smacked him on the arm and glared at him.
“Hey, I would be better but no one drives in Brooklyn. I haven’t had time to practice!”
“Blue, you’re twenty-five.”
“Half of my friends in New York have never even learned to drive. It’s totally normal.”
Adam laughed. "It's normal to not learn how to drive, but it's another thing entirely to learn how, yet fail so spectacularly at it."
Adam climbed into Orla’s car which was significantly dented, most of which Blue had contributed to when she’d been sixteen and learning how not to drive. He cranked the manual window handle as soon as he got into the car, wanting to keep the air fresh around him.
Blue started down the street slowly and Adam chucked.
“So have you been seeing anyone over in the Sunshine State?” Blue asked.
“Isn’t that Florida?”
He scratched his head, moving his hair out of his eyes haphazardly. “No, not really.”
“Not really, huh? So have you just been hooking up?” She asked, raising her eyebrows.
He sighed. It had taken less than ten minutes for her to bring up his love life. “Not really. I’ve been…” he paused, “dating.”
“Ooh,” Blue said, her head flipping to the side to look at him.
“Keep your eyes on the road, Jesus.”
She turned her head back to the front. “Dating, huh? Like tinder?”
“No, you know how I hate those apps. Just, people ask me out sometimes—don’t laugh! And I guess the last few months I’ve been saying yes more often than not.”
“Anyone make it past the first date?” Blue asked.
Adam took a deep breath. He hated talking about this shit. “No,” was all he said.
“Shame,” she said. “You’re just too good for the human species. Someday an alien is going to come down here and sweep you off your feet.”
“Can’t wait,” he said, laughing. “So,” Adam said, switching gears. “Does the mysterious person you’ve been seeing over there also not know how to drive?”
Blue’s demeanor changed instantly and she traded out her facial expression for a fake neutral one. “Who?”
Adam exaggeratedly rolled his eyes at her. “Cut the shit, Blue,” he said.
“We’re here for Noah,” she said seriously.
“You literally just grilled me about my love life ten seconds ago.”
“Fine. No, actually the mysterious person I may or may not be seeing loves cars. Ugh.”
Adam laughed so hard he almost choked. “Right. Ew, gross, people who like cars,” he deadpanned.
“Anyway,” Blue said, desperately trying to change the subject. “I just dropped off Gansey before picking you up, he hasn’t slept since the accident. I’m going to drop you off and head home to sleep for a few hours myself, if that’s okay?”
“I think Henry is the only one there right now, so you’ll finally get to meet him.” Her voice lowered and Adam could hear how scared she was just by her tone. “Wish it would have happened under better circumstances.”
“Yeah,” Adam said. Then, “He’ll be alright, Blue. He’s strong.”
She took a shaky breath as they pulled into the hospital parking lot. “I know.”
“So how is he allowed so many visitors at this time?” Adam asked as she parked.
“Gansey’s parents contribute a big chunk of change to the hospital every year so I guess they let him have unlimited visitors with special privilege.”
Adam got out of the car and came around to the drivers side. Blue opened her own door and stood up.
“You don’t have to walk me in. Go get some sleep. Do you know the room number?”
“621,” she told him. She reached her arms out for a hug and Adam obliged. He closed his eyes and breathed in her comforting scent. “I love you,” Blue told him.
“I love you too.” He grabbed his suitcase and bag out of the car and pulled it with him into the hospital entrance.
Adam felt nervous as he walked up to the front desk. He was glad he got to catch up with Blue, but he knew they had been just pretending to be normal for twenty minutes, when neither of them felt normal about this at all.
Noah’s been in an accident.
You should come home.
Gansey’s phone call had triggered something in him. A need to protect that he hadn’t felt in a long time. He just wanted Noah to be okay. He would give anything for Noah to be okay.
Everything was blurred around the edges as he spoke to the receptionist. He assumed to tell them he was here to see Noah Czerny in room 621. He hoped that’s what he’d said.
Fuck. He wasn’t good at this. He didn’t know how to visit people in hospitals. He didn’t know how to be okay when he was about to see Noah lying comatose in a hospital bed. Not to mention the fact that he was also about to meet Noah’s boyfriend.
He followed someone down a hallway and to the elevator. Once inside, he leaned his back against the wall and closed his eyes and let the feeling of rising up to the six floor take hold in his stomach. He didn’t open his eyes until he heard the “ping” indicating the elevator doors would be opening. He felt like he was going to throw up.
The person he was following—was it the receptionist? nurse?—walked out and he followed them down a few more hallways until they stopped and he waited.
“Try to keep the noise level down so you don’t disturb the other patients in this wing. That’s why we usually don’t have visitors at this hour.”
Adam just nodded his head. He grabbed the door handle and hesitated. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and then finally opened the door. He stepped inside and closed it behind him.
Someone sitting in a chair next to the bed immediately stood up. He thought maybe they’d been sleeping. Henry.
It was dark in the room, just a faint glow from a red light in the corner illuminated the room and gave him sight. The man standing in front of him was cast in shadow on the left side of his face, while the right side was lit with the red glow, making it difficult to see his features. He was tall, with what looked like dark, short, curly hair. He was wearing all black, tight clothes, with a leather jacket on. Not what he would normally assume to be Noah’s type, but everyone changed when they got older.
Adam looked down at Noah briefly before dropping his suitcase on the floor. He took a couple steps forward and turned back to Henry. He could see him better up close, and he noticed now that he was very handsome. Scruffy beard, which he knew wasn’t Noah’s type, but it was most likely due to being away from a razor after the accident.
He reached out his hand toward him. “You must be Henry.”
He watched as his features changed dramatically. First to confusion, then to disappointment, and then to—amused? He coughed as he surveyed Adam and his out-stretched hand. Then he grabbed it, shaking it.
“Not Henry, no.”
Adam blanched. “Oh my God, sorry. What’s you’re name? I just had a really long flight. You’re Noah’s boyfriend, right?”
Not-Henry smiled at this and shook his head, taking his hand away from Adam.
“Definitely not Noah’s boyfriend,” he said to Adam, eyebrows raised.
“Oh. Sorry. Who are you?” Adam felt like an idiot now.
“We’ve met,” was all the guy said back. He looked amused again, like he was laughing at a joke that Adam wasn’t in on.
“Shit. Sorry, I haven’t been here in seven years, and I’m not great at remembering people and—” Adam was cut off with some hand-waving.
“It’s fine. Don’t sweat it, Parrish.”
Adam’s jaw dropped just slightly as he took in this guy who was clearly not a stranger but definitely a stranger.
He winced before asking, “What is your name, again?”
He got a blinding half-smile in return. “It’s Ronan. Ronan Lynch.”
He and Ronan sat on opposite sides of Noah’s bed in a silence that Ronan seemed to find comfortable, but Adam was finding more and more uncomfortable with each passing minute. He did know who Ronan Lynch was. He was Gansey’s best friend. He went to Aglionby with Gansey and Noah. Adam had heard stories about Ronan from each of his friends over the years. But he didn’t remember them having met before, as Ronan had told him.
But then again, he hadn’t really become friends with Gansey and Noah until his senior year of high school, and that was only by association. Blue and Gansey had dated for a bit back then, before deciding to just be friends, and Adam had been along for the ride as Blue’s best friend. Then he’d somehow come out of it close with both Noah and Gansey. Somehow he didn’t remember he and Ronan crossing paths. Fuck it was going to bother him all night. It was better than the alternative, which was him thinking about Noah. He’d spent about ten minutes just staring at Noah’s bandaged arms and bruised face, trying to keep from crying. But he didn’t. He bit his tongue hard until the pain helped him avoid it. He hated crying.
He sighed and grabbed his phone to text Blue. She would know about Ronan. Then he looked at the time, 2:02am, and thought better of it. He would hound her for information in the morning. He locked his phone and dropped it in his lap. Then grabbed it and opened it up again. He would just have to google Ronan while sitting four feet away from him. He was starting to type his name into the search bar when Ronan spoke up.
“So where have you been for seven years?” He asked. His voice was low and quiet. Adam was startled for some reason.
“Uh, California,” he whispered, awkwardly.
“Why?” Ronan asked.
Adam turned his chair toward him slightly so he could look at him. “I moved there to go to Stanford.”
He watched as Ronan scratched at his chin and leaned his head back against the seat. It was so dark and quiet in the room. And the red light made every word seem more serious for some reason.
Ronan cracked his neck. “Have you been at Stanford this whole time?”
“I graduated last year, so basically.”
“Damn. Six years straight of college. Must’ve been hard.”
Adam cleared his throat. “It was. Luckily I got scholarships so I didn’t have to work the entire time.”
Ronan nodded. “What did you study?”
“Mechanical Engineering for my BA. Then Masters of Science in Engineering: Product Design.”
“Jesus, that sounds intense,” Ronan said seriously.
Adam laughed, quietly. “Yeah it kind of was.”
“You must be really smart,” Ronan said, smiling at him.
“Uh, I mean. I think I’m just hard-working,” Adam said ducking his head a little. This conversation was embarrassing.
“I’m sure it’s not just that, Parrish.”
Adam tried to change the conversation. “What about you?”
“Didn’t go to college.”
“I mean, what have you been doing for the last seven years?” Adam said, mimicking Ronan’s initial question.
“Farming?” Adam asked incredulously.
“Hey, don’t knock farming. People have to eat, you know.”
“I don’t think it’s a bad profession, it just surprised me. You don’t exactly dress like a farmer,” Adam said pointedly.
“Now, don’t go stereotyping us,” Ronan deadpanned.
Adam laughed. “Sorry it’s just. Not what I would have assumed.”
Ronan smirked and sat up straighter. “What would you assume, then?”
Adam scrutinized Ronan’s appearance dramatically before answering. “Punk rock band?”
Ronan laughed out loud, and then covered his mouth when he thought better of it. “Fuck, you're gonna make the nurse come chastise me for being loud!”
“Sorry,” Adam said, smiling, not the least bit sorry.
They sat in silence for awhile again before Adam spoke up this time. “So you and Noah are pretty close?” He asked.
Ronan’s face clouded over and Adam almost felt bad bringing it up, but it wasn’t something they could ignore, exactly, with Noah between them. “He’s one of my best friends.” Ronan’s voice was hollow now, in a way it wasn’t before.
“Same,” Adam said. He didn’t really know what to say. Here were two people close enough to Noah that they were both sitting by his hospital bed at two something in the morning, but somehow they didn’t know each other before this? Life was seriously strange.
They were silent after that. Adam would have thought Ronan might be asleep with how still he was, but his eyes were open and alert. Thirty or so minutes later, Ronan’s phone buzzed with a text alert. Ronan immediately checked it and typed something back to the sender.
“Where are you staying tonight?” he asked Adam.
Adam shrugged. “Haven’t figured that out yet.”
“Henry’s coming to relieve us. Do you want a ride somewhere?” Ronan’s face was passive.
“No, that’s okay, I’ll just get an Uber.”
Ronan frowned. “An Uber? There’s no Uber in Henrietta.”
“Oh.” Adam felt dumb. He’d been too anxious to get here, he never figured out his sleeping arrangements.
“I can give you a ride,” Ronan said again.
Adam weighed his options.
“Where is everyone else staying?” he asked eventually.
“Blue’s staying with her family, Henry’s been over with Noah’s parents, and Gansey’s staying with me."
“I guess I’ll just go to Blue’s. Although, fuck, it’s 3:25, I don’t want to wake them all up. I should just get a hotel room.”
Ronan rolled his eyes. “You can stay with me. And Gansey.”
Adam bit his lip. “It’s no big deal, I just—”
“Adam, honestly, it’s fine. Gansey would probably prefer it.”
Adam hesitated and then nodded. “I’ll stay with Blue tomorrow night.”
Ronan rolled his eyes again. “Calm down. It’s fine. You’re not imposing.”
It was weird, the way Ronan knew exactly what Adam was worrying about. But maybe he was just an open book right now after not sleeping and this whole Noah thing. Ronan stood up from his chair and stretched his whole body, his black t-shirt pulling up a little and revealing a strip of skin and dark hair on his stomach. Adam took his time looking away.
“Thank you,” he said after a moment. “For letting me stay.”
When the real Henry got to the hospital, he rushed to Noah’s side in a blur. He grabbed Noah’s hand, kissing it, before sitting down in the seat Ronan had previously been occupying. It was like he didn’t see Adam and Ronan, only Noah. Adam felt his heart contract tightly a little at that. The love Henry had for Noah was so plain in his body language, in the anguish in his eyes, and in the way he clutched onto Noah’s hand as if it were keeping him tethered to the Earth. Adam had to look away.
“Henry, Adam. Adam, Henry.” Ronan said mildly, before grabbing two sets of keys off the table.
“Nice to meet you,” Henry said, not taking his eyes off Noah.
“Nice to meet you too,” Adam said.
Ronan turned to him. “We should leave.” He grabbed Adam’s suitcase and opened the door, disappearing into the hallway.
“I’ll be back in the morning,” Adam told Henry, though he really felt like he was talking to Noah. Then he followed Ronan into the hallway and closed the door.
Once they were in the parking lot, Ronan stopped and turned around to face Adam.
“Do you drive?”
“What?” Adam was confused.
“Do you drive?” Ronan repeated. “Or are you an invalid like Sargent?”
Adam laughed really hard. Ronan looked at him amused, and Adam kept laughing. He was definitely going to mention this to Blue in the morning. Once he’d calmed down he replied.
“Sorry. Yes, I can drive.”
Ronan tossed Adam a set of keys and Adam caught them one-handed.
“Good, because I brought my bike, and Dick probably will want his own car in the morning.” Adam raised his eyebrows at the mentions of ‘bike’ and ‘Dick’, but didn’t respond. Ronan brought him over to an orange Camaro and indicated for Adam to open door.
When he did, Ronan put Adam’s suitcase safely in the backseat.
“My bike is just over there,” He said, pointing to his left. “Just follow me.”
Adam nodded and got into the car, starting the engine.
He watched Ronan put a helmet on and get onto a black motorcycle. He’d only known him for two hours but everything about it just screamed Ronan. Or so he thought. He was, after all, a farmer.
He followed Ronan to the outskirts of town, yawning and trying to stay awake. He felt guilty for reminiscing about how hot Ronan looked on his motorcycle rather than thinking about Noah’s state of being. He knew that after a long night’s sleep he would be less delirious though. And maybe if he could refill his prescription for Klonopin at the pharmacy in town, he wouldn’t feel the need to distract himself in order to cope with what was happening to Noah.
Adam breathed a sigh of relief as they pulled up to what looked to be a large amount of land with a big farmhouse and a bunch of barns all scattered around it. This must be the farm Ronan worked at. Fog was covering the landscape, and the only light came from his and Ronan’s headlights, and one singular yellow porch light.
He pulled into what seemed like a driveway, and parked the Camaro. When he got out of the car, Ronan was already next to him, sans helmet, and opening the back seat to pull out Adam’s suitcase.
“I can take that,” Adam said, feeling bad. It was really heavy, since he’d brought one of his projects with him, not knowing how long he’d be here for.
Ronan just shook his head. “It’s fine.” He walked up to the farmhouse and opened the screen door. It screeched open, sounding like a wounded animal. Adam stood next to Ronan as he leaned against the screen and pulled out his keys to open the front door. As soon as he got it open, he pulled Adam’s suitcase inside and stepped aside so Adam could enter.
The first thing he noticed was that it smelled like herbs and bread. Exactly what you’d assume a farmhouse would smell like, Adam guessed, but it was nice all the same. Everything was wooded, wood paneling on the walls and wooden beams across the celling.
Ronan let out a sarcastic “Welcome home” before pulling Adam’s suitcase up the stairs. Adam followed him. It was dark inside, and Ronan hadn’t bothered to turn on any lights, presumably because he knew his way around, but Adam kept close to him so he could be sure of where he was walking.
When they reached the second floor landing, Ronan walked down to the end of the hall and pointed to a closed door. “That’s my room. Gansey’s in there. You’ll be right next door in here.” He opened the door to the left of Ronan’s and walked inside.
He flipped the light switch, and Adam’s eyes adjusted to the new brightness. Ronan set his suitcase down on the army green trunk which sat at the foot of the queen sized bed. The bed had a handmade quilt on it with three names stitched into the fabric. ‘Declan’ ‘Ronan’ ‘Matthew’. Adam set his carry on bag onto the bed and turned to Ronan.
“Thanks again for letting me stay here,” he said.
Ronan just gave him a small smile. “Bathroom’s just one room over.”
Adam nodded, slipping off his shoes.
“Just come knock on the door if you need anything.”
“Which room are you sleeping in?”
“Oh, with Gansey.” Ronan smiled and left the room, leaving Adam stunned.
He got ready for bed and changed into just his boxer-briefs and a t-shirt before climbing under the covers and finally letting his mind wander. His thoughts were wrapped up in one particular part of their conversation. Were Ronan and Gansey together?