Adam Parrish was unknowable.
This he knew. But. But...He wanted to be knowable. And he wanted to be known, maybe.
He wanted to know things usually, yes, but not for the sake of knowing them, like Gansey did. Not for the joy of it, the growth of it. Mainly, he wanted to know because knowledge was power. And, in his case, opportunity and escape.
Cabeswater was power too, thrumming through him in sync with the ley line, but the boundaries between him and it confused him, made him even less likely to be knowable.
Straight As and an Ivy league scholarship demanded that he know things, so he made sure he knew them, learned them, and tried to understand them when needed. His mind had always been his ticket out of here. But it, and his heart, were still unknowable, even to him - especially to him. And this was unacceptable. He was smart, he could figure this out.
Figure himself out.
He thought about it as he worked the night shift at the factory. Being a creature of needs meant that he was concerned with the bottom rungs of Maslow's hierarchy - food, clothing, safety, resources. Sleep was also there somewhere, but something had to give. Maybe sex and touch (the good kind) were needs too, but they took a backseat to the daily drudgery of his grey, threadbare life, deciding between razors and hot water in his monthly budget spread sheet.
Though after Cabeswater, he had to admit that the colours of the previously dingy weave of his existence had been shot through with threads of greens and browns and blues. For leaves and soil and open sky. Maybe also the golden yellow yarn of shimmering sunlight.
Thinking of blue made him think of Blue. And how he had been so drawn to her. Was that need? Was that like food? Was that about just sex and touch? Was that love, maybe?
Regardless, he'd fucked that up, hadn't he? Par for the course, then.
Anyway, who in their right mind would choose an Adam, when they could have a Gansey?
Who in their right mind would?
Apparently, Ronan would.
Which just goes to show you, Adam thought.
This thing, with Ronan, though. What was it? What did it make him, Adam, feel? With the way Ronan kept glancing at him out of the corner of his eyes and then looking away hurriedly. Ronan LIKED him. Ronan Lynch liked Adam Parrish. When he could've liked Gansey, or anyone else, instead.
Adam knew it was mostly pride and vanity that gave him a little thrill about it. It was nothing else. Nope, nothing else.
It was nothing else, wasn't it?
Adam closed his eyes for a second and thought about Ronan. Looking to his left in the BMW and seeing Ronan driving. Driving too fast, body relaxed but alert, completely alive, completely in control, fierce grin on his face. Ronan teaching him to drive shift. How it felt, looking over and seeing Ronan in the passenger seat for a change. It felt - right. Like it was something familiar, but just hadn’t happened yet.
Also, when Adam made himself think about it objectively, he knew that Ronan was good looking. Savagely handsome. All cheekbones and broad, muscled back shifting under that wondrous tattoo. Ice-blue eyes framed by the longest black lashes. All of it a complete contrast to his pale skin and pink lips.
Huh. Looks like Adam had thought a little bit at least about how Ronan looked.
But that didn't mean anything, did it? Adam thought a lot about how Aglionby boys looked in general, especially in the locker room, without the outward trappings of designer clothes. Tried to notice what the defining characteristics were that made them look rich and handsome even in their state of undress, so he could one day emulate them. One day look like the pictures of the men he cut out of magazines or look like Colin Greenmantle or like Gansey. How they all looked comfortable in their own skin (skin that looked soft, smooth and well-taken care of, unlike his red, raw, calloused hands).
It didn't mean anything that Adam noticed these things. About Aglionby boys in general and Ronan Lynch in particular.
But he couldn't deny that he liked it when those blue eyes watched him through their long black lashes.
Ronan was currently asleep on the floor of St. Agnes, an almost daily occurrence now.
It had started with him not wanting to bring hornets back from his dreams while living in Monmouth, but now it had become a shared, nearly silent ritual. Adam thought it helped with Ronan's insomnia. Maybe that’s why he kept coming back.
It surely wasn’t just for Adam’s company, as Adam spent most of the time studying quietly. It had to be boring for Ronan, for all that Ronan looked completely at home in Adam’s little room.
He thought all this as he wrapped himself up in his thin blanket on his thin mattress, bone tired and weary and cold but unable to stop his brain from thinking, as usual.
Adam was starting to suspect, though, that he was missing something. Something so glaringly visible and obvious that your eyes just skimmed over the surface, not really seeing it properly. Just expecting it to be there, taking it for granted.
Because…Ronan didn't do anything he didn't want to do. God (and Declan) knew that for sure.
So when Ronan kept coming to Adam's shitty, unheated room, to sleep on the hard, splintery wooden floor, it was because he wanted to.
And Adam wouldn't even be in this room if it wasn't for Ronan. It was Ronan who had understood that living under Gansey's roof would have driven Adam insane, and possibly wrecked their friendship. It was Ronan who had paid the difference towards Adam's rent, dreamed him hand cream, made him a mixed tape. Brought take-out on many nights, claiming he hadn't eaten either, threatening to chuck it out anyway if Adam didn't want it.
That Ronan, whose every sharp edge was a warning, could be so considerate, was a shock and yet not a surprise at all. He was such a mess of contradictions. So loving with Matthew, so gentle with the baby field mice and Chainsaw. So loyal to Gansey. So principled, fiercely against lying and Declan's tom-catting. A boy who dreamed beautiful things but spewed venom at anyone who was in the vicinity of his anger. A feral creature, snapping his jaws and snarling like a wounded animal at bay. But alive, always alive, even while sleeping and dreaming; so different from Adam who couldn't stay awake and be fully present even when his eyes were open.
Adam wished he could know himself.
Because, why would a boy like Ronan, so fantastic and fantastical, find Adam the least bit interesting? Boring, trailer-trash Adam. But also Magician Adam, if he was being fair. Straight-A student Adam. Not that Ronan cared about grades, but maybe he did care about Adam being Cabeswater's Magician. Was that why Ronan liked him?
Well, not just why, thought Adam. He was pretty sure Ronan had started looking at him, maybe even wanting him, before that. But maybe his being linked to the magic, linked to Ronan's dream place, helped.
Maybe being freaks together was an attractive proposition.
No, that was Adam believing the nasty voice in his head (that always sounded like his father). Maybe it was that they both shared magic now and Cabeswater. While it probably isolated Adam from everyone else, it moved him closer to Ronan.
Yes, Adam definitely liked it when Ronan looked at him. And he also liked it when he extrapolated those looks to their natural conclusions.
Ronan has a crush on me, he thought. Ronan would like to touch me (he does it enough already, peeling scabs off of me, leaning against me, throwing his legs over mine, even if it is to piss Declan off). Ronan would like to kiss me.
And how did Adam feel about Ronan’s crush? He had admitted to himself that he liked it. But he more than just liked it, didn’t he? He wanted to be liked. By Ronan, specifically. Did he like Ronan back, though?
Maybe he could, he thought.
Between the mixed tape and the lotion, Adam felt like he was being ... wooed. And maybe just that was enough to get under his skin? To feel this wanted, this adored even, was something that had never happened to him before. Maybe that fucked with your brain? Made you start considering possibilities that went against your usual inclinations. Because he was straight, right?
Thinking about Blue and the other girls he had liked made him realise that he had never liked a boy that way. Never thought a boy was pretty or wanted to kiss one.
Ronan was not pretty, Adam thought fuzzily, almost asleep.
Well, he was handsome, yes, but not pretty. Not even when his cheeks and lips were pink from the cold, and despite his long lashes.
And Adam didn't think about kissing Ronan.
Though sometimes he found himself staring at the stark line of his jaw and wondering how the stubble there would compare to the feel of Ronan's shaved head under Adam’s fingertips. Found himself tracing Ronan's tattoo with his eyes and wondering if the skin there would feel raised, or different. Maybe hotter?
Maybe he could cool it down with his tongue, he thought deliriously.
What the fuck?? You're losing it, Parrish, he said to himself, floating in the liminal space between consciousness and sleep.
And then, finally, he slept, with a slight smile on his face.
Alright, Adam admitted to himself while under a car at Boyd's, he would like to kiss Ronan.
He had become pretty sure of that recently, what with spending more time with Ronan working on various things. Especially after Ronan called him Magician again the other day, with a wicked glint to his eyes and sharp quirk to his lips that seemed to be meant purely for Adam.
Ronan's thin lips would look even prettier swollen and bitten and sucked on (by Adam). And as sharp as Ronan's tongue was, flaying people alive in public, Adam was pretty sure it could also be slow and soft and sensual in private, hot and wet, sliding against Adam's. He could imagine Ronan kissing with the same precision and attention with which he drove a car, receptive but in control. (How would Ronan look when he lost control? Could Adam do that to him?)
No, no, don’t go there. Okay, kissing Ronan was definitely something he wanted to do. Someday. Or just hypothetically. Or, he was open to it. If it ever came up. Nothing more than kissing. So far, his brain said. Shut up brain, Adam said.
Okay, maybe I'm bi-curious, Adam thought, as he was reading the same line in his English grammar book over and over again and thinking about Ronan.
Ronan had not come to St. Agnes tonight, and Adam found that he missed him. Past tense. Had thought about him all day. Past perfect tense. Am thinking about him now. Present progressive. Will be thinking about him later (in the shower, if past performance was any indicator). Future progressive
Thinking about Ronan in Adam’s room. On Adam’s bed. Shirtless. Panting.
He'd done a lot of research on the LGBTQA+ spectrum lately (because he was Adam) and he didn't think he belonged on it, not really. (Also, they needed a better acronym, in Adam’s opinion; this one was a mouthful).
He knew that the term bi-curious was seen as bi-erasure-ish by many people in the queer community (he liked saying queer better than the alphabet soup acronym, though he understood that it was a sort-of blanket term).
He knew that bisexual was more … accurate… maybe, for most people.
But not him.
If he thought of himself as bisexual, it would mean in his mind that he could be with a man in all the ways that he could be with a woman. Not just attraction and sex, as the usual definition went, but also falling in love, getting married, raising a family.
So. He was not bisexual.
But he definitely was thinking of more-than-kissing Ronan.
Maybe he was a 1 on the Kinsey scale. Maybe a 2? 1.5? He sure as hell didn’t qualify as a zero anymore.
The closest he could come to defining it to himself was Ronan-sexual.
Straight with a Ronan exception.
(He hated that these cobbled-together definitions made him feel itchy and uncomfortable, like the Aglionby bell being rung two minutes late. But it was his definition, his prerogative. It existed only in his own mind. No one else needed to know about it. No one was judging him – well, except himself.)
But, but, if he was bi-curious, if he was straight with just one exception, was it like experimenting?
Because that would never work for Ronan. With Ronan.
But would it even work for Adam, though?
Was he willing to risk their friendship because he had fantasies about Ronan that were getting increasingly explicit? When he knew he could never return Ronan’s feelings for real or love him that way. The way Ronan deserved to be loved.
Also, really and truly, love was not something that Adam thought about too much.
He could tell himself he did not have time for it, or the energy for it. But he knew that it was neither of those things.
He avoided thinking about it because it was a word in a foreign language. Like something spewed out by the dream puzzle box. He knew what the word meant of course; he just had no working knowledge of it.
If Ronan had to know and imagine something just to bring it out of his dreams, how could Adam bring something out of his heart when he had no idea what it looked like outside of an abstract concept and construct.
And speaking of abstract concepts, just because Adam thought about sucking on the inside of Ronan's thigh and imagined watching the pale skin bloom a bruise ("Adam Parrish was here."), would that even mean he would actually do it, if presented with the opportunity?
If he was honest with himself (because, know thyself and all) he could see Ronan doing ...stuff... to him, more easily than he could see himself doing stuff to Ronan.
Well, with one exception, really, because he was pretty sure he didn't want a cock up his ass.
That was like absolutely gay, like you-can’t-come-back-from-this gay (or bi). And Adam didn’t think that was what he was (gay or bi).
After all, he had only thought about Ronan in any kind of physical way, never other boys (Images of smooth skin and sharp hipbones that flashed across his mind’s eye from the Aglionby locker room were just his brain being a contrary asshole. Whatever brain. Wanting to BE them was different to wanting them).
It was only physical, and only with Ronan, because anyone who looked could see that Ronan was a fine specimen of male physicality.
And Adam was looking.
If Adam thought about Ronan's wide shoulders and bent head at the juncture of Adam’s thighs, or Ronan's long, muscular legs wrapped around his waist, or Adam licking, sucking and biting his way down Ronan's tattoo, he found himself growing uncomfortably hard and needing to focus on work or homework or horrible images in order to calm himself down.
And when he thought of Ronan's tongue wrapped around his... no, never mind, he'd already admitted that he was bi-curious. Though this was definitely more...curious...than he has felt about girls, if he was being honest. It was a bit…curious? ... that the first time he was having proper, explicit fantasies about sex, it was with a boy. Well, Ronan anyway.
When he had thought of Blue, his fantasies had never been about anything so all-the-way. He had wanted to hold her hand and kiss and touch her, and maybe thought about second base (cos, breasts), and third base in a vague kind of way. But not in detail.
Not like with Ronan.
When he wondered how hot and tight Ronan would feel around him, he was not comparing that to how a woman would feel.
Okay, now he was. Which would he prefer though? Being inside a man or a woman?
Wait. He didn’t mean prefer.
He preferred women, of course, in general. And he meant Ronan and a woman, of course, not just any man and any woman. And not Ronan and Blue, or anything.
Aaargh, stop thinking, brain!! Goddammit.
Besides, he wasn’t even interested in Blue that way anymore (he could appreciate her, no harm in that) and she was Gansey’s now anyway. And he couldn’t even think of Blue’s…well. Never mind. But, apparently, he could think of Ronan’s though.
Well, Ronan was insanely sexy, so no one could blame him.
Not that Blue wasn’t sexy, but she was more…attractive… to him than sexy, well, now anyways.
But Ronan was made of sex. Made for sex.
From his musky smell to his defined arms, his smooth skin over hard muscle, his perfect ass and his eyebrows and his mouth. The unconscious promise at the heart of the dark beats and hypnotic rhythms of his shitty EDM. Adam totally didn’t have fantasies about Ronan riding him in the backseat of the BMW to the beat of his music.
Anyway, Adam thought, trying to be brutally frank, I just want to have sex with a sexy person. That's all. And I’m probably touch-starved too. Which is why I am reacting this way to Ronan. Maybe I only like him this way because he liked me first.
Maybe Adam would react this way to anyone who offered him these new possibilities, this intense regard, this tactile energy. But he had seen Ronan with Matthew – how casually they touched one another. Being around those kinds of thoughtless gestures was something Adam did not have any frame of reference for.
How would it feel to be worthy of being touched like that? To not have to flinch when someone’s skin brushed his, out of the blue. To expect want and desire from contact, while not needing to earn any of it. He knew that Ronan would be that way with him. Would be constantly touching him, unselfconsciously affectionate.
What if he allowed himself to be loved like that?
This was not about love, okay? He didn’t know if Ronan loved him. And he definitely didn’t love Ronan - that way.
No. This was just physical attraction. Nothing else. And he wouldn't act on it, because he couldn't mess with Ronan that way. Because he was pretty sure he wasn't bisexual or queer or one of those other letters on the spectrum. So, coming back to his original point, he was probably bi-curious.
He knew that about himself, for sure. Maybe. At least.
Ronan had just kissed him. Twice. In Ronan’s childhood bedroom in the Barns.
Adam had kissed him back.
Okay that part was according to plan (really?).
He had thought about kissing Ronan before. Knew that he would do it, if the opportunity presented itself. Had thought about doing other things with Ronan. Yes, yes. All this had already been thought through. He was a thinker, an over-thinker. None of this was a surprise. Even if the kiss had felt inevitable and a shock at the same time. Like everything in his life was leading up to this moment.
And the kiss had been great. Though he was pretty sure he was Ronan’s first kiss, it was great because it was Ronan. He and Ronan always had chemistry, regardless of fights and arguments and crazy antics and working together with Cabeswater. Or maybe because of these things. Or as evidenced by these things.
Adam wasn’t prepared, however, for how he had felt. During the kiss. And after it.
He had known that acting on his attraction to Ronan would make so many things so difficult. He had thought that what he wanted from Ronan, with Ronan, was just physical. Just sexual. That he would be experimenting if he went ahead with his impulses, which is why he didn’t, because he couldn’t return Ronan’s affections.
But, during the kiss, he found himself doing exactly that.
Feeling things he did not expect to feel.
He had told Gansey about it later. Asked him how he defined love. And realised that Gansey didn’t know, not really. Nobody knew. Adam was in the same boat as all the poets and writers and musicians and artists and regular people who tried to define love.
But he knew, somehow, now, that he loved Ronan. Was in love with Ronan. Like Ronan was in love with him.
He thought about all this as he stood on the porch with Ronan and the floating lights around the barn and the pale buck, trying to find the words to tell Ronan all that he knew, and didn’t know, about love.
He didn’t know if it was just the magic of the Barns, which was now inextricably linked in his mind to the magic of Ronan. He didn’t know if it was the visceral, awful jolt he felt that night at the church, with dream-Ronan’s body dying in front of him. Or when Ronan jumped after Opal into the acid pool and how Adam’s very being drove his hands into the ground immediately, before conscious thought - No! No! No! - making Cabeswater send vines after them – Now! Now! Now! - because Ronan being hurt or lost was unthinkable.
He didn’t know if it was about finally realising that his parents not wanting him or loving him was a reflection on them, not him. Remembering the ‘squirting’ memory as a dull ache just before Ronan kissed him, comparing it to how everything and everyone at the Barns was wanted and loved. But then realising that he was wanted, even loved, after Ronan kissed him. Loved by Cabeswater. Loved by his friends, perhaps Persephone too. And maybe, in the not-so-distant future, loved by himself.
While slowly moving himself out of the trailer, he was leaving behind the boy that thought he was unworthy of even existing and had to overachieve to constantly justify it. And instead was becoming a man who could contain multitudes within himself, like Cabeswater and the ley line. He did not need to be defined. He did not need to be contained. He could choose to exceed his origins.
He didn’t know if it was because he had finally found someone who matched him. Who could go head to head with him. Whom he could see at their worst and not be scared. Whom he could crash against like the rough, angry ocean he sometimes was, and not have them flinch. He didn’t need to kill Ronan’s demons for him, and also, Adam could kill his own demons, with Ronan by his side maybe, no longer being lonesome.
He didn’t know if it was seeing Ronan as Niall in that split second as he stood by the bedroom door and wondering later what it would be like to have that in his life. An older Ronan who looked at Adam with love. A Ronan who looked like Niall in the photo, in the future, as in love with Adam as Niall seemed to be with Aurora. A continuity that he did not know he needed until this very moment. A future he wanted to be a part of. What had he defined bisexual as to himself? To love, marry and raise a family with a man. Not just any man, maybe, but this man. To come home to him. To make a home with him.
When he finally kissed Ronan on the porch, he didn’t know if it was the tenderness of Ronan’s lips against his, holding Adam with more care than anyone would have thought possible for Ronan. Not like Adam was fragile, but like he was precious.
And Adam took it, absorbed it, and fiercely gave it back with everything he had. Trying to convey with a kiss everything that Ronan meant to him. Answering yes to everything that Ronan asked. Everything Ronan wanted. Everything that Ronan was giving.
Which, knowing Ronan, was everything.
And Adam found himself wanting it too. Wanting more from Ronan. And wanting to give Ronan more. Wanting to give Ronan himself. Wanting to give Ronan everything. And never stopping.
With the first hesitant brush of Ronan’s tongue against his, a thrill shot straight to his cock, but the stuttering, nervous warmth of Ronan’s breath shot something straight to his heart.
When they lay on the couch together, Adam finally put his tongue on Ronan’s tattoo - and learned the skin was not raised but it was hot, just not exactly in the way that he had thought.
And Ronan’s long legs did wrap around his waist as they rocked against each other. And Ronan sucked Adam’s fingers into his mouth as he came in his jeans, making Adam come too from the sensation of Ronan’s tongue making all sorts of unbearable promises.
And Adam finally admitted to himself that all the things he wanted Ronan to do to him, he wanted to do back to Ronan.
Even all the absolutely gay you-can’t-come-back-from-this things.
Because maybe Adam was bisexual. Maybe Adam was queer. Maybe the LGBTQA+ acronym suddenly made sense.
Maybe Adam didn’t care much about it right this minute. And that was okay.
Because Ronan was unique. And Adam was in love with Ronan. And maybe, just maybe, Ronan could be his. And he could be Ronan’s.
Maybe he would be able to see, and know, all versions of Ronan. To have Ronan see, and know, all versions of Adam.
To, finally, be knowable.
Maybe Adam Parrish was no longer unknowable.