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Ronan has no idea what to expect when he walks into the first day of rehearsal with the full company. Well, he knows his co-stars, and the ensemble he’s worked with (he’s not that kind of leading actor), and of course he’s on good terms with the director, because it’s fucking Gansey, but this is a whole new type of project. It’s innovative in its story, and the orchestrations are grandiose, full, unlike anything Ronan has seen in the most modern of repertoire. He supposes it has to be, given the amount of classical dance, and it’s why the message boards have already been claiming he’s been miscast. Ronan Lynch, king of the alternative, rock musicals, doing this project, a new piece in the style of the past.

Fuck, Ronan should probably look at the list of dancers, the only people he hasn’t really met yet. There’s like less than ten of them, because they do have an ensemble, but there’s a few huge dance moments that demand these kinds of specialists. He’s going to be undergoing what Liz has named ‘ballet bootcamp’ with them and the rest of the ensemble, because of course he has a goddamn ballet feature in this; it’s one of the fucking reasons he’s got the part (besides good old fashioned nepotism). Already, people are digging up old videos of the dark times when he was on a competition team, giffing eight-year-old Ronan spinning like a top with the chocolate curls of his youth whipping along for the ride. At least, that’s what Gansey tells him. He doesn’t use twitter or instagram or whatever else the fuck people expect him to, and his management is honestly goddamn grateful, considering how much shit he gets into without it all.

He wonders, just a little self-destructively, if any other people from his old studio are in this. He hasn’t spoken to any of them since he quit, because honestly, it fucking sucks there. Ronan pushes the thought before it can fully bloom, just waves hello to Gansey and starts stretching out. They’ve done a read-through with the main cast, so today they’re starting the huge dance sequence that ends act one.

That’s when Adam Parrish walks in.

Fuck, Ronan would recognize him anywhere. They spent almost every goddamn hour together for seven years, have known each other since they were three, and even as a child it was always clear what Adam Parrish would grow to look like. Adam, now, looks just as startled as Ronan feels; Ronan’s hair might be buzzed, but he knows he’s recognizable.

“Hi,” Adam says shakily, dropping his dance bag by the other serious dancers. “It’s been a while. Good to see you, Lynch.”

“Holy shit,” is all Ronan can actually say. Adam is still going about his business, stripping off sweatpants to reveal goddamn sinful black tights that accentuate every goddamn ounce of muscle on his elegantly skinny legs, starts going through the same stretching order he’s done since they were both kids, but Ronan knows Adam well enough to know that he would do that even if the rehearsal space was burning around him. “I didn’t know you were on this project. I thought you were with the city ballet, or some shit.” That’s a lie; he knows Adam is with the city ballet, because Gansey always takes Ronan as his guest when his family goes, and he’s watched Adam as a soloist there. He’s fucking incredible. It’s everything Adam has ever wanted.

“Principal male dancer, actually,” Adam corrects with a small smile. “Took a leave of absence from the company for this.” Ronan returns the smile, but oh is he going to fucking murder Gansey later. Gansey has seen all of those stupid videos, and there’s no way he hadn’t made the connection between the studio and the team and both of them.

“Oof, today’s going to be rough, then.” Ronan knows there’s a huge, gorgeous, twenty-minute combination solo and male-male pas de deux being choreographed today, but he didn’t know it was going to be Parrish in the lead. It makes sense; Adam has always been perfect feet and lines and gorgeous extensions, flexible and strong almost to a fault, and it isn’t hard to imagine him landing a role like this. Adam is strong, abs pulled tight every time he spins, and he tells a story without ever saying a goddamn word.

Oh fuck, he’s going to have to dance with Adam. Motherfucker.

“Speak for yourself. You’ve got a few dance features, and rumor has it you’re out of practice,” Adam retorts, sliding easily into an oversplit as he does, one foot resting perfectly on a chair to get the extension to what he needs. Ronan can’t remember the last time he could go much farther than the standard 180°. “I think the last one is even with me.”

Gansey is a dead man.

“Excuse you, who had more national titles?” Ronan retorts easily. “God, I bet the Greenmantles are shitting their pants at both of us being in this shit.”

Adam’s face falls, like it always does when he remembers his years at that studio in Henrietta. Legendary for its national victories and churning out Broadway ensemble workers and Rockettes like it’s a direct feeder school, its reputation is parallel to none. So much so that the methods go unquestioned, Colin and Piper Greenmantle unchecked in their methods and choreography and pressurized environment.

“Don’t make me remember,” he tries to play off, but Ronan realizes why he overstepped. Even as a child, he could brush off the screaming and overly harsh treatment like it was nothing, because his mom or dad would be there to dry his tears, to build his confidence back up. All of the anger, the abuse hurled by Greenmantle always seemed to seep into Adam’s skin, make a home in his blood and between his ribs. He had so much more to prove. Adam would never cry or show it in front of the studio staff, but Ronan had sat with him so many times in a secluded corner at competitions and in the alley behind the studio when Adam would just fucking lose it, unable to withstand the verbal and psychological abuse that came with the prestige. Greenmantle made him dance through injuries, played mind games with Adam to see if he could still win even at his lowest, and pushed him harder than an eight-year-old should ever be pushed.

It’s a miracle Adam’s still dancing. Ronan would have quit everything if he had went through what Adam did.

“I should warm up,” Ronan says, and hurries away to the other end of the barre. Adam just nods, continues what he’s doing, his face carefully blank.

If this is how the rehearsal process is starting, Ronan has no idea how the fuck he’s going to make it to opening night intact.

:: ::

Ronan doesn’t get to watch Adam’s solo rehearsal, because he is running scenes and his big second act aria in a separate room, but in his break he reluctantly pulls out his laptop in the quiet of the hallway. He should be bonding with the company, but he wants to see what Adam’s done since disappearing from the studio and Virginia.

Google doesn’t disappoint.

Adam had apparently fucked off to the San Francisco Ballet School on a full scholarship at the age of fourteen. Ronan isn’t surprised, but still. That isn’t nothing. Even more, Adam was top of his class when he graduated, three-time Grand Prix winner, and he went straight into the New York City Ballet from there, where he’s been the last five seasons: two in the corps, the last three as a soloist. He’s on track to be a principal, but this season Ronan knows the ballet has invited a shitton of guest artists, so it’s no surprise Adam is taking a break to do this gig, not fight for the meagerest of roles as the entire company is shoved out of the way for the esteemed Russian and British and French guests. In all honestly, this will probably help Adam’s career more than staying in the long run, if the solos are good; it will showcase him more than this kind of season would. Fuck, Ronan hates how much he remembers about shitty dance politics.

But what surprises Ronan is the fucking Buzzfeed article that’s the third goddamn result on the very first page. The title is cryptic, like they all are, and Ronan hates himself for giving in to the clickbait.

Here’s what he learns: Adam is deaf in his left ear, has been since he was fourteen. Ronan has seen Adam dance; he must have had to fucking relearn his entire sense of balance, of listening to the music, and he can’t imagine how the fuck Adam has made it as far as he has. The ballet industry is notorious for not tolerating disability of any kind, if even things as small as not having been born with perfect feet can be counted a fucking disability, and the fact that he’s made it to a top ballet company is just… Ronan is having trouble getting back in touch with his dancer’s balance and he has no goddamn excuse besides laziness.

Pieces click together in Ronan’s brain, ones that Adam didn’t say but anyone in Henrietta would know. Namely, Adam’s father. It’s the only explanation. When they were young, Adam would dance through bruised ribs and covered purpled and blackened skin expertly with foundation, and he can imagine what Robert Parrish’s reaction to Adam moving away to go to ballet school would be.

He’s grateful when Gansey appears, tells Ronan his break is over with a tired smile. Ronan shuts his laptop off, vows to talk to him when they’re back at the apartment tonight. He wants to know how Gansey hired Adam Badass Parrish.

:: ::

When Ronan stumbles into his apartment that night, he is exhausted. He needs to sign up for some outside classes, because Parrish. And, somehow, Gansey beat him home.

“How the fuck are you home before me? Don’t you have meetings or some shit?” Ronan spits, face-planting on the couch. Then again, a good portion of the creative team is in the apartment; Sargent (costumes) is sitting on the counter eating a yoghurt and holding Gansey’s hand, Cheng (set designer) is at the table, Noah (orchestrations) is at the keyboard with headphones plugged in, and Gansey is steeping tea with his free hand. Ronan will never, ever, ever admit it, but he thinks the creative team being his closest friends is going to be a large part of what makes this such a special project, but he would rather take class with Parrish for forty hours a week than say it out loud.

“Guess we finished earlier than the ballet workshop. How was it?” Gansey asks, and Ronan just groans.

“I need a fucking ice bath. And like three years of class,” Ronan groans. “I look like a dumbass next to him.” Something snaps through the exhaustion clouding his brain. “Why didn’t you tell me the male dance lead was fucking Parrish?”

“Wait, you know him?” Cheng asks. “Oh, this is going to be some good ass publicity.”

“We danced at the same goddamn studio in the middle of nowhere for years, as Gansey goddamn well knows,” Ronan explains. “All those videos circling the internet? He’s also in them.”

“Holy shit, this is too good,” Blue says, hopping off the counter with a cackle. “Did he wipe the floor with you back then, too?”

Ronan just snorts.

“Our record was pretty even, if I remember correctly,” he says. He doesn’t tell them about his inherent advantages: a mom that could alter costumes with ease, the extra privates and studio time he could afford and Adam couldn’t. He remembers an eight-year-old Adam with red fingertips from pricking himself with the needle too many times trying to bring in a too-big costume, and it’s definitely just a coincidence that the same day Aurora took Adam aside and taught him how to properly sew. “But today he did kick my ass. I need to start taking class fucking regularly, if I’m going to make the dance feature at the end look good. Maybe a fucking standing private, too. Jesus Christ I have to dance next to the bastard. ” Ronan hates class. He really does. But he’s not going to fuck this up for Gansey’s Broadway directing debut.

“I’ll talk to Liz, hook you up with a studio or ballet company,” Gansey says immediately. “I don’t think you’re that bad, considering her messages after observing the workshop today.”

“I am compared to Parrish,” Ronan responds. “He’s fucking unreal.”

“He’s also been training every day for the last twenty fucking years,” Henry inputs. “You took a nice ten year break.”

“I’ve taken class,” Ronan defends himself, but he knows he’s essentially been in retirement, for all the lack-of-work he’s put into his ballet training.

“Also, you weren’t hired to do Parrish’s role, chill out. They all know you’re not a dancer,” Blue says, and Ronan forces himself to sit up. It fucking hurts.

“Did you know he’s deaf in his left ear?” Ronan says, and Gansey and Blue exchange a look. “He wasn’t when we were kids.”

“Yes, we’re aware. Of course we are, but it doesn’t affect his dancing,” Gansey says, face creased. There are secrets that he has to know, being the director, and a sliver of that is Adam’s past: he still has a restraining order against his father, and his character design has to account for the scars across his body. But the point of this piece is pushing the boundaries on old theater: a male-male pas de deux, boys dancing in flowers, scrubbing away the hard edges of masculinity to let the love in. Pushing the envelope and not including someone like Adam feels dishonest and fraudulent to Gansey.

“It’s amazing that it doesn’t. You know how fucking hard it is to turn like that when your balance is perfect?” Ronan says, and then he’s off in a place Gansey has rarely seen. He’s talking about Parrish’s lines, his extensions, how precise and fluid his movements are, how gorgeous his isolations are.

“Did you just regurgitate eleven fucking years of dance knowledge at once? Sounds like someone is pining,” Cheng asks, throwing Ronan a banana as he peels himself off the couch to demonstrate just one of the things he’s been marveling about. “Go take an ice bath, or you’re going to be fucking useless tomorrow.”

Ronan just flips him off.

:: ::

As Adam walks in the next morning, he’s smiling, talking to some of the other dancers. He loves being in a company, because it’s a family. His roommate, all high-ranked corps members or soloists in the City Ballet, are bitching about demotions happening this season, cursing Adam for being able to leave after class to go to a rehearsal where he’s the principal, not shoved back into the corps for the year. This company isn’t like that one at all. It’s a little like Henrietta, except this time Adam isn’t just an adopted member. He remembers how, when he was a kid, the moms of the other dancers on their little team decided that Adam was their collective responsibility, helping him with makeup here, giving him a sandwich after class there. They were all little scraps of affection, but most would withdraw on weeks when it came down to Adam and their child, because their child had to come first. All but Aurora Lynch. No matter what games the Greenmantles played, no matter how many times they would pit Ronan against Adam, Aurora would be there to straighten his costume and give him a hug when he got back from the stage.

The biggest shock of the morning had been Ronan being in ballet class at the New York City Ballet. The instructor had explained it all briefly, that Ronan is brushing up for a role, that he’ll be joining them until the show opens, and Adam has to bite back a snort, unable to meet his friends’ questioning eyes as the famous actor Ronan Lynch joined them at their barre in the middle of the room.

Ronan had only done the basic aspect of class, leaving before combinations started to go to his own rehearsal. Adam has never heard Ronan sing in person, but in their fifteen minute break Adam had been one of the people crowded around Lucy’s phone as they all watched videos of Ronan belting to try and justify his sloppy technique’s presence in their class.

He’s good. Really good.

When Adam walks into the rehearsal space two hours later, already feeling warm, the other dancers are almost done with their stretching. Adam allows himself a few turn sequences, responding effortlessly when someone hollers at him to lower his goddamn shoulders.

Tad helps Adam crack his back, and he helps him get his leg behind his head in turn. But then they all wait.

The creative team wants to try to put together the end of the first act today, the thirty minute dream sequence that’s all dancing until suddenly it isn’t, anymore, because it’s the only thing all parts of the company have all had time to learn in their factions.

Adam is alone on the floor space. The company is all sitting on the sides, Ronan included, who gives him a smile as the creative table runs him through a few things, watching respectfully and waiting for their own time to come. Adam is already sweating through his t-shirt turned tank top, an old Coca-Cola shirt he got a Kohl’s for five bucks, from class that morning, but he stands tall and in fifth position as he listens carefully to the direction. When it’s finally time, he positions himself at the upstage left corner, hands full of fake flower petals, soft and different shades of pink, and waits for the piano to start.

It’s a soft thing with some hard-hitting isolations, a gorgeous solo that’s more contemporary than classical ballet, but that’s where Adam’s always thrived. He’s not exactly playing Ronan’s character, but a memory and a wish of that character; a version of himself Ronan’s character thought he had the chance to be, wishes he could be again. He doesn’t look at Ronan when he’s dancing, because he loses himself in what he does. His brain is racing, full of steps and self-corrections and telling the story, but it’s like he’s separate from the technicality of it all. He’s feeling the joy, the desperation, throwing flower petals in the air just to see how they feel when they fall his face.

They pause briefly after his solo.

There’s applause from the company, whoops and yells. Adam lets himself relax, just a little bit, as he listens to notes and marks through a few small isolations that the choreographer wants to experiment with; there’s a lot that needs to be cleaned and tweaked, but there’s something magical about seeing the petals rise and fall for the first time.

When they continue, it’s straight into the pas de deux. It’s another City Ballet dancer, and Adam’s worked with him before; they click well together, and by the time the rest of the boys are joining in, flowers raining from the ceiling, the room goes silent. There’s joy, there’s struggle, and then Ronan makes his entrance.

It’s sadder, now, when Ronan starts singing. But then he joins the joy, just a little bit, fiddling briefly with a petal that’s coming down right by his head before weaving through the dancers with grace and nostalgia. Then the rest of the company enters slowly, and then they’re all rolling and leaping and singing and dancing together, the dream and reality mingling and mixing so it’s hard to tell which is which, anymore.

It ends with Ronan, alone in his dream, hands full of pink petals. He throws them in the air, the same way Adam had.

When they get through it a few times, Adam can tell this piece is going to be something special. The choreography is tough and fresh and innovative, and he has to admit Ronan is keeping up better than Adam anticipated. He’s still sloppy, but Ronan’s always been competitive. Give it a few weeks in class with Adam and he’ll be alright.

When Adam is off to the sides, watching the beginning of the first act, watching Ronan and drinking water and catching his breath, he thinks he’s amazed. Ronan is a force to be reckoned with; his voice is clear and deep and rich, his acting filled with depth and rough edges. It’s something he never really saw in Henrietta. Ronan was always a bouncy, happy kid.

Ronan invites Adam over for dinner after class, to meet his friends outside of their jobs in this production. Adam accepts. They walk to the subway together, laughing.

:: ::

When Ronan enters the apartment, Adam on his heels, he’s hit with a burst of smell. The spices are aromatic, and Adam breathes in the warm, fragrant air, allows himself a smile as he kicks off his boots.

“Hello,” Ronan greets, pulling Adam into the chaos. He’s re-introduced to Blue, Gansey, Henry, and Noah, who all greet him warmly.

“Hi, Adam,” Blue says, wrapping him in a hug. “Ugh, nevermind. You smell.”

“Class,” is all the explanation Adam gives.

“Technically, the second one isn’t class. It’s bootcamp for us lesser mortals,” Ronan complains. “Also, why the hell are you in that one? I was exhausted after doing half of your morning class.”

“I’ll take all the free training I can get,” is Adam’s coy reply. “Also I can’t skip morning class now, because you’re providing incredible entertainment.”

“Fuck off, I wasn’t that bad,” Ronan scoffs, and Adam lets out a chuckle.

“How did you even get into that class?” Adam asks, and that’s when Gansey appears on Adam’s right side. Gansey is always very careful about that, which Adam is grateful for.

“My family has a strong connection with the ballet. Ronan came back yesterday wanting to train, and I reached out,” he explains. Adam all but smirks.

“Day one of rehearsal and already feeling behind?” he challenges.

“Fuck off,” Ronan groans, collapses on the couch. “I am so ungodly sore.”

“Same,” Adam admits, plopping down next to him. “My feet are going to be killing me tomorrow.”

“At least you don’t have a lot to do tomorrow.” Ronan nudges Adam’s shoulder, because they both know it’s a joke. Tomorrow he and Ronan start learning the final pas de deux, where it’s just Adam and Ronan on the stage. “We’ll die together.”

“Stop being babies,” Blue calls from where she’s supervising Henry. “Or I’ll tell Henry to add stairs right in the middle of the stage.”

“I will not do that, in the name of artistic integrity.” Henry brandishes a sauce covered spoon menacingly at Blue, who just licks in response. “You’re a gremlin, Sargent.”

“Do you need help with anything?” Adam asks, but Ronan’s hand is suddenly on his thigh, keeping him seated on the couch.

“Nah. You two look exhausted,” Noah says, smiling a little. “I can’t wait for tech. It’s already starting to look like what I pictured.”

“Previews are where it’ll get fun. Rose says she’s doing one of those Broadway.com weekly video things,” Ronan says, wrinkling his nose.

“Yes, we think it’ll be good for publicity. It’s a strong season this year,” Gansey explains. “And Rose is good at those vlogs. People love them. And they love when they feature you.” Ronan makes a face. He loves working with Rose, but he hates how she can get him on camera acting like a dumbass.

“He’s just mad he’s gonna be on camera,” Adam translates. “She said today she’s going to make sure he’s in every single one.”

“Then I’m going to make sure you’re in every single one.” It’s juvenile, complete with Ronan sticking his tongue out. Adam just pats his thigh, stands to help Blue set the table. “I can already tell you’re going to be caught napping in weird places during tech. I’ll make sure she films you passed out over the ballet barre or some shit.”

“Thanks for having me.” Adam’s voice is warm when he talks to Blue, ignoring Ronan’s probable prophecy.

“It’s our pleasure. We wanted to meet the guy who got under his skin so quickly,” Henry says. “Also, those videos of you two are fucking adorable.”

“Videos?” Adam asks, and Ronan remembers that Adam isn’t on the internet, either. He’s got a phone, but from what Ronan’s seen it’s full of news apps and stupid games, not social media.

“Oh, boy, we’re going to watch them after food,” Blue says, voice devious. “Some incredible soul videotaped and uploaded every single dance you little munchkins did. It’ll live on YouTube forever.”

“It was Aurora.”

“It was Mom.”

Adam and Ronan say the words in unison. Ronan gives a sad smile, which Adam returns easily; back then, Adam didn’t have a phone or a tablet or computer access, but Aurora would show Adam on her own device, especially when things got bad with Greenmantle. Then there was the crash. Adam had heard about it in California; Niall had died on scene, Aurora all but brain-dead. He’d emailed, had tried to find enough money to get back to Henrietta to be there for Ronan, but no matter how many ways he’d run the numbers there wasn’t enough there for him to eat and live and make it back there.

He’d sent Ronan the longest letter of his life, but he’d never gotten a response. He’d sent another, when Aurora finally passed. Nothing.

Adam pushes down the sadness bubbling in his chest at the memory, because if he thinks about that he’s going to have to think about the worst year of his life. At fourteen, Adam had to completely rebuild himself from the wreckage the Greenmantles and Robert Parrish had created, had to do it thousands of miles away from everything he’s ever known. He’d had to do it without Ronan, for the first time in his life.

But they eat, and talk about rehearsal and the incoming company bonding on the weekend. They’re nice, asking Adam about life in New York and his roommates and ballet. He learns that Gansey is from D.C., that he and Ronan met in high school, and he’s as surprised as anyone that Ronan ended up pursuing acting. Ronan goes scarlet when Gansey talks about Ronan’s first roles.

And then they’re in front of the TV, Blue queuing up a YouTube playlist on Gansey’s tablet.

“Oh, god, not this one,” Adam says right off the bat. “Remember, this was the week Piper kicked a girl off the team for looking like a praying mantis.”

“I forgot about her. Apparently she did ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ a few seasons ago,” Ronan says. “Oh, you just fell out of that turn.”

“Your foot is sickled as fuck, don’t judge me,” Adam fires back immediately. “... and right there is where you were off. I thought your ass was going to the shadow realm for that.”

“No, remember they fucking twisted it so that they murdered you for not ‘sticking with me’ or some stupid shit,” Ronan says. “Same day that he made you dance despite the fact Piper had fucked up your back in a stretching class the day before.”

“She did that a lot, though. It’s why I have chiropractor practically on speed dial,” Adam says, cracking his back as if to prove a point. There’s a lot unsaid, because Ronan knows that this was the start of a horrible injury that Adam aggravated because he couldn’t rest for it to heal, an injury that ended in Aurora driving Adam to the hospital herself after screaming at Greenmantles; he’d dislocated a fucking vertebrae.

“Wait, no, back up. What the fuck?” Blue says, and it does not sound like a question. “How is that dance studio still open?”

“It’s thriving,” Ronan says with a dark chuckle, deciding not to press Adam on the injury. “When you churn out actually employable dancers, no one really cares how you did it. The moms that take their kids away from that environment are replaced by five more who don’t care how much you hurt their kid as long as they’ll be a star.”

“Why did you stay?” Henry asks. Adam is doing a solo on screen, and you can see where his ribs are discolored underneath all of the make-up.

“He was their favorite. Their relationship is a different kind of fucked up,” Adam explains, because the look on Ronan’s face is nothing short of haunted. “Ronan was meant to win, always. It’s only when he didn’t that there was hell to pay. The rest of us thought he had it easier. He just had it different.”

“No, it was easier. It’s easy to win when everything is stacked in your favor,” Ronan says. “I wasn’t their guinea pig.” There’s a pause, and Ronan can see how uneasy Adam looks. He doesn’t want to push that, now that he’s finally on speaking terms with Adam after ten years of nothing. “Oh, look, it’s your signature move,” Ronan says, and sure enough, Adam is utilizing his perfect feet and leg extension and discipline to slowly lift his leg to a standing oversplit.

“That pissed you off so much,” Adam chuckles, taking a sip of water. “Please tell me Aurora has that one solo where she made you wear the red mesh.”

They watch it, and a bunch of other stupid competition numbers. Adam and Ronan continuously heckle each other, and some of it ends up on Blue’s instagram story.

“Oh, I should warn that poor choreographer what she’s got coming tomorrow,” Gansey says, once Adam calls out Ronan’s solo as it’s happening.

:: ::

Adam and Ronan are engaged in some bizarre contest when Liz enters the rehearsal studio. They’re turning; well, Adam is turning, Ronan is calling out various positions while Adam swears at him. Ronan is correcting minute things in Adam’s form, things that aren’t wrong at all but are a smidge away from perfect. Well, at least she knows he wasn’t lying about his dance training.

“I hope I’m not interrupting,” she says dryly, and Adam Parrish promptly falls out of his turn. Ronan Lynch cackles. “Well, I know Adam’s warmed up, but I’m not convinced about you.”

Ronan Lynch just gives one single twirl, lifting his leg over his head. He falls out of the turn.

“Not even close, Lynch,” Adam says, and now Liz understands what the fuck Gansey meant with his good luck text last night. It’s obvious these two have a history, because she has never seen either of them warm up to anyone new this quickly. Ronan Lynch, notorious for his cold demeanor and terrifying back tattoo, and Adam Parrish, warm only to the expected level of professionalism, the oddly perfect match. It’s going to either make her job so much easier or so much harder than she anticipated.

“Just give each other some space. I want to see you stretch.” Liz’s voice is all business; she thinks, again, as Ronan elbows Adam and Adam trips Ronan, that this is a completely different Adam Parrish from the one she’s worked with the last few weeks. With other dancers, Adam is strictly professional, his small talk in front of choreographers minimal at best, but with Ronan Lynch he’s joyful, playful in the she’s only seen when he dances.

She thinks this is a relationship she can work with.

By the end of their brief stretch, in which Adam outranks Ronan in everything, but Ronan is pushing, Liz has to revise that thought: she thinks this is going to result in a magical piece, but getting there is going to be pulling teeth. Adam’s extensions are naturally beautiful, his arch high and pointed feet gorgeous to look at, and though Ronan’s out of practice, his technique is already coming back. He’s kept a good amount of his flexibility, from taking other kinds of class over the years, and Liz is deciding right now to up the difficulty of this pas de deux, because there are some gorgeous moments she could create if she just believed they could pull it off in the timeframe.

“Before we start, I wanted to talk a little bit about the storytelling of this,” Liz says. “And why we’re doing it.”

“Movement is a big part of Griffin’s story,” Ronan starts, staring at his hands. “We use movement and dance to show the parts of himself that he’s not ready to address in his own body, yet. It’s a more carefree, more joyful, more open and unreserved version of himself. A boy who’s happy to be in love with another boy and isn’t afraid to express it.”

“I think that joy is also a large part of it,” Adam adds, smiling gently at Ronan. “At the end of Act One, it’s Griffin looking back at the youthful joy he buried, and looking at the kind of carefree he wishes he could be. It’s him accepting that joy. I think, at the end, we bring that same dream back because Griffin is finally accepting that joy into his current self.”

“I like that a lot. But why dance?” Liz asks, takes a breath, trying to think of how she wants to say what she wants them to understand. “I think it’s important to have him dancing with another boy. Pas de deux are usually very intimate, and involve a lot of trust. He is putting his trust into this dream,” she adds. “So there’s going to be a lot of partner work, lots of lifts and turns and throwing and catching.”

“You do realize this is at the end of the show,” Ronan says, and Liz just laughs.

“Seems like Adam will handle it fine,” she responds, and then there’s the fire in Ronan’s eyes.

“You’re really gonna make the most out of giving me a goddamn dance feature,” he responds, and Adam chuckles.

“Try to keep up,” he says, standing up. Adam is instantly ready to work. He cracks his back, flexes his feet, and looks back at Ronan still on the ground. Sighing, he helps Ronan up, who just responds with a smile.

When Gansey walks in an hour later, Adam’s face is dangerously close to Ronan’s ass, after a botched lift. Ronan is swearing, Liz is laughing, phone out and recording, and Adam is resigned, squirming a little as Ronan refuses to let him go but doesn’t know how to get him down safely. “Is now a bad time to see what progress you’ve made?”

“No, just give us a minute to fix this,” she says, as Adam manages to roll off of Ronan. “Okay, so you need to jump farther, and you need to grab him closer to his hip, not mid-thigh,” she says. “Take it slow once more.” Adam nods, approaches a crouching Ronan slowly, and then Adam is on Ronan’s shoulder and Ronan is standing, spinning. “There you go. Now let him down.” Ronan unceremoniously drops Adam. “Gently, for fuck’s sake.”

Adam just laughs from where he had tucked into a roll, laying on his back on the floor.

“Oh god, what am I about to see,” Gansey mutters as he sits against the mirrors.

“You said you wanted joyful. This is their joyful,” Liz says, and she doesn’t sound apologetic at all. When Gansey glances to his friend, Ronan actually looks a little nervous as she cues up the piano track. Ronan is sitting on the floor, head in his hands. Adam enters, cautious, sits down next to him and takes one of the hands. From there, it’s athletic and daring and, blessedly, full of more joy than Gansey has seen from Ronan in a long time. Adam leaps over Ronan, using his knees to stand himself up, and then Ronan dives under Adam. Adam throws himself at Ronan, who catches him, but spins him and sends him away. Adam lifts Ronan; Ronan rolls off of him. It’s a dance in all ways, but it’s clear to see that Ronan is struggling to accept the joy that Adam is so willing to give. After a rejection that sends Adam away for a little bit, some individual work done when Ronan’s back is turned, Adam steels himself and full-on runs at Ronan right as the music swells; this is that lift, and suddenly Ronan is catching Adam, spinning him high and lowering him again, until they’re nose to nose, knees to knees. They dance in unison, full of energy to match the wall of sound of the music, until Ronan catches Adam’s wrist, even as Adam pushes his leg up in the air higher and farther than should be possible as he leans away. Ronan gently pulls Adam to him.

“That’s what we’ve got. It’s basically finished, we just need to figure out Adam’s exit with the rest of the ensemble entering,” Liz says, face unreadable as she waits for Gansey’s thoughts. “I’m thinking he gets lost in the crowd, but I need to see how the choreography looks when put together.”

“I love it. Do you think they’ll both be able to handle it, at the end of this thing?” he asks, and Liz smiles.

“Ronan’s dance feature isn’t too intense until now, and he’s shown pretty good stamina in rehearsal. Adam, no doubts,” she responds easily. “Is there anything you want us to change, right off the bat?”

“No. It gets the point across, and even unpolished it looks good. Blue will want to see it, because this will affect the costumes a lot,” he says. “Is it ready to be included in the run of the second act today?”

“Depends on what else you need Ronan for before then,” Liz says.

“How much more time do you need?” Gansey’s voice is all business. Ronan’s schedule is packed; he’s got the rest of Act Two to polish today.

“Half an hour. Not right now though, one of them needs a breather and the other has to learn another dance in fifteen minutes,” she says.

“I’ll give it to you right before the run through. That means, Ronan, you’re running the aria before Rose has that scene, not after,” Gansey says, and Liz smiles.

“You’re so mean to me,” is all Ronan can say, sweat sticking him to the floor.

:: ::

The next few weeks, Adam finds himself growing close to Ronan again. He’s always exhausted, always sore, because now he’s got privates to make sure his technique in this piece is up to bar with what the ballet expects from him before class in the morning, and rehearsal is going later and later as they prepare for the press preview and tech. Ronan is somehow there, with a hot pack or ice or a banana during their own rehearsals whenever Adam really needs one or all of them. Ronan’s technique is improving by leaps and bounds, and it’s making the pas de deux all that much better.

“You look dead,” is all Ronan says before one of their last runs, because before every other one, Adam has participated in Ronan’s dumb challenges: who can spin longer, who can stretch farther, who can do the cooler trick, that the ensemble judges gleefully. (Ronan has only one once, but that’s because he rigged it.) But today Adam is just laying on the floor, trying not to wince at the tiredness seeping into all of his limbs. It’s a Friday; if he can make it through today and just sink into an ice bath, he’ll be okay by Monday. “You gonna make it through the run through?”

Tuesday is the press preview; they’re running those numbers like they will then. It includes the opening, one of Ronan’s big solos (not the aria, because production wants to keep that a secret), the huge dance sequence into the end of act one number, the singing trio in the second act, and the finale. So, Adam has a lot to show, a lot to prove come Tuesday. They’re trying to sell the critics on the classical dance aspect of this work, and so much of that goal sits on Adam’s shoulders.

“Are you, Lynch?” Adam asks. “You skipped class this morning.”

“Maybe you should have skipped, Parrish,” Ronan responds. “You’ve been going non-stop the last few weeks. Give your poor muscles a break.”

“Can’t. City Ballet is on my ass about making this look good, after that article y’all ran talking about the ballet in it.” Adam lets the southern creep into his voice. “Now it’s not just Liz. They’re on me about my technique, about how it’s not as Balanchine as they wanted. And they’re making me understudy a bunch of shit this season.”

“Fuck them. Get Liz in there to yell,” Ronan shoots back. “You know what will make you feel better? Remember Ellen, from that team Piper brought in just to kick our asses?”

“The one who said I was trailer trash and smelled like it?” Adam asks. “Or was she the one who asked me if I had parents? I forget.”

“Trailer trash one, but thanks for reminding me how rich and bratty they all were. They were so goddamn mean,” Ronan remembers. “Anyways. She emailed me today. Said she was looking for a new ballet company and wondered if I could put her in touch with you.”

“That’s fucking rich,” Adam says, laughing. “She hated me.”

“God, were you two from Greenmantles?” Another dancer asks, wrinkling his nose. “My studio used to lose to them all the fucking time. ”

“Heard they were under investigation for fraud, might have to close the studio,” someone else inputs. “But I don’t care. They were mean to every other soloist at competitions.”

Adam just snorts. “That’s putting it lightly.” But that’s when Ronan gives him a serious look, the same one he used to give Adam when Adam was quietly hurting and trying not to show it.

“Adam, are you sure you don’t need a break? Gansey would understand–” Ronan starts, and Adam cuts him off with a sad smile.

“I can make it through. I’ll take it easy this weekend, I promise,” Adam responds.

“He’s going on in Jewels this weekend,” Adam’s first pas de deux partner says, and Adam shoots him a death glare. “Someone sprained a something, or something. He’s been in rehearsal super late all week.”

“Tad, I swear to God I’m going to tell Liz you pad your tights to make your ass look bigger,” Adam threatens, voice deadly, and Ronan swears amidst the chorus of laughter from the dancers.

“Don’t throw a fit. It’s not as bad as it sounds; we did Jewels like two seasons ago, and I understudied the part then, too. It’s basically just a little rehearsal and then the performances,” Adam tries, but Ronan is stalking away towards Gansey. Adam manages to peel himself off of the floor to follow.

“—did you not fucking know he’s dancing full time in two companies, Gansey? I thought he had a leave of absence,” Ronan is spitting, and Adam could honestly fight him right here and now.

“I’m fine, Gansey. I promise I’ll take it easy when I’m not in rehearsal,” Adam says with his best impression of Gansey’s business smile. “Ronan is freaking out over nothing.”

“You’re gonna fucking injure yourself before previews even start if you keep it up like this,” Ronan retorts, and Adam feels a spark of anger catch on fire in his gut.

“I know what I’m doing. I’m used to this,” Adam says, his voice ten degrees colder than the outside February tundra.

“Your back is hurting,” Ronan says, plain as day. “I can tell.”

“It’s just sore. I’m going to throw a heat pack on it tonight.” Gansey is looking at Adam; Adam knows they need this rehearsal, need to give it a full-effort run so they know what to fix. “Gansey, I’m not an idiot. If I were hurting, I’d tell you.”

“I trust you, Adam,” Gansey says carefully, and Ronan just storms away.

Adam takes the advantage of him being gone to get someone to crack his back. Ronan’s right; it’s an injury that never healed right, and it flares up during weeks like this. But Ronan can’t know that.

:: ::

“Your apartment is a shithole,” Ronan says unceremoniously, startling Adam. He has headphones on, has a heating pad on his back as he lays in a middle split. “But your roommates seem chill.”

“Thanks,” one says, but they all disappear into their bedrooms quickly. Adam could honestly kill them all, regardless of who buzzed Ronan up. “Don’t murder us for letting him in.”

“What are you doing here?” Adam asks. He’s got an ice pack on one knee, a heat patch on the back of the other calf, and he winces as he sits up. He had put his all into that run through, and now he thoroughly regrets it.

“Making sure you were actually resting so you don’t accidentally murder yourself this weekend,” Ronan explains, dropping a bag on the floor. “I brought shit.”

“Accidental murder is impossible. Murder implies pre-meditation,” Adam retorts, but he doesn’t protest when Ronan peels the heating pad off of Adam’s back, instead applying arnica gel. He goes mostly soft after that, lets out a groan.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Gansey doesn’t know how badly you fucked up your back as a kid, does he?” he asks, and Adam manages to shake his head.

“There’s nothing technically wrong with it anymore; it’s as healed as it’ll ever be. There’s just flare ups like these,” Adam explains, more like mumbles. “I’ve tried everything: acupuncture, chiropractors, dumbass herbal rubs and shit… it hasn’t been bad since I first started professionally, really.”

“You gotta tell Gansey if the Ballet is on your ass. He said he’d lighten your schedule, and that he told you that from the get-go,” Ronan says, tries hard not to sound angry. “Don’t be mad.”

“You told him,” Adam assumes, and Ronan just sighs.

“The only rehearsal you have Monday is the run through. He got you out of class, too,” Ronan says, continues gently rubbing gel into Adam’s back. “He wants to take you out to dinner after the Ballet tomorrow, though.”

“I forgot he has tickets,” Adam grumbles. “I would have told him. I just… I can’t be seen as a liability.”

“You’re not. He was over the goddamn moon when he got the rising star to take a break to lower his artistry to Broadway,” Ronan says. “It was hilarious, the first time he took me with to see the ballet. It was the season opener, Firebird, and even though Misty goddamn Copeland was the firebird, he couldn’t shut up about that one male soloist. He found you in the program, and I pretended I didn’t know who you were. But I recognized you as soon as you stepped on that stage.”

“Why did you pretend?” Adam asks. “It was my first solo, nervous as fuck. It seemed like every face in the audience was critiquing me the entire time.”

“Didn’t think you’d want to dredge up all that emotional shit,” Ronan responds. He’s replaced a new heat pack on Adam’s back, is moving to where the ice packs are and applying K-tape like a pro. “You made it out, and I didn’t want to drag you back. I didn’t know then, about your hearing.”

“You can guess how it happened,” is all Adam says, but Ronan can see, can feel, the way the muscles in his back tighten. Ronan swats at Adam’s back gently, and Adam takes a deep breath, tries to slowly unfurl the knots with sheer will. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Ronan just puts more gel on his hands, starts kneading into Adam’s shoulders. Adam just barely manages to groan out a string of swears.

“I wasn’t asking,” Ronan says. “Just pisses me off that your turns are perfect.”

“Fuck you,” Adam says, but there’s no bite to his voice. “It took me almost my first year into school to be able to turn well again. Spent summer falling over and trying to figure out how to hear the music when spinning and when it’s on the wrong side of me.”

“How did you do it?” Ronan asks, his hands gentle across Adam’s back.

“I don’t. I just count,” Adam says, chuckling. “One time the music fucked up during an exam and I didn’t even know it until half a minute later. My teacher said it was professional of me not to miss a beat, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him the truth.”

“I don’t think you’re human.” Ronan’s voice is rough, though; he can feel the tension locked into Adam’s muscles. “Jesus fuck how do you live? Your muscles are all knotted up.”

A roommate who was filling up a water bottle in the sink snorts.

“That heat pad is his goddamn child. That and a back massager contraption he has,” she says, before sneaking back out.

“You have one of those?” Ronan asks, and Adam pulls himself up to a seated position, circling his ankles and wincing at the audible cracking of the ball joint. “Lay the fuck back down. I’m not done yet.” Adam does, still in a middle split, after Ronan all but forces him back down.

“It’s nice,” Adam defends himself. “It feels amazing.”

“You ready for tomorrow? And Tuesday?” Ronan asks.

“Are you?” Adam’s voice is gruff. “I don’t know a lot about acting and singing, but you’re pretty damn good.”

“Yeah, I think so. The critics are ready to tear me apart, though; they all think I’ve been miscast,” Ronan admits. “I have a lot to prove.”

“Me, too,” Adam says quietly. “Nothing has changed really, since Henrietta.”

:: ::

Adam enters the rehearsal studio to applause on Monday. Ronan has never seen Adam blush more, but he just takes it with as much grace as he can muster; Gansey had gushed all through dinner Saturday night about Adam, and Ronan had managed a quick comment about Adam saved himself from falling out of that turn sequence. Ronan had also, later, asked Adam how his back was doing, and Gansey had frowned but Adam said it felt much better.

“Okay, before we start, an announcement: at the end of the first week of previews, we’re doing a 54 Below show to promote the show. There’s a few numbers from the show we want to showcase, but the other time can be used for other things. Get a duet or trio or group or solo together and send me an email with what you want to do, and we’ll let you know,” Gansey says, and Ronan sighs.

“I’ll sing Alanis if you make Parrish sing,” Ronan offers, and there’s laughter from the company.

“Guess we’ll sing Alanis together,” Adam says with a smirk. He starts whistling on his way to the barre, and Ronan feels his face go hot.

:: ::

The day of the press preview, Adam is hurting. His back is killing him, no amount of icing or massaging is alleviating the flaring pain, and he’s never been more grateful to miss a class in his entire life. He would be on the floor if he had had to work through an entire barre class at the level of the ballet.

“You look like shit,” Ronan says, sitting on the floor next to Adam. “Like, really shit.”

“Warm up, asshole,” Adam says, pulls his leg above his head and tries to ignore the flicker of pain in his lower back.

“Don’t tell me you went to class,” Ronan says, voice dangerously low. Adam just scoffs. “Then, what the fuck?”

“Two shows on Sunday,” Adam responds, cracks his back, hopes that fixes it. “I should have stretched Sunday night.”

“Fuck. At least we have a day off tomorrow,” Ronan says. “You should rest.”

“Class, and then rest,” Adam corrects.

“Oh fuck no,” Ronan says, even as he’s sliding into a split. “Parrish, you can’t be fucking serious.”

“I’m a member of the company. If I want to keep that spot locked up tight, I have to be in class,” Adam says, voice full of ice.

“See the goddamn company doctor, then,” Ronan says. Adam doesn’t engage anymore, just stretches and makes his body as ready as it can possibly be. There’s a lot unsaid: Ronan remembers how all of this shit went down, how the Greenmantles heaping class demonstrations on top of solos on top of class led to Adam falling on the ground and not being able to get back up, how they fucking did this in the first place, stretching Adam’s back farther than it could go. He remembers holding Adam’s hand in the hospital bed as Adam quietly panicked about how he was going to be late home, about how much it all hurt.

“I am, this evening,” Adam says quietly, and Ronan’s face goes carefully and utterly blank . “I know what I’m doing.”

“Okay,” Ronan says, gives Adam a small smile. He’s not going to push it, because Adam admitting he’s seeing the doctor is something Ronan couldn’t have imagined then, can’t really imagine now. “You nervous?”

“Are you?” Adam retorts. “I hear them in the lobby.”

“We all know I don’t give a fuck about my reputation,” Ronan says, but he clears his throat. “I gotta warm up my voice.”

“I have to sing, too,” Adam says, trying to crack a smile. All of the people from the ballet are trying, and they’re on pitch, most of the time.

“Yeah fuck off no one can even hear you,” Ronan shoots back. He doesn’t look at Adam, but at Tad and James and Elaine and Sarah from the ballet. They look out for Adam, have done it for years when Ronan wasn’t there, and they’re all glad to add Ronan to their ranks. But he walks away, trusts them to help Adam stretch his back and get him through this shit.

He smiles for the press, manages to talk without saying anything that results in an instant angry text from his manager.

Then the fuckers sit down with their photographers and video recorders, and Ronan listens to a nervous Gansey explain the arc they’re going to be taken through. It starts.

Ronan sings his song, looks them all in the face as he lays his heart at their feet, and thinks of Adam as he sings about love and pain and how he’s not meant for any of it at all. He makes invisible bruises seen, like the brown spots hidden under a perfectly red apple. He stands there and hits every note, vibrato warm and deep.

They move into the dream sequence. Ronan sits on the sides, watches as Adam dances like it’s the only reason he’s on this earth. From the moment he throws the first batch of petals in the air, cameras shuttering noisily, Ronan can’t read the pain he could so clearly see when Adam was on the sidelines; he only sees joy, only sees beauty and unbridled happiness. It’s like the first warm breeze in May, he thinks, or the first breath of fresh air after the storm. The petals start falling, and then the other boys are on the stage, taking part in the joy.

Ronan thinks it looks like a revolution.

There’s a moment, a moment when the rest of the boys take turns throwing flower petals into the air, crash to the floor and it’s just Adam as he leaps and moves flows with a sharpness and an energy and a desperation Ronan hasn’t seen. It relaxes, and then Ronan enters.

He’s not acting, when he sings and moves between them with wonder and sadness and a little bit of separation. He’s never felt that kind of joy, has never been able to dance with his heart on his sleeves with Adam, and he thinks of this magical boy and sings. He’s too afraid to really perceive the audience in front of him, even as the entire company is rolling and revelling and singing and being covered in flower petals, but the applause is almost deafening once the moment breaks.

Ronan doesn’t let himself believe they like it.

It isn’t until he can finally look at Adam that he feels his last guard slip down. There’s something about being with Adam that makes Ronan braver, that makes him want to be seen, to be known. He catches Adam when he throws himself at Ronan, is gentle with this boy whose heart is torn up and stopped on and covered in rotting petals, and then, he lets the joy seep into him. He thinks he can understand why Adam puts himself through the soreness and the work and everything else, because his limbs feel full of energy, the tips of his toes buzzing as the music drives him to match Adam, and then, this time, he catches Adam and Adam is all but flying as Ronan spins, until they’re nose to nose. Adam is smiling, and then so is Ronan. The cameras shutter again.

The company enters, and Ronan has no idea what happens at the end of it.

When it’s all over, all of the interviews and talking to producers and compliments, Ronan finds Adam. He’s in the side studio, laying flat on his stomach on the floor. He hasn’t even taken off his quasi-costume yet. The other dancers are hovering, one trying to find something in Adam’s dance bag. They all back away once they see Ronan.

“Parrish?” Ronan asks, and Adam seems to melt into the floor in resignation. “You fucked up your back.”

“Not fucked up. Just… overexerted,” Adam says, winces as Ronan sits next to Adam’s torso on the hardwood. “Just taking a minute to get my shit together.”

“Can you even sit up?” Ronan says, realizes a beat too late that it’s a challenge, and then Adam is upright, breath hitching. “Fuck, that’s not what I meant.”

“I gotta get to the appointment,” Adam mumbles, but he doesn’t protest when Ronan helps him back down, other dancers’ hands assisting. “What’re you doing?”

“Someone give me the bag. I can see where it’s inflamed and I can K-tape it well enough to get you to the fucking doctor,” Ronan says, and Adam grunts out a direction. He’s just finished taping Adam’s back when he realizes the dancers have left, replaced by Gansey and Blue and Henry and Noah and Liz.

“What’s going on?” Gansey asks. “Elaine just said that Adam hurt his back.” He sounds panicked.

“It’s just a strain,” Adam says, “I’m sure of it. I just need to get it checked out by the ballet to get out of class.”

“Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt,” Ronan just says. “It’s easily aggravated because of an old injury.”

“Old injury?” Blue asks, sitting next to Ronan. “Adam, what’s going on?”

“When I was a kid, I dislocated one of my lower vertebrae,” Adam admits, looking at his hands.

“That’s not something you can do to yourself,” Liz says immediately. Adam looks like he wants to run.

“It wasn’t his fault. A dance teacher stretched his back farther than it could go, then made him keep dancing the next two weeks,” Ronan summarizes, and Adam just goes limp on the floor.

“Oh,” Liz says, and Adam pulls himself up to a sitting position, hunching over so his head is almost between his knees.

“I’m sorry,” Adam says, pulling off his dance shoes, wincing at the way the motion stretches his back. “This should be gone in a few days.” His head still hangs low on his neck, as if he’s too tired and it hurts too much to do anything else. It’s a flashback for Ronan, when Adam would sit just like that before a long night of rehearsal, when he’s hurting and tired from whatever was happening in the trailer.

“We can have someone mark your parts the first two days of tech,” Gansey says immediately. “And we don’t have anything at all the next two days, anyway. And if it’s not enough time, we’ll shift things around.”

“Shut up, Gansey,” Ronan says. “Let him fucking breathe.” He knows that Gansey is trying to relieve the professional responsibility on Adam, but there’s been too many times when people have only cared about the business and not Adam.

“You don’t have to,” Adam says, voice trying hard to be calm. In reality, he’s hurting. He doesn’t know if he can make it the short walk to the ballet office; all he wants is an ice pack and advil and to not have to move for the next two days. But that’s not what’s going to happen: he’s going to have to stretch his back, and stretch it well and carefully.

Ronan is hovering, a hand ghosting across Adam’s shoulders, ready to step in if Adam collapses back to the floor.

“Your health always comes first,” Noah says. “Always.”

“Can you stand?” Ronan’s voice is impossibly gentle. “I can go with you, if you need me.”

Adam tries to stand on his own, but Ronan ends up taking most of his weight. “I can’t be seen leaving like this, not with all the press here.”

“The press are in love with you,” Henry says. “You have to see some of the shots they took. Fucking incredible.”

“There’s a back elevator. Ronan, can you bring him to the apartment after? We do have to do notes, and I’d like to hear what the doctor had to say,” Gansey says, and Ronan just nods.

“We have some good ass heat pads,” Ronan promises under his breath.

He gets Adam down the elevator, gets him the three blocks to the ballet rehearsal space, and he sits with Adam as the doctor prods at his back and says that, yes, it’s strained, and that he’s out of class for the next four days, advised not to dance but is given stretches and instructions to schedule a massage with the trainer two days from now and given back to Ronan, some painkillers and a heat patch on his newly-taped back.

Adam is quiet, nervous, almost, the entire ride back to Gansey and Ronan’s apartment. It’s enough to make Ronan pause outside.

“You know, you were amazing.” Ronan pauses, trying to find the right words as kicks at the concrete. “When you dance, there’s something that’s there that I never had.”

“Lynch, don’t—” Adam doesn’t want false comfort. He never has.

“I’m not just saying shit. I just think, I see you when you dance. You’re happy.” Ronan’s voice is gruff, honest. “That’s why this shit drives me mad. You love it. But you don’t care if you run yourself into the ground.”

“That’s not true,” Adam says. “But I don’t regret performing today. It was too important not to.”

There’s a moment of silence. Adam feels the breeze on his face, and he thinks about what it was like to sit on the floor of the dance studio at the end of a long day. His muscles would be tired, already begging him not to bike home. It was quiet, all the classes over and no one else there but Adam. He used to think it was the only time he could actually breathe easily.

“I never could watch you hurt.” Ronan’s thumb brushes Adam’s cheek. “Not then, not now.”

“I think you were the only one.” Adam’s voice is quiet, honest and threadbare. He feels like a mess of exposed wires and gears that don’t fit quite right. He’s tried to redo the machinations of himself, to put together everything that was broken inside of him, and there are parts that have refused wrong, metal pieces that don’t seem to belong anywhere anymore.

Sometimes trying to fix things only makes them hurt more.

“I’m not the only one.” It’s said like a vow. Ronan grabs Adam’s hand, squeezes it tightly. “Adam Parrish, army of one just got an entire company of new recruits.”

Adam chuckles, leans into Ronan just a little bit more. “Ronan Lynch is an entire army by himself.”

“Come on, shithead. We have a long way to go before opening.”

They head inside, together.

Chapter Text

“Hey, everyone, welcome to Episode Two of the vlog!” Rose says, giving the camera a small smile. “We’re going to be doing more of talking to the cast today before the show. But first things first, let’s go see what Ronan is doing at half hour call.” Rose just gives the camera an evil smile, brushing her dark hair over her shoulder. She quietly grabs the camera, goes across the hall and knocks on Ronan’s door, entering immediately.

Ronan is doing his makeup and warming up, Adam laying on his couch eating peanut butter out of the jar.

“—and shouldn’t you be stretching or some shit?” Ronan says, sounding annoyed. Adam just shrugs, continues eating peanut butter.

“Hi, Rose,” Adam greets warmly, and Ronan just rolls his eyes. Adam moves to give her space on the couch, sinking to the floor before he stretches out into an oversplit with one ankle on the couch. “There. Now I’m stretching.”

“I can’t believe you’re eating peanut butter. I swear to god I eat like a slice of cucumber and then I’m burping. And it’s not like you don’t have to sing,” Rose says, and Ronan grunts his agreement.

“They just turn my mike off if I’m off pitch or sound bad,” Adam says, mouth sticky with peanut butter. “And it only takes me like ten minutes to get ready. You know I already stretched.”

“They had dance rehearsal before call today, which is why Ronan is extra cranky,” Rose explains to the camera, before she turns it on the short-haired actor. “So, Ronan, I didn’t catch you last episode. You know what that means?” She has a tradition, a tradition that the vlog viewers love. There had been uproar when the first episode hadn’t contained much Ronan at all.

“I’m not playing this game, Rose,” Ronan says. “Don’t you have to do shit at half hour, too?”

“Now you’re just being rude. You know you love it,” Rose says, pans to an increasingly confused Adam. “It’s time for Dance Definitions!”

Adam lets out a low chuckle. “Oh I can’t wait to see this.”

“You’re not allowed to help him,” Rose says, and Adam holds up his hands in surrender. Rose quizzes Ronan on dance terms, and Adam laughs whenever Ronan doesn’t quite remember one. When she’s done, she turns to Adam. “I’ll see you at ten minutes. Elaine has a new challenge for you two.” And then she leaves, both to get ready for the show and to harass the rest of the company.

“I actually do have to go get ready and stretch a little more. Tad wants to practice a lift, too,” Adam admits, standing up. Ronan lets out a whine. “I’m going to see you in like fifteen minutes. Chill.” Ronan just flips him off.

Adam sighs, leaves the room. Ronan may complain about Adam using the couch in his dressing room like a second bed, but it’s part of his routine, now, keeps him calm and grounded before a show. They’re in the second week of previews, opening in a little over a week and a half, and it’s a busy one. They have their 54 Below show on Tuesday, and Ronan needs to pick a song. He and Adam are doing One Hand in my Pocket, because Ronan refuses to let Adam’s voice slide under the radar, clean and low and sexy as it is, but Gansey had decided to let Ronan choose his second one.

He has no idea what to do. That’s a lie. He knows what he wants to do, but he’s scared; Demi Lovato just released a track that he knows he can do super well but, well, it would be a lot for him. And Gansey. He doesn’t know if he can bare his soul like that, not in front of Adam, can confess the truth that the public knows but Adam doesn’t. It would be good, so good, but he doesn’t know if he’s brave enough to do it. He doesn’t know if he can bring Gansey back to that place, either, to the moment he dropped back to seventeen, drunk and high and racing down the streets of Henrietta without caring what happened to him.

He doesn’t know if he can look Gansey in the face and say he’s not sober anymore.

He couldn’t when he wasn’t sober.

Gansey is the only person who’s never given up on Ronan. He’s the one who wiped Ronan’s mouth when he was throwing up pure alcohol into the toilet bowl, too drunk to move; he’s the one who got him sober, twice. He’s the one who stayed with Ronan through shakes and cold sweats and Ronan sobbing on the bathroom floor.

He thinks he owes it to Gansey to tell this story, to tell him that he’s sorry for every single thing he’s put him throw. He thinks he owes Adam this story, to tell the boy who sees him with rose-tinted glasses that he’s no better than his shitbag of a father. He thinks he owes it to Blue and Henry and Noah and his brothers and his parents.

He emails the coordinator for the show, begs her not to tell Gansey the song choice.

:: ::

“And now, another staple of this vlog: the weirdest virility contest you’ll ever watch,” Rose announces. It’s ten minute call, and both Ronan and Adam are in full costume, fully stretched, and are ready to go. They do this before most shows, a dumb contest to lighten the responsibility both of them carry. “Today, the challenge is… turning. Who can do more fouettes?”

“You’re screwed,” Elaine delightfully tells Ronan. “Unless we make Adam turn the other way.”

“I can turn left,” Adam defends himself, but he wrinkles his nose at the thought. “But then Ronan has to go first.”

Ronan does, the company clapping out beats as he turns.

“Lower your shoulders, your arms should be at the same height, fucking turn out,” Adam is heckling, and sure enough, Ronan falls out of the turn by the eighth.

He takes a bow, steps to the side. Adam cracks his knuckles, steps to the center of the stage. He starts turning the opposite direction he normally turns, but his form is still perfect, and no matter what Ronan is saying Adam is on beat, turning ten, fifteen, twenty, before jumping out of the turn at twenty-five, rolling effortlessly back to standing.

“That’s bullshit,” Ronan scoffs, and Adam sticks his tongue out in retribution.

“For those of you keeping score at home, we now have Adam: 15, Ronan: 1. Better luck next time, sweaty,” Elaine announces, and Adam takes another bow.

“I would like the world to know that this is always rigged,” Ronan says dramatically, but this ends the way it always does. He and Adam hug before every show, a long thing that helps Adam be in his own body and helps Ronan push himself out his mind to make room for his character.

“I gotta go do a show now, see you at intermission!” Rose says to the camera, and then she’s offstage and Adam is warming up for real.

:: ::

Adam and Ronan are in a shitty dive of a diner after the show that night. It had been a good one, and Gansey’s feedback is getting less and less severe; Ronan thinks they’re freezing the show by the end of the week.

“You should stagedoor. People ask about you,” Ronan comments, eating a fry from Adam’s plate. He never eats his french fries, no matter how hungry he is. “These dumb vlog viewers apparently fucking adore you.”

“I think they enjoy it when Rose films my ass when I’m stretching,” Adam says dryly. “I’m not a featured role. It’s not right.”

“You’re not a featured speaking role, but you’re a featured role. You should try it,” Ronan says. “The people are weirdly nice.”

“Even to you? That seems odd,” Adam shoots back, his smile bright even in the dim light of the diner. “You don’t exactly give off a ‘please please please talk to me’ vibe.”

“Fuck you. I’m not a dick to fans. They’re all young,” Ronan scoffs. “Only to asshole parents or middle-aged women who think they’re entitled to my personal information.”

“Interesting. Maybe I’ll have to see this,” Adam muses. “I like to leave pretty quickly after, though, to sleep.”

“Will you quit taking morning class?” Ronan asks. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, you’re going to have arthritis by the time you’re forty.”

“No I’m not. That’s why I go to class,” Adam says. “You ready for the 54 Below show?”

“It’s in three days, Adam, chill,” Ronan says, but he shrugs. “I chose a song. Before you ask, it’s a surprise.”

“Rude. I wanna know,” Adam says, head resting on his hands.

“You’ll see,” is all Ronan says, playing with his fork. “You ready for dance rehearsal tomorrow?”

“You’re changing the subject,” Adam says, eyes narrowing, but at the look on Ronan’s face he lets it slide. “Yeah. It’s mostly for lighting purposes, right?”

“Yeah, but they’re completely redoing the way they light both ends of the acts. You’re gonna have to run a lot of it a bunch of times,” Ronan says.

No, Adam cannot let this slide.

“You know you can talk to me, right?” Adam says, voice small. “If something is wrong.”

“Nothing is wrong,” Ronan says, too quickly, too defensively. He watches Adam recoil. “It was, but it’s not anymore.”

“Lynch—” Adam starts, voice raw, reaches out across the table only to withdraw his hand. “I know I wasn’t there for you, when it all happened. And I’m sorry.” Ronan knows how hard that was for Adam to say, but he can’t tell Adam.

Being with Adam again has felt like a baptism. Adam’s smile feels as clean and as warm as holy water washing across Ronan’s own face, and he doesn’t want to taint it, not again. He wants to keep this joyful and young and late nights in greasy diners, because Adam has worked so hard to leave it all behind them. If Adam knows what Ronan’s actually like, if he knows about the chip he keeps buried deep in his wallet and the meetings he goes to every Wednesday afternoon, Ronan thinks that Adam will hate him for it. As a child, Ronan had seen what a drunk Robert Parrish had done to Adam, had seen what Piper yelling wine-scented abuse had done to Adam, and he hates them for what they did to Adam. He’s no better than them, not really. He’s broken bottles and punched walls and hurt people, had almost sent his own brother to the hospital. He’s caused so much hurt and so much suffering to the people who love him. Adam had given so much love to everyone, had given it to a shitbag of a father and an abuser of a dance teacher and Ronan can’t hurt Adam like that.

He wants to clutch onto this before he has to let it go.

So he smiles at the magical boy across from him and can’t help but think that Adam Parrish will always be his favorite sin.

:: ::

“Today we had dance rehearsal. Well, I didn’t, but you know what I mean,” Rose whispers, and this time Ronan is smiling as he watches her film. “But that means we get to play our favorite game: where is Adam Parrish taking a nap this time?”

She turns the camera to Ronan.

“Some of the most ridiculous places have included: on the stairs sitting fully upright, on a table in the hairdressers area, and underneath a costume rack. Let’s see where he is today,” Ronan whispers. He knows damn well that Adam Parrish fell asleep while stretching, still in a split on the floor by the ballet barre.

Rose pans the camera to Adam, and Ronan crouches down right next to him.

“A sleeping Parrish is a docile creature. It will only attack if provoked, and is very responsive to back rubs and hands in its hair,” he says in his best David Attenborough, before he picks up a hand and drops it back to the floor. “He’s impossible to wake up.”

Adam just groans, but doesn’t open his eyes.

“We’ll let Ronan wake him up,” she says, turning to leaving. “If you’re bored and in New York, come check our incredible company out at 54 Below tonight! I’m the only person who knows what Ronan’s singing, and you’re not going to want to miss it.”

:: ::

Ronan is so nervous. He and Adam just sang together, and the crowd was putty in Adam’s hand from the second he opened those pretty lips and that voice came out of them. He could see Blue and Gansey holding hands in the back, cackling and mouthing along, but he had barely glanced at them. He was too focused on Adam, who was tense but relaxed, smiling but nervous, but it been good to sing with him, to see Adam on Ronan’s turf instead of the other way around.

Now Adam is in the back by Gansey and the rest of his friends. Declan and Matthew are there, because they’re going to see the show tomorrow and hang out the next week before going to opening night. He doesn’t want to hurt Matty, but he knows now that if he doesn’t go through with this he’s going to burst. Rose is holding his hand, because honestly he does not deserve her. She was there, unfortunately, working a show with Ronan when Kavinsky reappeared and everything Ronan had built since high school had fallen to shit. It’s why she’s singing backup when she really has no reason to, because she listened to the song once and just hugged Ronan really tight.

She doesn’t know that Adam doesn’t know.

Ronan steps up to the microphone when he’s prompted. He doesn’t want to say anything, doesn’t think he can around the lump in his throat, but he needs to say something.

“I don’t really have the voice for this, but fuck it. Time to sing Demi’s new one,” he says, looks out into the audience and locks eyes with Adam. Adam looks worried at something, his face confused when the piano starts. “I got no excuses,” he starts, voice rough and low.

He’s staring out at Gansey, who doesn’t quite get it at first. His face is creased a little, and Ronan can’t bear to look at Gansey when he sings about cold sweats and how doesn’t know why he’s like this, so he decides to hurt himself. He looks at Adam. Adam looks like he was just punched. He’s frozen, staring at Ronan with wide eyes that are so unreadable that Ronan can’t look at them anymore.

He does look at Gansey when it gets to the next verse, about the people who’ve stuck with him. Gansey is crying, Blue clutching his hand tightly and nodding when Ronan looks at her. He lets his voice build in tension and strength and gets through the next verse and chorus, riffing in the last one because he has nothing left to give. He feels raw, bare, stomach scraped empty from the inside, and when his voice cracks at the very end, he can’t bring himself to care. Nothing feels real; he knows he’s lost Adam. His shoulders feel heavy and light at the same time, because there are tears at the corners of his eyes and he doesn’t even hear the applause as he staggers off the stage and goes to the green room and out into the alley.

God, he wants to get drunk.

Instead, he pulls out his wallet, clutches that chip that says he’s made it two years since the last time he fucked up and holds it so tightly it hurts. He can’t face Gansey, can’t face his family, can’t face Parrish if he fucks it up again. He takes a breath and it’s enough.

“Hey.” Ronan doesn’t turn around, because he would know that voice anywhere. It’s Adam. “Ronan.”

“Go away,” Ronan croaks, whips around when Adam tries to put a hand on his shoulder. Adam scurries backwards, and Ronan feels self-hatred erode at already bleeding stomach lining.

“No.” Adam’s voice is firm. “You don’t get to do this.”

“Do what?” Ronan spits, and he hates how his eyes are red and knows that he can’t keep from crying much longer. He’s an exposed wire right now, and Adam has always been electricity.

“Push me away. Decide that I hate you,” Adam says, trying to push down the anger in the voice. “What the fuck have I ever done that would make you think you couldn’t tell me about this?”

“I’m not a good person, Adam,” Ronan decides to reply, his voice shaking more than his hands. Adam steps closer, and Ronan steps back.

“You don’t get to tell me that.” Adam’s voice is dangerous. “And fuck you for thinking I’d hate you because you’ve struggled with addiction. Addiction isn’t what made them abusers. It’s not what made me scared of them.”

“You don’t know that,” Ronan yells, and he can see the fear flash across Adam’s face, even as he tries to smother it. “See? You’re scared of me.”

“I’m not scared of you,” Adam says, anger deep in his voice as he steps close to Ronan. “You’re not them. You’re not him.”

“You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve done.” Ronan hates how his voice cracks, hates how the tears are spilling out now. “You weren’t there.”

“Fuck you.” Adam’s voice is low, hoarse. “I tried. I tried reaching out to you, but you didn’t respond. I tried, and I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I’m sorry that I ran at the first chance I had, but you have no fucking idea what it was like.”

“Yeah, I do. Your scars are across your entire fucking body, anyone can see them.” It’s a low blow, but every part of Ronan is screaming to push Adam away, that if he doesn’t he’s just going to hurt him so much more in the long run.

“Even when you’re trying, you’re not them. I know you Ronan. I don’t know why you keep pushing me away,” Adam says, because he can always see through Ronan. “You would never hurt me. I know that.”

“Did you know I slashed my wrists when I was seventeen? I nearly drank myself to death then decided to finish it off,” Ronan says, more like sneers. “Did you know that I’ve hurt so many people? That I’ve punched and kicked and thrown things and hurt people. Stop telling me I’m better than them. I’m no different at all.”

“Why do you think I’m going to run away?” Adam’s voice is quiet. “Why do you think if you tell me all these things that it’ll make me hate you? You don’t get to decide that you’re one of them. I get to decide who has hurt me and I get to decide who I hate.”

“You should hate me,” Ronan says. Adam tries to put his arms around Ronan, but Ronan flinches away.

“I’m not a victim, Ronan. I’m not whatever fucked up image of hurt you’ve got in your head,” Adam says. “We’ve all got shit. You’re not special for hurting.”

“Fuck you, Adam. You have no idea what I’ve done.” Ronan swipes angrily at the tears, ignoring how much it hurts to be crying and yelling like this.

“You don’t tell me! I have no idea why you don’t trust me, or why you think I’m still the eight-year-old crying on the floor. I have been trying, Ronan, I have been trying so goddamn hard to be there, but you just keep pushing me away. You pull me in, but then keep me at a distance, and I’m sick of it. I don’t hate you for what you’re struggling with, I don’t hate you for your anger. I don’t fucking hate you. But you hate me, and I don’t know why.” Now Adam’s crying, too. “I’m not perfect. I’m not any better than you.”

“Adam—” Ronan starts, but Adam is stalking away.

“No. You were the only person who never hurt me.” And then Adam is gone.

Ronan sinks down against the wall. He’s still got the chip in his hand.

He doesn’t know how long he sits there, but it can’t be long, because the door opens with a bang and then someone is calling his name. Ronan doesn’t pick his head out of his hands.

“Fuck off, Gansey,” Ronan guesses, but the body sliding down to sit next to him is too small to be Gansey.

“I’m kind of offended you thought I was Gansey.” It’s Blue, Ronan knows it, and she just grabs Ronan’s hand and squeezes it tightly. “That was brave, what you did. Gansey was crying the entire time.”

“No, it wasn’t. I was too chickenshit to tell Adam a normal person way,” Ronan says, and Blue just lets out a breath of air. “Why did he send you to find me, Maggot?”

“He didn’t. I came out here by myself,” she says, resting both of their hands on her own knee. “I still think it was brave. What happened after?”

“We fought.” That’s all Ronan says, and he can’t see Blue’s face because he’s crying too hard to see anything at all. “He was just… he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s getting into.”

“And you think you can judge that?” Blue asks. “You can’t decide for Adam what’s good for him and what’s not.”

“Blue, you don’t know what fucking hell he’s been through. I’m no better for him than the Greenmantles were, or his father,” Ronan says, and Blue doesn’t say anything at all for a few seconds. “I’m not going to fuck him up like they tried to. He deserves… he got away from all of that shit.”

“Why did you just compare yourself to his abusers?” Blue asks, voice dangerous. “You’ve fucked a lot of shit up, Lynch, but I know you know you’re not like them. Please don’t goddamn tell me you told him that.”

“I almost put Declan in a fucking hospital, Blue, how is that any better than them?” Ronan says. “I’ve hurt so many people.”

“You’ve really fucked this one up,” is what Blue chooses to say, as she lays her head on Ronan’s shoulder. “You’re scared of hurting Adam. But I think you hurt him more by keeping him away.”

“Did you know he wrote me, when my parents died? He wrote me huge letters, sent them from California and everything. I didn’t even know, I didn’t know that his dad had deafened him, that he had left. I thought he would have fucking told me.” Ronan takes a breath, trying not to choke on his own tears, but that just makes them come down faster. “It was always me and him, and then he doesn’t tell me anything and moves across the country and I fucking missed him and he wasn’t there. After everything with Mom and Dad I just… he was my one fucking friend.”

“Hey,” Blue says, wraps her arms around Ronan and pulls him in tight. “You can’t blame him for leaving. Just like you can’t keep destroying yourself over things that are in the past. You’ve been sober two years, and Adam deserves to know that. He deserves to know that he hurt you and you need to know how you hurt him.”

Ronan is sobbing now, and he just clings to Blue and buries his head in her shirt.

He thinks he’s finally lost Adam for good.

:: ::

Adam can barely stand to look at Ronan, much less get through intimate and happy pas de deux. It’s like everything is dying beneath his fingertips, like it’s tainted and crumbling to ash just because Adam touched it. He schedules extra time at the studio, works himself to near exhaustion so that maybe he can just fucking sleep instead of think and think and think about everything he’s ever fucked up in his life.

Laura is fucking pissed at him. He had been mostly dissociated during their last session, two days after his fight with Ronan, and when he wasn’t she was harping about self care and backsliding and processing emotions instead of burying them deep until he feels nothing at all. She’s talking about making him go back to sessions twice a week, and she prescribes him sleeping pills that leave a chalky taste in his mouth but don’t do anything to help him actually fall asleep.

His roommates are worried. They know he can get like this, but it’s never been something they’ve talked about. He accepts their attempts to prod him into being a functioning human, when they remind him to eat when it looks like he hasn’t all day. They’ve talked, in between rehearsals when Adam is at what they’ve affectionately named his ‘night job’, and they don’t know if they should tell someone: Ronan hasn’t been around once, and they think it might have something to do with this.

Adam muddles through. He feels so fucking tired all of the time, and he’s seeing his father in places he shouldn’t be. It’s in the streets of New York, on his way to the theater, in line at a coffee shop, when he closes his eyes. Adam’s heart will jump in his chest and he won’t remember the rest of it until he can hear his own breathing in his ears and his heart is trying to exit his ribcage. He brushes off Gansey’s worried looks, brushes off the company’s concern. It’s no different then Henrietta.

Adam thinks he’s always meant to the on the fringe, never meant to belong to anything. He was born a stray that people might feed, might care for, but never love. He thought he had finally found a home in the ballet, but he was cast aside this season. Out of respect, they had said, because otherwise he would have just been another temporary demotion. He thought he had made a family with this Broadway company, but he should have known that if it came down to Ronan or him, it wasn’t even a contest. This is Ronan’s home; the people he works with love him and will protect him and the work.

Adam thinks he was born unloveable.

:: ::

“Ronan, we gotta talk,” Gansey says, three days after The Fight. Ronan has just walked into the apartment, had tried to blow past Gansey into his room. “You know we have to.”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Ronan tries, but Gansey isn’t moving.

“Let’s sit down,” Gansey says, and Ronan hates himself for following Ronan into the kitchen. “I don’t understand how you could perform so bravely and then turn around and act like a coward.” It’s the harshest thing Gansey has ever said.

“Oh, fuck you, I don’t need this from you, too,” Ronan says, stands up, but the look Gansey gives him is lethal. Ronan sits again.

“I know you’re intent on doing anything but see Adam, but he… he looks rough,” Gansey starts, his voice hesitant.

“You’re not going to guilt-trip me,” Ronan says. “I can’t control how Parrish feels.”

“No, but he’s not the only one hurting,” Gansey says. “Both of you are miserable.”

“Yeah,” is the only thing Ronan says in return. “Look, are we done here? I’m tired and I don’t want to rehash how I fucked up Adam Parrish’s life again.”

“No, we’re not done. This is ridiculous. You two need to work this shit out before the press starts attending performances on Monday,” Gansey says. “You need to work this shit out because you are both unhappy and I am worried about you both.”

“Worry about Parrish. He needs it,” Ronan says dully, and Gansey is so tempted to tell Ronan what he knows, to make Ronan see that he’s hurting Adam more and more by running away than any of the fears he had if he’d stayed.

“Why you don’t just fucking talk to him I will never understand,” Gansey tries again. “Actually, you don’t need to talk. You’ve told him your truth; you just never listened to his.”

“I know his, Gansey. That’s why I can’t fucking do this. I’m just gonna hurt him.”

“You’re too late. I know you like to think that he’s fine, that he’s happy, that he’s left everything bad in his past, but you of all people should know that’s not how any of this works. The bad things that happen never fully leave,” Gansey says. He feels like he’s telling Adam’s secrets, even though he hasn’t said anything specific at all. “You’ve let him in. But you won’t let him do the same for you.”

Then Gansey gets up and leaves.

Ronan knows he’s hurting Adam. He hears Elaine and Tad whispering that Adam’s been working himself to death the last week, that he’s barely eating and he’s not sleeping. They found him actually slumped over the ballet barre, passed out, yesterday. He doesn’t want to think about it, because he doesn’t know what he can do to fix any of this. He misses having Adam on his couch before the show, misses being able to dance with Adam and not have to act his way through it.

It’s opening this week. He should be happy. They both should be.

Ronan hates that he’s considering listening to Gansey.

:: ::

“Okay, so here it is.” It’s Monday, the first night reviewers are in the audience. Adam is in Ronan’s dressing room, his face set. He’s got circles under his eyes so dark that they look like bruises, his hands are shaking, and he looks like he’s going to keel over at any minute, but there is steel in his eyes. “You think you know me, know what hurts me. It’s not my Dad or Piper or anyone’s drinking, so fuck you.” Adam takes a breath. Ronan knows better than to speak, not with the fire coming out of Adam’s mouth, coating his words and burning Adam’s throat at the same time. “I know what fucking hurts me, because I spend an hour a week paying someone to force me to talk about it. What hurts me is when I see someone that looks like him, or when I’m in a crowded space and I can’t hear half of what’s happening. What hurts me is when people act like they did, when they try to hurt me just because they can.”

“Adam, you don’t need to—” Ronan says, his voice cracking. He needs to get his shit together before the show.

“Yeah, I guess I do. You get to dump all of your shit on me and pretend that I’ll hate you just so you don’t have to face what I actually think, so I get to do it, too. I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and , and sometimes I can’t fucking sleep, and sometimes I’m not even in my body at all. So I’m not whatever fucking perfect image you’ve made since we were kids,” Adam says, breathing hard. “And I’m fucking tired because I keep seeing him and I know he’s not here but there are so many goddamn people in this city that it’s hard not to find people who look like him. And I’m pissed at you. I’m pissed at you because I thought that for once, I had something that wasn’t broken by him.”

There are tears at the corners of Adam’s eyes.

“I used to think that everything he touched was changed, that he made me unlovable. Now I know that it wasn’t him. I’m just not meant for it,” Adam says, and then Ronan gasps. Before Adam can process what the fuck he just told Ronan Lynch, Ronan’s arms are around Adam, pulling him close, Ronan resting his chin on Adam’s head.

“Listen to me,” Ronan says, voice barely a hoarse whisper. “You’re not fucking unloveable.” Adam gasps, and then the tears are falling faster. “If I’m not unloveable, after all the shit I’ve done, neither are you. You fucking hear me?”

“I hear you,” Adam manages to get out. Ronan doesn’t let go; one hand is in Adam’s hair, cradling Adam’s head to his shoulder, and Ronan just rocks the both of them. “I don’t hate you, Ronan. And I’m so fucking sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me to be.”

“I’m sorry, too,” Ronan gets out. “You’re a goddamn miracle, Adam Parrish.”

“You’re not so bad yourself, Lynch,” Adam says, looks up at the boy he’s loved since he was eight years old. He’s thought about it a lot, and he knows it’s true.

“I’m not kissing you when you’re crying, shithead,” Ronan jokes, even as he leans in towards Adam. Adam thinks about sunsets in California. He would sit right where the rocks meet the sea, salt sticking to his face and tangling in his hair. He’d let the waves wash up onto his feet, up through his jeans until he’s drenched. Salt water washing away salt sweat, a renewal with every wave lapping up on his feet.

That’s this kiss, as fresh and short as a wave washing up Adam’s being.

“Hi,” Adam says, his forehead resting against Ronan’s shoulder. He’s suddenly exhausted, days of little sleep all seeping into his body quicker than the sea water ever did.

“You should take a nap. You already stretch?” Ronan says, and he feels Adam nod from where he’s going rapidly limp. Ronan places a hand on his back, and frowns. “Oh, fuck no. Your back is all knots.”

“S’ not bad,” Adam says, but Ronan just sighs.

“You’re a fucking mess, Parrish.” His voice is soft, and he just lays Adam down on the floor, grabs the lotion Blue had gifted him a few days before. Adam is asleep almost instantly, doesn’t wake up as Ronan starts working out the knots.

Rose creeps into the room, camera in hand but not up.

“Oh thank fuck you worked it out,” is all she says, turns on the camera. “Today on: where the hell is Adam Parrish sleeping today? Apparently through a massage.”

“Shush, or he’s gonna wake up,” Ronan says, glaring at the camera. “I will murder you if you wake him up.”

“Adam never wakes up to anything quieter than an explosion. Okay, but why are you giving him a massage? If he’s asleep?” Rose says, sitting on the floor by Ronan.

“You see, Adam here attends two rounds of ballet class a day if he can, and every night he dances for like twenty minutes straight at the end of Act One, not to mention his other numbers. Sometimes, he even understudies roles for the City Ballet. He’s sore more of his life than he’s not,” Ronan explains, even as he moves away from Adam’s back.

“And since when are you a professional back massager?” Rose asks, plopping on Adam’s couch.

“I am also a dancer. It comes with the job,” Ronan answers easily. Rose laughs, turns the camera on herself.

“He calls himself a dancer,” Rose says, “but he doesn’t hold a candle to Parrish. But, I do have to say, you have to see their pas de deux at the end of the show. I stand in the wings and am breathless every time.”

Ronan goes bright red.

That’s when Rose knows they didn’t just metaphorically kiss and make up.

:: ::

That night, right when Ronan catches Adam after he spins at him, going into a ponche, Ronan kisses him briefly. Liz might kill him for it, but it makes Adam’s smile ten degrees warmer.

He hopes to God someone isn’t bootlegging this show.

:: ::

Declan enters Ronan’s dressing room, completely unsurprised to see Adam Parrish eating veggie straws in a mostly horizontal position while Ronan throws bobby pins at Adam’s mouth. It’s opening night, and Declan and Matthew are dressed in their best. In stark contrast, Ronan is wearing his character’s pants and his own threadbare t-shirt, and Parrish is wearing nothing but joggers.

“Good to see professionalism is alive and well,” Declan says dryly, as Adam bolts upright. “At ease, Parrish. It’s good to see you. You were wonderful in Swan Lake last season.”

“Thanks,” Adam mumbles, stands to leave. “I should go stretch and get ready.”

“You scared him off, asshat,” Ronan says, as he powers up his steam machine. “Hey, Matty.”

“Hi,” Matthew says, hugging Ronan before plopping himself down on his brother’s couch. “I’m excited to see what’s changed since we last saw it, and who’s there, and the party, and the reviews.”

“Times loves it. I saw an early edition,” Declan says, fixing his cuffs. “I think this one is going to be around for a while. Congrats.”

“I love when you spoil reviews for me,” Ronan says, but there’s no bite behind the words. Everything has seemed easier since he and Adam made up. Blue had just smiled evilly when he got back to his dressing room after the show, muttering about resolved sexual tension and how Liz says that’s not going to stay part of the choreography. “I’m glad you could make it.”

“Parrish invite anyone?” Declan asks, and Ronan knows what he’s actually asking.

“Some of his ballet friends. He would rather cut his own dick off than talk to Greenmantle, Jesus,” he responds, starting to wipe foundation on his face. “We’re dating.” Ronan doesn’t even turn around.

“No shit,” Declan says, and it’s said with appreciation, a small smile on his face. “Guess I lost a bet with Dad. He thought you’d sort your shit out by twenty, but I thought seventeen. It’s my fault for having faith in your emotional capacity.”

“That’s why no one fucking likes you.” Ronan’s more focused on inhaling steam now than arguing with Declan.

“We should find our seats,” Matthew says, but he gets up and squeezes Ronan’s shoulder. “You’re always happy with him. He’s already family, anyway.” The sentiment is so honestly Matthew that Ronan can’t hide his smile.

“You’re next to Gansey and Blue, so one of you is gonna be caught in his death grip and I don’t know who it’s going to be,” Ronan warns. “Go play politician, and say hello to Ashley for me. I have to get ready for the show.”

“Tell Parrish to join us for brunch tomorrow,” Declan says. “Ashley wishes you the best. She’ll be there tomorrow as well.”

“We’ll see you after. I’m excited to see you dance again,” Matthew says, and Ronan manages a smile. He goes through his normal routine, heads down to ten minute call. Adam is already there, ass and leg in the air as he practices a standing ponche.

“I never did tell you how good your ass looks in ballet tights,” Ronan says, and Adam falls over. The company cackles.

“Opening night virility contest: balance,” Elaine suggests, and Ronan cackles. “Who can hold a standing ponche better?”

“I’m about to win,” he says, and he’s right. Ponches were never Adam’s thing, even when they were kids, but they were Ronan’s favorite trick.

“Go turn thirty times and assert your masculinity again,” Ronan says when it’s over, his arms wrapped loosely around Adam like they always are before a show. This time, though, even though Rose is filming and even though the entire company is there, Ronan kisses Adam gently.

“Have a great show,” Adam whispers, and Ronan just squeezes both of Adam’s ass cheeks before letting go. Adam does practice his turns a little, but he only gets a few in before he goes back to Ronan, stands with the company while they wait for Gansey’s final words before they open this brilliant piece. Gansey comes behind the stage. He talks, speaks with conviction and gratitude and emotion about his excitement to be opening this, wishes them all brilliant shows, and then he’s gone.

The first act goes by quickly. Ronan’s entrance applause briefly stops the show, and he’s truly grateful for the response. For unknown reasons, both the critics and the fans have decided they were wrong about this role and Ronan, and now he’s the talk of the season.

Ronan always stands with Adam in the few seconds between his exit and Adam’s entrance, when Adam is taking a deep breath. On good days, Adam will smile, shake out his arms and shoulders to loosen himself up, and Ronan will see Adam’s joy before he’s even on the stage. On days when Adam’s tired, he’ll crack his back and steel himself. When the critics came, Ronan would squeeze Adam’s hands as hard as he could to stop them from shaking. Today, Adam can’t stop smiling but his hands won’t sit still. Ronan squeezes them, feels them still within his own, and then he gives Adam a sweaty hug. He watches Adam’s elegant entrance, has to keep from crying his makeup off as he watches Adam fucking nail it, as he watches the audience’s faces go slack and the way they gasp at the flower petals as the other boys join. When it’s Adam’s moment in the group, Ronan sees awe in himself and the audience, and it’s like he’s not even acting when he joins in.

They’re all happy, and there’s no forcing any of the energy, any of the joy.

When it’s over, and the curtain falls, they’re all hugging and rolling in the petals as the applause continues and continues and continues from beyond the curtain. Adam’s legs are around his waist and Ronan is spinning, then they’re on the ground, covered in petals. Rose has a camera on them, but they don’t even see it, laying on the floor with Ronan’s hand in his.

Adam thinks this is the happiest he’s ever felt.

:: ::

Ronan is both exhausted and filled with adrenaline by the time Adam’s hand is in his own before their pas de deux. This character is exhausting, between Liz’s goddamn dance features and the emotional weight this piece holds, and to end it all with an intense moment like this is a goddamn struggle.

Adam makes it easier.

When Adam throws himself at Ronan, he’s actually throwing his body and trusting that Ronan is going to catch it before he tosses it back away. It feels different from those days when he and Adam weren’t talking, where Adam barely put any of his weight on Ronan, better. He can feel Adam’s heart beat every time his hands are on his chest, and when they’re nose to nose after they just got through it, they’re both grinning. Adam leaves, and Ronan watches his ass as he goes, and then it’s just the final number and bows. He still doesn’t know why people cheer for him, but he’s happy to stand there with Rose and listen to Gansey talk.

When he finally gets back to his dressing room, Adam is face-down and snoring on the couch, in just his tights. If he calls in Rose to film it before he deals with it, Adam won’t ever know, well won’t know until his friends watch the vlog. He gently shakes Adam awake, who immediately, without any warning, wraps his arms around Ronan and pulls himself up.

“You were so good,” he mumbles, clings to Ronan. His hand is on the back of Ronan’s head, the other arm wrapped around Ronan’s back. Ronan just snakes his hands around Adam’s waist, resting them low and enjoying sharing a few breaths. “You’re amazing.”

“You did it,” is what Ronan responds, buries his nose in Adam’s shoulder before he steps away. “You smell so bad, Parrish.”

“Sweaty tights,” Adam replies, and Ronan just scoffs. “Let me sleep and then I’ll go clean up.”

“Get in the goddamn shower, Parrish,” Ronan says. “You smell too much to be near for five seconds, much less the next few hours. Is your suit in here?”

“Nah, it’s upstairs in the dressing room,” Adam responds, already in Ronan’s small bathroom. He’s mostly

“I’ll go get it,” Ronan offers, and then he’s making his way through the theater. He’s stopped by the company along the way, everyone in various stages of ready for opening night, and when he gets to the boy’s dressing room he’s trapped in another super sweaty hug.

“You are all the worst. I’m going to have to shower now,” Ronan grumbles. “I came for Parrish’s clothing,” he says, and there’s a bunch of whooping, but someone hands Ronan a garment bag. It’s a blue number, and the pants don’t look like they’ll be much looser than Adam’s tights.

“Where’s Parrish? He fucking killed it,” Tad says. “Considering he was like dying in class today. He’s learning a principal part to understudy and that rehearsal was apparently a fucking nightmare yesterday. Liz was going to tear her hair out.” He always forgets Liz choreographs for the City Ballet, too, and it explains why she came in today looking like she wanted to commit murder.

“Yeah, I found him passed out on my couch after the show, and he was bitching about the Russian guy not doing what the choreographer wanted,” Ronan says, frowning, before he remembers he has to get ready. “I’ll see you all at the party! I gotta make sure Adam didn’t fall asleep again.”

“Yeah, go do that,” and various similar sentiments are all yelled, and Ronan retreats. He stops by Rose’s room, gives her a bottle of her favorite wine, and leaves her to her hair and makeup team for the night. By the time he gets back to his own room, the shower has stopped. Adam is wearing nothing but a towel, hair dripping wet. He smells like Ronan’s sopa.

“Hey, thanks,” he says, kisses Ronan’s cheek. “Now you’re the one who smells.”

“Fuck off, I was just about to get into the shower,” he says. “I like your suit.”

“I like yours. Black, shocking,” Adam says, rolling his eyes. “I think you should try a floral tie once, just to cause heart attacks.”

“This isn’t Queer Eye, Parrish,” Ronan shoots back, hopping quickly into the shower. “Declan and Matt and Ashley are meeting us there.”

“I’m just going to sit here and eat all of your gifts,” Adam says, and sure enough, Ronan hears the crinkle of a bag being opened.

“There’s food at the party, shithead,” Ronan calls, but Adam doesn’t even grace that with a response. He showers quickly, and by the time he emerges, Adam is wearing his pants and socks, trying to tame his hair in the mirror. Ronan swears that boy is allergic to shirts. “Sit down. Let me do it.”

“You have no hair. I don’t trust you,” Adam says, swatting his hands away. “I do this shit all the time.”

“Stop it. I got this,” Ronan says, catches Adam’s wrists in his hands and kisses the knuckles on his hands before releasing them. He thinks Adam has beautiful hands, stares at Adam’s hands on stage sometimes instead of the contortions and miraculous feats the rest of his body is executing with grace. He just grabs some of the hair gel Declan gave him as a joke, puts a little on his hands, and starts playing with Adam’s hair. Adam relaxes almost instantly, and that’s something Ronan is going to have to explore later, but right now he’s focusing on taming Adam’s rogue hair, leaving a little out of the elegentantly mess he’s compiling on top of Adam’s head.

When he’s done, Adam stands and presses both of his hands to Ronan’s cheeks, pulling him into an easy kiss that tastes like toothpaste and theater lipstick.

“Put on a shirt, asshat,” Ronan quips, pulls away to get dressed. “We’re going to be so late.”

Rose comes in to lounge on the couch as Adam finally, finally puts a goddamn shirt on, her dress taking up what’s normally Adam’s spot. It’s not long, not in the front, but it’s elegant, and her hair is effortlessly styled.

“I see Ronan took pity on you. He’s the best at pin curls in this theater,” Rose says, “... when I can convince him to help me.”

“My hair isn’t that bad,” Adam says, straightening his tie.

“Is Adam Parrish wearing a patterned tie? Tan France would be proud.” Rose’s voice is all fake drama, hand clutching at her chest. “I like the navy, too. Looks good with your eyes.”

“This is literally one of two suits I own,” Adam responds. “I like the tie. What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing. Just an unexpected move,” Rose comments. “I can’t wait for people to see the next vlog. They were shipping you two from Episode One, and they’re going to lose their goddamn minds over this one.”

“What did you film?” Ronan asks, eyes narrow as he buttons his shirt. He’s dressed in all black, no tie, and he looks at Adam trying to tie his own tie and decides he can do a better knot.

“Your stupid contest and the disgusting PDA that followed. One of the ASMs also got us all after Act One, with all of the flowers,” Rose says, inspecting her nails.

“Shit,” Adam gets out, sitting on Rose’s dress to put on his shoes. “You’re actually the worst.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Rose says, doesn’t even complain. “I’m hungry. Can we leave soon?”

“You’re coming with us?” Ronan asks, raising an eyebrow as he finishes tying his own shoes. “Gross.”

“We talked about this like two days ago. No reason not to pool.” She rolls her eyes. “You have the memory of a goldfish I swear to god.”

“Not wrong,” Adam inputs, and Rose pats his head. “We should go, though. Is the Times review in?” Adam knows that’s the review that’s going to make or break them. It usually is.

“Fuck, lemme check,” Rose says. “Oh shit I’m so nervous.” Her hands shake as she looks it up on her phone, and then she gasps. “It’s up. Okay, okay, okay.” Her eyes scan quickly, and when her dark hands go up to her mouth. “Fuck, I can’t cry with this makeup.”

“Is it bad?” Adam asks, face pale. He grasps at Ronan’s hand.

“No. It’s… I’ll read it.” Rose takes a breath, smiles. “Blush is revolutionary, a modern musical that manages to emulate twentieth century theater while remaining fresh. Ronan Lynch is a powerhouse in a role no one thought he was right for, emotionally devastating and technically perfect. He plays Simon with equal parts anger, anxiety, and fear, and there’s a truth that feels brutally honest. But the biggest surprise is his dancing. Lynch must have some classical training to hold up in a gorgeous pas de deux with Adam Parrish, a soloist with the New York City Ballet. I admit I was skeptical about the incorporation of Elizabeth Schumann’s ballet choreography and hand-picked ballet additions to the company, but her work is visually stunning and innovative, no more so than at the end of the first act. Parrish is a marvel to watch in his movement, living up to his contemporary and classical backgrounds. I don’t want to spoil, but there is something breathtaking about both act finales. ” Rose pauses. “Okay it goes on more, let me see.”

“See? I knew they’d love you,” Adam whispers in Ronan’s ear.

“Okay, they liked me, they liked Gansey, they loved Blue, and they liked Henry,” Rose summarizes. “They think it’s going to be a hit.”

Adam smiles the entire way to the car.

:: ::

Rose’s new vlog is posted the four days after they open. The same day, the news that Adam Parrish is dating famous actor and fellow Henrietta native makes its way back to Virginia.

Two days later, a story airs on local news that ends up on Broadway Gossip boards.

:: ::

“Ronan,” Gansey says, his voice grave, the second Ronan gets home from a matinee. “Where’s Adam?”

“He’s going home. He wanted to roll out his muscles,” Ronan says, face creasing. “What’s wrong?”

“Have you been online at all today?” Gansey asks.

“No, we had the show—” Ronan says, swiping for Gansey’s phone. “What’s wrong, Gansey? Tell me what’s going on.”

“I wouldn’t have known if someone didn’t send it to me on Twitter,” Gansey starts, and now Ronan is really panicking. “I don’t know if Adam’s seen it.”

“What are you talking about?” Ronan says. “Gansey, you’re really freaking me out.” He can hear his heartbeat in his ears. “Is everyone okay?”

“Robert Parrish talked to some gossip reporter. He said some awful things about Adam, and you, and your family,” Gansey explains. “It was just a local thing, but it got on the gossip forums and now it’s all over.”

“I have to go to Adam,” Ronan says, pulling his coat back on. “He’s probably seen it. He’s got to be freaking out.”

“Ronan—” Gansey starts. “Ronan, we’re working on it. But we don’t know what to say, because we don’t know how much Adam wants us to share.”

“Tell them what they could fucking look up on the internet. Adam’s had a restraining order against the bastard since he was fourteen,” Ronan spits, slams the door on the way out.

He doesn’t give a fuck about damage control. He cares about what Adam must be going through, practically runs to the metro and down the blocks and up to Adam’s apartment.

He doesn’t know what he’s going to do, what he’s going to say, if Adam doesn’t know what’s happened. He can’t be the one to tell him that his monster is still very real, very alive, very intent on ruining his life.

Ronan opens the door.

“Parrish?”

Chapter Text

“Parrish?” Ronan asks, letting himself into the apartment. The rest of Adam’s roommates are gathered around the counter that seperates the kitchen from the rest of the living space, looking concerned.

“Hey, Ronan,” Lucy says. “He’s in his room.”

“Does he know?” Ronan asks, keeping his voice low.

“Yeah. We showed him, and we tried to call you, but we figured you were already on your way,” another one says. “This is so fucked up.”

“Okay.” And then they all disperse. “If you guys need anything, let us know.”

Ronan takes a breath, knocks on Adam’s door but enters anyway.

It’s dim, but even the lights off and blinds drawn can’t push away the Sunday afternoon sun completely. Adam is curled in a ball on his side, shoulders shaking and hands fisted in his hair. He’s completely silent. Ronan doesn’t know what to do, but his feet move of their own accord, so that Ronan is sitting right up next to Adam, and one hand reaches out to gently rub Adam’s back.

Adam lets out exactly one dry sob, wrecked and harsh and breathless.

It sounds like Adam isn’t breathing, and that’s a problem. Ronan wants to haul Adam up and force him to open his airways, to let out whatever is compressing his lungs, but he thinks that will scare him away. He focuses on tracing his hand up and down Adam’s back, hoping it’ll do something to calm Adam down, to relax him.

“I’m sorry,” Ronan whispers, and that’s when he can see and feel Adam’s rib cage start to heave. “I’m so sorry, Adam.”

There’s no transition between Adam’s silence and everything breaking down. Adam is crying, crying so hard that his breaths are coming out more like wheezes, gasps, than actually expelling and intaking any air. Ronan can feel Adam’s entire chest move with each sob, and he’s actually worried that Adam is going to hurt himself if he stays like that any longer. His hands are white-knuckled in his own hair, and suddenly Ronan can’t take just watching any longer. Before he can register what he’s doing, he’s pulling Adam up against his own chest, his hands working on detangling Adam’s fingers from his hair. Ronan sees that the tips of his fingers are washed a light red, coated with his own blood, and Ronan immediately pulls Adam’s hands down and holds them tight against Adam’s chest.

“Stop, please, please,” Adam begs, struggling against Ronan, but Ronan just tightens his grip, unable to allow Adam to hurt himself, no matter how much he wants to get away. Adam is still sobbing, still struggling to breathe, but Ronan just holds him, focuses on keeping his breath strong and slow and deep against Adam’s back, and after a lot of begging and whimpering and crying, Adam’s breath starts slowing against Ronan’s chest.

“You gotta promise me that if I let go of you, you’re not going to hurt yourself,” Ronan whispers, and Adam manages a shaky nod. As soon as Ronan releases Adam, Adam turns around, buries his head in the space between Ronan’s shoulder and neck.

“I…” Adam gets out, his arms circling around Ronan. “I thought it was over.”

“He’s not gonna come near you, I promise,” Ronan says, his hands finding their way back to Adam’s spine, his neck.

“It doesn’t matter if he’s here. They all hate me,” Adam says. “They all think I’m a monster.”

“They don’t. Adam, it doesn’t matter what assholes on the internet are saying,” Ronan says, his hand carding through Adam’s hair when he starts crying again.

“The company has seen it. The ballet has seen it. What do I say, Ronan? I don’t know how to fix this.” Adam’s voice sounds wrecked, hopeless. It makes Ronan hold Adam just a little bit tighter.

“There’s nothing to fix. You don’t owe him anything,” Ronan says. In reality, they’re going to have to deal with this eventually, but he knows Gansey will handle it until Adam is able to do something. It’s clear that Adam isn’t in a position to do that right now. Ronan can’t imagine what the hell is going on in Adam’s head; not only does he have no idea what Robert Parrish actually said, but he has no idea where the barbs stuck into Adam, what wounds are unaffected and which have been reopened for no other reason than Robert Parrish wanted to.

Adam looks like he wants to reply, but he can’t. He just cries, and Ronan remembers that they both just did a show, that Adam has to be exhausted. Sure enough, Ronan feels Adam go lax against him. He needs a plan, he knows it, so he takes the time to pull out his phone and see what the fuck is happening. He ignores concerned texts from the company, ignores the fifteen missed calls from Declan, just looks at what Gansey had sent.

Bring Adam back to the apartment. He shouldn’t be alone right now. Declan is here.

“Come on, Adam,” Ronan mumbles. “Let’s go to my place.”

He looks at Adam, whose eyes are oddly vacant, glassy. It’s like Adam isn’t in his body at all, but he doesn’t fight when Ronan sits him up, gets shoes on his feet and a sweatshirt onto his chest. Ronan keeps an arm around Adam’s waist as he uses his other hand to call an Uber. He gets Adam down his stairs, past his worried roommates, gets him into the car, and holds on tight as Adam takes shaky breaths and stares out the window; it’s better than the silent hyperventilation of before, but it’s disconcerting. He recognizes it, when the Greenmantles would yell and yell and yell and Adam would go blank, go limp, distance himself from the hate being spewed.

But it’s never been like this.

Adam isn’t responsive, doesn’t do anything when Ronan holds his hand, doesn’t react at all to anything that’s happening. Ronan is firing off texts to Gansey, explaining that he’s going to bring Adam to his room and deal with that before he even looks at Declan. Gansey responds that Declan is fine with that. Not that it mattered anyway.

When they’re two minutes from Ronan’s apartment, Ronan cracks. He finds the transcript of the interview. He needs to know what they’re dealing with, because he’s so worried of misstepping and losing this fragile thing he and Adam have created. He reads Robert Parrish spewing hate and lies, about how they put everything into Adam learning dance and he abandoned them, that he refused to send them money when his mom was sick and that’s why she died. He reads about how the Lynches apparently all but kidnapped Adam, about how they pulled him away from his family because they looked down on the Parrishes.

It’s brutal.

He calls Adam horrible things, things that aren’t vulgar but dig at the core of who Adam is as a person: selfish, greedy, cruel, heartless. Adam Parrish is a boy who has called himself unlovable because of what his father put him through, and Ronan thinks that all of this is just going to drive that nail deeper into Adam’s being. When they get back to the apartment, Ronan is shaking with barely contained rage: he wants to murder Robert Parrish. It wasn’t enough to take Adam’s competition winnings, wasn’t enough to take his hearing, now he wants his heart, too.

He can’t have it.

Ronan gets Adam into the elevator, leads Adam past the carefully quiet group of people clustered around the island in the kitchen, as they try not to stare. Adam doesn’t even recognize where he is, Ronan is sure of it, but as soon as Ronan gets him into the room Adam is on the bed, curled up tight. Ronan pulls off Adam’s shoes.

“Hey. I’m just going to be in the other room. It’ll only be a few minutes and I’ll be right back,” Ronan whispers, but Adam clearly doesn’t hear it, or if he does he doesn’t give off any indication that he has. With a sigh, Ronan moves a pillow so it’s under Adam’s head and quietly shuts his bedroom door behind him.

“I’m going to kill that motherfucker,” he says, stalking up to the group of people. “I’m going to smash his fucking skull in.”

“What’s wrong with Parrish?” Declan asks.

“I don’t know. He was freaking out, like not breathing he was crying too hard freaking out, and then he just… he’s not responsive. He’s not registering anything,” Ronan tries to explain, his hands going to the back of his own hands.

“His hands are bloody,” Gansey says, and Ronan is trying too hard not to lose it to be able to look at Gansey.

“He was pulling at his hair when I got there. He must have dug them into his skin a little,” Ronan says dully. “He’s said, like, two sentences max in the entire last hour. I’m worried to leave him alone.”

“He’s dissociated,” Blue supplies. “It happens sometimes with PTSD. He’ll be fine as long as it doesn’t last for more than a few hours.”

Hours?” Ronan’s voice sounds wrecked. “What the fuck.”

“He’s gonna be exhausted. He’ll probably just fall asleep,” Blue continues. “We need to deal with this.”

“It’s bullshit. Why are we treating it like it’s worth anything?” Ronan says, voice full of fire. “It’s not fair.”

“It’s still out there. We need to stop this shit before it blows up and closes the show. It’s almost Tony season, and we can’t turn away the voters,” Liz inputs. Ronan hadn’t even realized she was there. “Remember what happened to Great Comet.”

“This isn’t the same at all. Adam doesn’t talk about this shit. I’m not going to be the one to make him talk about stuff people have no right to know,” Ronan argues. “Anyone who’s ever met Adam knows that he’s not any of the things. Anyone with Google can figure out Adam’s had a restraining order against him since he was fourteen years old, that he was emancipated at the same time.”

“So we tell them that, first off,” Gansey says, his voice creased. “We all know that Adam is kind and hardworking and generous, but it’s like you said: he’s a private person. People have seen him a little bit on Rose’s vlog, but they don’t see much of who he is. They don’t know those things.”

“He doesn’t owe them shit,” Ronan spits. “They don’t get to know him if he doesn’t want them to.” He’s angry, angry at Robert Parrish, angry that Adam’s free will, which he has fought tooth and nail for, is in jeopardy because of one stupid fucking thing. He’s not going to make Adam do anything he doesn’t want to do, the show be damned.

“That’s not what they’re saying. Jesus, Ronan, this is going to take forever if you keep hopping down everyone’s throats.” Declan’s voice is tired, and Ronan wants to punch him right now. “If you’re going to punch me, and that will speed this shit up, go for it.”

Fucking prick. Ronan can’t punch him now.

“Then what the fuck do we do?” Ronan asks. He’s two seconds and one wrong sentence away from crying. He hates watching Adam hurt, wants to do something to make this all go away, wants to hold Adam until he tells him how he can help.

“Rose just texted me that she’s going to film something and force Broadway.com to post it tomorrow. Here’s what we have her include: we make it clear we’re not discussing Adam at the stage door, we make it clear that the company is a family, that the article is incorrect, we tell the the facts. They don’t get anything else from him,” Gansey says, his voice deliberately business-like.

“I can work with him on something new, for the charity gala we need a piece for anyways,” Liz says, voice hardened. Gansey nods. “Okay.”

“We make sure Adam is okay,” Noah adds, voice small. “I can’t imagine what he’s going through.”

“I’m dealing with the Henrietta side of it,” Declan says. “I’m going to get the family lawyers to check it out, too. Make sure the Greenmantles don’t start shit.”

“Don’t draw this out. Don’t let him drag Adam through the fucking mud anymore than he already has,” Blue says, her gaze serious.

“Have you looked at Adam’s phone?” Noah asks. “See if there’s anything urgent. Should he call out of the show on Tuesday?”

“It’s just from ballet people and friends, asking if he’s okay, offering support,” Ronan says, scrolling through Adam’s lock screen. “Someone said if he wants to skip class tomorrow, he can. It should be his choice when he performs.”

“It would be better if he did,” Liz says, biting her nail. “Only if he’s up to it, but it would put on a better face if he continued like normal.”

“What can we do to help?” Henry asks, looking directly at Ronan. “He’s clearly not okay.”

“He’s right here,” a voice croaks. Adam is standing, leaning heavily against the doorway to Ronan’s room. He looks wrecked, face pale and bags deep underneath his eyes. His entire posture is hunched, like he’s expecting the blows to start coming at him, and Ronan immediately leads Adam to the sofa, lets Adam lean most of his weight on him.

“I’m sorry,” Adam whispers, voice wrecked.

“Don’t apologize,” Ronan says, smoothing Adam’s hair back gently. “Feeling a little better?”

“No,” Adam answers, and Ronan knows how hard that was for him to admit. “I can’t remember the last time I was this scared.”

“He’s not coming near you.” Ronan’s voice is a little rougher, angrier than he wanted it to be, but it’s true. If he even glimpses Robert Parrish that fucker is dead.

“It doesn’t matter. He’s ruined everything I’ve worked for. Years and years and it takes one fucking minute,” Adam says, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes to try to force the tears away. “Do I even still have a job?”

“Of course,” Gansey says. “Here and the ballet. That’s not the issue,” Gansey says. Ronan is giving Gansey a ‘stop talking Now’ look, before his attention turns completely back to Adam.

“I’m so tired,” Adam gets out, his voice quivering as he fights back the rising tide. He knows if his control slips, even for just a second, he’s not going to be able to get it back. It’s like the anxiety and fear and hopelessness is pounding and pounding and pounding at something inside of Adam’s head, and if he lets one punch through, the wall is gone. He’s so tired of holding it all back, of trying to convince himself that it’s over, because it never fucking is. Get a restraining order, move across the country, leave no trace of where he is on the internet, make himself unknowable, unfindable, and it doesn’t even matter. It’s never enough.

So he bites the inside of his mouth, ignores the taste of blood.

“Jesus, Adam,” Ronan says, takes Adam’s chin in his hand. “You’re going to bite your tongue off.”

Adam looks into Ronan’s eyes, and he knows a second before it breaks that it’s broken.

He opens his mouth, ignores the blood, and lets out the shakiest exhale of his life. “Do you know what they’re saying? I looked at the message boards, before I fucking lost my mind, and you know what they say?” The tears are falling, hot and fast and silent, and Ronan has Adam practically in his lap now.

“Adam, we can go—” Ronan thinks Adam doesn’t want an audience. Adam doesn’t want to explain this more than once. Fuck it; he needs them to know his truth. They’ve all fucking heard Robert’s version.

“They’re saying I forgot where I come from,” Adam continues, swallows the blood and instinct telling him to shut up, shut down. “I fucking wish I could. He hated me, said he regrets the moment he didn’t pull out quick enough. He said that when I was eight years old. He hurt me, stole everything I ever won, tried to hit me so hard I could never dance again.” Adam’s voice is barely there. Ronan holds on tighter, his arms holding Adam’s against himself. Adam would feel restrained, but he doesn’t know what he’ll do if he doesn’t.

“It took me months to be able to be able to turn without falling over. He took everything from me. He doesn’t get to say those things about me, that I’m cruel and selfish and consumed with greed and arrogance. If I am, he’s the one who taught me to be. Fuck him. Fuck him for all of this shit. He’s already ruined everything about me. Why does he get this, too?” Adam sobs, and suddenly he can’t talk anymore. He doesn’t know how there’s enough water left in him to cry, but he can’t stop. He doesn’t care that they can all see, can’t think behind the sensation of Ronan turning Adam and clutching him against his own chest, using his chest to trap Adam’s hands and using his own to run through Adam’s hair.

He cries and cries until he’s gasping and hiccuping and unable to find any energy to continue. Ronan doesn’t let go, and when Adam manages to fall out of his lap onto a couch cushion, he can barely force his neck to hold his head up. He doesn’t want to look up, doesn’t want to see the pity that’s going to be in all of their faces.

“Here,” Blue says, and then there’s a glass of water in Adam’s hand and he manages a sip. Ronan rubs Adam’s back when his breath hitches, and then Adam looks up.

There’s no pity.

Blue gives him that little smile, the same one she gave him the first time they met. She squeezes his shoulder, moves herself back to the armrest of the chair Gansey’s in.

“We’re handling it. He’s not getting anything else from you,” Liz promises, just as Ronan snakes an arm around Adam’s waist. “I should go to rehearsal. Let me know if you need anything.”

It’s quiet as she leaves, Declan following suit.

“You’re nothing like him,” Ronan says, voice plain. He moves so he’s just barely whispering into Adam’s right ear, too quiet for anyone else to hear. “I know you think he’s done something to make you like him, but you’re not. I know it doesn’t mean much right now, but you’re kind and brave and this is going to pass. We’re going to get you through this.”

Adam chokes back another sob.

“We’re going to get you through this,” Ronan promises, this time loud enough for everyone to hear.

Gansey nods, his smile small and flickering and warm. “You look exhausted.”

“I am,” Adam croaks out, and that’s all the invitation Ronan needs to stand and lead Adam back to his bedroom.

Adam falls asleep with Ronan’s arms around his waist.

:: ::

“This is not another episode of the vlog,” Rose says, face guarded as she sits in her dressing room. She came in early, has thought long and hard about what she wants to say. “We’re taking a break this week. I have to talk about the elephant in the room.” Rose takes a breath, looks at her hands.

“We’re a family here at Blush, and in the wake of the article, I’m going to tell you a few things. Most importantly, don’t ask us about Adam at stagedoor or if you catch us on the street. It’s not our story to tell, and I can only speak for myself but I won’t let you invade my friend’s privacy. It’s not up for discussion, so don’t try it. Adam is going through a rough time right now, because I can guarantee by the time Broadway.com publishes this a few facts are going to be made apparent as someone with half a brain decides to utilize Google. Here they are: Adam was emancipated at the age of fourteen, and he’s had a restraining order against his father since then, as well. That should be all you need to know to understand that Robert Parrish has told nothing but lies.” Rose has to force herself to keep her voice under control. She knows Gansey asked her to do this because he thought she would be able to control herself, but she can’t.

She hasn’t seen Adam yet today, but she had texted Ronan. He hadn’t told her much, just said that Adam is really struggling right now.

“But I’m going to tell you something else: Adam is one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. He doesn’t deserve what people are saying about him right now. And—” There’s a knock at the door. Rose goes to open it, to tell whoever it is to go away, but then she realizes it’s Tad.

“Can I come in? I want to say something,” he says, and Rose immediately lets him in. He sounds nervous, and sad, and angry, and Rose knows that this is going to be important. “I know you’re talking about Adam.”

“Yeah,” Rose says, and Tad takes a deep breath.

“I’m going to tell you a story about Adam,” he says, a small smile on his face. “Because that’s the only way I can think of that will make people see who Adam is. In the worst moment of my life, he was the one who showed me kindness.”

“Tad, you don’t—” Rose starts, but she stops herself when sees the look on Tad’s face.

“I’ve known Adam since he was fourteen years old. We were at ballet school together. We weren’t friends, not the first year. He was fighting too hard to come back from being deafened in his left ear, and he was dealing with a lot of other things,” Tad starts. “But by senior year, I’d like to think we were okay. We weren’t close, but we were okay. Parrish was outdancing everybody, but somehow we both had jobs lined up at the City Ballet by the time the final showcase came around.”

Tad takes a deep breath, and Rose reaches out a hand. Tad takes it, holds it tight.

“I’m gay. That’s not a big surprise to anyone who saw my Pride pictures last year, but I wasn’t out then. I wanted to tell my parents, because I had nothing to lose: I didn’t need their money anymore, not with housing and a job waiting for me. I told them, the day I graduated. It wasn’t pretty.” Tad swipes a hand under his nose, trying hard to keep his tears at bay. “Parrish was the one who found me. I was sitting in the hallway, crying and just losing my mind. A part of me had hoped… it doesn’t matter. He sat with me, got me home, made me food, stayed with me that entire night. He listened and he was there, and he’s still been there when things are hard.”

Tad smiles.

“That’s Adam. Even when we weren’t even friends, when he saw that I was hurting he helped. He’s still an asshole, he still calls me out when my form is bad and he’s a workaholic and ungodly prideful and he’s a monster when he’s tired, but that’s Parrish.”

Rose squeezes Tad’s hand again.

“Thank you for telling us,” Rose says. Tad stands.

“If anyone messes with Adam,” he says, exits the room and shuts the door.

“Be kind. That’s all I’m asking.” Then Rose stops recording, starts uploading the footage to send it to Broadway.com with a strongly worded email, after the show.

:: ::

Adam enters the theater on Monday clutching Ronan’s hand. He’d slept for fourteen hours, and though it all seems pretty miserable, it’s less than yesterday. He’s nervous, but as soon as he’s in his dressing room, he’s surrounded in a many-armed hug.

Then there’s Tad. He wraps his arms tightly around Adam, refuse to let go. Adam fondly remembers when he wanted to murder Tad for just existing in the wrong place. They’re past that, now, and Tad whispers he’ll fucking take on anyone who comes after him.

“Hey, fuck off. He’s my boyfriend,” Ronan calls, and Tad lets Adam go.

“Normal warm-up place?” Tad asks, and Adam nods, allows himself one smile.

“Give me five minutes,” Adam says. “I need to change and stretch a little first.”

“Okay, man,” Tad says.

“You can do that shit in my room. Come on, Parrish,” Ronan says, takes Adam by the wrist and leads him to his own dressing room. Rose is waiting, and then there’s another hug. She, too, threatens the anonymous masses with murder.

Adam stretches, warms up with Tad and the other ballet dancers, and then he’s back in Ronan’s room after their lift call. He eats Ronan’s food.

“Rose just said she told everyone to fuck off,” Ronan says, pulling away from his steamer. “She recorded something today and apparently Tad showed up and defended your honor. It’s going to be sent to be uploaded tonight.” He’s trying his hardest to be normal, because that’s what Adam wants, but it’s so hard when Adam still looks like he was just kicked. It had been a struggle getting Adam up, getting him to eat and drink and stretch and function like a human.

Ronan thinks he might be starting to see, just a little bit, what Adam meant that day in the dressing room.

“No shit,” Adam says, mouth full of popcorn. “Shit. He didn’t have to do that.”

“Before you flip out, I’m not saying you should talk. I’m saying if you did, people would listen. Okay, now jump down my throat,” Ronan says, his voice cautious.

“I don’t know if I can,” Adam admits. “I don’t even know how I’m going to get through the show today. I don’t think I’m good enough of an actor to pretend I’m happy.”

“Think about it. She’s not sending the footage until after the show,” Ronan says. “You ready for the show?”

“Yeah. If my brain would reunite with the rest of my body,” Adam admits, continues to eat popcorn. “But maybe that’s better.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Ronan says. “Go fucking get dressed. I’ll see you before your solo.”

“I’ll be waiting with food,” Adam says, a new tradition rolled into a promise. It started after opening—Adam will give Ronan a random bite-sized something before he goes on.

Adam stands to leave, but Ronan just wraps his arms around Adam, refuses to let go.

“I’ll see you at ten minute call.” With a short kiss, a ruffle of Adam’s hair, he finally lets go.

Adam wishes he wouldn’t.

:: ::

True to his word, Adam is waiting off stage with an unwrapped Kit Kat right before his own solo. He’s testing out his plie, cracking his back, and as soon as Ronan unwraps it and it’s in his mouth his arms are around Adam. They’re both sweaty, but Ronan knows Adam needs something good to hold onto today, to make the magic happen. He holds Adam tight, wrists crossed loosely over the bottom of Adam’s spine. He presses a kiss to Adam’s curls.

He watches from the wings.

Adam is trying so hard. His leaps are as high as ever, his turns as tight and fast and perfectly vertical as always, but Adam is fighting with his own face. He’s letting himself enjoy the beauty of the flower petals, clinging to everything he loves about what he’s doing, but it’s an effort to exude happiness and the feeling of being young and adventurous and carefree. When it starts to build, the audience claps along, and it’s like adrenaline shot straight into Adam’s muscles. Ronan is keeping himself from crying, Rose’s hand clutched tightly in his own, and as the clapping gets louder and louder and faster and faster he can see Adam’s eyes get wet, his smile becoming genuine. There are cheers when the other dancers join, and it’s so loud that when Ronan enters, he has to wait a moment to sing. The clapping doesn’t stop, and the applause itself is deafening, beginning before the orchestra even hits the final note.

Adam finds himself in the middle of a thirty-three-person hug.

When it disbands, Ronan’s hand leads him to his dressing room. He watches Ronan change, watches the team switch his wig and absent-mindedly eats more of Ronan’s food. He puts icy-hot on his back, lays on the floor and waits for Ronan to leave for the second act with Rose.

He takes her camera.

He doesn’t keep track of the words, just jumps right into it. He tells them, shirt off and scars visible, who they came from. He tells them about how his father’s response to his scholarship to ballet school was to deafen his left ear. He explains that’s when he pressed charge, that it took him so long just to get to the level he had been at before the incident. He suggests local organizations to volunteer with, national organizations to donate to, and he thanks them for their time.

He puts the camera back on Rose’s makeup table with a note. Adam takes a nap on Ronan’s couch, waits for his pas de deux with Ronan.

When it finally comes, the energy is different than every other night. Tonight, Ronan is supporting Adam as much as Adam’s character is supporting Ronan’s; every throw feels like a leap off a cliff’s edge, each catch a collective exhale from everyone in the theater. Right at the end, when it’s just Ronan and Adam, standing close, arms and limbs entangled, a place where there shouldn’t be applause, applause erupts. Ronan is suddenly extremely grateful for the community, for their ability to see through the bullshit and their want to protect their own, and he just holds Adam even closer. It’s even harder than normal to let him go, even though he’s going to come back in, like, two minutes.

Tad, as always, waits for Adam in the wings.

Adam allows himself to exhale.

:: ::

Rose’s phone crashes an hour after the not-a-vlog is posted. She honored Adam’s request, and there are tears in her eyes when she watches it. She’s scared to look at the comments, but she knows she better look in case there’s another hole in the floor for Adam to fall through; she start crying again when she realizes there isn’t. People are talking about the show yesterday, about Adam’s words, about Tad.

She responds to a few people on twitter, reads the words of support for their show and for the strange boy that slipped into all of their lives.

:: ::

Gansey lets Rose into their apartment the morning Tony nominations are announced. To help with the press, Rose gets another five weeks vlogging for Broadway.com, and they’re going to start with a bang. Ronan is still asleep, Adam too, but Gansey and Blue and Liz and Henry and Noah are watching as nominations are read. They’ve all got their nods already, Rose one, too, and it’s the last category before the Best Musical category is announced. They’re crying, drinking, celebrating, waiting.

“And now, the nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role of a Musical,” the announcer says. She reads one name, then… “Joshua Henry, Fugitive Songs. Ronan Lynch, Blush…” Gansey doesn’t hear the rest. They’re screaming. Rose takes the camera to the bedroom, hopes to whatever is up there that they’re fucking clothed.

“You’re a Tony nominee!” she screams, and Adam wakes with a start, Ronan undisturbed, apparently. A hand goes over his face, but he groggily shakes Ronan awake, grin wide as he kisses him messily.

“You’re nominated,” he says, voice rough with lingering sleep. Ronan just kisses him back.

Rose takes that as her cue to leave.

:: ::

“Oh fucking god, not this again,” Liz says. It’s the first round of their Tony performance rehearsals; against everything Liz said, Gansey had decided to do a mix of the end of act numbers. Adam and Ronan’s pas de deux, but then the rest is what people are calling ‘the flower number’. But they can’t do the entire thing, and so she has to deal with both of them again.

“You know you missed us,” Ronan says, barely turning from where he’s pushing Adam’s leg above his head.

“You’re never any trouble at the Ballet,” Liz grumbles at Adam, as Ronan kicks Adam’s foot out from under him, causing him to fall so that one leg is over Ronan’s shoulder, Ronan’s arms around his waist the only reason Adam remains upright. “Ronan Lynch, I swear to god I will make you do fucking push ups.”

When Gansey wanders in, forty minutes later, they’re both doing push-ups. Liz has her head in her hands.

“Any progress?” Gansey asks warily, and Liz just points to the chair in the room.

“Okay. You can stop now. Are you ready to do it, for real?” Liz asks, and Ronan just glares as he stands, panting. He’s already lost his shirt, sweat running down his back and chest like someone poured water over his head. Adam’s still kept his Coca-Cola cutoff, but it’s a few shades darker than it should be, soaked with sweat. He’s got a bandana keeping his hair back, which Liz thinks might be what’s making Ronan so fucking squirrely.

“Yeah,” Adam says, taking a moment to wipe his face with his shirt. Liz watches Ronan stare at Adam’s stomach, and makes him do ten more push-ups. Adam just laughs, waits patiently while Ronan swears his way through it.

“Okay. Fucking focus, okay?” Liz grunts, and she waits until Ronan is sitting the way he should be before she plays the music. They do the abridged version, which eliminates some of Adam’s solo work and focuses on their best partner work. It ends with Ronan leaving instead of Adam, because then it goes into the boys entering, LIz explains. Ronan and Adam are panting hard.

“Adam, you almost fell out of your turn sequence after the split lift, and your ponche at the end can be so much higher and you know it,” Liz says. “Ronan, you almost dropped him in that last lift, and your feet were sickled for most of it. Also your turn out wasn’t great.”

“Jeez, give it to me harsh,” Ronan pants.

“Gansey?” Liz says, and Gansey looks shell-shocked.

“I think the changes are good. Uh, I guess just work on cleaning it up?” Gansey says, already standing to leave. “We need to start group rehearsal soon. Maybe… give Adam a breather?”

“As soon as he stops ogling my ass enough to do a proper ponche,” Ronan quips, and as Gansey practically runs from the rehearsal room he hears a thump and a frustrated sound from Liz. He makes the executive call to ignore it.

By the time group rehearsal has started, Adam’s shirt is almost dripping onto the floor, but Liz makes him warm up with them anyway. Ronan is laying on the floor, cackling until Liz threatens him with joining them.

“Parrish, the shirt isn’t covering much anyway. Either switch it or ditch it,” Liz says, after another drop hits the floor, and Adam just throws it onto Ronan’s face without missing a beat at the barre. Tad whistles from behind Adam, and if Adam almost kicks him, that’s an honest mistake.

Adam doesn’t know how he’s going to get through this rehearsal. He’s exhausted, muscles ready to clamp down and tighten up as soon as he stops moving.

Liz is brutal.

He gets it; she’s up for a Tony for this choreography, and it has to be up to par on Tony night, and Ronan and him weren’t the most productive at the beginning, but honestly he thinks he’s going to be going straight into an ice bath both after rehearsal and after the show tonight. She’s including Adam’s featured part in the group work, because she loves the way it looks, but it has to be sharp and hard-hitting and the more times she makes him do it, the more Adam feels like he’s running on absolutely nothing. She’s giving this to him because there’s a lot that’s unsaid from a month ago, things Adam told the world but still won’t talk about. It’s a reward for being brave, and a punishment for keeping it locked up inside himself for so long.

As soon as Liz frees them, it’s with only an hour to go until a workshop session he agreed to help her with for something new with the ballet next season, a promise of his first principal role if he acts as a test subject for her work. He’s sitting on the floor, stuffing shoes onto his sore feet and a clean shirt over his chest. He wants a hot shower, wants food, needs to roll out his muscles before he’s back under Liz’s wrath.

“Come on. You look like you’re gonna fall asleep on the floor,” Ronan says, offers a hand to Adam. Adam groans as soon as he’s back on his feet. “Let’s go get food.”

“I don’t got a lot of time,” Adam says, voice muddled with exhaustion. “I’m helping Liz with something in like an hour.”

“You fucking kidding me? There’s only like four hours until you’re back at the theater,” Ronan says, glancing at Liz.

“Let’s go back to the apartment. There’s food there, and then I can shower and roll out my fucking entire body,” Adam pleads.

“I want a fucking burger,” Ronan groans. “How about this? You go back to the apartment and shower, and I’ll bring food back?”

Adam nods in agreement, lets Ronan lead him out the doors of the rehearsal studio.

“Hey, Parrish!” Liz calls, right as they’re at the door. Adam turns around, dreading whatever she’s about to say. “You have an hour and a half. The pas de deux isn’t fully formed yet, in my mind, so it’s just the solos I want to play with today. Shouldn’t take long.”

Maybe Liz is merciful after all.

:: ::

When Ronan reappears at the apartment twenty minutes, Adam is asleep on the floor. There’s an icy-hot patch slapped on his back, a heating pad on one calf, an ice pack on the other thigh. He looks like he was rolling out his feet before he decided to stretch, and then just passed out. His hair is wet, so at least he showered.

He snaps a quick pic, sends it to the group message of people who live in the apartment. There’s instant response, ranging from Blue’s incomprehensible string of emoji’s to Noah’s plea that he wakes Adam up and that he actually roll out his muscles. Henry just sends eggplants. Then he drops the food on the counter and starts gently running his hands through Adam’s hair until the eyes flicker open.

“Come on, there’s food. You can take the damn packs with you, if you want,” Ronan says. He’s remembering all of the wear and tear a schedule like Adam’s has on the body, and it’s not uncommon for Ronan to schedule a massage or chiropractor session on Adam’s behalf. Adam just groans, seems to burrow deeper into the floor. “Get up, or I’ll tell Liz you’re tired.”

Adam bolts upright, groans as it twinges his back. He lets Ronan help him disentangle from the packs and the cords and forces himself to walk to the table, even though his arms immediately rest on the wood, his head going down to meet the surface, as well.

“You’re a fucking mess. You gonna call out of the show?” Ronan asks. Adam just grunts, and Ronan is well-versed enough in the language of Adam Parrish to know that that’s a no.

“You excited for awards?” Adam asks, as he forces himself to unwrap his food, to will himself to consume something to get some energy going into his system.

“Nah. There’s no way I’m going to win anything. I’m up against Josh and Leslie and Jeremy, for fuck’s sake,” Ronan says. “I think Liz is going to win. Noah, definitely. Maybe Gansey.”

“Rose?” Adam asks around a mouth full of food.

“I don’t know. There’s a lot happening, and featured is always hard to tell,” Ronan says. “Hey, you’ve got a nod, too, with the Chita Rivera awards.”

“Meh,” Adam says. “It’s weird. I only have like, three months left with the show.”

Ronan’s face falls. He’s going to miss having Adam work alongside him, but he knows this isn’t what Adam wants in the long run. Ballet is always going to be his home. Ronan just hopes he can also be a part of that home, that they can make it through the transition to seperate jobs and not spending so much of their day together and still keep the magic that’s them right now. He’s sticking with the show for at least another six months, by his contract, and he knows something is going to change when someone else steps into Adam’s role.

A piece of what made this piece so important to him is going to be gone. If Ronan thinks, and thinks hard, about why this show has been his favorite, it comes down to a few things: working with Rose, with Gansey, with even fucking Maggot and Cheng, dancing, but so much of it is that pas de deux with Adam.

It’s opened him up to rolls he wouldn’t have auditioned for before, it’s gotten him back into ballet, and it’s truly something that only this show can manage.

“Hey.” Adam’s voice is soft, and Ronan forces himself to push that off to the back of his mind. “It’s going to be okay. Nothing about us is going to change.”

“I know that,” Ronan says, snaps himself out of it. “You find a tux yet? For the Tony’s?”

“Am I going?” Adam asks. “I thought the ensemble just hangs at the theater and takes a bus over for the performance.”

“You’re my date, you absolute dumbass.”

“Oh.”

“God, you’re exhausted. Get it together, Parrish.”

“Fuck off, Lynch.”

Ronan kisses Adam. It tastes like french fry grease and Ronan’s face wash and sweat.

“How the fuck do you still smell terrible?”

“I will shove this up your nose.”

Ronan just smiles. If someone had told him, on the first day of rehearsal for this show, that two months later he would be sitting at his kitchen table trying to avoid french fries being shoved up his nose by Adam Parrish, he would have thought he was hallucinating. Instead, it’s real, just as real as the way it feels to be on stage and bare a soul to the world that isn’t his. He thinks this is the first time he’s opened himself for the world to see. Maybe he does think he has a shot at that Tony after all. It doesn’t matter. He’s got a job, he’s got a few months left of being able to dance with someone making their principal debut with the fucking New York City Ballet, gets to curl up with Adam at the end of it all.

“What are you looking at?” Adam asks, his voice warm and soft and ten kinds of tired.

Ronan just kisses him again.

“I’m going to be fucking late if you keep this up,” Adam says.

“We can make you fucking late if you want.”

This time, the french fry makes it up Ronan’s nose.