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Adam’s first year at university was a lot of things; it was the first time no one (well almost no one) knew who his father was- and subsequently what his father had done-; it was the first time he had ever lived in an flat with other people; it was the first time anyone and everyone had ever expected anything from him; it was the first time he wasn’t the smartest guy in the room (and also the first time anyone had ever told him he was); it was the first time he’d ever gone clubbing; and the first time he’d ever drank (and the last time he’d ever drunk Tequila); it was his first kiss (which he would likely never admit) and his first time (which he possibly would). Yes, Adam Parrish’s first year at university had been good: but possibly the best part of it was the flatmates he had found by the end of it. Blue Sargent a bubbly, sarcastic, feminist whirlwind of person who made anger look delicate and femininity look scary and legwarmers look fashionable and Henry Cheng, who he was certain could also do all of those things but much preferred to run a miniature social media empire from their flat kitchen table, and regularly break the laws of physics with a little help from some hair spray.

Although they had spent their first year together in a shared flat in university halls, they rented a private flat for their second year, just the three of them (and Gareth, but nobody counted Gareth on account of his bad attitude and the fact that he had all but moved in with his girlfriend.) The flat lived in a run down block of flats in a not massively great area of London, but the rent was cheap and the parking was good and really, that’s all they could hope for, ok yeah sometimes they had to ration the hot water and one time the microwave set itself on fire, but it was pretty damn good for what they were paying.

In Adam’s humble opinion the best part of living with Henry and Blue (other than living with Henry and Blue) was their neighbours. Mrs Peters downstairs owned two Pomeranians (Doris and Janet) she was all too happy to let Adam walk, feed, or otherwise fuss over, Mr Jenkins in 3B was in the habit of paying them to do errands for him in cake and the occasional roast dinner, Susanna who lived in the flat opposite regularly had loud arguments with her weird boyfriend and aggressively flirted with both Adam and Henry when she found them in the hall. And Adam loved all of it, even on the days when Susanna wouldn’t leave him alone, even on the days when Doris wouldn’t stop barking, even on the days when the cake was gross, because it was his home, and he owned it (rented it, whatever, same difference) and that meant he was out, and that meant it was brilliant.

The only thing that had ever made him reconsider this assessment was the three guys who lived upstairs, from what little he saw of them Adam had concluded that they must also be students, he had also come to the conclusion that they were rich and as such had chosen to live in this shithole entirely of their own volition (in fairness so had Henry, but he at least had the excuse of two very skint flatmates and a desperate want to ‘better appreciate the starving masses’.)

However, it was not their obvious student-ness, nor their obvious richness, that made him wary of them: it was the otherness that coated their every action. Adam himself was infused with a certain otherness that made people wary, he knew this, both because he had told by a number of other students and one very resentful ex-girlfriend, and because he had never felt so at home as he did sitting at Blue’s kitchen table with his tarot deck, surrounded by that same otherness. But their otherness seemed different to his, or rather, their otherness seemed exactly the same as his, but was being used in a different way. It was as though Adam was suffused with magic, it lived in him, but more than that, it lived through him. These boys simply seemed to be magic, as if by themselves. And he didn’t like it very much. Which was fair, if a little hypocritical.

Having said that, he did enjoy observing these neighbours and their various comings and goings; the large black bird that lived on their windowsill; the strange mix of EDM, obscure indie music, early 2000s pop/rock and soft 60s style love songs which crooned from their flat at all hours of the day and night; the papier-mâché houses which turned up in their recycling regularly; and the knife-thin, aggressively greasy young man who paid late night visits and once tried to push Adam down the stairs. It was something that made his day a little more interesting.

That morning Adam had woken to his first day off in three weeks, and he only had it off because his boss at his third job had closed shop to attend the wedding of his nephew in Birmingham (who he not-so-secretly thought was awful, not because he was truly awful, but because he had all sorts of new modern ideas, like recycling, and veganism, and women’s rights, and Mr Gregor thought all of these ideas were awful, and thus by extension his nephew.) Adam was immensely pleased to have the day off for a number of reasons, 1) he had an essay due, 2) he had four chapters of reading for his Environmental Responsibility module, 3) he didn’t like Mr Gregor 4) he was very, very tired.

It was not yet noon when the arguments started, something which Adam only knew because he got up at 10:30 (scandalously late in the life of Adam Parrish) and started working immediately whilst timing himself; not for any real reason, but more because it made him less stressed about exams when he knew his average essay took 45 minutes, and his best essays took 75, and his most fabulous essays took 2 hours. The arguments themselves were little more than masculine rumbles, like the distant chords of a song he half knew. Adam did not strain to hear this argument, both because he was not nosy, and because he knew it was pointless when his one working ear wasn’t strong enough.  Yet the occasional phrase floated down in perfect clarity, they were strange and varied sentences, he caught the words “Bulgarian mobster” and “dead king” and “my fucking farm” somewhat strangely “patriotic dick pic”, none of it made any sense to Adam (or indeed Blue who he was sharing his study space with until her shift started at lunch time), but they provided short lived comic relief.

By the time 2pm rolled around the arguments had stopped, Blue had gone to work, Henry had solidified his position as most productive member of the flat by successfully setting up another Instagram advertising deal for a client, and Adam was hungry. His day off would only last until 5pm and then his shift at O’Malley’s would start, but that gave him three hours to get some food and get changed. He grabbed his wallet off the counter, pulled a tatty sweatshirt Blue had bought him over his equally tatty grey t-shirt and left.

The walk from their flat to the shop wasn’t a long one, and Adam had purchased a cheap- but effective- pair of over ear headphones to make the whole trip more bearable, he found an advantage of a big city was no one would dare talk to a man in headphones, which meant he didn’t have to explain his lack of hearing, which made any and all errands 100% better. He was on his way back, nacho ingredients in hand, when he ran into his neighbour. Literally. He was the tallest of the trio of rich, mysterious otherworldly blokes that lived upstairs, and the one that seemed to associate with Mr Knife-Grease-Stair-Pusher-McGee. Adam was not terribly shorter than this man, but he was an awful lot lighter, which is how he came to be sat on the cold, wet floor of the high-street in a puddle of what he really hoped wasn’t piss.

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Although Adam had no way of knowing this he had just run directly into the front of Ronan Niall Lynch, a man who enjoyed many things before his father’s death, and few things after it, but found a great comfort in the repetitive nature of weight lifting, and hitting punching bags, and -when the occasion presented itself- his brother. Now, had Adam Parrish been a different sort of man- a phrase that in this case means cocky, or arrogant, or ugly- Ronan may have been prevailed upon to beat the ever-loving shit out of him, but as it was, Ronan was too busy trying to pull his heart out of his throat to do anything. You see Ronan did not necessarily have a type, mainly because he was very inexperienced in the realms of dating, but if he had had a type, that type would’ve been Adam Parrish. Wide blue eyes, sun kissed skin, wind tossed blond hair, vintage hipster jumper, tall, slim, gorgeous… angry.

“You mind?”

In his anger, Adam had forgotten to quash his accent and it slipped through his words, grating against his ears, common and masculine. Ronan felt heat throb through his stomach, his heart stopped, and then started again two times faster.

“I’m sorry”

His mouth, it appeared, was not yet dumbstruck by Adam Parrish and had prevailed in this moment of distraction (something which would be true for the entirety of their relationship, and would cause both a number of arguments and a multitude of beautiful moments.)

Now it should be noted that Adam was not untouched by Ronan. Oh sure, he hadn’t yet reached Ronan’s level oh-my-fucking-god-its-the-man-of-my-dreams, but in total fairness Adam had seen Ronan before, and strongly associated him with Mr Greasy, and thus it was harder to sway him: by contrast Ronan had never seen Adam before, he’d passed him by certainly, but he had never bothered to look, and as such he was now overcome with months worth of potential crush in a matter of seconds.

The two men stared at each other, neither moving nor speaking, and then Ronan stepped forward, offered a slim, scarred, pale hand, and Adam took it, offering a tanned, calloused, elegant hand, and then Ronan pulled, and then Adam’s face was centimetres from his.

“Sorry.”

He muttered again, stepping back and away. Adam stooped to pick up his bag of groceries, briefly presenting Ronan with his puddle stained (but still quite fabulous) bottom. When he stood back up he was frowning, hard. Its not that Adam didn’t like his neighbours, he was just wary of them, but he was struggling to stay that way both because the man in front of him was unfairly gorgeous, and because despite walking right into him, he had been very polite since. And also, because he had lovely hands, warm and mostly soft and bigger than Adam’s, (but Adam wasn’t counting this as a reason because you cant judge a person on the quality of their hands… even if you really want to.)

“I’m Adam.”

He said it without thinking, it felt like juvenile thing to say because they were not on a playground, and he was not trying to make friends. It also felt like a good thing to say because they were not on a playground and Adam thought more-than-friends was a better end goal.

“Ronan.”

Adam still hadn’t smothered his rolling, Scottish accent, and so Ronan let his own Irish brogue bleed through stronger than usual. It wasn’t quite as deep or crisp as Adam’s but it had a similar poetic warmth, like two different colours of rose, almost the same but not quite.

“You live upstairs.”

This also felt juvenile, but Adam knew nothing else about him.

“Uh, I guess so… you, uh, you live with the girl, the small one, with the hair clips?”

Ronan felt this was a very polite way to describe the angry midget girl who once kicked him in the shins during a fire alarm.

“Yep, you live with the rich guys the pale one and… uh…”

Adam trailed off, he wasn’t entirely sure how to describe the other flatmate, half way between a Hollister model and the physical embodiment of scholarly intrigue?

“Gansey.”

Ronan supplied. Adam nodded; although he wasn’t entirely sure of the relevance, he guessed (correctly) that this was his name, and thus an appropriate descriptor. Gansey was Gansey. Adam checked his watch, it was 3:30, it wasn’t quite late enough for him to panic, but it was late enough that he really needed to be getting home or he wouldn’t have enough time to eat, shower off the hopefully-not-piss-puddle, and make it to work on time. He winced apologetically at Ronan, then regretted it.

“Well…”

“Yeah.”

“Bye.”

“Yeah.”

 

Work passed in a blur of spilt beer and dirty plates. Even now after months getting used to it, the smell of larger set something off in Adam, reminded him too much of his father. Walking home afterwards always felt freeing, like he was casting off that shadow. He was pleased to find Blue awake when he got in, she was curled up on their couch, a plate of biscuits and two cups of tea steaming on the coffee table.

“Little late for caffeine.”

Adam grumbled, even as he reached for one of the mugs. Blue smirked, shifted on the couch to better accommodate him, before stretching her short legs out across his lap.

“Henry says you met someone.”

Adam didn’t pull his eyes away from the comedy-show re-run Blue was watching. He considered not answering, but he knew what Blue was like.

“I meet people everyday.”

Blue nudged him, not gently, with her socked right-foot, almost spilling tea down the two of them.

“I’m serious!”

“So am I!”

Blue sighed loudly through her nose: she rearranged herself on the couch, pulling her legs up under her until she was knelt beside him. Adam didn’t turn to look at her, suddenly finding his half-full mug particularly interesting.

“Adam.”

When he still didn’t reply Blue pulled the mug out of his hands, ignoring his soft sound of protest.

“Is it that big a deal?”

He didn’t want to talk about this, she was making something out of nothing, he ran into his neighbour. So fucking what?

“Um, YES! Hello, when was the last time you spoke to someone who wasn’t me or Henry or Gareth? And I swear to God, Parrish if you mention a single customer I’m gonna kill you, that so does notcount.”

Adam had to admit his social circle was a little anaemic these days, he’d had to take on a second and then a third job to get by, his student loans were generous and he had a couple of good grants for books and stuff, but ultimately living in London, existing as a student, was more expensive than he’d anticipated, combine that with his work load and Adam was essentially a shut in.

“It wasn’t like that, it was just one of the guys from upstairs.”

“Oh.”

Blue didn’t try to hide her disappointment. It had always been this way between them, Blue pushing him to do things and Adam feeling like he let her down. He tried not to let the weight of that disappointment crush him, but he couldn’t help being reminded of a similar conversation from just after they’d broken up, Blue asking him to move on, to keep dating, to‘talk to people Adam, oh my god, you’re not a fucking hermit.’

“That’s still good, was… was he nice? Henry said you were all, like, blushy and shit.”

Adam shrugged, reached for his tea, and busied himself taking a sip, taking a biscuit.

“He was nice.”

“Yeah?”

Blue was smirking again; she shuffled closer to him, carefully moving his tea-holding arm so she could flop across his lap again, her head on the arm of the chair. Now she was staring up at him, her amused gaze unavoidable.

“Is he fit?”

“Fit? Are you twelve?”

Blue shrugged, her bony shoulders briefly digging into Adam’s legs.

            “So…” She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. Adam sighed, briefly bringing his eyes up to the ceiling, he didn’t exactly believe in God, but he was willing to beg anyone to end this conversation.

“He was ‘fit’, ok?”

“Ummmmm, no. Come on Parrish, you never have gossip, give me details, what did he say to you? What’s his name? Do you like him? Does he like you? What does he look like? Did you find his Instagram? Did you kiss him?”

“Did I kiss him? Jesus Christ, Sargent, I’ve only known him five minutes.”

She gave him a look, obviously waiting for answers. Adam wondered, not for the first time, what terrible thing he’d done in a past life to deserve Blue Sargent’s undying affection.

            “His name is Ronan, he said basically nothing to me, he looks like, fucking hell Blue I don’t know, he’s fit, he’s tall and like, muscly, and he has nice eyes or whatever, ok?”

            “What colour?”

“Um, like, green, maybe, or blue? Shit, I don’t know I wasn’t cataloguing his features.”

Blue shot him a withering look, reached into her hoodie pocket and pulled out her phone.

“Do you like him?”

She wasn’t trying to be stealthy, but she was also hesitant, he could tell by her tone, by the way she didn’t look up from her phone screen.

“You already asked me that.”

“You didn’t answer.”

Adam fought off the urge to sigh again; he finished his tea, carefully returning his mug to the table.

“Maybe… I don’t really know him all that well, I think I could like him.”

Blue nodded, solemn, like this was at once the answer she has been expecting and the one she’d been dreading.

“Lynch?”

“What?”

“Ronan Lynch?”

“Um, I don’t actually know, he was Irish, Lynch is an Irish name, could be.”

            Blue turned her phone to face him; on it was a sparse- but public- Instagram page. It had only five pictures: two old selfies of a boy in jeans and a t-shirt, little more than fifteen with thick, dark ringlets falling across his forehead; a landscape of rolling hills and cows; a picture of Ronan- head now shaved- sitting on the hood of a blazing orange car, a handsome boy beside him; the last picture was another selfie, but it lacked the charming dimpled smile of the first two, instead it was a close up, most of the picture taken up by the majestic dark bird on his shoulder. Adam felt his breath catch in his throat, once again confronted by the strikingly gorgeous form of Ronan Lynch.

“Adam?”

“Huh?”

He tried to ignore the husky edge to his own voice. Blue raised an eyebrow in question.

“Oh, uh, yeah, that’s him.”

She turned her phone back around, scrutinising the photos; she flicked her eyes back up to Adam back down at the phone.

“You’re right, he’s fit.”

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         “We are not having this conversation.”

         “I’m just saying Parrish, come one, she’s right and you know it.”

         “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

         Adam wedged his phone between his shoulder and his ear, carefully bending down to replace the books he’d taken from the lower shelves.

         “She’s just worried about you, we both are, you hardly speak to anyone, you work yourself to the bone-“

         “I’m fine, Henry, Jesus wept.”

         Henry scoffed, and Adam could practically see him throw his arms up in exasperation.

         “I know you’re ‘fine’ Parrish, but there’s a big difference between fine and happy.”

        “Are you serious right naw?”

         “I’m just saying, it could be nice you know? To have someone… you deserve to be happy Adam.”

          Henry’s words were laced with concern, but they were also unwelcome. Adam had spent too much time and effort getting out of his situation, getting out of Glasgow, building himselfup. He was his own person, and he was happy! Yeah, sometimes his life kinda sucked, and he didn’t get enough sleep, and it felt like he cold barely afford to live, but a boyfriend wasn’t gonna fix any of that shit. Anger flared to life in his chest at the thought, he had done all of this, but he couldn’t be happy without a boyfriend?

          “I donnae need some rando-Irish- barstart to make me happy Henry, an’ frankly is nae any of your business.”

           Adam could feel the tenuous control he had over his accent slipping away. He hated this, his temper rising and suddenly he was that boy from Rutherglen all over again, just another kid off the estate spoiling for a fight.

           “I wasn’t trying to-“

           “Aye, well you did. Ah’m no having this conversation anymore. I’ll see you at home.”

           “Adam-“

            He hung up before Henry could begin to apologise. This wouldn’t become an argument, Henry wouldn’t let it, but for right now, Adam just wanted to stew in his anger.

            He shouldered his backpack and headed for the street. The library was empty at this time of night, it might be open 24 hrs, but few people used it past 7pm. Late night was one of his favourite times to be there, the quiet was all encompassing, he never felt like he was missing out on anything because of his hearing, or like he was being judged for not going out. He could be entirely alone. Adam got his best work done then.

            He reached the bus stop quickly, his breath fogging in the cold October air: his boots were old, and damp from the afternoon’s rain seeped into his toes. Even in his sweatshirt and denim jacket, the wind cut through him, and the rips in his jeans weren’t helping anything. It was too dark to check his watch, so Adam pulled his phone from his pocket; he ignored the three texts from Henry and the- no doubt angry- snapchat from Blue. He’d only just missed the last one, and the next bus wouldn’t be there for another 25 minutes. Adam was debating just walking to the tube station, it wouldn’t be any quicker but at least he wouldn’t just be standing in the cold, when a sleek, charcoal-coloured BMW pulled up beside him.

            “Need a ride?”          

            Ronan Lynch grinned from the drivers seat; he wasn’t nearly as flustered as he had been the first time they met. Confidence oozed from his every pore, his grin was sharp edged and his eyes glittered teasingly, like he’d just been told an embarrassing secret about you and he wasn’t sure yet if he was going to keep it.

            “I think I’m gonnae walk actually, but thanks.”

            “You’re gonna walk? It’s a brave way to go, ‘specially in this cold.”

             Adam looked down the dark road, the streetlights barely illuminating the pavement, he was shivering already, and although he couldn’t see them, he knew his fingers would be almost purple with the cold.

             “You sure?”

              “Aye, gon get in.’

              Needing no more prompting, Adam slung his backpack onto one shoulder and got quickly into the car. Ronan had the heating turned up almost all the way, and he shifted the vents towards Adam without saying anything. The roads weren’t entirely empty, but they weren’t as busy as usual, it helped that they were heading away from the city centre. They rode in silence for a few blocks, it wasn’t uncomfortable, but Adam couldn’t help replaying Blue and Henry’s words.

              “You in the habit of picking up strangers?”

               Adam asked, when his own thoughts became too much to bear.

              “Only ones I’ve accidentally clattered.”

               Ronan’s smile was a gleam in the dark, knife-edged and savage, but short-lived, his face dropping back into a neutral concentration as he manoeuvred between parked cars, and over potholes. Adam regretted speaking up, the silence that fell between them now felt loaded.

               “What’re you doing at campus so late?”

               “I could ask you the same thing.”

               Ronan’s smile flashed again.

               “They keep the art block open late on Wednesdays, my schedules already fecked, figured I’d take advantage of the opportunity, get a few hours in.”

                Adam wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but it wasn’t that.

               “I didnae realise you were an art student.”

               “Does it matter? You’re not gonna tell me it’s a waste of money, are ya? I get enough of that from my brother.”

                Ronan’s smile was well and truly gone, and his brows furrowed, a truly impressive scowl twisting his features.

                “What! Nah! I just,’ Adam scrambled to explain, “I don’t know, you don’t strike me as an art student.”

                Ronan visibly relaxed, flicking his eyes over to Adam even as he jerked into fourth. Adam knew full well this was a 30 zone, but by his guess they were pushing 50.

                “And what exactly does an art student look like?”

                Blue flashed through Adam’s mind, with her hairclips and hand-sewn dresses, his thoughts wandered to Maura and Persephone. Blue’s entire family were artists and psychics (not necessarily in that order), and he realised that he’d rather associated the two things, bright, busy, eccentric people and creativity. Ronan looked more like a gang member than an artist.

                “I guess I don’t really know.”

                Ronan shot him another look; his lips had relaxed into a smirk.

                “What d’you take?”

                “Oh, uh, mechanical engineering, with, uh, with physics.”

                Adam didn’t need to be looking at Ronan to see his eyes widen.

                “Jesus fuck, do you hate yourself?”

                Now it was Adam’s turn to laugh.

                “Sometimes I think so, it’s a lot of work.”

                “Aye, I can imagine.”

                They fell into quiet again as traffic picked up. Ronan slowing down to almost a crawl.

                “I hate London traffic.”

                 He grumbled, running one hand over his buzzed head.

                “I’m surprised you drive at all, most students just use the tubes.”

                 “Yeah… this was my Da’s car, figured I should get as much use from it as I can. “

                 Adam wasn’t sure what nerve he’d hit on, but he was certain he’d hit on one. They fell into disquiet quiet, Adam searching fruitfully for something to say to break the tension.

                 “You weren’t worried about the stigma, you know, BMW drivers and all that.”

                 Ronan looked at him, really looked at him, traffic wasn’t moving so he could afford to take his eyes away for the 30 seconds of eye contact it took for Adam to start sweating. Then he started laughing.

                “It’s a stigma I encourage,” Ronan was smiling, not grinning or smirking or baring his teeth, it was subtle difference, but an important one, “no point in pretending I’m not an asshole.”

                “I don’t think you’re an asshole!”

                Ronan raised an eyebrow, sceptical. Just when Adam thought he was going to argue his point traffic started moving again, the dull roar of the engine filling the cab in space of conversation.

 

 

          The afterglow of his ride with Adam propelled Ronan through his late dinner with Gansey and Noah. They’d been waiting for him when he got in, arguing about which restaurant to order from.

          “We got pizza on Monday, Noah! Pizza is not a balanced meal.”

          “Pizza is not a balanced meal.”

          Noah mocked in a poor approximation of Gansey’s stark English accent, already dialling Nino’s. As Noah retreated to the kitchen to order the pizza, Gansey motioned Ronan over to the couch.

         “How’s about ye?”

         “You’re in high spirits, how was the studio? Did you get much done?”

          Ronan shrugged in response, sprawling across the couch with practiced arrogance. Gansey slapped his legs out of the way, fitting himself into the narrow gap left between Ronan and the arm of the chair.

          “You didn’t answer my question.”

          “It was a dumb-ass question, I was there for four fucking hours, obviously I got shit done, I wasn’t sitting there breathing in turpentine fumes for the good of my fecking health.”

           Gansey rolled his eyes, looking pained, cringing as always at Ronan’s coarse language.

           “You were later than I thought you’d be, I called.”

            “I noticed.”

            “Ronan-“

            Noah came back in, interrupting Gansey before he unleashed his over-rehearsed concerned-dad spiel.

           “Lynch, my dude, what’s this about you beating the shit out of the lad downstairs?”

            Noah was nothing if not blunt, his sing-songy Cardiff accent let him get away with all sorts of shit other people couldn’t, it always took a second to realise his words weren’t quite as cheerful as his tone. Ronan didn’t even have time to defend himself before Gansey was jumping down his throat.

           "What!? Ronan you didn’t!”

           "Of course I fucking didn’t! Christ, Dick, what do you take me for? Where did you hear that utter bollocks, Czerny?”

         Noah smiled, the port-wine birthmark under his left eye painfully red in the fluorescent light of the kitchen.

           "I never reveal my sources.”

           "I swear to God, it’s like you have some kind of magical bullshit seeking powers, I didn’t beat anyone up, I just knocked him over, it was a fucking accident!”

           Noah shrugged, nonplussed, and spread himself out across the armchair, his long legs reaching just far enough for him to kick Ronan gently in the shoulder.

           “Whatever, he’s totally cute though, did you talk to him?”

            Ronan felt his cheeks flare, the words ‘I don’t think you’re an asshole’echoing in his mind.

            “Not then, but, uh, I gave him a lift home today.”

            “Yeah? Lynch you sly dog.”

            Ronan scoffed loudly, shoving Noah’s foot away with more force than was strictly appropriate.

            “I drove him home, I didn’t shag him in a back alley.”

            “Was that sentence necessary?”

            Gansey asked, his face beet-red. Noah crowed with laughter, his entire body shaking as he filled the room with his chortling.

            “Dick, you’re so repressed, it’s adorable.”

            “I am not!”

            “You so are! You’re more repressed than Ronan and he’s a fucking Catholic.”

            Noah’s giggling erupted again; somehow twice as loud, as if his joke was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. Ronan was pretty sure he could see tears gathering in his eyes.

            “Hey! My ancestors fought long and hard for me to be as repressed as I am now!”

            And then they were both laughing, Gansey still shifting uncomfortably.

            “I don’t like this topic.”

            “Lighten up Gans, you don’t like anything we talk about.”

            Gansey’s frown didn’t budge, but he allowed himself to be pulled into a rough one-armed hug.

            Ronan felt lighter that night, with Gansey and Noah beside him and the memory of Adam in his passenger seat still fresh in his mind, than he had in weeks. His final piece finally felt like it was going somewhere and- even though he knew it was naïve- he felt like there might be something there with Adam too. He couldn’t describe it as anything more than a gut feeling, but Ronan had always been one to trust his gut.

Chapter Text

After the lift it felt different, they’d meet in the hall, smile, wave, maybe mumble a few words, Ronan swearing like a sailor, Adam trying not to fall back into the same habit. Nothing taxing, nothing that took time or energy, or much thought. It felt like a cop out, like they’d both missed something extraordinary, or narrowly avoided a car crash. Disappointment was bitter in Ronan’s mouth, the unpleasant aftertaste of too many conversations about the weather. But he didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know each other well enough to make a thing of this, Christ, he didn’t even know Adam’s last name.

It was two weeks later, another Wednesday, when they met again properly. Ronan had been struggling with his latest piece, he thought he was onto something but now it was like he’d hit a wall. Ronan kept stopping to try and re-design it, turning back to his sketchbook only to find himself stuck.  His sculptures were never easy, but it was rare that he felt so frustrated. After 3 hours of basically fuck all, he granted himself a break. Shoving his headphones in with more force than was warranted he stormed from the studio. It was almost 7, and the coffee shop on campus had closed about an hour ago, but there was a 24hour Starbucks around the corner.

The night was cold, and Ronan regretted his leather jacket almost as soon as he left, he zipped it up over his hoodie, but it didn’t make much of a difference. Despite the cold, he felt a relief being out in the night air, his music pounding in his ears, the stress that had corded his muscles melted away. His breath fogged in the air, steam curling and catching in the light of the streetlamps, it glowed and shifted, it was exactly what he wanted to capture, that play of light, that glow. The further he walked the more his idea solidified, something that played on nature, maybe a religious undertone, a halo, golds and reds and other rich, decadent colours, but under that, earthy green and brown, plants, living and thriving. Ronan was still planning it in his head- his fingers flexing with anticipation, aching for his sketchbook, or his clay- when he saw him.

Standing beneath the next streetlamp, the light setting his curls on fire, the blue of his eyes flickering like the centre of a flame, shadows dancing across his features, his eyelashes casting long shadows on his cheekbones, his lips looking plumper, his cheeks almost hollow. Saintly and hungry. Adam.

Another boy stood beside him, he was shorter than Adam, stockier, he had something very laddish about him, a logo Ronan didn’t recognise emblazoned on his t-shirt. The boy laughed, throwing his head back, and Adam shifted, looking away. His eyes caught on Ronan and his face split into a smile, wider and brighter than the near grimace he’d cast the other boy. Ronan rolled his shoulders back, standing to his full height, buoyed by Adam’s smile, and the growing scowl on his companion’s face.

“Ronan!”

Adam took a step towards him, a step away from, holy shit,Tad Carruthers. He’d been at Eton with Gansey and Ronan had met him before, it was rare enough that they’d both opted not to go to an Oxbridge, or at the very least a Russell Group, but stranger still that they’d both wound up at the same London uni. Ronan had always suspected Carruthers had done it to stay close to Gansey, either because of a worryingly intense crush, or because Carruthers senior had political aspirations, and wanted a segue into Mrs Gansey to influence. Ronan tugged his earphones out.

“Adam,” he smiled, turning something more neutral on Tad, “Carruthers.”

“Lynch! How’ve you been?”

Tad had approached, slapping a possessive hand on Adam’s shoulder: a move made comical both by the awkward height difference and Adam’s immediate move away from him. Ronan smirked, let his eyes trail obviously across Adam’s face, noting the discomfort, and the flush that spread across his cheeks when their eyes met.

“Tearing away, and yerself?”

Ronan begrudgingly shifted his gaze to look at Tad.

“Good yeah, you…uh, you know Adam?’

“We live in the same building.”

Adam replied for him, his accent significantly clipped and softened. Ronan was disappointed; he made a mental note to try drag that rich Scottish rumble out of him by the end of the night.

“Oh! Right, well, we were just heading out, right Adam? We’re going to a study thing in Clayton Halls.”

Tad tugged at Adam’s arm but he didn’t move, his eyes had drifted back to Ronan’s, and suddenly the night didn’t feel half as cold as it had been.

“Parrish?”

“Actually Tad, I think I might stay, hang out with Ronan for a while, if that’s OK with you?”

Ronan nodded, not entirely trusting himself to reply sensibly. He cleared his throat, trying to gather his thoughts.

“Aye, you crack on though Tad, we’ll see you later.”

Tad hesitated, obviously weighing his options, trying to choose between staying and being a third-wheel, and leaving, knowing any chance he’d had with Adam Parrish was withering by the second.

“Right, yeah, of course.”

They waited until Tad had turned the corner before either of them spoke again.

“Sorry about that, he’s… something. You don’t have to hang out with me if you don’t want to.”

Ronan scoffed, scrubbed a hand over the back of his head.

“Don’t be an eejit Parrish, if I didn’t want you here I’d have told you. I was going to get a coffee, you coming?”

Adam’s smile lit up the night, much brighter than the streetlamp behind him.

Chapter Text

If you asked most people what Ronan Lynch would order in a coffee shop they might suggest black coffee, or a flat white, or the blood of his enemies, or tears of the conservatives he made cry. Adam Parrish could tell you with complete certainty that what Ronan Lynch- bad boy extraordinaire- ordered in coffee shop was none of these things; instead, he had a large white mocha, iced, with whipped cream and a muffin. Adam wasn’t entirely sure if this was totally incongruous with his personality, or exactly the kind of fuck-your-stereotypes move Ronan would pull. Little did he know it had nothing to do with perception, and everything to do with Ronan preferring caffeine to the taste of coffee.

Iced mocha and raspberry muffin in hand Ronan led the way back to his studio. Adam cradled his own small tea carefully, craving the warmth of it, shooting glances at Ronan as they walked. He hadn’t said much on their walk to the coffee shop, or once they got there, but the quiet between them felt companionable. Adam wasn’t expecting Ronan to ask him any questions, which is why he almost jumped out of his skin when Ronan’s deep, ruddy voice shattered the night air.

“How d’you meet Tad?”

“Oh, uh,” Ronan watched with confusion as a deep blush spread across Adam’s face and down his neck, “it’s a little embarrassing…We kinda, uh, like, hooked up I guess… during freshers.”

It wasn’t the answer he’d been expecting, and whilst a small part of Ronan felt unreasonably upset that Adam had hooked up with Tad ‘OMG as if’Carruthers, (rugby lad, Eton boy, mega twat,) a much bigger part of him thrilled at what that meant. Adam Parrish liked boys.

“Huh-“

“In my defence, I was rat-arsed.”

“Aye, you must’ve been steamboats to spend a whole night listening to Carruthers.”

Ronan shot a smile over to Adam, watched as his shoulders relaxed from where they’d sat by his shoulders. He was mesmerised by the way Adam’s smile fell over his face, his lips twitching and then stretching over his teeth as if uncertain, the wry curl at the corner, like his smile was equal parts display of joy and admission of guilt. It was a beautiful smile. They were still in the faint halo of a street lamp, and there, with his mouth in that soft smile, his curls just barely too long, and ablaze, with a flush still painted across his cheeks, Ronan could finally see his sculpture.

“I think I may have snogged him just to get him to shut the fuck up.”

“I don’t blame you.”

The silence rolled back in. It seemed that they spent a lot of time like this, next to each other in total silence, enjoying the others presence without the need for words.

The studio was empty when they got there, which wasn’t surprising, although Noah sometimes stopped by on Wednesday’s to bother Ronan or fiddle about with his photography on the editing software. The room was cavernous and stark, but it was filled with art, with photographs and half carved lumps of stone, with paintings left to dry and scraps of fabric hanging from the ceiling. Ronan made his way over to his workbench, but Adam stayed frozen in the doorway, his eyes roaming over the room, catching on everything. He moved much more slowly towards Ronan, mouth dropped open in shock and awe, his hands wrapped loosely around his cup, as if he’d forgotten he was holding it.

“You OK there, Parrish?”

Adam made a non-committal noise in return, still caught up in taking it all in. He wandered over to where a few paintings sat to dry, they were abstracts, bits of photograph and ink sketching peaking out between splatters of paint and hand -embroidered lace flowers, culminating into a collection of deeply unsettling, beautiful images. It was looking into a faerie realm, or someone else’s acid trip. He moved onto some of the sculptures left on the side, a few of them Ronan’s, most of them other peoples’. They were all in different stages of development, a couple were finished, but the majority were abandoned. Practice pieces or re-developed half-ideas left to mature. Ronan watched as Adam’s fingers came to hover just over one of his pieces. It was one of the only finished pieces on the bench, a carefully sculpted image of a little girl, with goats’ legs and hooves, standing on top of a broken watch, trees towering over her. It was a miniature for a larger idea, an installation piece with real trees and a life-sized girl and a massive fucking watch, or maybe hundreds of standard sized watches. Ronan had never decided. It was an idea he was attached to, but not one he could seem to get a hold of fully. A distant dream he was determined to pull into reality at some point, but not right now.

“Incredible.”

It was little more than a whisper, but it carried, bouncing off the studio walls, echo-y and eternal. Ronan felt a blush work its way up his neck, cursing the paleness of his skin, the way his freckles stood out starkly against it, somehow making him look redder. Adam looked up and caught his gaze, his pretty blue eyes widening further, Ronan wondered if that was a colour he could manufacture, but he was certain if he got a bit closer he would see Adam’s eyes were made of hundreds of threads and flecks of colour, all adding up to that precise blue.

“You made this?”

Adam’s voice was more than awed… it was worshipful. Ronan cleared his throat, feeling awkward with Adam’s attention so focused on him.

“Yeah, well, not the watch.”

He was going for light and joking, but Adam seemed too dazed to get the humour.

“It’s amazing.”

“Uh, thanks.”

Adam turned back to the sculpture, crouching down so he could look up into the canopy of the trees, no doubt getting caught up in the individual branches and leaves of the model, the miniature ravens sat on the boughs, the varied shades of green and autumnal orange.

“I’m rubbish at stuff like this, creative stuff, you know? I can write, kinda, but this… making things. I can build things, fix things, I used to be a mechanic back in Scotland, but I nevermadeanything. Not like this.”

Ronan threw his jacket over the back of stool and moved over to where Adam was still crouched. Adam stood up quickly when Ronan reached him, he was right; Adam’s eyes were starbursts of different blues, flecks of green and brown. One eye had flare of brown near the edge that the other didn’t. Adam was so amazed by this piece, this thingRonan was so unhappy with. He wondered what Adam would think about the idea he already had bubbling just below the surface of his mind.

“At least fixing things is useful, being an artist… it’s a risky career move that’s for damn sure.”

This time the humour hit its mark, and Adam huffed a laugh, that same shy/guilty smile spreading across his face.

“You can work if you wanna, I have reading to do.”

Ronan nodded, helped Adam clear a space on the other side of the room to work at. Some girl from his class had been using the area to cut appliques for some multi-media project she was doing, and so the desk was more or less clean. Ronan wouldn’t admit it but he’d chosen that desk so he could see Adam perfectly from his own work area, the bright studio lights didn’t illuminate Adam the same way as the streetlamps did, he looked more human here, less ethereal. Somehow, it only added to his beauty. He wasn’t some faerie prince, he was real, and he was startling. Ronan reached for his sketch pad and started to draw.

Chapter Text

“Please, yuv gotta come out tonight, yer been patchin’ us all week!”

Adam sighed down the phone; he was on his way to the studio to meet Ronan. It had quickly become a regular thing; Adam would head over on Wednesday’s and Monday’s when he had the night off. This week was a little different, it was Halloween, he only had the night off because his boss at O’Malley’s was a sexist piece of shit who had the female-bar staff in cat ears tonight and the male bar staff working the weekend shifts. He had half-expected to be dragged in at the café, but they had closed early, and he only worked the occasional shift at the bookshop.

“Blue, I already told ya, I’ve got plans.”

“Studying wit yer not-boyfriend ah’no plans.”

As much as Adam didn’t want to admit it, she was kind of right.

“What’s the script?”

Blue squealed loudly, quickly plotting out her plans for the evening, pres at theirs, everyone in full costume, quick stop at Spoons where they were meeting a bunch of people Blue and Henry knew, and then onto some club he had never heard of.

“Isnae my scene Blue, ahm no gonna-“

“Pleaseeeee Adam! We all want ya there, don’t we boys?”

Adam could hear the chorus of begging and whooping as Blue turned the phone to Henry and Gareth (and whoever else had already made their way over to the flat.)

“Fine! Fine, but I’m asking Ronan, and if he’s no going, ahm no going.”

 “Ok! Love ya dude.”

“Aye, whatever.”

Adam felt a shiver go through him at Blue’s words. She had always been so cavalier with her affection, so willing to offer him that love, so open about voicing it. Adam had never had the heart to tell her, but Blue was the only person who had ever said that to him, the only person who had ever loved him. The truth was Adam didn’t know if he had loved Blue, he knew he did now, in a platonic, sisterly kind of way, but he didn’t know if he’d been INlove with Blue.

She was a miracle, a collection of bright things and bubbly laughter and openhearted care. And he was a mess, a collection of broken toys and choked down sobs and cold-hearted neglect. In what world would a thing like him, get to love a girl like her? Adam didn’t know if he’d been in love with Blue, because he still didn’t know what love felt like.

His melancholy musings were interrupted by the shouting coming from Ronan’s studio: the careful artistry and cutting wit he so often displayed had almost been enough for Adam to forget about Ronan’s reputation. To forget the stories of fights and vodka and street racing Tad had spouted after he left them together. But the growling of Ronan’s voice- his gentle accent slamming through words, the brogue of his voice built for aggression- and the sound of smashing glass brought those stories to the forefront of Adam’s mind. He hurried to the door.

Now it is important to remember that Adam Parrish had not had a very good childhood. He was very familiar with aggression, with the coppery taste of blood, with the throbbing heat of bruises. He was all too aware of pain and suffering and violence, and when he saw Mr greasy against the wall- Ronan’s forearm pressing savagely against his neck, Ronan’s lips pulled back, revealing the straight white line of his teeth- he remembered what it felt like to have concrete bite into your shoulder blades. But the man wasn’t cowed by Ronan’s fury, if anything it seemed to amuse him, a flirtatious smirk pulling at the corners of his lips, his hands curling possessively around Ronan’s hips. Neither of them seemed particularly bothered by the shattered terrarium at their feet, but Adam knew that it had once housed hundreds of miniature flowers, some clay, some glass, some wire, a few embroidered. It was another of Ronan’s pieces, one of his most delicate, and even as adrenaline flooded his system, Adam found it in himself to be saddened by the scattered flowers and broken glass on the floor.

Adam could see the restraint and revulsion on Ronan’s face, the way he tried to angle his body away whilst still keeping his arm in place. The man was just slightly taller than Ronan- something of a feat given that the Irishman stood at almost 6’4”- and brutally thin. Adam knew a little something about malnourishment and general starvation, but he thought Mr greasy could rival him, even at Adam’s thinnest he had always looked more substantial: years of manual labour would do that to you. This man looked like a stiff breeze would blow him away, it was the kind of unpleasantly concerning skinniness often associated with drug addicts.

Adam squared his shoulders, trying to take up as much space as he could, he didn’t have the sculpted muscles of a boxer like Ronan did, but he was by no means weak or pitiful.

“Lynch?’

Ronan whipped around to face him, his forearm still pressed tightly against Mr greasy’s windpipe, something like relief crossing his face as his snarl melted into a scowl.

“Parrish.”

Adam took that as permission to come in, moving carefully towards the two men, glass and petals crunching underfoot. Mr greasy wore a pair of oversized white sunglasses, they were hideously gaudy, particularly because they were inside at night, and prevented Adam from staring him down. He put on his best scowl anyway, a don’t-fuck-with-me look that he had perfected after years spent with his father and his father’s drinking buddies, a look that had started and ended more bar fights than Adam would ever know.

“Need some help there?”

Ronan had tracked Adam progress across the room, only turning away when Adam was within arms reach. Ronan pushed suddenly away from Mr greasy, as though he had been burned.

“Nah, Kavinsky was just leaving.”

Ronan stepped back until they were shoulder to shoulder, this close Adam realized how much he was shaking, a quiver ran through his entire body, his balled fists quaking at his sides. Kavinsky pushed away from the wall, although he couldn’t see his eyes Adam would’ve bet a lot of money that he was glaring behind those sunglasses. He turned slowly back to Ronan, the flirtatious smirk he wore had faltered only slightly when Adam walked in, and now it was back in full force.

“Don’t be like that, lets go out have some fun.”

The way Kavinsky said fun had Adam’s stomach roiling, he said fun like it was a different word. Like it was sex, or murder, or heroin.

“I don’t want to go anywhere with you,” Ronan responded, his lip curling again, “you’re toxic. And I don’t want anything to do with whatever fucking game you’re playing.”

He spat. Ronan took another step back, his shoulder grazing Adam’s as he shook. He let his hand brush against Ronan’s back, a small gesture, and a reminder that he was standing beside him, waiting for Ronan’s cue, happy to help.

“Sounds like Dick’s got you all trained up, huh? You sound just like him.”

Adam wasn’t sure who Dick was but Ronan stiffened at the mention of him; his face reddening, either in anger or embarrassment, Adam wasn’t sure.

“Just how well trained are you then mutt, you roll over when he tells you to, suck him off when he tells you to? Does he know you like it rough? Like to hurt, bleed a little, like it when I-“

“That’s enough.”

Adam moved in front of Ronan, chest puffed out, arms slightly outstretched, as though he was blocking a physical blow rather than a verbal one. Ronan’s face dropped as soon as Kavinsky referenced sex, as though all the air had gone straight out of him. A hollow, haunted expression lingered on his features, making him look small and vulnerable. Anger bubbled in Adam, barely contained, he felt like it was rolling off of him in waves, he could almost see it, the air around him shimmering with the heat of potential violence.

“I think you should go.”

“You gonna make me?”

Adam didn’t deign to reply, letting silence fill the room. He tried desperately to rein his temper. This wasn’t who he was, and it wasn’t who he wanted to be. But he let it show on his face anyway, a warning, Adam didn’t want to be his father’s son, but he was. He didn’t want to beat Kavinsky into a bloody pulp, but he would. For Ronan.

“Be seeing you darling.”

He drawled as he passed them, Adam chose to ignore the way Ronan flinched at the pet-name, and he stalked after Kavinsky and slammed the door behind him, shooting the bolt.

When he turned back, Ronan hadn’t moved; the shaking seemed more pronounced now that it was just the two of them, probably the adrenaline draining away. Adam moved back towards him slowly, but made no effort to mask the thump of his boots on the concrete, a new (well new to Adam) pair of Docs he’d found in a vintage place in Camden, they were more expensive than what he’d usually go for, but they had reminded him so acutely of Ronan, and they were waterproof, and in good nick. He kept walking until their boots were almost touching, Ronan was still looking at the floor, and Adam bent his own head slightly to catch his eyes.

“You ok?”

Ronan didn’t reply, he didn’t say anything at all, but Adam could see his eyes fill with tears before he turned away, stalking over to his work bench and crashing the stool loudly into the metal table leg.

“Fucking grand.”

It was little more than a snarl, but the edges were softened by the careful way Ronan wiped at his eyes, clearly embarrassed by his own response.

“Ronan-“

“I don’t want to talk about it. Maybe later but… not right now.”

 He wasn’t looking at him, had turned his head just enough that Adam could see his profile, but not so much that he could gauge his expression.

Adam let the silence sit for a few minutes, busying himself cleaning the mess of flowers and glass that decorated the room. It had a kind of effortless beauty to it, Adam could imagine it in a gallery; the plaque would say it was a comment on the destruction of the natural world or something equally poetic. Ronan joined him, the two of them crouched, picking up the flowers, whole ones on the desk, broken ones in the dustpan. Adam snuck glances at Ronan’s face as they worked, the apples of his cheeks were red stained and blotchy with supressed tears, and his mouth was a taut pink line. But he didn’t look like he was going to crumble anytime soon, or like his heart had been torn out through his mouth.

“Blue called, when I was walking over.”

“Yeah? What does the maggot want?”

Ronan’s voice had returned to its trademarked apathy, (a tone he had perfected before he turned seventeen after more than one argument with Declan about his inability to control his emotions,) but it was clear he was hurting.

“Invited me out tonight, you too if you’re up for it?”

Ronan sat back on his haunches, studying Adam, like he’d presented him with a particularly taxing maths problem rather than a social invite, before braking into a smirk.

“No offence Parrish, but you don’t strike me as much of a partier.”

Adam shrugged, happy he had drawn a smirk from Ronan, he let a small smile spread across his own face. Glad to be back to their familiar teasing.

“Could be fun.”

Ronan huffed a laugh before standing, offering Adam a hand to pull him up. He’d either underestimated Adam’s weight, or overestimated his own strength, because they crashed into each other, chest to chest. It is important to note in this scenario that- whilst he was crushing quite ferociously on Ronan Lynch- Adam Parrish had had partners in the past, Blue Sargent, Mollie Evans, Cassandra Morton, Fred Bates and John Layhey, to name a few. In contrast, Ronan Lynch had managed to spend the last 19 years entirely single, if you didn’t count his ill advised, drug-fuelled, and ultimately abusive relationship with one Joseph Kavinsky. (Which he did not.) And so, when this happened, even though he was internally losing his shit (because fucking hell Ronan’s eyes were the bluest things he had ever seen and Jesus Christ how were his lips actually that plump and pink and un-chapped) Adam remained relatively calm. Calm enough to apologise and step back, dropping Ronan’s hand. Ronan on the flip-side of that lost his shit both internally (becausefucking hell Adam had freckles across his nose and how had he never noticed that before and Jesus H. Christ chapped lips weren’t meant to be sexy), and externally, because he couldn’t actually stop himself from blushing bright pink everywhere.

“So…”

Adam cleared his throat.

“What d’you say?”

“OK, “ Ronan stopped to clear his own throat, rubbing the back of his neck in the universal sign for bashful embarrassment, “Let’s go out.”

Chapter Text

“I didnnae realise you were bringing your boyfriend, I mean obvs you told me but, like, didn’t actually think you would, does that make sense?” Blue whispered to Adam as they headed back towards the living room.

“Not even slightly, and he’s not my boyfriend.”

Blue wore a strange amalgamation of grey netting and gold sprayed lace, she and Henry had decided almost as soon as uni started back that they’d be going as a moth and lamp this year, something Adam had thought was joke until Henry bought an LED shirt off ebay. Ronan followed closely behind them, Henry chatting animatedly to him. The living room was already almost full, Adam recognised Blue’s textiles friends, some of Henry’s course-mates and about half the physics society, all in full costume. It was clear the party was in full swing, the sweet smell of alcohol, the almost physical heat of bodies packed into a room; laughter and voices almost drowned out the music, but the trilling voices of Henry’s favoured pop music pierced through the mêlée. Blue led the way to her bedroom, twisting and shuffling around people with a practiced ease, Adam glanced over his shoulder to make sure Ronan was following, briefly overcome with the urge to offer him his hand.

Stepping into Blue’s room was like stepping into another world, every inch of every wall had been carefully covered with photographs, paintings, or tapestries. Great fabric trees seemed to grow from the floor, a careful craft of shadows and lace and individually embroidered leaves, her light bulb had died at some point in the last couple of months and rather than change it Blue had invested in a number of cheap vintage lamps, most of which had been covered with silk scarves lending the entire space with a diffuse, coloured light.

“Yer both gunnae need a costume if ya coming out tonight-“

“Blue, I don’t-“

“Aye, shush up Parrish, a know ya dun’t do costumes, but tonight’s an exception, I’ve had a think, an’ I rate ‘ave got something for both of yers.”

Henry slammed the door behind them just as Blue threw open the doors of her over-spilling wardrobe. Shirts, dresses, scarves and scraps of fabric cascaded to the floor, a small multi-coloured mountain amassed at her feet, yet it still took Blue only moments to find the items she was looking for.

“You take these, go get changed,” she demanded forcing the ball of clothes into Adam’s arms, shooing him towards the door “you, sit down.” She finished, gently but forcefully manhandling Ronan into her desk chair. Shooting Ronan an apologetic look Adam headed for the bathroom.

 

Adam had never felt so foolish in his entire life. He didn’t do costumes, and he sure as hell didn’t do skin tight costumes. The t-shit was tight enough to have been painted on, a deep acid-washed indigo- almost black in places- with runes drawn or painted on by hand. His jeans were black and a little looser; but they were ripped so thoroughly they left more of his leg exposed than was covered properly. Adam didn’t know a whole lot about runes, but he was pretty sure these were more the ancient Viking kind, than the practising witch kind. Trust Blue to be mindful of all demographics. The thought brought a smile to his face, even though the entire outfit left him feeling uncomfortable.

It wasn’t long after that Henry came to find him, highlighter and eyeliner pencil in hand. Adam had resigned himself to his fate and allowed Henry to sweep the shimmery power across his cheek and brow bones, patting it gently onto his cupids bow and the centre of his eyelids, before carefully lining Adam’s eyes.

Henry stepped back, letting Adam once again see his reflection. The makeup had elevated everything; he no longer looked like an awkward fine featured boy, but instead sultry and adult; enchanting and mysterious. His eyes were dark and bottomless, the shimmer across the high points of his face added dimension where before his skin had seemed dull with sleeplessness and anxiety. He looked fucking hot.

“Baby Blue’s truly out done herself, you look edible, Parrish.”

Henry purred, and for once, Adam was inclined to agree. A sharp knock at the door broke the spell that had fallen over both of them, and Ronan stuck his head round the door. Whatever he was about to say died in his throat at the sight of Adam, and his mouth hung open. Adam smirked, being aware of your own hotness and having it confirmed by the dude you’re crushing on are two very, very different scenarios. The last of his worry melted away. He took Ronan’s few moments of distraction to catalogue his costume, Blue had painted feathers around his eyes, and the base of his jaw on either side; the face paint was teamed with feathered epilates on each shoulder.

“What exactly are you supposed to be?”

“Raven.”

“Wellllll, caw-caw to you pretty boy,” Henry smirked, manoeuvring around Ronan in the doorway, shooting Adam a knowing wink as he left. Ronan scowled after him, but the anger faded when he turned back to Adam. Pure wonderment fell across his features, for someone who wore a constant expression of barely-concealed-fury, Ronan had deeply expressive features; his eyebrows alone were capable of at least 13 different types of anger, and a further 15 different types of joy. But it was his mouth that held Adam’s focus, his pretty bitten-red lips were twisted in anxiety, and whilst wonderment still clung stubbornly to his countenance, it was clear worry began to ebb beneath the surface.

“What’s wrong?”

Ronan’s expressive eyebrows shifted again, resting somewhere between surprise and chagrin.

“Nothing.”

He lied, even as he wiped his hands roughly on his clay covered black jeans, a gesture filled with nervous energy.

“Aye, likely story Lynch, your face is doing something weird.”

Ronan smirked, trying and failing to shrug off his anxiety.

“Are you saying I’m funny looking Parrish? And here I was thinking I had you all weak in the knees.”

Adam felt a blush rise in his cheeks, but he ignored it, stepping closer to Ronan, as close as he could get without them touching, so that when he spoke he knew Ronan would feel it on his lips. Two could play at this game.

“And hereIwas thinking I was hiding it better… guess you’re just too good at reading me.”

Adam let his arm brush against Ronan’s, summoning up the fleeting dregs of his courage he laced their fingers together, brushing his thumb across Ronan’s pulse point. He could feel his heart pick up, could see the corresponding blush spread across his cheeks.

“Tell me what’s wrong.”

 Not for the first time that night Ronan dropped his head, hiding his face.

“That guy, Kavinsky, he… we,” Ronan took a deep breath, tightened his grip on Adam’s hand, “we were together, for a while. It wasn’t good. I did a lot of stupid shit, a lot chemical stupid shit ya know? And I just, I just keep thinking that maybe this was a bad idea, like what if we see him? Tonight, at the club, or something… I dunno, I’m probably just being stupid.” Ronan still hadn’t looked up, the blush, which had spread gently across his cheeks, was now roaring down his neck, and what little of his expression Adam could see was uncomfortable.

“I don’t think you’re being stupid, we don’t have to go out if you don’t want to. I’ll stay here with you.”

Ronan’s head shot up, his eyes wide, cheeks pink, mouth pinched in discomfort.

“I don’t want to ask that of you.”

“You don’t have to, I’m offering.”

Ronan let silence fall between them, staring intently at Adam, awed expression on his face again, as if Adam hadn’t offered something entirely normal. As if he had offered a great service, rather than a simple courtesy. They were both broken that way, both convinced they were undeserving, it would take a long time to unlearn that. 30 seconds passed in unbroken quiet, the sound of the party felt distant. And then Ronan kissed him.

In his not-so illustrious career as a physics major Adam Parrish had broken physics innumerable times, it came with the territory, sometimes physics didn’t do what it was supposed to, but in that moment Adam was certain Ronan had broken every physical law there was. Gravity stopped working, energy, electricity, and planetary law felt distant and ineffectual. Adam was flying, he was floating, he was being made and unmade. They were their own big bang, galaxies of stars; whole civilisations were born in the meeting of their lips, universes of racing heartbeats and pure oxygen. They were a wild fire and they were an ocean, a natural disaster and a natural beauty. They were the heart of a dying star; burning so bright it was painful.

Chapter Text

Adam Parrish kissed like a thunderstorm, like a forest fire, like an earthquake. His lips shifted, and the ground beneath Ronan shifted with them, his hands were gentle and warm, coasting up his sides, one dropping back down to grip his hip, the other continuing up until it cupped his jaw. Ronan had never been more aware of his own hands, so good at creating, so sure, so uncertain here, with Adam in front of him. He settled them around Adam’s waist, pulling him closer. Adam’s thumb started rubbing circles into his hip, and Ronan couldn’t stop the gasp that left him, but Adam Parrish was nothing if not opportunistic, opening his own mouth against Ronan’s parted lips, deepening their kiss. From hot and wild, to dark and sinful, the taste of Adam… like sunshine and aniseed, warm and intoxicating.

Ronan didn’t know how long they stood there, pulling apart only enough to breath before falling back together, until a sharp knock at the door broke the spell.

“I gotta pee!”

Slurred the voice on the other side.

Ronan watched as Adam struggled not to laugh, his smile- as always- falling across his face, suddenly and self-deprecatingly. He met Ronan’s eyes, only inches separated them, Adam’s lips flushed and slightly swollen, the smile took on something else, something quieter and more secretive.

“We should head out there, I need to find Blue and tell her what we’re doin’”

His brogue was rougher than usual, and warmth thrilled through Ronan at the sound of it. He was screwed if anyone ever found out what that accent did to him, what it stirred in him. The boy in his arms felt like a miracle in so many ways.

“Don’t bother, we… we should go.”

Adam’s eyes widened, black lined and depthless, yet swimming with confusion.

“But you said…?”

“I know, and I meant it, Kavinsky is an asshole, but… I don’t know man, lets just go out, have fun; I don’t want him to ruin that. And anyways, it’s not like I’ll be alone.”

Adam smirked up at him, brushed their lips together again, tingling and sensitive.

“You definitely won’t”

“Heyyyyy! Heyyyyyy, guys, I gotta peeeeeeeeee!”

This time Adam did laugh, slotted his hand into Ronan’s and led them out.

 

Ronan had learnt a lot of things about Adam Parrish before they even got to the club; a) Adam Parrish could hold his liquor, even though they matched drinks (and Ronan absolutely had more experience with drinking) it hardly seemed to touch him, he spoke clearly, stayed steady, Ronan didn’t want to admit it, but he found it a little hot; b) Adam Parrish was friends with everyone, there was no single person in his flat that didn’t greet him with a smile; c) at some point Blue decided it would be hilarious to cover Adam’s bedroom door in glittery animal stickers, and a large neon plastic registration plate with ‘ADDY’ across it in bubble writing; d) Adam Parrish was deaf in one ear.

“How didn’t I know this?”

“I don’t like talking about it,” Adam explained, clearly embarrassed, “It happened when I was 16, it’s not a big deal.”

Ronan wanted to argue that it was, in fact, a very big deal. It didn’t matter, it’s not like he was gonna stop doing… whatever it was they were doing, just because Adam couldn’t hear in one ear. But it mattered, it mattered because suddenly Ronan thought of all the times he had to repeat himself in conversation, all the times he’d blasted his car radio, or the blue-tooth speakers in the studio, not even considering what that would mean for Adam. He felt sickly guilty, it wasn’t his fault, he knew that, but he still felt like he hadn’t made the effort, hadn’t been accommodating.

 

Pres passed in a blur of flavoured vodka and weed fumes drifting in from the balcony. Before too long they were shivering in the queue for the club, Ronan pressed tight against Adam back, their hands grazing, and unspoken decision on both sides not to make this public until they’d had a chance to talk about it properly. Blue stood in front of them, Henry’s arm draped over her shoulders, her arm slung around his waist, entirely platonic, and yet intimate. Adam ached to wrap his own arm around Ronan, maybe slip his hand into Ronan’s back pocket, a claiming gesture. He wanted everyone that walked past, all the guys who undressed him with their eyes, and all the girls that stared and blushed as Ronan scowled at them, to know that it was Adam who got to kiss him.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it’s fecking freezing out here.”

Ronan complained his breath warm against the back of Adam’s neck, crowding even closer. Adam, turned to look at him, his nose was red tipped, his cheeks wind-burnt. The black feathers painted around his eyes, and at the base of his throat seemed even starker in the washed out lights that adorned the club, a raven. Suddenly it struck him, and he couldn’t stop the laughter that bubbled up his throat.

“What? Me freezing to death is amusing to you?”

But he was smirking, a smile starting to turn up the stoic corners of his mouth. Adam continued to laugh, the alcohol in his system making everything especially hilarious.

“Parrish, care to share?”

“Blue, she, our costumes,” Adam paused to take a deep breath, “it’s a couples costume, witch and familiar.”

Ronan looked down at his own costume, if you could call it that, the simple feathered epilates on his shoulders, and at Adam’s, the runes bleached into his shirt. Witch and familiar.

“Why would she do that?”

Adam blushed deeply, even more so than he had when they kissed.

“She knew, that… I liked you.”

A grin split Ronan’s face.

“You like me?”

“I snogged you Lynch, I don’t know how your friendships typically play out, but I’d consider that a little over friendly.” He said, rolling his eyes.

Ronan huffed a laugh, reaching out he pulled Adam into the circle of his arms, dropping a soft kiss onto his blond waves. Adam let himself relax, slipping his own arms around Ronan’s waist as he had wanted to earlier.

“Warmer?”

“Much.”

“Happy?”

“Very.”

Chapter Text

Adam woke up with a terrible headache and the solid warmth of Ronan at his back. Shifting carefully under the covers, he realised quickly that they were both, thankfully, mostly dressed. Boxers firmly in place. Adam loosed a sigh of relief, he had had his share of regrettable one-night-stands since he’d started university, but he didn’t want Ronan to be one of them. The last hour-or-so of the night was a blur, but a few moments stood out in stark relief; Ronan’s hips against his; the bite of Sambuca; holding Blue’s hair as she puked in the street; running into one of Ronan’s flatmates; the heated press of lips; the greasy smell of whatever drunk food they’d managed to find.

 Ronan’s arm tightened around his waist, and had Adam not been slightly preoccupied with his screaming headache, and sudden desperate need to piss, he would’ve appreciated the comfort Ronan’s presence offered. Adam slid out from beneath Ronan’s arm, grateful that when they’d decided to crash they’d chosen his flat instead of Ronan’s.

The bathroom bore the wounds of last night, a large streak of neon face paint adorned the door, and the sink was filled with glitter, Blue’s mascara- stained flannel drying on the radiator. Adam took care of the most pressing matter, before daring to look in the mirror. He had just about remembered to wash the makeup off the night before, and whilst the eyeliner gave him smoky, panda-eyes, he didn’t look entirely un-dead. He leant over the sink to rub at his under eyes, pain flaring in his hip where it rested against the basin, below his shirt a large bruise flowered, already mottling yellow in places. For a moment, he couldn’t remember what had happened, and then he did:

 

Blue was giggling like a fucking loon, she was barely upright at this point, and honestly, Adam was shocked they had let her into the taxi. Henry held her up on one side and Adam on the other. Ronan had been elected official door-opener, leading the way through the building, only stopping when he reached the door of the flat. It became pretty apparent, fairly quickly, that the only member of their household who had managed to bring keys out with them was Adam, carefully swapping places with Ronan, their shoulders brushing, Adam let them in.

Henry made a bee-line for the couch, dropping Blue down, whispering reassurances as he did so. Henry was much better at dealing with drunken people than Adam was, especially drunk Blue. Alcohol had become much less of an issue for him once he moved out, once his friends started drinking, once clubbing became an integral part of his socialisation, once the only job he could score was in a bar: but drunk Blue was something else, if Blue was tactile when sober, then drunk Blue was a much different beast. She would cling to you like a spider-monkey, limbs locked tight, sometimes crying. Adam could deal with a lot of stuff, but booze and unwanted touch in the same scenario, that wasn’t one of them.

He slipped his hand into Ronan’s dragging him towards his room, ignoring the huff of laughter he let out at being again confronted with the “ADDY” plaque on the door. Ronan didn’t move quickly enough aside, and Adam leaned into to him to unlock the door, his shoulder brushing against Ronan’s chest in a way that was at once entirely innocent and filled Adam with an illicit thrill.

Ronan followed him into the cold, dark of his room, his hand warm on Adam’s lower back. Adam had never been more conscious of the bareness of his space, even in this low light the room looked sad. The only bright spot the geometric bed sheets Maura had given him when he left for uni, and the collection of houseplants on his desk. Persephone had given him a new one at seemingly random, yet unnervingly specific, times throughout the last 3 years; a Peace Lily when he had his first kiss, a Bonsai tree the first time he cried about an assignment, a Cactus when he got his third job, Ivy after his first time, Aloe Vera when he and John split up, and so on. Now a small garden sat on his desk, various school supplies peeking out from between the foliage. Adam didn’t have a lot of stuff, and he certainly didn’t have any personal things, no family photos, just his houseplants, and Persephone’s tarot in the drawer of his nightstand.

He didn’t have a chance to be self-conscious for long; Ronan spun him round and pressed him against the door, catching Adam’s hip on the handle as he did so. Adam hissed as his side whacked against it, Ronan jolting away, large warm hands coming to rest against him, the fear on his face clear even in the semi-twilight of the room.

“Are you-“

“I’m fine,” Adam all but growled, dragging Ronan back into him, pressing their lips together, urgent and hungry.

 

Adam’s fingers hovered over the bruise; a blush working it’s way from his cheeks down his neck, the memory of Ronan’s lips leaving him tingly and warm. He brushed his teeth and hurried back to his room, suddenly desperate to see Ronan again. He was awake when Adam got back to his room, shirtless, and stretching against Adam’s cheap cotton sheets.

Chapter Text

Adam looked like a young Adonis leaning against the door, hair like spun gold, highlighted by the sun light glaring in from the blinds they forgot to close. Ronan had never found anyone’s legs to be particularly striking, but he thought Adam’s legs were the best he’d ever seen, possibly the best in the world. He wasn’t sure how one would go about quantifying that, but he was willing to put the legwork in.

Waking up in Adam Parrish’s bed, scrap that, waking up ALONE in Adam Parrish’s bed was somewhere between a dream and a nightmare. The dream, he was in Adam Parrish’s bed, and he was not wearing a shirt, or jeans: the nightmare, Adam Parrish was not in his bed, and whilst the pillows still smelt like £1 shampoo and juniper hand-cream, they were barely lukewarm. This meant that whilst Adam Parrish had absolutely gone to sleep in his arms, at some point pretty recently he’d woken up in them, and subsequently left. Cue mild panic attack. In the few minutes Adam spent kinda freaking out in the bathroom, (not that Ronan knew this is what he was doing, Ronan thought he had left, definitely the room, possibly the building, wasn’t gonna rule out the country) Ronan was definitely freaking out in the bedroom.

And yet here he was, hair tousled, eyes sparkling, mouth twitching into a smile, Adam Fucking Parrish. The best thing God had made since the original Adam (in Ronan’s opinion, the Vatican has not been available for comment.)

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

Adam crossed the room quickly, slipping back into bed beside him, the alarm clock told him it was almost 12, and Adam’s body relaxing against his told him that Adam wasn’t working until later.

“Jesus wept Parrish, your feet are fecking freezing.”

Ronan hissed as his…boyfriend’s? feet grazed his calfs. Adam grinned up at him without replying, burrowing further into Ronan, pressing his cold feet purposefully into his legs. As much as he wanted to be annoyed, he thoughts ran closer to barely intelligible screaming as Adam’s equally cold hands came to rest  in the small of Ronan’s back, his head on Ronan’s chest. He settled his own arms around Adam’s waist, slipping them under his shirt to feel the skin there. His fingers felt the ridge of a scar, and suddenly their conversation from last night came rushing back:

 

He was kissing Adam against his bedroom door, and the connotations of that fact pulsed in his stomach. Adam was hot and responsive beneath him, everywhere they touched seemed to burn, but Ronan was unwilling to let go. Adam’s arms twined around his neck, in a moment of passion, or possibly madness, Ronan reached down, hands firm around Adam’s thighs, he hoisted him up, and Adam immediately wrapped his legs around Ronan’s waist. The change of height was unexpected, and delicious, Adam took the lead, licking into Ronan’s mouth. Both of them moaning and panting, moving against each other without thinking. Adam tipped his head back to loose a low whimper, as they rubbed together, the friction building. Ronan kissed down his neck, Adam was pinned between the door and his body, letting him move one hand from Adam’s thighs to pull aside his t-shirt enough to suck a bruise into the juncture of his neck and shoulder.

Ronan didn’t know how long they stayed like that, pressed together, parting only long enough to gasp for air, before they were submerged in one another again. Ronan’s shirt came off at some point, he couldn’t say exactly when but he was pretty sure it was between when Adam bit his ear, and when Adam moaned so loudly Ronan thought his head was gonna explode. Adam’s shirt coming off seemed like the next logical step, both in the pursuit of fairness, and because Ronan wanted to burn it into his memory, Adam Parrish, shirtless, pinned between Ronan’s hips, and the door of his bedroom. The hand still cupping Adam’s neck moved down his torso, swift but sure, slipping under the hem, sensual, gentle, hungry.

Adam’s shirt hitting the floor did not make a sound, the floor, after all, was carpeted, and the shirt itself was soft cotton. That is to say, Adam’s shirt hitting the floor did not physically make a sound, but the echoes of that action would ring through every moment of physicality they would ever share as a couple. Because when Adam’s shirt came off, the scars of 16 years worth of abuse were revealed: the taught plains of his stomach, the marble-carved contours of his muscled chest, strength built from years of hard manual labour, and overlaying all of it, scars. Puckered lines of flesh, shinning patches of skin the diameter of a hand rolled cigarette, slim raised lines, from stitches or glass shards. Adam’s body reminded Ronan intimately of Roman sculptures, beautiful men with fine features and enviable bodies; and yet at once of every bar fight he’d ever had the displeasure of being involved in, broken glass and bleeding lips and ashtrays.

Both boys seemed to realise what had happened at the same time. Adam wriggled free from Ronan’s hold, but Ronan was too shocked to move away, leaving Adam still trapped between the door and 6+feet of be-freckled Irish muscle. Adam had always been praised in school for his eloquence, but it failed him here, words had abandoned him all together. Ronan had never been praised for his verbal excellence, he was a tactile creature, and this held true now. Large warm hands coasting up Adam’s bare sides, callused thumbs tracing the path of broken beer bottles, stalking the tracks of wedding-ring grazes, extinguishing the ache of cigarette lighter burns: until finally one hand came to rest against Adam’s cheek, brushing over the unhearing ear. Adam met his eyes.

“So now you know.”

Little above a whisper, but a shout in the silence of the room, in the quiet of the early morning.

“Your Da?”

Adam didn’t confirm it, but he did flinch, and that was more than enough.

“If it’s too much-“

“Hey, don’t even start with that fecking shit naw Parrish, if it’s too much, get’ou the fuck. You’re the most beautiful theng ‘ave ever seen.”

Ronan carted his fingers through Adam’s hair, before settling his hand back where it had been at the base of his skull.

“Get out the fuck? Really? Way to sell the moment Lynch”

Adam replied, his kiss-swollen lips twitching just slightly, from grimace to smile, before he tugged Ronan back down for another brief kiss. Things were substantially less heated than they had been, but it didn’t matter, slow and low and warm was good enough.

This time when they pulled apart to breathe, they stayed apart; close enough to share the same air, but not to fall back into each other.

“Is late, you should stay ‘ere, I rate ma bed’s big enough for tha’ both of us.”

Ronan had to agree. And so jeans were removed, and t-shirts were tugged back on, and face paint was quickly and savagely scrubbed at with off-brand face wipes, and freezing feet were shoved between warm shins.

“Goodnight Lynch.”

“Aye, Parrish, night.”