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Adam Parrish is going to ruin him. 

Ronan knows that — always has, ever since the minute Gansey had introduced them to each other on a muggy afternoon. Gansey, standing between them, had tilted his head and looked at Ronan with his hand squeezing Adam's shoulder and his voice, pleasant and sovereign as ever, had dripped with affection when he'd said, "Ronan. This is Adam Parrish. He helped me this morning when the Pig broke down." 

Jealousy had clawed its way up Ronan's insides and onto his face; he'd scowled at Adam and squared his shoulders, poised for a fight, but Adam, backlit by the low, golden sun, had given him the most unperturbed look anyone — apart from Declan — had ever directed at him, and his scowl had only deepened in response. 

Adam had seemed almost delicate that day — dusty hair-ends glistening like a halo, eyes baby blue and framed by pale lashes, skin bronzed, a faint dusting of freckles over the bridge of his nose, voice deep and Southern-sweet. But Ronan has always been perceptive; he'd seen the uneven cut of his hair, the split ends caused by using a cheap pair of scissors, the frayed sleeves of his Aglionby sweater, the determination twinkling in his sharp eyes, the fading yellow bruise at his temple, the carefully clipped Henrietta accent, the hint of red on his cheeks and nose from too many hours spent in the sun.

If Adam Parrish had looked delicate, Ronan would have played along. He would've shaken his hand and let Gansey introduce him with maybe one or two sarcastic remarks but without a sneer or a glare, and then waited until Gansey got bored with him. But Ronan wasn't fooled; there was nothing delicate about this boy, which meant that there was no easy way to get rid of him. He'd known immediately that Adam Parrish, made of quick wit and quiet laughter and grim determination, was here to stay.

And he's been right.

"Lynch," Adam says. He's sitting next to him in the Camaro's backseat, one of his knees pressed against the passenger seat, the other one pressed against Ronan's. The elegant lines of his face are blurred by the gas station's neon blue light, his hair messy. Outside, Ronan can hear the quiet, muffled voices of Blue and Gansey as they fill the car up. 

Ronan looks at Adam, raising an eyebrow in an attempt to look disinterested but his chest feels heavy and his hands are clammy. One side of Adam's mouth lifts and Ronan watches as he, a second later, yawns and then stretches, his faded grey T-shirt riding up and exposing a sliver of tan skin, the muscles in his stomach flexing. 

His fingertips tingle; Ronan has to fold his arms so he won't accidentally reach out to touch Adam.

"Did you fall asleep?" Ronan asks as if he didn't already know the answer, as if he hadn't seen Adam’s head resting against the window or the slow and steady rise and fall of his chest.

Adam rubs his palms over his eyes and sighs, and something in Ronan's heart tugs. When he speaks, his voice is husky, his accent laced through his words, "Yeah. I'm still tired." 

What Ronan wouldn't give to hear his voice at night — closer to him than it is now in the Camaro —, hushed and warm and familiar, like home. Heat and shame pool in the pit of his stomach as an image of Adam — tangled in his sheets, in the dark, silver moonlight glinting in his beautiful eyes, teeth digging into his kiss-red bottom lip — crosses his mind.

"Gansey drives like a fucking grandma. I'd be surprised if you were anything other than tired." 

One of Adam's surprised laughs splutters from his lips. Every inch of Ronan prickles, alight with endearment. Maybe something more than that. Ronan is afraid to put it in words because he's afraid of what that means, of what that could do to him. Kavinsky's words fizzle through his head: I know what you are.

"Not everyone drives like a lunatic," Adam says, his lips still pulled into a small smile. It feels secret, somehow. Private. Quiet. It makes Ronan's heart skip a beat, which, as a result, makes him want to punch himself. 

"Parrish, you asshole, are you making fun of me?"

Just as Adam is about to respond, the driver's and passenger doors open; Blue flops down into the passenger seat, wearing a short pair of overalls over a pink-and-blue-striped T-shirt, and Gansey, in a canary-yellow polo, throws his wallet onto the dashboard while he starts the engine.

"How was your little shut-eye, Adam?" Gansey asks, maneuvering the Camaro away from the gas station and onto the street. Ronan listens to the sound of small stones scrunching underneath the tires and stares out of the window — he doesn't know why, but he feels exposed, like Blue and Gansey had caught him doing something forbidden. "Did we wake you up? If so, I'm sorry." 

Adam doesn't answer immediately. When Ronan turns his head to check if he's fallen asleep again, he sees that Adam's looking at something in the front of the car. Ronan's heart drops when he realizes that it's Blue's arm he's staring at — slim and small like every other part of Blue, and pressed up against Gansey's elbow resting on the armrest. 

Ronan looks back at Adam and feels like he's burning up, but he can't tear his eyes away from his face, from the soft slope of his nose with the few freckles speckled across its bridge, his thin lips with his perfectly heart-shaped cupid's bow, his baby-blue eyes behind pale lashes. 

Ronan lifts one of his hands to chew on the leather bands around his wrist and lets his other one rest on his lap. He's half-hard, his cheeks warm. Fuck Adam Parrish. 

"Nah, it's alright," Adam says, his Henrietta drawl only barely distinguishable. Ronan feels like picking a fight. He's about to reply to Swan's latest text message ("hey enculé, up for a drive?") when Adam, bumping his fist against Ronan's thigh, jolts him out of his thoughts. He's much closer than expected, his face only a few centimeters away from Ronan's, and Ronan smells whatever cheap deodorant he uses, a waft of sweat, and a bit of engine oil — there's a small stain of it near the collar of Adam's T-shirt and on his tan skin just above it, right where his collar bone is. Ronan is overcome with the urge to lick it off; his heart jumps in his chest and beats in his throat. "You gonna stay at St. Agnes tonight?" 

Ronan wants to say yes, always wants to say yes, but the way Adam's looking at him right now — a weird mixture of coy and challenging, with his eyes so blue and his cheeks so flushed and his mouth so pretty — has his blood boiling and his dick hardening even more. Heat prickles at his neck. Adam Parrish is fucking terrifying, the best and the worst miracle Ronan has ever come across. It pisses Ronan off so much because he shouldn't want this, he doesn't want to want this. But he does. He wants this, Adam, so much. 

He wonders if Adam knows. He hopes he doesn't. 

"'m sleeping at the Barns," Ronan mutters, sinking more into the back seat and looking away. 

Adam’s gaze is hot on the back of his head. 

 

***

 

Adam is in Ronan's dream that night. 

They're in Cabeswater. It's spring and the sun is peeking through the countless lush green leaves, causing all the flowers to bloom. They are surrounded by pink, purple, yellow, blue and red, but Adam doesn't seem to care; his eyes, curious and electric, stay focused on Ronan as he takes a few steps closer to him, tilting his head slightly, as if he's trying to make sense of something. 

He's shirtless — perhaps even naked, but Ronan doesn't dare to look down. Instead, he keeps his eyes  fixed on Adam's face as one of Adam's hands reaches out to him, inches away from his cheek, his long, bony fingers radiating warmth and making excitement vibrate like a current beneath Ronan’s skin.

And then Ronan wakes up, still paralyzed from dreaming but wide awake despite the fact that — considering how dark it still is at the Barns — it can't be any later than four a.m. His boxer briefs feel uncomfortably tight and damp, and there's a throbbing in his balls. 

Ronan feels himself flush all the way to the tips of his ears. 

As soon as his muscles relax, he sits up and leans over his bed to open the top drawer of his nightstand. With a slightly shaky hand, Ronan feels around in it before his fingers curl around the leather binding of his Bible. He flips it open so fast that one of the old, somewhat corrugated pages catches his skin, and just a second later, Ronan feels a tiny but sharp pain pulsating in the pad of his thumb. 

Holding his breath, he watches as a drop of blood drips down his hand and onto the page at the same time when the photograph he'd looked for falls out of the Bible, the faces of Adam, Gansey and Blue smiling back at him. 

Ronan's eyes only snag on Adam, though.

"Fuck you," he whispers as if it's Adam's fault that he'd cut himself, looking at the barely-there quirk to the corner of Adam's lip, the pale blue of his eyes. With a sigh, he rolls over onto his back, holding the photo against the dark blue sky before folding it twice so that Adam's face is the only one he sees. 

He tries to ignore the pang of shame he feels deep down in his stomach as he drops one of his hands on his hip, takes a deep breath, and then lets the tips of his fingers slip underneath the elastic band of his boxers. 

His hand is warm — way too warm to keep it to himself — as he wraps it around his dick, hot and heavy against his palm, twitching against his fingers. Ronan breathes out shakily, tries to imagine that it's Adam's hand instead of his, but his fingers aren't as rough and bony as Adam's, and the angle isn't quite right. 

Ronan looks at Adam in the photograph, digging his teeth into his bottom lip as he tightens his grip and squeezes the tip of his dick, breathing fast. The memory of Adam yesterday flashes before his eyes; how close he'd been to Ronan, the way he'd smelled, soft blue eyes behind pale lashes, pink lips, everything about him a challenge, a provocation, a dream. 

Ronan shivers as he starts moving his hand up and down the length of his dick and lets his other hand — the one holding the photo — fall down, covering his eyes with his underarm. He hopes to God that Noah has gone off to wherever he goes when he's not hanging out with one of them, too far away to read his thoughts or see what he's doing.

Heat pools low in his stomach and rushes through his veins, makes the muscles in his thighs feel light and his mind cloudy. He thinks he can hear Adam's voice in his ears; he can't make out any words, merely his shrewd, lascivious, firm baritone that's always laced with a thrilling mix of mischief and scorn.

It's enough to push Ronan over the edge, despite the fact that he hasn't touched himself for more than two minutes. His orgasm washes over his body in waves, making him a trembling mess on the mattress, flooding his body with warmth. He keeps his lips pressed together, afraid Gansey or Noah might hear him, although there are barely audible sounds — Ronan would honestly be embarrassed if anyone heard him fucking whimpering — escaping his mouth as his eyes roll to the back of his head so hard he sees stars. 

Recovering his senses after his orgasm feels a little like coming down from Kavinsky's drugs; he's alone in his bed, the sheets cold on the side he's not lying on, but his heart is still beating hard and fast in his chest and there's a thin sheen of sweat making his skin glisten in the pale blue light. 

Ronan grits his teeth. Fuck Adam Parrish, and fuck whatever the hell he's doing to him. 

 

***

 

Ronan prefers driving at night, when the streets are empty and he can floor the gas pedal while watching some other car being shaken off in his rearview mirror. Right now, though, it's late in the afternoon, the sun already low in the sky, but still so hot that its heat makes Henrietta appear somewhat blurry above the asphalt and the hood of Ronan's BMW. 

He doesn't know where he's driving, exactly, only knows that he's had to get out of Monmouth Manufacturing the second he saw Declan's car pull up. His fingers tighten around the leather of the steering wheel when, suddenly, the sound of his iPhone's ringtone cuts through his music. 

He lets it ring a few times, hopes that whoever it is will give up, but when his gaze drops down to the phone's display and he sees the caller ID — Gansey —, he sighs and presses the green telephone handset. 

"What." 

Gansey sounds tired. "You haven't told him about your mom." 

Ronan thins his lips. He knows why he doesn't usually answer his phone. "No." 

"That's— a shitty thing to do, Ronan. She's his mother, too." 

"She hasn't asked about him." 

Gansey doesn't say anything for a while. Then: "That really doesn't make it any better. Adam said you're being a spiteful asshole. Can't say I disagree." 

Ronan grits his teeth as heat, white-hot, rushes through his veins. "Since when do I give a fuck about what Parrish has to say about my family? Ask him if he's ever looked at his." 

"I will not do that." There's the sound of rustling on the other end of the line. Ronan wonders if Adam is still with Gansey right now. "Just tell Declan about your mom, please. And tell me where you are right now." 

Ronan snorts. 

"Ronan." Gansey inhales deeply through his nose. Ronan can almost feel him pinching the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes through the phone. When he speaks again, however, he's adopted that firm voice he always uses when he talks to Ronan and Ronan's being extraordinarily difficult. "Where are you?"

As usual, it works. "Driving around Henrietta. Going 35, 37, 40, 48—"

"Slow down, Ronan, god."

Ronan rolls his eyes — an action which results in him catching sight of Adam Parrish walking on the sidewalk, clad in a white t-shirt and blue jeans. His hair looks messy, his cheeks are flushed from the heat. So he's not at Monmouth anymore. Ronan feels warm all over; he hangs up on Gansey. 

Ronan tries really, really hard not to maneuver his car to the left and slow down until he's driving as fast as Adam's walking, next to him, but he does. 

Letting the passenger side's window roll down, Ronan asks, "Hey, baby, you walking or you working?" 

Adam doesn't miss a beat. "Both." He tilts his head to the side, just a little, and Ronan sees a bit of grease on the side of his neck; his heart jumps in his chest, and he feels it in his throat. 

"Well, get in, man. I don't have all day." 

One corner of Adam's mouth twitches. "What, still have your calculus homework waiting for you at home?" 

"Fuck you," Ronan says facetiously, and stops his car. Adam slumps into the passenger seat just a moment later.

"Sorry if I stink."  

If Ronan was brave, he'd tell Adam the truth; that he can't imagine a scent he wouldn't like on Adam; that, sometimes, he deliberately walks behind Adam just so he can catch a whiff of the way he smells — a mix of engine oil, sweat, St. Agnes, forest, cheap shower gel and deodorant — and feel his insides curl with desire and warmth. 

Ronan is not a coward, but he is afraid; too afraid to name the emotions Adam elicits in him — the fluttering of his heart and the warmth pooling in the pit of his stomach — so all he says instead is, "Do I look like I care what you fucking smell like?" 

Adam turns his head to look at him and Ronan quickly forces his eyes back on the road as he takes a deep breath and kicks the BMW into motion. It roars underneath him, and Ronan watches the bi-xenon headlamps adjust automatically; darkness has started to blanket Henrietta, slowly lulling the city to sleep and coaxing magic to waken.

"'Course not, man," Adam says, the words coming so uncharacteristically slowly out of his mouth that Ronan looks back at him; there's a twinkling in his baby blue eyes and an edge to his smile that Ronan wishes he had missed — it's going to bug him all day, and he'll wonder what it could've meant until his head hurts. "What happened to your radio?" 

"What?" 

"It's new, isn't it?" Adam lets one of his fingers trace the carbon button. "There's only one button." 

"It's voice-operated." 

"Is it a dream thing?" 

Ronan curls his right hand around the gear shift; his gaze keeps dropping down to where Adam's middle finger is still feeling the radio, following the shape of the on-off switch. Ronan's throat feels tight. 

His voice sounds shakier than he would've liked when he asks, "What do you think?"

Adam merely hums in response, but Ronan can feel his eyes on him. He wishes he could dream something that allows him to read Adam's thoughts, so that he could know where he stands with him. He's breaking apart in the silence, but at the same time, he's afraid of what he might find out. 

"Are you hungry?"

Adam bites the inside of his cheek. Ronan knows what he's thinking — that he's calculating in his head, fast, not only because he's so smart, but also because he's so used to having to do it. "Yeah, I could eat. Where d'you wanna stop? Nino's?" 

Heavy cold nips at his back. Jealousy punches the bite back into his words, "Is the maggot working tonight?" 

Adam, however, only snorts. "I don't know, Lynch." 

Ronan clenches his jaw. 

"We can go somewhere else, I really don't give a shit," Adam says, leaning forward in the seat to read one of the billboards on the side of the street. The orange street lamps make the elegant lines of his face stand out even more in the otherwise dark car, cause his eyes to glisten enticingly underneath his pale eyelashes. He looks haughty as fuck like that, and Ronan wants— he wants so much — so much that he shouldn't want — that his mouth feels dry.

"Palace Lucky," Adam chuckles. "What the fuck? What do you think they have there?" 

"Chlamydia, perhaps." 

"It's a Chinese restaurant, Ronan." 

"Diarrhea, then." 

Adam laughs the kind of laugh Ronan loves; surprised, sweet, a mix of air being blown out of his nose and his pleasant baritone. It makes the hairs at his nape stand up and his shoulders relax. 

"Cheng invited Gansey to a restaurant called Chopsticks Rainbow once. Even Gansey couldn't do it." 

"Maybe he was hoaxing him?" 

"Nah, Cheng's too busy kissing Gansey's ass to give him shit." 

Adam laughs again, though this time it's a little quieter, a little shorter, and more of a hallow sound than an actual laugh. "He likes Henry, though." 

"Yeah, I don't get it, either."

Adam rolls his eyes. "That doesn't count. You also don't get why he likes Blue."

I get why he likes you, though, Ronan wants to say. But he doesn't; it'd feel too much like a confession. He'd rather sleep and dream about things he'd never say out loud. 

He inhales through his nose and exhales through his mouth as he continues to drive until, some time later, he can't stand sitting in the car anymore, so close to Adam but not allowed to touch him, and parks the BMW in front of a burger joint. It's the type of restaurant Declan would turn up his nose at; small and dark, the scent of deep-frying fat strong enough that it can be smelled even from the tiny parking lot. 

Ronan turns his head to look at Adam while Adam's eyes are fixed on the neon tubes outside of the joint, bent and twisted into the shape of a cheeseburger. His elbow is resting on top of the passenger door, the window still rolled down, and the soft breeze makes strands of Adam's dusty hair fall into his eyes. The knuckles of his index and middle finger are pressed against his lips, and Ronan stares at them, transfixed, and doesn't notice when Adam looks back at him.

"What?" Adam asks, his voice a little husky, making Ronan's eyes snap up to his; there's a smile dancing in them. Ronan's chest feels tight. 

"You wanna sit here all night, Parrish?" he gives back, feigning indifference. He's not a hundred percent sure he's still fooling Adam, or if he ever had. 

Adam snorts, his eyes still gleaming, before letting his hand drop from his mouth to the gear shift where Ronan's hand is, and brushing the tips of his fingers against Ronan's wrist. Ronan's cheeks burn; he has to stifle a shiver. 

"Depends," Adam says, his unblinking gaze meeting Ronan's, "Are you gonna sit here with me?" 

Ronan opens his mouth, then closes it again. He has no idea what to say. He has no idea what to do. He feels incredibly out of his depth, so he just stares back at Adam, but there's a weird sort of warmth flickering in his chest — different from the heat he feels when he's turned on —, and for once Ronan is selfish enough not to drown it. He just tries not to let it show on his face. 

Adam's fingers close around Ronan's wrist, neither soft nor firm, just sure. "Come on, I'm starving." 

 

***

 

"Are you sure you don't wanna come with us?" Adam asks, eyes fixed on his reflection in the mirror as he tries to tie his tie for the third time. He's good at it, usually, as good as he is at everything else, but today his fingers are shaky and the tips slightly numb because Cabeswater doesn't want to let him leave; Adam had promised to accompany Gansey to one of his parents' charity events in D.C. and rolled his eyes every time Gansey has stuck his head into the bathroom to tell him that it'd be fine if he wasn't feeling well. 

Ronan, sitting on the toilet lid in a pair of grey sweatpants and a black hoodie, averts his gaze from Adam's hands to look at his face. His tan is a little darker and the freckles a little more visible than usual due to the amount of hours they'd spent walking around Cabeswater yesterday (Ronan's skin had only burnt because he'd refused to apply sunscreen — mostly just because Gansey had advised him to several times), and it makes Ronan's cheeks burn with more than just the consequences of not listening to Gansey. 

He only gives Adam a bored look in response, but he stands up all the same and steps closer to him. Adam's white dress shirt is already tucked into his dark blue suit pants, the first two buttons still undone and exposing a bit of the soft golden skin at the base of his throat, but his hair is still a little messy from riding his bike to Monmouth. 

He looks so fucking good that Ronan almost considers tagging along.

"Parrish, can you finish? If I stare at myself any longer I'll start jerking off." 

Adam meets his gaze in the mirror before he says, drily, "Oh, it was you you've been staring at?"

Ronan clenches his jaw and looks away. 

Fuck

Heat licks its way up his spine as every inch of his body tenses up. Shit. There's that familiar string of words fizzing through his mind again — I know what you are —, only this time it's not Kavinsky saying it. It's Adam, standing in front of him with his blue eyes twinkling in the sun. 

For a moment, Ronan doesn't know if Adam really has said those words to him just now or if it was just a figment of his imagination, just his mind playing tricks on him, but then he feels Adam tugging at the sleeve of his hoodie, bringing him back to the here and now. 

"Ronan, hey," Adam says, voice barely audible but very close; so close that Ronan can feel his breath on his lips and chin. His heart goes into overdrive. "Can you help me with the tie?" 

"What," Ronan asks flatly. 

"My tie. Can you help me? My hands— I can't—" 

He blinks. "Yeah. Yeah. Fuck, okay." Ronan keeps his eyes locked with Adam's as he lifts his hands and curls his fingers around the two ends of his tie. He's quick and a little breathless while he knots the fabric around Adam's throat and — slowly — buttons his shirt all the way. It's a little torturous because he'd rather do the opposite and help Adam take it off. 

Before he can withdraw his hands, Adam snatches his wrists. The warmth that radiates from Adam's skin seeps through every part of Ronan's body. 

"You wanna know how I know that you've been looking at me?" Adam asks, and flattens Ronan's palms over his chest. Ronan swallows past the lump in his throat, tries to smother the hope blooming in his heart.

He wants to run away, wants to tell Adam to go fuck himself, that he hasn't been looking, ever, but he can't bring his feet to move or force the words past his lips. Adam is closer to him than ever before, and he's looking at him with a strange, bewildering fondness in his eyes and his face open and as pretty as always. 

Ronan tilts his head in an attempt to be closer, which makes one corner of Adam's beautiful, beautiful mouth quirk. 

"How?"

"Because I've been looking at you, too." 

Ronan very nearly whines. "Shit, Adam." 

"Mmm," Adam agrees. His eyes flicker down to Ronan's lips. "Can I?"

Ronan feels his heartbeat everywhere. "God, yes. Fuck." 

And then Adam's leaning in, closing the tiny distance between them just by cocking his head, and before Ronan can even close his eyes, Adam's lips are on his, soft and perfect and so much surer of themselves than Ronan would've imagined. Ronan's body responds by pressing against Adam's, trapping their hands between their chests, as he's trying to keep up with Adam's mouth and forget not to breathe. 

It's surprisingly easy kissing Adam. It's unsurprisingly easy getting lost in it, in him. 

Ronan can't bring himself to open his eyes when Adam pulls back. If this is a dream, which it might be, then he isn't ready to wake up just yet. But then Adam's letting go of his hands and cups Ronan's face with his own, and he's so warm and firm and Adam that Ronan knows this is real. 

"We'll be back Sunday." 

Adam's already leaning in again before Ronan can answer.