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pandora's box

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Ronan isn’t sure when his fascination with Noah began. It could’ve been their first meeting in that ridiculous GSA club he attended (only because his boyfriend—ex now was enlisted).

He closes his eyes and lets his head fall back against the pillow, and he’s not sure whether he’s dreaming or reminiscing.

“Ronan. Gay. Trans.” Comes his clipped tone through his ears. Gansey goes next.

“I’m Gansey. I’m bisexual and a demiboy.” He says, with his voice that sounds like he’s accepting a prize or an award. He’s fairly attractive, but he could do without the boat shoes and the cowlick on his forehead.

The girl next to him always leans into his arm, and she offers a brief smile. “My name’s Blue. Blue Sargent.” She emphasizes. “I’m a lesbian.”

“Adam Parrish.” He remembers his ex’s voice in his ears. It’s quiet as to not startle anybody, and always careful. “Bi. Not sure about gender yet.”

Finally, he notices a smudgy looking boy huddled next to him. Adam gives him an encouraging nod, and the boy pushes his almost white-blonde hair out of his face. There’s a dark circle underneath his right eye, and it temporarily confuses Ronan. Has this boy been getting into fights?

“I’m Noah Czerny.” He pronounces his last name carefully: chair-knee. “I’m demisexual panromantic. And agender. I’m fine with male pronouns, though.”

Everybody nods, and Ronan stops paying attention to the rest of the club. He stares solely and intently at Noah.

The agender looks back.

Ronan’s not sure when either of them ask each other to hang out, but he remembers days cramped on a small couch, Noah brushing against his shoulder. He thinks about long car rides, Noah whooping excitedly and breaking out of his reclusive, drawn back shell as he opens the roof, his hands meeting the air as if his ride is a roller coaster.

He remembers Noah’s firm hands on his hips and how he’s glad that he doesn’t visibly shudder, stepping a bit cautiously onto a skateboard and falling immediately onto his back.

Noah’s a good enough person to clamp his teeth over his lower lip to keep from laughing, pushing Ronan back upright and surveying him through his tank. His shoulders are scratched and a little bit bruised, and Noah traces around the scars carefully, his palm pressed up against the swirling tattoos that coil around his skin.

“You’re bleeding.” Ronan speaks up once he’s done touching him. Noah hasn’t laughed once.

His lower lip has a single droplet of blood, as he’s been chewing it for so long. He reaches out to swipe his thumb across his lower lip, dispelling the plasma.

He allows his finger to linger.

They get closer after that. Noah places his hand on his lower back when they speak even though his shoulders have healed. He only touched his tattoos that one time, as if they’re a mural that are locked in a museum and shouldn’t be touched.

His fingers are nimble, and Ronan takes his hand one day to map out his fingers. Noah doesn’t seem to mind the way he traces them, running his fingertips over the bone and knuckles.

Ronan brings his hand up to his mouth, looking passive. He kisses the back of it, meeting Noah’s eyes. He doesn’t flinch.

Things get almost strained between the two. Their touches are fleeting and Ronan thinks about them for hours afterwards, sprawled out on his bed with his eyes closed.

He remembers the one time when Noah plopped himself down in Ronan’s lap, halfheartedly and quietly complaining when he didn’t wrap his arms around him.

“Hold me, dammit.” He said, and Ronan didn’t want to let go.

That was weeks ago. Their time is tense, and they’re both skirting the edge.

Ronan pulls up to his house, turning off the engine to his beloved car only valued less than Noah, but neither of them climb out yet.

Noah unbuckles his seatbelt, and Ronan does the same. He refuses to glance over at him.

He doesn’t want to talk, it’s not something he’s good at. He finds himself lifting the straps on his wrist to his mouth absentmindedly.

Noah bats it away, he’s always exclaimed that it’s a bad habit. Besides, he has something more entertaining to do with his mouth.

Noah’s fingertips wrap around his wrist as he shuffles, clambering over to straddle Ronan’s waist. His breath catches inappropriately, and he glances up to meet Noah’s eyes.

His mouth lands upon his, tentative and underwhelming. It’s too chaste for Ronan, so he brings his hand against the back of his neck to tickle the tips of his hair, his other pressing against his lower back. Noah makes a rather guttural sound, and Ronan allows himself to sigh into the kiss. He’s been waiting too long for this.

“Ronan.” Noah murmurs, and it sounds like he wants to talk. Ronan shakes his head once, just a jerk of it, his grip wandering over to his hip and tightening. Not yet he signals.

Noah huffs but relaxes, allowing the kiss to get hungrier and sloppier.

“You know we have to talk eventually, Ronan.” Noah mutters, slipping an arm around his waist to press their chests closer together. Ronan can tell his eyes are half lidded without even opening his own. His heart pangs every time they fall into bed together, his hair a mess and his cheeks flushed, the way his jaw goes slack when he makes throaty, stifled moans.

“There’s nothing to talk about, Czerny.”

“Really, Ronan? We just had sex, the least you can do is call me by my real name.” Noah’s tone is teasing again, and he allows the tips of his lips to curl up in an almost smile.

“Fine, Noah.” He corrects, and Noah nuzzles into his neck. He can feel his grin on his skin.

Ronan and Noah never fight. It’s not a thing that happens, no matter how feisty Ronan is or how upset Noah can get over the little things.

Ronan doesn’t know what to do. He hasn’t talked for Noah for less than a week, and it shouldn’t be the constant thought nagging in the back of his brain, always emerging once he passes him in the hallways.

He’s not sure if Noah’s his ex per se, because they never covered whether they were dating. Most of it was just sex after a while, but sometimes they’d lay curled up in each other’s arms with unspoken “I love you’s” or when they’d watch the stars while sitting on Ronan’s car, their fingers interlocked and never separating.

His heart aches. He realizes the feeling is wanting. Missing.

His plan isn’t clever or even remotely well-thought out. Ronan trudges ahead.

He stops in front of Noah, who’s chattering along with Blue. Blaise. Whatever.

“Noah.” He says urgently, and Noah’s gaze flicks over to him with a glower.

He’s still polite enough to say “yes?” but his tone is bitter, hurtful. Ronan nearly falters internally, but he crowds into Noah and smashes their lips together. There’s a painful clack of teeth, but he pours all of his feelings into the kiss. The regret, the loneliness, the misery, and the doubt. He lets all of the negative emotions free, like a Pandora’s Box with a free lid.

Noah’s hands are unsure; after all, they are in the middle of the hallway. Eventually, he brings his hands up to run them along Ronan’s scalp, coursing through his buzzed hair.

Ronan pulls away once Blue slams her locker shut. She looks vaguely amused, a smirk on her lips. Ronan remembers nodding in her direction. His lips feel swollen.

“So, Ronan.” Cue the shudders, thinking of all the times Noah’s whined his name, needy for more. “Are you ready to stop being an ass?”

Ronan swallows once. So many things could go wrong. “I guess.”

Noah rolls his eyes good-naturedly. He hasn’t taken his eyes off of Ronan once. He leans in for another kiss.