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It doesn't speak well of Adam's life, that handcuffed in a warehouse while mobsters argue about how to dispose of his body isn't even in the top three worst days he's ever had.

They did a really good job with the handcuffs, though. He can't reach his pockets or get his arms in front of him. According to everything he's learned about escaping from bad situations over the course of the last extremely weird year of his life, his best bet is probably to dislocate his thumb.

He's not looking forward to that.

But he's also not looking forward to finding out if chop up the body and throw the pieces in a bunch of dumpsters across town wins out against dissolve him in bleach like that episode of Breaking Bad. Everyone dies someday, but Adam would like to not be murdered by criminals who learned their trade watching television. Though it would make for an interesting article; Cheng would come up with some misleading and eye-catching headline to get clicks off of people who like to argue that video games make children violent, and Adam would be profoundly ashamed of his entire industry, and maybe he should stick to real journalism after all.

But he won't be writing any more articles of any kind if he dies, so he grits his teeth and --

The enormous metal loading bay door explodes off its hinges, flying across the room and denting the far wall.

"What the -- " one of the mobsters starts.

Before he can finish a figure clad all in black dashes in through the wide open loading bay, faster than the eye can follow, and strikes him. The mobster goes down.

Adam sighs. At least he isn't going to have to dislocate any body parts. The thought doesn't cheer him up as much as it should.

The rest of the mobsters pull guns. Adam could have told them that was pointless, but he isn't in a mood to give advice. A couple of mobsters shoot, firing wildly at a target that moves too fast to hit.

They're all out cold on the floor before they can manage a second shot.

The dark blur comes crashing to a halt in front of Adam's eyes. It's a trick that was impressive the first few times he saw it, the impossibly fast figure resolving itself into a human shape in a process that defies physics.

Now it just annoys him. Processing the incomprehensible hurts his eyeballs.

"How did you even find me this time?" Adam demands.

"I'm a superhero," Greywaren says. His voice is as unreal as everything else about him, deep and growly. Some witnesses who encounter him wax on about how gruff and strong he sounds; Adam is just reminded of teenagers faking deep voices when they try to buy cigarettes.

"That's not an explanation."

"Anyone ever tell you that you have a gratitude problem?"

They had, actually, but Adam isn't going to share that. "I had the situation handled."

"Sure." Adam can't actually see any part of Greywaren's face, underneath the ever-present mask, but it sounds like he's smirking. "Then you don't need me to stick around."

He lifts up a foot, too, like he's about to dash off again.

Adam's pretty good at poker, and part of it being willing to fold on a bad hand.

"If you're here already," he says, and Greywaren puts his foot back down. "You might as well find me a key." He shifts his wrists a centimeter -- his full range of motion -- to clink the cuffs together.

Greywaren steps forward. He's standing in front of Adam, leaning down and reaching an arm around either side of him, and for one heart-stopping second Adam is too acutely aware of the warmth of Greywaren's body, the smell of him, all sweat and burning metal, Adam's own heart pounding in his ears --

There's a loud, hard snap.

Greywaren straightens back up, holding the broken handcuffs up in front of Adam's face like a prize.

"Showoff," Adam grumbles.

Greywaren drops the handcuffs in his lap and vanishes before he can blink, or even catch his breath.

-

Adam is not looking forward to the next day at work.

He spends hours being questioned by the police -- first about the mobsters, and then by the task force assigned the job of identifying and halting the numerous superhuman vigilantes running amok in the city. Adam would pity them, if his own job weren't terrible, too. But it is terrible, so he gives terse answers to their questions and then goes to the office to finish his story about organized crime and to a draft of a new story about the dangers presented by masked crime fighters. He's only just finished that and scarfed down a soggy cup of ramen noodles when the rest of the newspaper's staff arrives for the day.

But even if he'd gotten some sleep, and a real meal, and a long hot shower, Adam wouldn't have been looking forward to today. He's a reporter; his colleagues are in the business of information. There was no chance they wouldn't have heard about his night.

"So," Henry Cheng says, leaning over Adam's desk in a way that is deliberately provocative -- though what or who he's trying to provoke, Adam has never been able to tell. He thinks maybe Cheng is hitting on the universe. "Someone had another run in with a superhero."

"Just think, you could have used that power of insight as a reporter instead of wasting away in editorial," Adam says.

"Must be nice," Cheng says. "Stories falling in your lap like that."

Adam has to remind himself that he likes Cheng. Because he does. Though he often wonders why he does. "Maybe if you did real journalism you wouldn't have to hound me for details."

"What, aren't you the kind that kisses and tells?" Cheng asks.

Adam rolls his eyes and turns back to his computer screen. This is the fifth time in two months Greywaren has "saved" him -- read, interrupted his work -- and he's running out of euphemisms for journalist covering the events was almost killed and had to be rescued by an pseudonymous person with supernatural abilities that leave both his integrity and his dignity intact.

"Just give me a hint. We're all dying for a preview of your inevitable interview with Greywaren."

"Greywaren?" Adam hears someone ask, and he freezes in his seat because please God no. Let it just be Gansey; please, in the name of all that is holy, let Gansey be alone --

But when Adam turns around from his computer screen, there's Ronan Lynch, trailing a few feet behind Gansey like it's at all appropriate for him to be here when Adam is a complete mess from hostage situations and no sleep and repeated superhero harassment and now his goddamn crush being sprung on him with no warning.

"'Fraid so," Adam says, because he's had months of practice carrying on a conversation when all he really wants to do is stare at Ronan's mouth. "Busted up the organized crime ring I was investigating last night."

"That's good," Gansey says. "Right?"

"Well, no, he ruined three months of research and I lost our chance to find out how they were getting the drugs into the city." Adam rolls his eyes. "But who cares about that? A superhero punched some people, that's fantastic."

"I'm sure he meant well." It's preposterous, that Gansey can still have stars in his eyes and hope in his heart after several years as a working journalist. It must come from being independently wealthy. "I think he's rather civic-minded."

"Short-sighted would be a better word," Adam says. "Or stupid."

"When you take out a crime boss single-handed you can bitch about Greywaren," Ronan says. He's got a camera hanging from a strap around his neck, but as usual he looks like a particularly surly model rather than a photographer for the second largest newspaper in the city.

"The entire point of society is that we don't all have to do everything single-handed," Adam argues. "I uncover facts, the police find corroborating evidence, the district attorney presses charges. That's how it's supposed to work. But sure, why have civilization when we could all worship the guy with the biggest fists?"

Ronan tchs and looks away, like Adam isn't even worth arguing with.

Adam's heart sinks. Why couldn't he ever fall for someone who enjoys his company and thinks well of him?

Okay, the short answer to that is his childhood and a lack of therapy, but it would be nice just to have Ronan for once not look at him like he can't wait until Adam goes away. Or, failing that, for Ronan to keep skipping work. It's not like he'll ever get fired; Gansey's father owns the newspaper, and Gansey owns Ronan.

When Adam first realized he'd made horrible mistake of developing romantic feelings for Ronan, he'd been jealous of Gansey. Then he realized that they weren't a couple, which ought to have helped with the jealousy. It didn't. It only made Adam feel irrational, and even more sorry for himself. Ronan wasn't disinterested because he was taken; he just didn't want Adam.

But Adam's masochism knows no bounds, so he asks Gansey, "I'm heading to lunch in a few, want to join me? You too, Lynch, Cheng."

"It's ten o'clock in the morning," Gansey points out.

"I was up all night, I'm starving."

"In that case, I could grab a coffee -- "

"Gansey," Ronan says.

They make eye contact briefly, and then Gansey smiles at Adam. "Sorry, I forgot we have work to do. Rain check?"

"Sure." Adam smiles back. Why wouldn't he? Everything's fine. He's in love with someone who can't stand him, he hasn't slept in twenty-nine hours, and his luck is so bad that he needs bi-weekly intervention from a superhero just to stay alive. Nothing to worry about at all.

-

"People are starting to talk," Adam says, though he has to raise his voice to be heard over the groan of lumber and the crackle of flames. "You don't rescue anyone else this much."

"Most people manage to go a whole week without almost dying," Greywaren yells back at him. "What the fuck is crime reporter doing in a burning building?"

The short answer is poor decision making and fucking Cheng, seriously, but Adam doesn't want to get into that. Besides, he's the reporter; he's the one who should be asking questions.

"You know, people always say you're charming. How'd you trick them into thinking that?"

"The life-saving thing usually speaks for itself."

"Right, everyone glorifying the strongman and letting him do whatever he wants."

Greywaren stares at him for a second -- or points his face down at Adam's, anyway. It's kind of hard to tell where he's looking, what with the mask.

"You know, I could put you back in the burning building."

Adam's only human; his heartbeat picks up and a small voice in his head says no, please, don't.

But he doesn't let fear push him around anymore.

"You could. And I'd be in the same position I was in before you showed up. And I'd find my way out of it, because I don't actually go through life assuming that someone is going to come to my rescue."

"Could have fooled me," Greywaren says, and sets Adam down on the street.

He's gone before Adam's straightened all the way back up again.

-

"I hate you," Adam tells Cheng.

"This isn't my fault!" Cheng protests. "Trust me, I would love nothing more than to be the one who published this story. Or at least for it to be someone from the Tribune. Do you know how much this cuts to my very soul, to get scooped by the Gazette?"

"You're complaining?" Adam throws the Gazette back in Cheng's face. "What do you have to complain about?"

"I take my responsibility for boosting circulation very seriously," Cheng says. "It is a personal affront when someone else beats us to a story, never mind a story that involves one of our own personnel."

"There is no story," Adam snarls.

"The Gazette begs to differ," Cheng says, and unfolds the newspaper.

It would have been too much to ask that Gansey not walk by, Ronan in tow, just as the humiliating front page photo is revealed, Greywaren holding Adam in a bridal carry, 70 point font screaming GREYWAREN'S DAMSEL IN DISTRESS?

"Er. Parrish," Gansey starts. "How are you holding up?"

"Just fine," Adam spits, and stalks off past him.

Ronan doesn't move out of his way, and Adam feels no compunction about shoulder checking him. Goddamn photojournalists should all burn in hell, anyway.

-

"I could have broken that door down ten times by now," Greywaren says.

"Good for you." Adam twists the pick and smiles in satisfaction at the click of the lock falling open. "So there's nothing keeping you here."

"Thought I had to keep an eye on you. Since you're a damsel in distress and all."

"Don't believe anything you read in the Gazette," Adam says. "I'd call them a fish wrapper but fish deserve better."

"Are all reporters this catty or are you just special?"

"Sorry." Adam puts no effort into sounding contrite. "I get snappy when I'm stalked."

"It's all over police radios that someone grabbed a journalist outside the Tribune office," Greywaren says. "What were the odds it wasn't you?"

"Huh." Adam pauses, looking both ways down the hall. "I thought maybe you had some mystical sense that told you whenever someone was in trouble."

"What fucking good would that be? It'd just go off every time someone was late to work or lied to their boyfriend."

"Well, that's disappointingly prosaic."

"Thought you liked prosaic. Superpowers aren't civilized enough for you."

Adam blushes slightly at the thought of Greywaren reading his articles, but that only makes him feel more defensive. "If you don't want people writing about you, don't become a public figure."

"Not much of a choice."

"You went quiet for a year." Adam decides the right fork looks more promising, as an exit route. "You could do it again."

Greywaren's quiet for so long that Adam honestly thinks he might have left. He's more than welcome to; whatever danger Adam was ever in, he's nearly out of it now, and he's been handling it just fine on his own.

So he almost jumps when Greywaren says, "You've been researching me."

Had he ever noticed before that Greywaren didn't make a noise when he walked? Things weren't usually this quiet when his unasked-for protector showed up.

But he doesn't like letting on when he's surprised, or when he hasn't noticed something, so he just smiles and sticks out a hand sarcastically. "Hi, Adam Parrish, reporter for the Tribune. The first thing I do in a situation is get my hands on more facts."

"What other facts you been digging up?"

"Well, let's see." If Adam can't reason Greywaren into leaving him alone, maybe he can annoy him into doing it. "There's the interesting little fact that several people report seeing you fly."

"Got a lot of talents."

"Except none of those reports are from after your hiatus."

Greywaren doesn't respond.

"I wasn't kidding about people saying you were charming, either," Adam says. "I read a bunch of interviews with witnesses who'd spoken to Greywaren, from the beginning of his career onward. They all describe a lovable rogue, Robin Hood type. Bit of a flirt. Not a single one of them used the words unrepentant asshole."

"Maybe people aren't as judgmental as you."

"That's probably true." They reach a closed door; Adam holds his breath as he listens, but there's no sound of anyone on the other side, and he turns the handle and pushes it as slowly as possible.

The door opens up on the wide open world.

Adam grins. They didn't even bother locking the outside door. Definitely the sloppiest kidnappers he's been subjected to.

He ought to call the cops, now. But Greywaren hasn't dashed off yet, and dammit, he's not going to write Cheng some clickbait interview with a superhero, but he has his own personal curiosity to satisfy.

"The popular theory with the superhero groupies is that you took some kind of injury that knocked you out of the game for a while, prevents you from flying anymore." He keeps his tone conversational, but he can't tell if Greywaren's buying it. His gaze always feels heavy and serious. "That could account for a change in personality, too. Chronic pain, reminder of your own mortality, that sort of thing."

"It could," Greywaren says, wary.

"But I don't buy it," Adam says. "Greywaren's been active in this city for thirty years. If I had to guess I'd say you were my age."

Greywaren doesn't answer.

"So who was the real Greywaren? The charming one. Why take on his brand instead of starting your own? I mean, he can't sue you for copyright infringement if neither of you legally -- "

"He was my dad," Greywaren says.

Adam freezes. There's a powerful stab of victory going through him, that sweet song of being right, but there's an unexpected sour note to it.

"It's genetic?" he asks slowly, considering the other ramifications. Was his dad --

"It's my birthright," Greywaren corrects him, sounding pissy.

"You inherited being a superhero." Adam snorts. "Shit, I thought I had daddy issues."

There's a sound of a siren, and Adam looks over his shoulder. Maybe he won't have to call the police after all.

When he looks back, Greywaren is gone.

-

"Anything good?" Gansey asks him.

"Week old pizza and a tupperware that just says 'FOOD' on it." Adam shuts the refrigerator. "At this point I'd seriously consider trading in my health insurance for a catering service."

"What, you aren't curious what the FOOD is?"

"Even my journalistic instincts aren't that strong."

Gansey laughs. "I'm going down to the sandwich place. Come with?"

Ronan's a no-show today; Adam's both grateful and regretful. Still, he needs to eat. "I've got a call in half an hour. But yeah, I think I can swing that."

Gansey waits until they're out on the street to get to the real purpose behind his invitation.

Which, it would have been nice, if he just wanted to spend time with Adam, but it's not surprising.

"I heard you've been asking around about Greywaren."

"Seemed like the thing to do." Adam doesn't see a point in denying it. "Who'd you hear that from?"

Gansey looks oddly flustered, considering he brought up the subject. "I talk to people."

"We all talk to people," Adam drawls. "It's right there in the job description."

"I talk to people in the hero community."

Adam looks at him sidelong. "How come Cheng hasn't hit you up for a piece on that yet?"

"Well, I don't broadcast it."

"Must be nice," Adam says, more bitter than he means to.

Gansey stops; Adam stops a beat later, a step ahead of him.

"Greywaren saved my father's life," Gansey says.

"I didn't know that."

"It was a long time ago," Gansey says. "I was just a kid. But I never forgot what he did for my family." He touches his thumb to his lips, pensive. "I know you have your issues with him, but he's not a bad person. He's done a lot more good than harm."

He isn't the same person who saved your dad's life, Adam thinks, but what he says is, "There's a lot I don't know about him. I'd think you'd get why that makes me uncomfortable."

"We're all here for the pursuit of knowledge," and no, they aren't; knowledge is all fine and good, but Adam's more interested in what it can achieve than in knowledge for its own sake. But if letting Gansey make assumptions moves the conversation along, he can live with that. "But I hope you're planning on being careful with what you find out."

"I'm careful about everything," Adam says. "What are you really asking me for?"

Gansey stares, before shaking his head with a rueful smile. "I don't want you to write some scathing take-down."

"I'm not planning on writing anything about him," Adam says. "He's got more to fear from the Gazette than from me."

"Cheng's been asking you to interview him for ages."

"Cheng wants a lot of things, that doesn't mean I have to give them to him."

Gansey smiles briefly. "Then why the investigation?"

Adam starts walking again. "I told you. It makes me uncomfortable not to know."

"Well." Gansey jogs a few steps to catch up to him. "Good hunting, then."

-

Adam doesn't go through life expecting anyone to rescue him, but he has gotten a little complacent, maybe, because the guys that jump him in the alley behind his apartment building are tough. They've grabbed both his arms before he even registered them, and a third one runs up to put a hood over his head.

Adam ducks the hood and lashes out, all focused rage and dirty tricks: he kicks the attacker on his right twice in the knee, and then knees him in the groin. It's enough for the guy to drop his hand, which lets Adam grab the can of pepper spray on his key-chain and mace the second attacker in the face.

That gets him free of both of them, and he stumbles forward, ducked low, to avoid the third one catching him.

He has half a mind to dash out of the alley as fast as he can, but if they could ambush him in the alley they could have sent someone to stake out his apartment or his car. And he likes being informed; he wants to have a sense of what's happening.

So he turns around, still moving and holding the pepper spray in front of him, to see if he can discern anything from his attackers.

His eyes go wide.

A blue glow has fallen over the alley, bathing the three attackers in an unearthly light. All of them have stopped moving; the one Adam maced is frozen in agony, and even the tears have stopped moving down his face.

A woman walks around the corner of the alley. Her hand is stretched out in front of her, the blue light emanating from the palm of her hand. She's dressed all in blue, save for a mask on her face that's made of some kind of reflective material.

"Three against one," she says, in a voice that reminds Adam of his sternest elementary school teacher, "is not nice."

He swings the can of mace in her direction, though from this distance it wouldn't do any good.

"Who are you?"

"Don't worry," she says. "Greywaren sent me."

Adam's trying to catch his breath; that answer doesn't help. "You're joking."

"No, he's in the middle of something. He sent me to protect you."

Every single part of what's happening upsets Adam, but he figures matters of immediate survival take precedent. "Why should I believe you?"

"He told me to say that just because I'm not charming doesn't mean I'm not a good guy."

"That son of a bitch." Adam drops his hands to his sides. "Tell him to go to hell."

She shrugs. It makes the shadows behind her dance in strange, unsettling ways. "Okay, but he won't take it the way you mean it."

"I don't really give a damn how he takes it," Adam says.

"Wow, I figured he was joking about how crabby you are." Adam is really sick of talking to people in masks; it's impossible to judge this woman's expression. "It's his fault you're in danger, you could at least let him protect you."

Adam's heart rate, which had started to level out, spikes again. "What did you say?"

"That you're kind of an asshole and I don't know why anyone would ever rescue you more than once if this is how you thank people?"

Adam grinds his teeth together. "How is it Greywaren's fault I'm in danger?"

"Isn't it obvious? Word got around town that when you're in danger, Greywaren shows up. So when someone wants Greywaren to show up -- "

"Goddammit."

-

"Congratulations," Cheng tells Adam over stale Chinese leftovers. "You're a superhero's boyfriend."

"Fuck you."

"Tempting, but I'll have to pass on that offer. I don't want your boyfriend to get jealous and come fight me for your honor."

"He is not my boyfriend."

"I thought you'd be happier about this. Brooding and unavailable is exactly your type!" and of fucking course that's when Gansey and Ronan walk in. No telling if they heard the comment about Adam's type, but the office has paper-thin walls and weird acoustics; Adam wouldn't count it out.

He glares pure murder at the pair of them. Gansey freezes mid-step, eyes wide, but Ronan keep walking, because why wouldn't he? He doesn't give a shit how Adam feels about him.

"Don't you ever work?" he asks, and storms off with the last of the chow mein. Cheng can starve for all he cares.

-

Adam wakes with a groan. His head is pounding, he can't move his arms or his legs, and he has no idea where he is.

He can't remember ever being in this much trouble. Though that might down to the reduced mental processing.

"Parrish. You okay?"

"N-no." He opens his eyes. That's a mistake. He shuts them again and turns his face away from the bright overhead light. "Owe you an apology."

"Just lie there and don't move." There's pressure on his legs, but he doesn't want to risk looking at what Greywaren's doing.

"Can't move," Adam says. "Can't get out of this one. Can't -- " Fuck, he's choking up.

"You okay?"

"Concussion."

The pressure lifts off Adam's legs.

"Shit," Greywaren says. "You sure?"

"Had one before," Adam explains, and starts laughing.

"You're not making me feel better," Greywaren mutters. Adam can feel his hand on his chest.

"Sorry. Not good for anything. Just -- damsel. Distress."

"I think I like you better when you're mean to me." Greywaren's hand runs across Adam's chest and over his arms. Adam breathes once and shudders. He isn't comfortable with the sudden freedom of motion. "Can you get up?"

Adam manages to sit up and swing his legs off the surface he's lying on, but when he tries to put his weight on his feet he falls over.

Greywaren catches him before he hits the ground. "I'll take that as a no."

He pulls Adam's arm around his shoulder and puts an arm around Adam's waist. Adam wonders if he'll be able to walk even with Greywaren's help. He wonders if he'll be able to walk at all. He wonders if he'll ever be able to open his eyes.

"'M sorry." He turns his head into Greywaren's shoulder, the only solid thing in the entire world. "Sorry."

"Don't worry about it." Greywaren starts walking, and Adam chokes down a protest. "This is what I do."

"No. Sorry. Don't like feeling useless. You make me feel useless."

It takes him a minute to realize they've stopped walking; his head is swimming.

"Parrish -- "

An alarm sounds, impossibly loud. Adam winces so hard his arm slides off Greywaren's shoulders.

"Shit. Shit, we have to get out of here. Don't -- don't break your brain, okay?" Greywaren doesn't wait for a response, just throws Adam over one shoulder and starts running.

It's just as well Adam didn't promise anything. He keeps fading in and out, which can't be any good for his brain.

" -- fuck, Parrish, say something -- "

"Thought you're s'posed to be a role model," Adam mumbles. His voice comes out thick as Virginia mud. "Should you really be swearing s'much?"

"That's it, keep insulting me. We're almost out of here."

"Tired," Adam complains.

"Don't care. Keep talking."

"You're'nnoying," but a thought does push through the haze of pain and confusion in his skull, something he's been wanting to ask. "What happened to your dad?"

They come to a halt for a second. Adam breathes in, appreciates not bouncing around.

"He died," Greywaren says. "Not a lot to talk about."

"Gotta be something. Why'd you take his place?"

"Had to do something." He huffs. "I figured you could appreciate that. Don't you have you own daddy issues?"

"Yeah," Adam says, "he's the one that gave me my last concussion."

Adam either passes out, or Greywaren gets real quiet.

"Fuck. Forget I asked."

"Sorry," Adam mumbles.

"You apologize too much."

"Thought I had a gratitude problem."

"You're irritating in a lot of ways, okay? You're really good at it. Now just hang on and don't pass out again. I'm getting used to your stupid annoying voice."

Adam makes an attempt at holding on, but his hands don't grasp too well. He mostly succeeds in pushing the hem of Greywaren's shirt up his back, so he gives up trying. The grip around his legs feels pretty solid, anyway.

He thinks, maybe, Greywaren was trying to give him something to do to keep him awake. That's probably not a bad idea. Adam tries focusing on what he can see, but the ground is falling away from him in a way that makes him ill, even after he realizes that it's not just vertigo, that they are in fact scaling up a wall.

So he tries focusing on something he can see that isn't falling away at an alarming rate. That only leaves Greywaren's back; the shirt has ridden up further as he climbs.

Adam blinks. He thinks for a second that he's imagining things, that the concussion is screwing with his senses. Greywaren usually wears a body-suit kind of thing; but right now he's wearing a plain black t-shirt, thin cotton that's soft against Adam's skin, and where it rides up he can see the muscular planes of Greywaren's back, with an intricate pattern of swirls and lines.

Adam blinks a few more times, for good measure.

"Sit here, okay? Paramedics are coming." Greywaren sets Adam down on the ground -- the roof -- wherever they are. Adam's still disoriented, confused about everything except for that pattern. He'd pretty much committed it to memory the first time he'd seen it, snatching glimpses in the mirror of the Tribune's men's room, hating himself for being a creep even as he couldn't stop looking.

"Ronan," Adam says.

Greywaren doesn't move.

"You're Ronan Lynch."

"You have a concussion," but he's talking too fast, and that fake-ass growly voice is slipping up, and God how had Adam not recognized him the very first time he spoke? It's not a very good disguise. "You're confused. I'm Greywaren."

"Right, and also, you're Ronan Lynch." He feels grounded by certainty, like now that he has a fact he can hold onto the rest of his brain has to fall in line. "If you wanted to have a secret alter ego maybe you shouldn't have an enormous one of a kind tattoo. Or you could cover it up."

"I was in a rush," Greywaren snaps, "since someone keeps getting kidnapped."

"Oh, right, sorry, I shouldn't investigative anything, I should just punch criminals one at a time, that'll work better."

"At least it's something. What the hell is your grudge against me, anyway?"

Adam shakes his head, which proves to be a mistake. He winces, and Greywaren moves forward to help before Adam pushes himself upright.

"No. I'm not having this conversation with you like this."

He reaches for Greywaren's mask. He had bothered to put that on, at least, and Adam gets the tips of his fingers along the jaw of it.

Greywaren -- Ronan -- catches his hand.

His thumb rests easily against Adam's palm, his fingers curling around Adam's wrist. There's no pressure to it. There doesn't need to be. Adam has seen those hands break through wood, metal, cement; he could snap Adam's bones without a second thought.

But he won't.

Ronan says, "Don't."

Adam licks his lips. His mouth has gone strangely dry. "Tell me I'm wrong, then."

He doesn't speak.

The sound of an ambulance siren cuts through the night air, and Ronan drops Adam's hand and runs off into the dark.

-

"Adam!" Gansey looks like he might actually be having a heart attack. Too bad. Adam is flat out of sympathy today. "I thought you were off for the week, I heard -- "

"I know what you heard," Adam says. Technically, he's supposed to be in bed; he compromised by leaving the bandage around his head, even though it got him a lot of attention as he walked into the Tribune office. They'd all have stared no matter what he looked like, after the news that he'd been captured by the city's new up-and-coming supervillain. "Where's Ronan?"

His face undergoes several interesting transformations. "He didn't come in today."

Adam stares at Gansey: Gansey, who never let Adam speak badly of Greywaren without coming to his defense; Gansey, who wanted to be sure Adam wasn't going to run a smear campaign; Gansey, who always protected Ronan from the consequences of his own actions.

"You know why I'm looking for him, don't you."

Gansey looks away. "Haven't the foggiest."

Adam keeps staring at him, long after Gansey has turned back to him and looked away again.

"Right," he says finally. "Tell him I stopped by."

-

Adam knocks on the door three times, waits a second, and knocks again.

No response. He thinks about yelling for Ronan to stop hiding and open his fucking door already, but the apartment's leased to a fake name and this isn't a great neighborhood. He doubts Ronan would thank him for getting the neighbors' attention.

And Ronan might not even be home.

A superhero's lair really ought to have better defenses; the lock on the knob only takes him about thirty seconds, the deadbolt another minute.

He stands up before he swings the door open, and he's glad he did, because right across the open doorway is Ronan, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed.

Adam waits a second, but when Ronan makes no move to invite him in or kick him out, he lets himself in and shuts the door behind him.

"Why are you here?"

Adam shrugs. "I was walking by, your door was open."

Ronan glares. "No one's supposed to know about this apartment."

"Yeah, well, I'm a reporter."

Ronan rolls his eyes.

"Sorry, is that irritating when someone answers your question with a vague unhelpful statement? I can't imagine what that would be like."

"I get it already," Ronan snaps at him. "You hate me. So why are you here? Why aren't you out selling your big scoop to Cheng?"

Adam takes a moment to rein in his temper; it's harder than it should be. "I don't get you. If you really think I'm such a scumbag I'm going to sell you out why do you bother saving me all the time?"

"It's my job."

"No, your job is to take photographs for the newspaper, when you bother -- " Something clicks in Adam's head. "Oh my god, you're always blowing deadlines because you're out gallivanting around in a mask -- "

Ronan pushes up off the wall and takes a step toward Adam. It's not a big apartment; there's only a few feet between them. "Are you allergic to saying thank you? How can anyone complain this much about not dying?"

"Because I don't understand why you do it." Adam refuses to back down, even though his heart's pounding away, loud enough that Ronan must be able to hear it. "There's a hundred crimes a day in this city, you can't stop them all, why me -- "

"Because you're amazing and gorgeous and a fucking genius and the thought of you dying scares the shit out of me!" Adam is taken aback, and he's not the only, to judge by the way that Ronan covers his face with one hand. "Because it drives me crazy that you just think I'm some worthless thug and maybe if I can prove that I'm not then you'll stop looking at me like that."

Adam's mind is spinning so fast he wonders if the concussion really had gone away, because this isn't possible, it can't be. Ronan doesn't even like Adam, can't stand to be in the same room as him, is always making excuses to leave --

Exactly the same way Adam does when he thinks he's in danger of giving himself away.

Oh, God, Ronan is shy.

And then Greywaren had shown up in his life, and there were all those pestering conversations at the Tribune, and Adam had told everyone at the Tribune exactly what he thought about Greywaren --

"Are you telling me the Gazette was right?" Adam blurts out. "Cheng was right?"

"I never said you were a damsel in distress."

"No, you just decided to follow me around saving my life until I fell in love with you, which is the dumbest thing I've ever heard." And then he steps forward and presses his lips against Ronan's.

The kiss only lasts a second; Ronan doesn't respond, either to return it or to push Adam away, so Adam breaks it off and steps away regretfully.

But Ronan chases after him, brings their mouths crashing together again. Runs his hands through Adam's hair and across his shoulders and down his sides and over his ass, like he has to touch Adam everywhere before he loses his chance. Adam slides his hands up Ronan's shirt, and God, the toned muscles of his back feel incredible against the skin of his palms.

"Wait," Ronan says, wild and breathless, "saving your life to make you fall in love with me worked?"

"No, that was a bad plan." Adam kisses Ronan's jaw, then does it again when it makes Ronan breathe in sharply. "It would have been a much better plan just to introduce yourself." He mimics Ronan's Greywaren voice, albeit a little more exaggerated than is strictly necessary. "Adam, I'm Greywaren, I'm also that guy at work you have a huge crush on."

"I don't sound like that," Ronan complains, and then his hands slide back up to tangle in Adam's hair. "You had a huge crush on me?"

"Mm-hm." Adam tries to kiss Ronan again, but he turns his head and Adam's lips land on his cheek. Which is not such a bad place for them to be.

"On Ronan-me?" Ronan asks.

Adam smiles indulgently. "Yes, on Ronan-you."

"Why?"

"Because you're amazing and gorgeous and a fucking genius." Ronan looks at him, clearly about to ask a question, and for once in his life Adam feels like he has exactly as much information as he needs. "Look, I can flatter you or we can make out, pick one."

Ronan kisses him deeply, walks him back until Adam's pressed against the wall, and --

Well, there are some benefits to superhuman stamina.

-

The byline on the article is Gansey's; they're all doing what they can to starve out the idea of a connection between Adam and Greywaren, and Gansey's has more connections in the community. Adam feels intensely jealous when he reads the article anyway, which is how he knows it's a good piece of writing.

Cheng is intensely jealous as well, but only because he's got the hit counter on Gansey's story up in one window and the Gazette's newest article in the other.

"There's no sense in equating gossip with journalism," Gansey advises him. "You'll be happier if you stop comparing yourself to them."

"I'll be happier when we can pull these kinds of hits," Cheng says. "You know subscriptions to the Gazette are up four percent? Carruthers had the nerve to call me and brag about it."

"Let him brag," Adam says. "He'll regret it when the Tribune gets a Pulitzer."

Gansey beams at him. "Thanks, Parrish."

Adam shakes his head. "I was talking about myself. I've got a lead on something big going on with the mayor."

"If it's not a sex scandal, I don't care." Cheng slumps over his desk, throws his head down on his crossed arms dramatically. Gansey pats him on the shoulder, which gives Adam a clear view of the two headlines:

SUPERHEROES AID CRIME TASK FORCE

and

HEROES IN LOVE?

Adam is happy with Gansey's story, and even happier with the shift in superhero activity that it portends, but he likes the Gazette story best of all. The close-cropped photo of Greywaren and the woman known as "Mirror," and the thousand word story speculating that they're dating, is the funniest fucking thing he's ever seen.

"What would it take to get you to write a tell-all article about dating a superhero?" Cheng groans at Adam. "We'll pay you."

"I've seen the budget, you don't have the money."

"We'll order in lunch. Every day."

"Tempting," Adam says. "Pass."

Cheng pouts. "I'll blow you."

"Now you're willing to fight a superhero for me?"

"I'm desperate. That could be part of the story. Jealous superhero boyfriend beats up overworked newspaper editor."

"Don't you read the news, Cheng?" Ronan asks. "Parrish got dumped."

He brushes against Adam as he walks by, and it could have been a casual gesture, careless, if his fingers hadn't come to rest briefly right over the hickey he'd left on Adam's hip the night before.

Adam can feel the blush spreading over his cheeks, but he doesn't let himself react other than that. They're keeping this quiet, too, in case anyone gets any ideas about Adam's rumored boyfriend and his real boyfriend being the same person. That doesn't stop Ronan from playing a game in public: standing a little too close, watching Adam a little too long, touching him a little too often.

Adam knows that Ronan would stop if he asked him to, so he doesn't ask.

"That's right," Adam tells Cheng. "Not a superhero's boyfriend, just a reporter. Sorry to disappoint."

"No disappointment," Gansey says. "We like you for who you are."

"Not me, you have let me down and I will never forget it," Cheng says. "As soon as I usurp this company out from under Gansey-boy I'm going to have you fired."

Gansey claps him on the shoulder again. "Well, until then, let's go see what crimes against lunch the break room has committed today. I can tell you what I've heard about Mirror."

Cheng goes, grumbling.

"What about you, Lynch?" Adam asks. "Do you like me for who I am?"

"What, a little snot who fishes for compliments?" Ronan slides along Cheng's desk, until he and Adam are almost brushing shoulders. "Sure. Not crazy about all this talk about how you're not dating a superhero."

"I'm not," Adam says. Ronan arches an eyebrow at him. "I'm dating a photographer with a stupid hobby."

Ronan cocks his head to the side. Adam knows him well enough now to recognize that as him listening for anyone coming down the hall. So he's not surprised when Ronan leans forward to kiss him, one hand on his cheek.

He's not surprised, but it sets his heart racing just the same.

They're sitting close enough that Adam can feel Ronan's phone vibrate in his pocket.

"Better check that," he says.

Ronan pulls out his phone and grimaces.

"I gotta run." He kisses Adam again, swift and reckless.

"Be safe," Adam says.

Ronan snorts. "Safer than you. Try not to get kill while I'm gone."

Adam shakes his head, and then Ronan is -- not there anymore, and the window in Cheng's office is open.

Adam shuts the window and heads to his desk. No sense in sitting around worrying. Ronan's off to fight for truth and justice, and Adam's got to save the city in his own way.