It's a Thursday night, and Ronan and Adam have been dating for either five weeks or two weeks depending on whether you're stupid about it or not, and they're looking for parking in their neighborhood so it might be another two to five weeks before they even get home -- except then Ronan sees the spot.
It's right in front of their building, it's big enough to parallel park in but not so big someone will put their garbage can or their fucking motorcycle right up on his bumper, it's on their side of the road, and it's open. Ronan has never, in three years of living in this building, seen an open spot right in front. It's the sexiest thing he's ever seen, and there's another car in front of them that's going to take it first.
The passenger door flies open, and Adam leaps out of the car like an explosion. He tears ass and lands in the spot just before the other car can pull in. The window rolls down and the driver leans across the passenger seat to argue with him. Adam is having none of it, shaking his head with that little asshole half-smile he has and not budging an inch.
The other car pulls away, slowly, towing its grudge behind it. Ronan waves jauntily and hopes the driver sees it in his rear view mirror, and then he looks back at where Adam is basking in his ill-gotten victory.
Adam's smile grows across his whole face until he's beaming at Ronan like a lunatic.
Ronan's heart and the purr of the engine and the entire world come to a halt.
He thinks, this one.
And then his heart beats, and the world starts moving again, slowly, towing something heavy and real behind it.
Ronan parks the car and slams the driver's door like he always does and catches up with Adam, and he doesn't say anything. Even if you count the weeks where Adam somehow failed to realize they were dating, which Ronan did, that was only five weeks, and maybe his attachment style and his relationship philosophy and his brain are all kind of fucked up, but he does know that any normal guy who heard you're the only person I want to be with for the rest of my life after five weeks would run for it. Hell, they'd only been fucking for a week, although they'd gotten a lot of fucking done in that week. He wasn't allowed to say love yet, so he didn't.
"You're a fucking menace, Parrish."
"Aw, thanks, Lynch." Adam assaults him with a kiss. "I like you, too."
Adam is impossible to compliment.
"Fuck, you look amazing," Ronan swears when Adam passes him on his way home from a jog, sweat-soaked and bright-eyed and full of life.
Adam rolls his eyes, "I don't have time to make out with you, I have to shower before work."
"This turned out really good," Ronan says, handling an antique watch Adam salvaged from a thrift shop and restored to give to Gansey. It's beautiful and well-crafted and ticking away solidly and perfectly in his hands.
Adam takes it back, with a dismissive "it's good that Gansey likes things that are rundown, anyway."
"This was a good idea," Ronan says. They're sitting atop a cliff overlooking the ocean, and he can't get over how fucking quiet everything is outside the city. Okay, if he listens for it he can hear the pack of college kids at the next campsite over, already drunk at noon, but he can also tune them out. When he does, he's left with a sense of contentment, the knowledge that there is nothing he would change about where he is or what he's doing, and the knowledge that it's Adam who made that happen. On the list of things Ronan wants to do with his life camping in a state park appears exactly nowhere, and it turns out that was a mistake, if for no other reason than he's looking forward to fooling around with Adam in the tent later. The idea of getting off in a state park appeals to him; it's like the government is subsidizing his sex life. "Thanks."
"It was Blue's idea," Adam says. "I just asked for suggestions."
"Yeah, but you planned everything. You got a reservation and a tent and shit. I wouldn't have thought of doing any of this."
Adam frowns at him, like he can't figure what that means. "You didn't have to let me drag you along, you could have said something."
Right, because Ronan is saying something right now and look how fucking great that's going. He gives up and kisses Adam instead.
With anyone else in the world Ronan would have been done with this shit two seconds after they shot down his first compliment. He's not a saint. He doesn't run around trying to make people feel better about themselves. He says things because he has to, or because they're true, not as some kind of charity.
But that's why he can't give up. He isn't nice to Adam out of kindness, or even because he wants to be, although fuck he wants to be; Adam more than anyone in the world deserves to be bragged about in front of company and spoiled with compliment and woken up with soft whispered I love yous in his ear.
Ronan says things because he has to, and because they're true. He needs to tell Adam that he's beautiful and brilliant and breath-taking, that he makes Ronan feel at peace with all the shit in his own head, and if he can't even say good job planning this camping trip without spooking him -- well, he's just going to have to figure out how to get away with saying all of that, without saying any of it.
It's a good thing that Ronan is such a romantic fucker.
They go for a hike in the afternoon. Ronan lets Adam lead because like fuck does he know where he's going whereas Adam has visibly put in a lot of work to finding The Best Way To Camp, and when they get back to their campsite Ronan says, like he's surprised, "hey, you didn't even get us lost."
Adam flips him off. "I have a great sense of direction, asshole."
"You'd have to, with how much you love telling people they're wrong. You have to be right or you'd just be fucking embarrassing."
Adam shoves Ronan's head down and away with one hand, but when Ronan looks back up Adam isn't really pissed off. He's smirking, amused but -- proud, too, of himself, for teasing out this hidden buried sliver of niceness, digging it out because he wouldn't take it when it was given to him.
They spend a week in New York; halfway between Dublin and Los Angeles, and that's how you can tell it was Declan's idea, because it sounds fair but isn't. Matthew's flight sucks, but it was going to suck anywhere they went, but this way Declan just has to take one short train ride. He probably didn't stop working long enough to notice that he was on a train, and meanwhile Ronan has to fly across the entire country dragging his fragile mother who gets nervous on planes and his mulish boyfriend who pretends he doesn't get nervous on planes and refuses to even drink to make it better, I'm not paying ten dollars a shot for Jack Daniels. He's so worn out from the whole ordeal that when they finally check into their hotel he falls asleep immediately and stays out the whole night.
The first two days are fine, the horrors of sightseeing and family togetherness alleviated somewhat by how happy Matthew and Aurora are, how happy Adam is, so fascinated everywhere they go with everything they see that he forgets to pretend he isn't a tourist.
The third morning Ronan can't get out of bed.
Adam is in the bathroom, showering, getting ready to meet everyone for breakfast. Ronan needs to get up and join him. When he tries to think of anything past getting out of bed his whole mind goes blank and slick and he slides right off it. He doesn't want to be here. He can't get away. His body has locked up, like it just realized today that he isn't home and he has to be a responsible adult for a whole week and Aurora had gazed glassy-eyed at the little TV on the airplane without noticing when the movie ended and he couldn't do anything for her except sit there. He didn't want to be there. He doesn't want to be here. He doesn't want to be anywhere.
Adam steps out of the bathroom, dressed for another day on the town. He wanders to the nightstand to grab his wallet and his phone. "You coming to breakfast?" he asks. "Or do you want me to bring you something?"
Ronan needs to speak. Give me a minute or fuck breakfast or go on ahead or bring me a bagel, I'll be fine by the time you get back, I'll be fine, I'll be, I --
Adam slows halfway to the door and starts to turn. Ronan shuts his eyes before he has to see --
Ronan shoves his face into the pillow.
A hand lightly comes to rest on his scalp and trails down the back of his neck.
"Lynch," Adam says again, low, and there's a rustling sound before Ronan feels the mattress dip under his weight as he climbs into bed. He burrows into Adam's body mindlessly, presses his face against Adam's hip and feels the soft fabric of his boxers. Adam had shucked his pants off before he came to bed. Like he was getting comfortable. Like he was planning to stay for a while.
There's a clack that Ronan's useless numbed out brain can't identify, and then Adam's voice, softened for his benefit and pitched up half an octave like he does for strangers and service interactions. "Room service? Mm-hm. Room 252," and there's a dull protest throbbing through Ronan's skull as Adam orders, room service is overpriced and we had breakfast plans, and he doesn't realize how tight he's shut his eyes until he feels Adam's thumb brush soft and slow across his eyebrow and along his cheekbone.
At some point there's a knock at the door. He can't tell if the room has really gotten brighter or if he's just had his eyes shut too long. He doesn't know how long his eyes were shut.
Adam kisses him carefully before extracting himself from the bed, even more carefully. He steps all the way out into the hallway and leaves the door open only the tiniest crack. It dampens out the words, but Ronan can still recognize Declan's voice.
Ronan thought he couldn't feel anything right now. It turns out he can feel the pressing weight of dread at the thought of having to talk to Declan.
"Go on without us," Adam says, and "no, not today," and "I made plans," and "well if you had asked us before you bought tickets," and Ronan shuts his eyes again.
When Adam comes back into the room he has food with him. He pours himself a cup of coffee and climbs into bed with a croissant.
It takes a few minutes, but Ronan is able to force out the word "Mom."
"Your brothers have her," Adam says. "Declan is very competent and Matthew is very loving, they'll give her back to you in good shape."
His hand rests on Ronan's back, thumb idly drawing a slow unending circle. Ronan gives up on trying. He lays in bed, sometimes awake and sometimes asleep and sometimes, somehow, neither. He listens to the irregular rise and falls of Adam's breath, the way he slurps his coffee, the intermittent flip of pages in his shitty airport paperback. He's reading a garbage novel, not typing away on his laptop, even though they'd gone twenty straight minutes yesterday about this is a hotel the 'no work in the bedroom' rule doesn't apply and there's a bed in the room how does that not make it a bed-room and that definite article is small but crucial and God, you're such a dork.
At some point he can open his eyes. At some point he can open his eyes without it being so much fucking work. At some point he can stretch, and then he absolutely has to get the fuck out of bed right now. He catches sight of a clock on the way to the bathroom. It's the middle of the afternoon; no wonder he has to piss so bad.
He washes his hands and the water feels so good that he splashes his faces and his neck too, before going back into the bedroom. The morning's room service is still sitting out. Nothing Adam ordered was exciting, fruit and pastries and cold cereal, but it all kept well, except that the coffee has gone cold. Ronan pops a cup in the microwave and scarfs two muffins while he waits for it.
Adam sets his book on the bed spine up and gives him a careful assessing look, like he's checking if Ronan has come back to him in good shape. He gets up and kisses Ronan's shoulder before pouring another cup of coffee.
"What'd Declan buy tickets for?" Ronan's voice sounds strange in his own ears; too loud and too small at the same time.
Adam blows on his tepid coffee. "Ellis Island."
Ronan swaps out his hot coffee for Adam's cold one and starts the microwave again. "Did you want to go see the giant green chick?"
"I didn't know She-Hulk was a national landmark," Adam says dryly.
Ronan wants to engage with Adam, he really does, but he doesn't know how. But -- at least he wants something, now. "You could've gone with them. If you wanted to."
Adam raises his eyes up from the rim of his coffee mug, all the way to Ronan's eyes.
"I wanted to stay."
Gansey was the one who invited them to drive halfway to Santa Fucking Barbara to go wine tasting, when they could have just got drunk at home, so he really could pretend like he's having any fun whatsoever.
"Sorry, it's just that I'm preoccupied," he says when Ronan asks him about it, and then he looks over his shoulder with an enormous cartoonish gesture, like he wants everyone in the county to know that he's worried about someone eavesdropping. Adam spots him from ten feet away and wanders over to do just that.
Blue and Cheng are off on the other end of the tasting room, bugging their tour guide with a lot of dumb questions about wine pairings or sustainable farming or why there isn't rainbow colored wine or some shit like that, and apparently they're the ones that Gansey's worried about, because he continues, "our anniversary is coming up, and I'm not sure how to celebrate."
Adam asks "have you considered oral sex? Perfect for every occasion."
"Aw," Ronan complains, "now I know what you're giving me for our anniversary."
"Somehow, I think you'll still enjoy it even if it's not a surprise."
"I was thinking something with greater personal significance," Gansey says.
"It's your own fault you're this stressed," Ronan tells him. "You have two people to make happy, why the fuck did that seem like a good idea to you?"
Adam nods thoughtfully. "So you're saying that for their anniversary Gansey should give one of his partners a break up."
Gansey is so horrified by that that it's almost hard to laugh at him. Almost.
"I had hoped the two of you would be more helpful," he says reproachfully, when he's recovered.
Adam asks "why would you ever expect that from us," and Ronan smirks in agreement.
"You've been together as long as Blue and I have, I thought you could relate," Gansey says. "It's very easy to say that you love someone, it's harder to show it."
And just like that it's not funny anymore. Ronan's chest goes tight, no room for his lungs to breath in because he's too full of anger and it has nowhere to go.
Adam's smile often has a mean edge to it, and they were just making fun of Gansey, so the change isn't obvious, but Ronan sees it. For one second his anger focuses in on Adam. This is his line in the sand, his fault, his damage, so how does he have the nerve to look so fucking hurt --
Ronan jerks his gaze away, recoiling from that whole line of thought, and sees Cheng and Blue approaching.
Cheng drapes himself over Gansey and steals the wineglass out of his hand, not to drink from, only to gesture dramatically with it. "There you are, my handsome men. What are we talking about?"
"Divination," Ronan says.
Cheng perks up. "Oh, marvelous. Let me get Blue's tarot cards."
Blue frowns at him. "I don't have any tarot cards."
"I misspoke. Let me get my tarot cards that Blue is going to teach me to read someday."
"Did you buy another deck? Where are you hiding it?"
"I refuse to answer on the grounds that you will throw it away."
On any other day watching Cheng pout at his girlfriend during a fake argument would be excruciating. Today Ronan asks "doesn't the moon have to be in tardigrade before you can commune with the spirits" and goads Cheng into making up bullshit astrology with him while Blue sips her Chardonnay and pretends she isn't annoyed. When Cheng is like this it's impossible to talk about anything except what he wants to talk about. Sometimes that's useful.
They sit outside all afternoon, getting drunker on sunlight than they do on wine. Ronan needles Cheng, and Blue, and Gansey, pushes it past Gansey's tolerance for his bullshit. He's setting himself up for a couple days of pissy passive-aggressive sulking, but at the moment he doesn't really give a shit about Gansey's feelings. Let his loved ones worry about that.
He makes it the whole day and the whole drive back to LA without actually having to look at Adam, and he might as well not have bothered because then they're home with nowhere else for him to look, with that same broken expression in Adam's eyes, with nothing Ronan can say to make it better.
"I know you want to hear it," Adam starts.
Ronan cuts him off. "I don't want to hear anything you were blackmailed into saying."
Anger flares up in Adam's face, but he gets his voice under control before he says, "you deserve to know how I feel."
"If you think I don't know how you feel, you're insane," Ronan says flatly. He's always known; for a guy who's terrified of being loved, Adam does a really terrific job of being in love. That has never been the part that hurt him.
"Right," Adam says, not mean, not nasty, but cold in a way that is worse than either of those, "you know everything, don't you," and he heads down the hallway. He doesn't come back, even when Ronan waits several minutes, standing by the foot of the bed and nearly shaking with nerves and fear and anger, until he's pissed off with waiting and goes to bed alone.
Ronan is nearly asleep by the time Adam slinks into the bedroom, shutting the door softly and moving light-footed over the carpet. Ronan makes a hm noise, not quite a greeting, to let him know he doesn't need to be so careful. Adam is still nearly silent as he changes out of his clothes, but he slides right up to Ronan in bed, wraps an arm around him and kisses his shoulder.
He's awake enough to mumble, "still don't sleep with blackmailers."
Adam breathes out, a long warm current of air against the back of Ronan's neck.
"Bet you would though," Adam whispers. "You'd think that was hot."
"Fuck off with that white collar shit, set something on fire and then we can talk," and he thinks he hears Adam exhale like a laugh before he drops off.
Adam still hates flying, but either he's too happy about being engaged to care about the markup on airplane booze, or else he figures first class same-day international airfare already killed any shot they had at fiscal responsibility, because he lets the stewardess bring them glass after glass of champagne. They arrive in Dublin exhausted and giddy and still half drunk, and time is meaningless but if time were a real thing it would only be three in the afternoon.
They find a hotel and crash and wake up, and time is still meaningless except everyone else is pretty convinced it means some shit, because the hotel restaurant is closed and they have to walk blocks until they find someone who will sell them food, at which point they realize they don't have any euros
Ronan swaps the guy at the food cart a hundred dollar bill in exchange for some seriously suspect fish and chips. It's still gotta be better than any food Adam's ever made.
"You can't say I'm not a provider," Ronan brags. "I hunted. I gathered. I put greasy-ass potatoes on the table."
And Adam says "I love you."
For a second he thinks he hallucinated it, out of first class champagne or jet lag or the natural high of not being in Los Angeles. Out of the relief and joy of knowing that Adam wants to marry him.
But Adam is looking at him, eyes bright with anticipation, defiance, and he didn't imagine shit.
"Because of the potatoes?" Ronan demands.
Adam breathes out, a little bit laughing, a little bit letting go of something. "Not because of the potatoes. In fact -- " He takes the flimsy paper baskets out of Ronan's stunned hands and sets them down on a nearby bench. Ronan has one split stupid second where he almost yelps at Adam to be more careful with the most expensive fries in the world, and then Adam is back in front of him, his arms around Ronan's neck and the side of his face pressed against Ronan's shoulder.
Ronan snaps back to the present and wraps his arms around Adam, so tight that it can't last, so tight that it has to last.
"I spent so long being afraid that I wasn't really able to love," Adam says, muffled. "Or that -- I could love this much, and everyone else's love was bigger than that. Better than that. I thought that your love was better. You love so much, Ronan, I could get lost in it. It wouldn't have been fair to mislead you into thinking I had feelings like that, if I didn't."
Ronan has never once doubted. His throat too tight for words. "And now?" he forces out.
Adam breathes in, unsteady. "Ronan, my feelings are enormous."
Ronan says, "I love you," and Adam half laughs again in a very shaky way, "I know, Ronan, believe me, I know," and neither of them says much of anything after that.
Eventually they pick up their shitty fish and chips and walk down the street, vaguely in the direction of the hotel. Nothing has changed except the food's gone cold. It doesn't feel right; the whole world should have shifted around them.
Or maybe that is right, because nothing has really changed here, either.
"You know we're already engaged, right." Ronan's voice isn't playing along, won't sound condescending or rude no matter how hard he tries, although he's not trying that hard. "Were you trying to do-over your proposal because your first one sucked so bad?"
"My proposal was not the one that sucked," Adam retorts. "I proposed before you did, better than you did, and now more times than you did." He is very very pleased with himself, and if he does not see where he just made a colossal mistake then Ronan is not going to warn him.
They're walking through St. Stephen's Green the next day. Matthew's running late to meet them, but there's a scattering of people around the park; the weather's about as nice as it's likely to be all week. Adam stops, scanning the scene around them like he's committing it to memory, and that's when Ronan drops to one knee.
There's one brief shock of realization before Adam locks his expression down, his face giving nothing away. Only Ronan, out of all of the people now looking at him, can tell that he is gloriously annoyed.
He whispers, "oh, don't you dare."
"You're the one," Ronan says, heartfelt. His eyes are tearing up a little. It's so fucking hard not to laugh right now.
Adam raises a hand to his mouth -- like he's bowled over with emotion, except it's actually so he can hiss at Ronan without anyone seeing him say anything. "I am going to jilt you at the altar -- "
"You're the person I want to be with for the rest of my life."
" -- in front of all of our friends, it's going to be devastating -- "
"I love you, Adam Parrish."
Adam presses his palm flat over his mouth. Sappy motherfucker can't say anything to that.
"Will you marry me?"
Adam starts to pull his hand away from his face, but then he presses it down again, like he can't do it, except Adam can do any damn thing.
"You're a menace," Adam hisses at him, "you shouldn't be allowed, obviously, yes, Ronan, yes," he says, louder, like he doesn't even mind that people are applauding for them. He gives Ronan his hand, and Ronan hauls himself up until he can wrap his arms around Adam.
"You're lucky that I love you," Adam grumbles, softly, brightly.
"Yeah," Ronan says. "I know."