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there are a million ways to bleed (but you are by far my favorite)

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Ronan never answered his phone.

It was a fact that generally classified as a mild annoyance, but when Adam woke from a dream where his Statistics teacher was speaking Latin that devolved quickly into just the word Greywaren over and over, Ronan’s avoidance of technology became an actual problem.


The winding drive from St. Agnes to Singer’s Falls was filled with silence and terrorizing anxiety. The clock on the dashboard of the Hondoyota read 2:04 A.M. though the backlight had long since burnt out.

Pastures dotting the hillsides were freeze frames of peace, green and frost and sleeping cattle.

It was a Tuesday at the tail end of May. Graduation was waiting around the corner, past the last hurdle of finals. Adam would be an Aglionby graduate, and then it was off to Harvard in the fall.

Life was taking shape.

Pulling into the Barns, he skidded into park and bolted out of his car, a decidedly Ronan gesture that he had never appreciated until this moment.

Nothing looked out of place at first glance. Ronan’s BMW lurked underneath a shade tree in the dark unaccompanied; there were no other vehicles in sight. No other people either. Not even Opal.

Adam fumbled with his keys, spinning through them with his thumb, past rings for different jobs. The front door, when he got to it, opened deceptively readily. The mad bashing of his heart argued with its calm.


Opal must have been sleeping in one of the Barns, but Adam didn’t go looking to confirm because when he leapt up the stairs two at a time, he found Ronan unmoving in his childhood bed. With all the noise Adam had made in his blind haste, it seemed unthinkable that he would still be asleep, and yet here he was. Sprawled on his back, in his underwear with the sheets twisted around one long leg.

The moon that hung high in the window was enough light to go by without hitting the switch next to the door, but Adam didn’t see the delicate trails of black until he’d gotten closer, terrified for one unbearable second that they were blood before recognizing the fluid for what it was. “Oh God,” he whimpered, voicing his thoughts without meaning to.

There were tendrils of nightwash pouring from each of Ronan’s nostrils and into his mouth. His pillow, next to his head was stained a muddy grey color from where it was leaking out of his ears. A thread of it had tracked down the side of his face.

When Adam put a hesitant hand out against Ronan’s bare chest and his eyes lifted open, they were milk mixed with ink.

Adam couldn’t help the tremble in his words when he said his boyfriend’s name. “Ronan? Are you alright?”

It took a moment for Ronan to realize that what was happening was real, Adam kneeling next to his bed on a weeknight, white as a sheet. There was nothing distressing in his expression while he came around to consciousness, or in the room; Ronan hadn’t brought anything back. He hadn’t been dreaming.

“Parrish?” He mopped absently at his face, smearing the dark rivulets before realizing they were there.

Adam was close to tears, a strung bow, tension in every muscle. “What the hell?”

Ronan licked the black paint from his teeth, thumbed it from the corners of his eyes. He was terrifying, even in the lambent light from the moon. “I’m fine,” he said at last. “Just happens, sometimes.”

Adam made a fist out of the hand he’d been holding to Ronan’s chest and thumped him with it. “You can’t stop dreaming like this. I thought--” His fear got caught in his throat.

Ronan, the asshole that he was, smiled. One eyebrow went up.

“Screw you,” Adam growled. “Answer your damn phone once in a while.”

Still grinning, Ronan hooked his hand into the center of Adam’s t-shirt and yanked him down for a kiss. It tasted strongly of salt. When his other hand pulled at Adam’s ribs, coaxing him into the bed, Adam reared back.

“I have class in the morning.”

“You can drive from here.”

“I don’t have my uniform.”

Opportunity danced in Ronan’s eyes. “You can wear mine.”

“No way,” Adam told him, but his tone had cracks. It was all the encouragement Ronan required to twist up and drag Adam bodily into the bed. He landed against Ronan’s hard chest, his skin still warm from sleep. “You’re a mess.”

Ronan’s laugh was a slow rumble. He lifted his chin for another kiss. Though he was undeniably handsome and Adam was already feeling the stirrings of teenage arousal, the nightwash on his face still tugged at Adam’s fear.

“You can’t keep letting this happen,” he said quietly, his hand coasting over the shape of Ronan’s skull while Ronan’s folded themselves into a knot atop Adam’s lower back. “I’m going to worry about it every night while I’m away--and you never answer your phone so I won’t know if you’re okay or not. I won’t be able to race up here in a state to check on you.”

Adam was getting more worked up the longer he talked. Cambridge was an eight-hour drive from Henrietta. He wasn’t going to be able to live with the constant possibility that Ronan was all alone here, dying, while he was at school.

“I have it under control,” Ronan said, slowly, like he’d grown tired of this conversation. It wasn’t the first time they’d argued about Ronan taking better care of himself.

Adam stared at him, at the faded smears of black next to his mouth. “Obviously not.”

There was a tank top half-stuffed into the seam between Ronan’s mattress and bed frame. It was spattered with mud and tangy with sweat, and in another minute, soiled with nightwash. After scrubbing his face, Ronan lobbed the wad of it towards his laundry basket. His face wasn’t any less frightening, but it was at least clean now. “How’d you know?” he asked, re-fastening his arms around Adam’s waist in bed.

“Just had a weird dream,” Adam explained, Ronan’s embrace grounding him. He rested his elbows above Ronan’s shoulders on his pillow and leaned in to speak forehead to forehead, closing his eyes and inhaling Ronan. “Someone kept saying the word ‘Greywaren’. When I woke up and you didn’t answer the phone I--”

Ronan cut him off with a kiss, back arching and knees spreading to coax Adam into a straddle over his hips. His bare thighs seared Adam through the thin material of his sleep pants as one hand left the dip of his spine to travel north, fingers threading into sleep-churned hair. “I’m sorry,” he breathed. “I’m fine.”

Far from for the first time, Adam was overwhelmed by Ronan Lynch. He was demanding with his mouth, his hands, his love.

The taste of nightwash--of danger--was in this kiss, but something headier was present too. Ronan’s pelvis echoed it when he ground upwards.

“I have class tomorrow,” Adam reminded him, to which Ronan replied, “Fuck school,” and abandoned Adam’s lips for his neck.

Adam would not fuck school, but he did find himself pulling away from Ronan only long enough to have his stripped off anyway. When he came down again, skin to skin against Ronan’s chest, he groaned.

Ronan’s buzzcut rasped underneath Adam’s palm like a match striking sandpaper. Adam had to be up in four hours but he already knew that they were going to burn before they slept again.

Impatient fingers hooked into his elastic waistband and pulled. They wanted Adam’s pajamas and his underwear. “I haven’t seen you all week,” Ronan reasoned, but it didn’t matter how much time had passed since their last day together; Ronan always wanted him like this.

Adam fit his hand between their bodies to palm Ronan. His cock was heavy and hard, bowed against the confining black of his boxer briefs. “What do you want?” he asked, his hearing ear pressed to Ronan’s cheekbone, his breath washing out against the hinge of Ronan’s jaw.

There was something of a laugh in Ronan’s response, and then Adam’s pants were off. “To fuck.”

The casual want in Ronan’s voice made Adam’s stomach tighten. Slow to recover, he held his body out of the way so that Ronan could divest himself of his own underwear and reached towards the bedside table for the lube they kept inside. “How?” he asked, and Ronan shrugged, all of him laid out naked beneath Adam, pale and built and savagely gorgeous. Sometimes just looking at Ronan gave him a side ache.

He considered it for a moment, turning the little dream jar over in his hand, then, stuck on the thick shadow of Ronan’s eyelashes, he passed it over. Ronan took it only to set it aside. He needed both hands to flip Adam onto his back, assaulting him with a kiss once his head hit the pillow. It was hot tongues and hungry exploration over shoulders and arms. Adam groped at Ronan’s ass before he could no longer reach, Ronan caging himself over Adam on the bed in order to wing out one of his legs.

His fingers played down the back of Adam’s thigh, ticklish and irritating, and then swept more purposefully once they reached their destination. He grew bruises like flowers on Adam’s neck as he massaged behind Adam’s balls, a snicker smothered against tanned skin when Adam squirmed and called him a tease.

The sound of the lid on the jar being screwed off uncapped a dozen memories of nights spent sweating together through the budding Virginia heat, and a few from when they had to writhe under handmade quilts and blankets. The next press of Ronan’s fingers was wet and warm. Adam wrapped a hand underneath Ronan’s ear to cup the nape of his neck and bring his face closer, speaking right against his temple. “Don’t scare me like that again…” he pleaded through clenched teeth. “I can’t lose you.”

Ronan lifted his chin to seek out Adam’s eyes in the glowing dark. Two oceans meeting--blue like the arctic finding blue like the tropics. “You won’t,” he said lowly, seriously. And then, mouth unsealing, he warmed Adam with one finger.

One became two became three. Adam moaned, each thrust dragging him towards madness. Sounds were pulled from him, head thrown back, scrabbling uselessly for purchase at Ronan’s velvet skull.

Ronan rarely made noise when they fooled around. He was more of a heavy breather, panting out punches of air, into Adam’s face or into his shoulder or into the sheets.

When neither of them could wait any longer, Ronan’s hips rotating toward nothing and Adam begging Ronan to, “fuck me already, you asshole,” Ronan withdrew his fingers and rearranged Adam’s hips with his hands, falling over him again once they were fitted together like the main parts of a car engine.

“You okay?” Ronan asked, shaking slightly, one hand around his dick and the other cupping Adam’s ribs. All the convincing it took was Adam nodding, his face flushed and pink.

His body remembered Ronan Lynch’s. The blunt intrusion, the slow-slide of being filled--even if their roles were flipped more often than not. Adam would never be able to forget any version of the two of them together.

Ronan’s head dropped as if in prayer and he began to move, hips nudging away and forward again, sensation making Adam turn his face against the pillow and whine. “Jesus, Parrish,” Ronan breathed against his collarbone.

Adam splayed his hands against the network of muscles in Ronan’s back and felt that he was trembling with the effort to remain composed. That wasn’t what Adam wanted anyway.

“More,” he instructed, hitching up one leg, the shift allowing Ronan deeper. He dug his heel into the back of Ronan’s thigh and scored his nails down Ronan’s sprawling tattoo.

From there, they couldn’t help themselves. Ronan skewed from reverence and love towards making Adam come. After a handful of dizzying, long strokes, he folded Adam back, guiding his knees over Ronan’s shoulders so that he could curl himself over Adam and set a punishing pace.

Adam choked out Ronan’s name, feeling uselessly at Ronan’s biceps, his throat. He put a pillow over his face, shrouded in his own hot breath while Ronan bounced his pelvis into the mattress, dissolved into just this feeling.

He was able to successfully drown out his moans for a few minutes, almost embarrassed through his haze of lust by the sounds being drawn from him, but then Ronan was pulling the pillow off, wanting to see Adam, needing to kiss him.

It was hardly a kiss. It was slack mouths pushing air at one another and Adam sighing while Ronan’s rhythm faltered.

Adam’s dick was trapped between them, but he didn’t need to touch it. Feeling Ronan inside of him the way he used to feel Cabeswater inside of him--otherworldly and ever-present--paired with the friction from Ronan’s lower stomach threw him into orgasm before Ronan’s hips stuttered to a halt with his own. Adam was just present enough in the moment to see Ronan’s face screw up, looking pained and familiar. Then it was smooth again and his eyes were open. He reached up and caught Adam’s lower lip between his own.

They separated to wipe up Adam’s shared mess and to catch their breaths once the initial comedown had passed. Ronan flung one arm across his eyes, his chest pistoning up and down as his heart rate leveled out. Adam watched him, his every thought bordered with a fuzzy white vignette.

“I’m going to miss.”

Ronan’s face turned, eyes guarded where they peeked above his forearm.

“You know what I mean,” Adam clarified. “I’m coming back.”

There was still a faded streak of black from the nightwash earlier that disappeared into Ronan’s hairline. Adam slowly leaned over to trace it.

Ronan closed his eyes.

“While I’m gone though,” Adam said, his voice aiming for casual, “you need to answer your phone.” He wasn’t naive enough to think that his love for Ronan was ever going to magically transform him into the picture of responsibility; Ronan was going to continue being reckless even after he left. But when he inevitably got into trouble, Adam deserved to know.

There was a sarcastic retort loaded on Ronan’s tongue, but it wasn’t fired. Instead he just nodded, a minute gesture, and pulled Adam across the bed to lay in the crook of his arm. “I’ll be fine. But yes, I will.”

It was the best Adam was going to get without kicking up another argument. He rolled willingly towards his boyfriend, checking the clock on the bedside table.

3:37 A.M.

Covering them both up with the white duvet that’d fallen to the floor earlier, Adam sighed. “Where’s your uniform?” he asked warily, calculating how much sleep he was going to get before he needed to be up for class depending on how long it took him to fall asleep.

Ronan’s laugh was sharp and wild and it went on forever, only tapering off when Adam starting to sit up and look for it himself. He pressed him back down with a hand against Adam’s chest. “It’s in the hamper,” he said.

“How long has it been in there?” Adam didn’t want to know, which was fine because Ronan had the sense not to tell him.

“Go to sleep, Adam,” he said instead, reeling Adam back in, tangling their legs under the cool duvet, bodies situating themselves together without any direction from heads or hearts.

So Adam did.