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To Love (And Be Loved in Return)

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Adam’s tattoo on his right ankle looked like a crashing wave, a swirl of curled lines. He felt it was relevant in two ways: one, the ocean was his favorite place and two, he always felt as though he was the one doing the crashing.

There were others, too, of course. Gansey’s ley line triangle sat on the inside of his wrist besides Ronan’s cloud-like bubble. Blue’s oval sat just below the two and he remembered vividly the emotions its appearance had caused him: relief, knowing he was capable of loving someone other than his friends; disappointment, knowing that the mark appeared on his wrist rather than his chest. Even later, it never did reappear on his chest.

He was not in love with Blue Sargent.

Neither of his parents’ marks branded his skin, either; something they had never let him forget.

But it was just after a shower when Adam, wiping the condensation from the mirror, spotted the cloud upon his chest. He started so that he almost slipped on the slick floor beneath him. He stared at it, blinking hard, but the elegant curved cloud stayed in its place.

He was in love with Ronan Lynch.

 

* ONE DAY EARLIER *

“Parrish,” Ronan said, stepping into pace with Adam after school.

Adam glanced over at the boy beside him, pointedly not noticing his long, dark eyelashes and sharp jawline. “Lynch.”

Ronan glanced over at him, meeting Adam’s gaze before looking away once more. “Any plans, tonight?”

“No,” Adam replied, hoping his voice didn’t betray the beat his heart had missed; an unfortunate, new development where Ronan was concerned. “Why? Do you?”

He shrugged. “Maybe. Depends,” Ronan’s gaze flickered to him again. “Want to join me to the Barns?”

Adam didn’t hesitate before nodding. He loved visiting the Barns, especially with Ronan at his side. Not that he’d ever visited the Barns without him, but he imagined that it wouldn’t be the same without the dreamer beside him. Ronan made things more real whenever he was around and the Barns was anything but; despite everything, Adam was incapable of wrapping his mind around Ronan’s old home.    

Besides now that they knew how to wake the cows, there wasn’t much the two of them could do besides, well. . . exist.

 

When they arrived to the Barns, apparently there was a lot for them to do. Kicking off his shoes as he entered the home, Ronan decided he was hungry and announced they were going to make homemade pizza. “ I don’t want fucking Nino’s for once, okay?”

Adam didn’t argue with him. Besides, although he would never admit it to Blue or Gansey, he was kind of tired of Nino’s, too. He offered Ronan a small smile. “Okay, Chef Lynch.”

Ronan raised a brow at the name but smiled a sharp smile when he realized Adam’s teasing tone. All teeth.

“Do you even know how to make a pizza, though?” Adam asked as he made his way to Ronan’s side at the large island in the middle of the kitchen. He had already scattered the assorted ingredients across the island and Adam was slightly overwhelmed. He didn’t know how to make a pizza, but then again, how hard could it be?

 

It turned out to be significantly harder than Adam had imagined.

It had started off well enough. Adam had washed his hands and began to make and knead the dough to start the crust. Reading instructions from Ronan’s underused phone, it didn’t take long and when he finished he placed the covered dough to the side.

When he glanced up from his work, he caught Ronan’s lingering gaze on him and offered a shy smile. He didn’t know what made him smile so often in Ronan’s presence; it was a new development to find that Ronan’s sharp wit and arrogant comments were endearing rather than annoying.

This was about the time things escalated into chaos. Adam had innocently told Ronan about the splash of pizza sauce on his cheek and, when Ronan continually missed wiping it off, crossed the kitchen and wiped it off himself. Adam pointedly ignored Ronan’s eyes and stepped away, suppressing his desire to grin. He felt a warmth spread through him like he’d just survived throwing himself over the edge of a cliff. Maybe he had.

Ronan, slightly wide-eyed, retaliated with a flick of flour aimed at Adam’s face. Learned instincts kicked in and Adam retreated into his body, his face spinning away quick. When an expected blow did not reach him, Adam tensed. In horror, he realized just what he had done.

Straightening, Adam opened his eyes. Looking through his eyelashes, now coated in white power, he found Ronan standing stiff in front of him. His face was closed off, a guarded expression in place. One that Adam hadn’t seen when it was just the two of them in a long time.

With a hesitant smile, Adam watched Ronan as his hand slid to grab an abandoned spoon on the island. Ronan’s eyes flickered towards his hand, watching with narrowed eyes. Meeting Adam’s gaze, the guard was gone and a evil grin replaced it, the heavy moment in the past.

With a relieved breath, Adam moved quick. Spoon in hand, he dashed forward and grabbed the jar of pizza sauce and raced away, ducking behind a counter. The padding of socked feet alerted Adam that Ronan was moving, too. Digging the silverware into the jar, he loaded the sauce onto the spoon, ready.

When he stood, though, he was met with another faceful of powdered substance.

Blinking the white flour from his eyes, Adam glared over at the boy across from him. Ronan let out an obnoxious laugh and Adam couldn’t help another smile at the beautiful sound. Determined now, Adam raised his weapon and flung the sauce across the island, smacking Ronan in the face and down the front of his shirt. The boy flinched backwards as the cold sauce hit him and abruptly stopped laughing. Slowly wiping the sauce from his face, he grinned wickedly. “It’s on, Parrish.”

Their food fight continued for another five minutes until Ronan fell flat on his ass with a loud “ fuck ”. Adam had laughed at first but soon realized Ronan hadn’t moved from his place. Worried, Adam hurried over and offered him a hand up. That was his first mistake. His second mistake was not realizing Ronan’s smile for what it was. Gripping his hand, Ronan yanked Adam down with such a force that Adam face planted into the boy’s chest with a startled yelp.

Ronan ,” Adam groaned, rubbing at his nose. He glared at the boy as he supported himself with both hands to either side of Ronan’s head: his third mistake. Adam blushed when he noticed their position but didn’t move, watching the beautiful boy still beneath him. Ronan’s cheeks reddened but he, too, made no attempt to move.

Adam’s gaze wavered briefly towards Ronan’s lips and wondered what would happen if he were to close the little remaining space between them. It was this same thought that forced Adam to his feet with an embarrassing hast.

He coughed, unsure of his voice. “Do you think the crust is ready?”

Ronan, still stationary on the floor, offered no response but closed eyes. Adam’s stomach plummeted and he turned away. He had crossed an undefined line and he knew it. A pain singed his chest and Adam focused on cleaning up their mess.

A time later, their dough was ready. Ronan, now up and about but unusually quiet even to his standards, stood at the island pasting his homemade sauce onto the molded dough. Adam, wiping up the same scattered sauce from the cupboards, watched from the corner of his eyes as Ronan worked. His appetite had disappeared, the heaviness of their previous moment getting to him. For the first time Adam found himself wanting to willingly leave the Barns and Ronan’s presence in favor of his apartment above St. Agnes.

Finishing up his cleaning, likely leaving the place cleaner than it’d been before, Adam stood across from Ronan at the island.

“So,” Adam started, but his words trailed off when he realized he didn’t know what to say.

“So.”

Adam sighed. “Um, I should probably get back,” he said with a weak shrug. “Work and school and stuff.” He had neither of the things in the morning and Ronan knew it.

Ronan’s posture softened. He released a long breath and leveled a gaze on Adam. “You don’t have to go, Parrish. At least wait until our shitty pizza is done and you can eat first.”

Warily, he nodded, turning his gaze over to the living room. He made his way towards the couch and rested his head against the cool leather. His thoughts were racing trying not to read too heavily into the word our and didn’t notice Ronan settle in front of him. Stretching his legs out, Ronan’s socked feet bumped Adam’s and the familiar burn etched into Adam’s chest again.

Adam couldn’t help himself when his gaze landed on the smooth curls of the cloud mark on Ronan’s ankle, barely visible from beneath his long socks. What a thing it would be to see the beautiful mark upon his chest, Adam thought; what a thing it would be to know that he loved someone more than just platonically. To love and be loved in returned.

Another nudge from Ronan caused Adam to meet the boy’s waiting gaze. “Care to play a game until the pizza is ready?”

“Like what?” Adam mused. Did the Lynches ever have a family game night in this very living room?

Ronan hummed thoughtfully. “Would you rather jump out of plane with no parachute or be chased down by a cheetah?”

Adam’s brows lifted. “Christ, Lynch. I don’t know.”

“Nu uh. Pick one, Parrish.”

Adam wasn’t particularly scared of heights but the idea of going splat was not a nice visual image. Although dying a slow death by cheetah wasn’t too pleasant, either. “Plane. At least it’d be instant.”

“Sick,” Ronan nodded. “Your turn.”

The leather bit into his cheek uncomfortably but Adam didn’t move. He was content to spend the rest of the night there, with Ronan, if he had his way.  His eyes felt heavy and he briefly considered what time it was. “Would you rather have one wish granted today, or three wishes granted five years from now?”

Ronan leveled his eyes on him and he found that, maybe from lack of sleep or from being tired of never doing anything, Adam didn’t want to look away. This time he didn’t.

“One wish granted today.”

A heaviness settled upon them once more and Adam thought, this is it. Just as he was about to ask what he’d wish for, a loud beeping erupted the silence and the moment was broken once more. Adam cursed under his breath as Ronan’s warmth left him. With a sigh, he stood from the couch and followed Ronan into the kitchen.

When they finished eating, they settled back on the couch and channel surfed. Well, Ronan channel surfed while Adam tried not to pass out. His eyes, heavy with exhaustion, flickered to a stray clock propped on a coffee table, reading: 1:21 AM. Had it really been that long?

An involuntary yawn escaped from Adam’s lips and Ronan turned the TV off. “All right, Parrish. Time to get you home.”

Adam didn’t have the energy to argue with him and gladly accepted the ride home. By the time they had settled into the BMW and Ronan had started the engine, Adam had rested his head against the window pane and welcomed sleep.

* PRESENT DAY *  

The cloud mark was still branded on Adam’s chest as he shakily threw a sweater and pants on. He couldn’t believe it. Well, no, he could believe it; he knew he was in love with Ronan Lynch (especially after last night’s events) but the reality of it staring back at him in the mirror this morning was a wake up call. He was in love with Ronan Lynch.

Was Ronan Lynch in love with him?

The idea that the feeling wasn’t mutual burned through him and Adam could feel the tips of his ears warm. But Adam couldn’t help but hope that the feeling was mutual; after all, what else would his actions mean? The lotion, the mixtapes, last night . . . Adam couldn’t deny that there was a dual-meaning to their actions last night.

Sliding his feet into his shoes, Adam shrugged his bag across his shoulder and exited his apartment. In his car, he couldn’t help the smile that stretched across his lips when Ronan’s mixtape automatically began playing once the car had been started.

Parking at Monmouth, Adam almost didn’t want to get out of his car. His stomach was a ball of anxiety. Would Ronan know? That wasn’t possible, but anxiety didn’t care about reality.

With a sigh Adam shoved open his door and got out. It was Ronan . There was nothing to be worried about.

Adam’s reassurances went down the drain, however, when Ronan opened the door before Adam could. Meeting his eyes, Adam couldn’t find his words. His voice dryly pronounced, “Hi,”

“Hey,” Ronan said, opening the door further to allow Adam in. Gansey was nowhere to be seen and Adam’s heart was racing at an alarming rate.

Adam swallowed. “Where’s Gansey?”

“Out,” Ronan said, closing the door. He leaned against the doorframe and watched Adam closely. Adam returned the gaze and when Ronan seemed to find what he was looking for, added, “With Blue.”

“Oh,” Adam nodded, proud of the fact that the words didn’t sting him like they would’ve a few months ago. He was not in love with Blue. He pulled his bag from his shoulder and dropped it onto the couch, sitting beside it. “Cool. Want to do something?”

Ronan watched him as he crossed the loft before finally joining him on the couch.They situated themselves across each other like the night before, feet close enough to nudge the other. “Like what?”

Adam allowed himself to look at the boy across from him: his sharp jawline, dark eyes, pointed smile. There was no doubt when he looked at him. He was in love with Ronan. He tilted his head against the couch. “I don’t know.”

“You’re not going to fall asleep on me again, are you, Parrish?” Ronan asked, folding his arms behind his head.

“No,” Adam replied, more sure of it than anything in life.

Something in Adam’s tone must have caught Ronan’s attention because he sat up and scooted closer to Adam, folding his legs. The dreamer watched as Adam did the same.

The silence in Monmouth was deafening.

After a beat, Adam followed Ronan’s gaze to his ankle, his crashing wave peaking out from beneath his pants. Without hesitating a beat, he rolled up his jeans, fully revealing his mark.

Ronan exhaled and closed his eyes.

Adam hadn’t really shown the mark on his ankle to anyone, but his friends’ bodies each held the wave upon their own wrists. Ronan held it on his own wrist.

“Ronan?”

The boy opened his eyes and Adam was caught on the vulnerability visible in them. Without a warning, Ronan placed his hands beneath his tee and took it off. Adam’s throat closed at the sight in front of him: his crashing wave upon the chest of this beautiful boy.

Adam forced himself to look away from the wave and met Ronan’s eyes, the depth of them asking a million questions. What started as a slow burn in his chest now warmed Adam’s whole body. Closing his eyes, he reached at the nap of his neck and pulled the sweater over his head.

He was afraid to open his eyes and see Ronan’s response. His body was stiff with tension and waiting but the soft touch of Ronan’s hand against Adam’s cheek allowed his posture to deflate. With a flutter, his eyes parted and Adam was met with Ronan’s long eyelashes only inches away.

Adam’s body was burning and he needed to do something. He looked up into Ronan’s gaze again and decided to answer one of his millions of questions. He leaned in and closed the space between them.

Their lips slid together, Ronan capturing Adam’s in his own. Ronan was so gentle, so caring in his grip sliding from Adam’s cheek to behind his neck. It was a quick, chaste kiss and Ronan pulled away all too soon.

Adam could feel the heat in his cheeks and the tips of his ears. He had kissed Ronan Lynch.

“How long?” Ronan asked, voice scratchy and quiet.

Adam leaned forward and buried his face into Ronan’s chest. He mumbled, “Officially?”

He felt Ronan hum in agreement, the sound vibrating through his chest. He answered, “This morning.”

The body beneath him stilled and Adam sat up. He met Ronan’s gaze and was awed to find the loving gaze focused on him. He smiled faintly and Ronan leaned in once more and Adam met him halfway.

He was in love with Ronan Lynch. Ronan Lynch was in love with him.

He loved and was loved in return.