If you’d asked Adam twelve hours previous how his day was progressing, the last thing he’d think to mention would be an uncomfortable encounter with his former friend. Yet here he stood- his crisp naval uniform contrasting greatly against the soot covering him from head to toe- trying to conceal the unkempt feelings from his one night stand with the Dreamwalker. Though that was just his sea name. To Adam, he would always just be Ronan.
The Dreamwalker. The infamous pirate had been brought up within an aristocratic family back in the city where Adam was from. The Lynches had always been held in high regard for their plethora of rare artifacts they’d traded internationally. A regard that brought both riches and tragedy upon Niall Lynch and his three sons. Said tragedy leaving his sons both fatherless and without access to the artifacts that had brought them so much wealth to begin with. But had really shocked the community, was the revelation that Niall Lynch’s ship, the beauty that it was, wouldn’t be given up to his eldest son as was usual. Instead, he’d requested it be held and taken care of, with nos specifics in who should own it.
Aurora Lynch, the matriarch of the family and sole surviving parent of the Lynch boys perished soon after, leaving the boys to fend for themselves. In their father’s final testament, he set the eldest brother, Declan, with the duty of handling his remaining finances and doling out the inheritance of each brother if, and only if, they completed their full training at the Aglionby Naval Academy. So a forlorn Ronan, along with his younger brother, Matthew, begrudgingly enrolled into the famed Institute where he roomed with distinguished prodigy Richard Gansey and, much to his chagrin, the lowly peasant Adam Parrish.
Adam swears up and down that it was through no fault of his own that the two of them never got along at first. It was hard not to ponder over the unfair leniency gifted to Ronan by their teachers. It seemed to matter little how frequently Ronan missed classes, so long as Gansey’s briberies were high enough, it was swept under the rug. Perhaps sometimes his jealousy of Ronan’s upbringing would win out over his logic, but he was usually able to smooth out his attitude before it caused any real harm. He’d given him the benefit of the doubt for months as Ronan nitpicked him relentlessly- merely smirking when called out on his behavior- but it got to a point where the two could barely stand to be in the same room as the other.
It caused quite a few disturbances during training, as one might imagine. So much so that their headmaster, Dean Child, took it upon himself to work out their feud. He assigned the both of them as training partners, requiring them to work with one another on a daily basis during their usual workouts, making sure their partner keeps correct form and stays in line with their other classmates.
It had at first seemed like something of a death sentence and yet somehow, it had worked.
At first, they’d found themselves too busy with the exercises assigned to them to find much bother with one another. In fact, they’d spent the first week nearly silent. That was until one morning when, while on a mile long jog, Tad Carruthers thought it apparently crucial that he runs alongside their duo.
Adam found himself annoyed, as usual when it comes to Carruthers, but kept his responses to Tad’s chattiness fairly polite. Ronan, on the other hand, was not in the mood to put up with an overeager Tad so early in the morning.
Tad had been rambling on about his recent trip back home where he’d aided his father, a financier for the governor, with some extra work. “It’s truly amazing, it is. The whole method of it all.”
“Yes, yes, truly groundbreaking.” Ronan teased, fed up with the other boy’s transparent bragging. Adam, who was somewhat surprised Ronan’s teasing wasn’t being directed at him, smiled.
Tad, apparently too absorbed in his family’s importance, didn’t catch on. “It truly is! So many people overlook the grueling work behind it all. Not everyone can do it, y’know.”
“I sure couldn’t. How about you, Parrish?” Ronan elbowed Adam playfully, smirking at his amused expression.
Adam shrugged, trying to give off an air of smugness. “I don’t know, I’m fairly confident. I’ve gotten my counting up to the hundreds nowadays.”
At that, Ronan snickered and it seemed Tad had finally clued himself in. He cleared his throat uncomfortably and began to speed up towards the group ahead of them. “Well, I’ll be seeing you, boys.”
Adam glanced over to a satisfied Ronan and shook his head, smiling nonetheless.“You’re an asshole.”
After that, it grew far easier for Adam to be close to Ronan. Ronan had seemingly found that talking about his dislike for their other classmates was far more interesting than trying to get a rise out of Adam. It was mostly cordial at the beginning, just trying to pass the time until they could go their separate ways for the day but it quickly turned from fleeting conversations to planned outings. The more and more time Adam spent around Ronan, the more pleasurable to be around he became. Still inarguably an asshole, but an asshole Adam now dared to call a close friend.
His friendship with Ronan felt so much more intimate than his one with Gansey ever had. Ronan understood Adam, and he him. There was a strange surreality to their friendship. It had brought a stillness into Adam’s life that had always seemed to be in perpetual motion.
Adam never knew the assurance that comes with being known, not until Ronan. He never realized the happiness that can come from something as simple as making someone laugh. Although soon enough, Adam found that the act of making Ronan laugh was accompanied by an uncomfortable, yet pleasurable stir deep in his belly.
He pushed the burgeoning feelings away, they had little time left until they would be sent off for their first assignment as navy men serving the greater good of the kingdom. This was not the time or place for such things.
At the end of their final term, the Academy threw the graduating class a large celebration. Adam, Ronan, and their other friends Noah and Henry had all given in the to invitation, eager to have some semblance of relaxation before their lives took a turn for the serious. Gansey would be skipping out on the festivities, instead taking a night into the city to visit Blue, a girl from the house of psychics.
The boys had arrived in good spirits, hoping for a fun night to mingle with their comrades. Though about only an hour into the party, Noah and Henry split off by themselves, calling out something along the lines of a champagne fountain ‘calling their name’. Apparently, the damned fountain held some unknown magic, as every one of their other classmates had made their way over to it and back again enough times to already be plenty drunk. Adam and Ronan, having the desire to steer clear of the sloppy drunks flooding the hall, took up a spot out on the empty balcony, opting to watch the bustle of the city below.
Ronan picked up some pebbles and laid them out one by one on the railing. Adam came up quietly beside him, soaking in the quiet serenity. Adam plucked a pebble from Ronan’s pile, their fingers brushing together for a moment before Ronan jerked his hand back, keeping his eyes on the movement of Adam’s hands. It was something he’d noticed recently- Ronan’s fixation on the movements of his hands. His eyes always lingering when he thought Adam wouldn’t notice.
Ronan was also unusually quiet, he hadn’t said a word since they’d come outside and even then, he’d said little in just the past few days and it was beginning to worry Adam. With his studies coming to an end, Ronan would soon be gaining access to his father’s inheritance. Adam had come to know how much it meant to Ronan.
Adam scooted closer to him, nudging his hip with his. “Please tell me you saw Calla trying to hit on Whelk.”
Ronan laughed. “Sad to say I didn’t. Scale of one to ten, how pathetic did the poor bastard look?”
Adam pondered, resting his head against his palm so as to get a better view of Ronan, his face drenched in the color of the setting sun. He could feel his cheeks getting warm. “Remind me, where exactly does an unbuttoned fly land?”
Ronan whistles dramatically, looking back to a now laughing Adam. “That would be a solid eight.”
Adam sighed, still disappointed to see Ronan not his usual self, rested his forearms on the railing, pressing up against his shoulder. It took quite the courage to dissuade himself from focusing on the firmness of Ronan’s biceps. “Is everything alright?”
For a moment that seems to last forever, Ronan stands quietly, running his thumb around the leather band tucked away under his long sleeve shirt. He squeezes his eyes shut tightly and lets out a hiss of air between his clenched teeth. His expression can only be read as something close to painful. Finally, he says, “My father’s boat.”
Adam starts, confused as to how Ronan’s father’s abandoned boat could be so distressing. “Yes?”
Once again, his eyes clenched tight. “Declan’s selling it.”
“What? He can’t-”
“He’s still in control of the possessions. He claims it’s just a waste of space, that it’s barely even ours.” He suddenly chucks the pebble in his hand over the balcony, chest heaving, “Like it doesn’t even matter that it was part of him .”
Adam stands silently for a moment. He doesn’t know what to say to soothe Ronan and at this point, he doubts it would even work. It’s been years since his father’s death, but the wound is still tender to the touch. Adam doesn’t know that kind of pain, doesn’t even fathom the kind of love that can cause it to resonate so deeply. All he knows is that he’s here and he knows that’s enough for Ronan.
“I just feel like-” He begins taps the knuckles of his fist restlessly, “Nothing in my life can ever just...be. Everyone leaves. Whether they want to or not, they always do.”
Adam places his hand gently over Ronan’s curled fist, staring out at the night before them. Ronan’s body noticeably tenses and Adam tries desperately to reign in his frantic heartbeat. “I’ve always felt so out of myself, y’know?”
Ronan turns his head, jaw tightened. Adam took his silence as a cue to continue on. “I’ve always felt like I wasn’t enough for people. Like I had to build myself around them. Be quiet, but have a backbone. Be social, but not obnoxious.”
Adam shook his head slightly, straightening out his jumbled thoughts. “My point is...I was so busy trying to fix myself I was never just me. Not until you all.”
At this, Ronan rose his head and looked to Adam who was having trouble keeping his emotions in check. He’d never gone in depth about what they had all meant to him. What Ronan meant to him. “You all saw me and you didn’t care. The same way they see you and still love you. So don’t say that-that everyone leaves because we’re here. I’m here.”
“You’ll always have me.” Ronan was shaking now, so Adam reached a careful hand out and placed it on his shoulder, trying to steady the both of them. The touch sent his heart crawling up his throat, causing his voice to crack as he said, “And I have you. Don’t I?”
Adam braced himself as Ronan turned to meet his eyes. He looked just as terrified as Adam felt. Ronan had become so integral to his life as of late and yet he’d never expressed his gratefulness for him. For his aggravating, yet entertaining attempts at being his study buddy. For the loud and joyful nights that helped Adam to see past the pain of the present. For the quiet and somber nights when he knew Adam needed it. Ronan was the first person to truly understand him- a boy previously thought to be unknowable.
Ronan stared into Adam’s eyes for a long moment. The intensity of it making Adam’s cheeks color. Slowly, he slid the hand resting on Ronan’s shoulder closer and closer to his cheek, his gut jolting. Once there, Ronan leaned almost desperately into his touch, letting out a measured sigh.
Ronan brought his hand up to Adam’s. “You have me.” He whispered, turning his head so as to place a kiss on the palm of Adam’s hand. This sent Adam’s body nearly spinning and not long after, his lips took a mind of their own and planted them onto Ronan’s.
As soon as it happened, it felt like Adam’s body was erupting. His hands pressed against any part of Ronan he could manage to put his hands on. Ronan seemed even more eager than him, pressing him up gently against the railing, coaxing his mouth gently, but passionately.
“We should go somewhere a little more discreet.” Adam whispered, nodding over to the ongoing celebration a mere thirty feet away. Ronan smiled and nodded, leading him back to his room.
Their night together was nothing short of intense. Ronan took the time to explore Adam’s body, praising him in a way that made words seem pointless. Adam took his time as well, trying desperately to put his thoughts into action. To show Ronan his worth to him. It was slow, but it was beautiful. It was everything Adam had wanted. For a long while after, he laid quietly in Ronan’s arms, tracing his torso slowly with his forefinger. Ronan smiled so sweetly it nearly made Adam cry. He ran his hands softly through the mess of hair atop Adam’s head until he finally drifted to sleep.
And in the morning, Adam turned in bed, looking for the warmth of Ronan’s skin he had lost contact with in the night. In his place, he found only a single note. It read: ‘You’ll always have me. I’m sorry. -R’
Adam jolted up in Ronan’s bed. No no no. He threw his clothes on and raced to the port where Ronan’s father’s ship was being held. He wouldn’t, he wouldn’t. His chest heaved the more he ran. Yes, he would. This is his family, of course he would.
By the time he made it to the port he already knew it was too late. Patrolmen flooded the deck, pushing back anyone trying to come near. The Greywaren, famed ship of Niall Lynch, had been stolen.
Adam had never liked being blindfolded. Never as a joke, and certainly not when it was just part of drills at the Academy. It had always made him feel doubly panicked. The loss of his sight brought on such as a destabilitizing feeling. It made him second guess every movement of his body, trapping him in his mind. He’d been in the King’s Navy for nearly two years, protecting his seas and fighting off the pirates who threatened it. And thankfully, he’d never run into a situation where one was needed. Not until today, when his ship was ambushed by pirates and of fucking course...they used blindfolds.
His ship had been docked in a small harbor closer to the edge of the country. The harbor was home to a small village. They had known the vast amount of empty space surrounding them would leave the ship open to attack but with their medical supplies slacking and four injured men aboard, they were willing to take the risk. Unfortunately for them, the odds were not in their favor.
Within the hour, they had been taken. Adam had been with this crew for over a year and had never seen them so helpless. They had never been confronted by these men before. They had struck hard and fast when the majority of the crew had been scattered in the village searching for aid. The group - which Adam was so fortunately apart of - that had been left on board had little chance when up against these unknown pirates.
Once they’d boarded, Adam had fought valiantly against one of the intruders until he was finally overtaken, bringing him to the present where he was currently being led down the dingy-smelling hall of what he assumed was the holding cell. He could hear the rest of his fellow seamen being jostled around in the lowest deck of their new enemy’s ship.
He was suddenly pushed, landing roughing before hearing the subsequent slam that only confirmed his current state as a prisoner. He dragged his tied hands across his eyes, loosening the cloth and freeing his eyes. The first thing he saw was a huddled man in the corner, his long coat covering most of his face so only the beginnings of a beard peeked through. He walked hesitantly to the bars of the cell, experimentally pushing on them. Unsurprisingly, they gave no give and Adam slumped forward, resting his forehead on the cool metal.
“Adam?” A familiar voice spoke out and Adam felt his body go rigid. Two years. Two years of rumors and tales proclaiming the upcoming status of the Dreamwalker. The vigilante claiming to protect the smaller groups of citizens often left unprotected by the government. Two years of authorities searching endlessly for the lost property and the son who stole it. Two years of desperate attempts at communication; letters sent out to every location he was last heard from. Two years out of his reach and now here he stood.
Adam turned slowly around to face the man in the corner. “What are you doing here?”
His voice must’ve sounded a lot harsher than he had intended as Ronan flinched back further into the corner of the cell. Adam took a gross satisfaction in the notion that his presence would somehow weaken Ronan’s unyielding facade but felt guilt curdling in his stomach as soon as he took in Ronan’s current state. The light from the corridor snuck through the bars and settled across his face, highlighting the purpling bruises scattered across his stark features.
He steeled himself from reaching out to him. “Well?”
Ronan hung his head low, focusing on the toes of his worn boots. “Captured. You?”
“Captured.” Adam walked over to Ronan’s side of the cell, resting his back against the adjacent wall. “I thought you were meant to be some sort of pirate now.”
At this, he smirked. “How do you know I’m not?”
“Yes, please, do tell the mastery involved in getting yourself cuffed and thrown in a prison cell.”
Hesitantly, Ronan looked up and smiled. “I missed your mouth.”
The words were a double-edged sword and it sent an unexpected jolt of longing through Adam. He had thought their night together was something special. He knew it sounded juvenile, but it had been true. He’d spent months trying to heal from the impact of Ronan’s sudden departure. He knew, logically, it all had nothing to do with him, but he had also been heartbroken. And when had a broken heart ever accepted logic?
“I mean it. How in the hell did you get here?”
“You said it yourself, Parrish. I’ve spent the last two years collecting enemies.” He shrugged jerkily, “Shit caught up to me.”
“And your ship?” Adam asked, leaning forward to gauge Ronan’s reaction. He only sat stone still, jaw tightening. “I would’ve heard if they’d found it, your brother’s been searching for both it and you since you left.”
He leaned in closer but Ronan turned away, fists tightening in their binds. “Ronan, please .”
Ronan glanced up to meet Adam’s eyes, his face betraying his hurt. “It was taken.”
Adam reeled back. Ronan had turned his father’s boat into something of a legend the past few years. Hated by authorities and loved by citizens. A loss like that couldn’t have been easy. “Who would’ve-”
“It was one of my father’s old collectors.” Ronan twisted his hands restlessly, anger seething from him, “His name’s Greenmantle.”