Adam Parrish had a long list of things he didn’t like. He despised bananas, travel by air, questions about what his parents did for a living, realising he needed to buy new shoes, staying out late on a weekday -
And also. Very especially. Political mixer parties like the one he had just arrived at. This particular party was ticking up a long list of negatives already and he’d only been here for long enough to take his jacket off.
He’d had to fly to get here in time. He’d had to buy new dress shoes because his other ones were too work formal and not party formal. Parties he was going to to mix specifically with potential business partners and clients always meant questions about his parents. He was definitely out late on a weeknight, in fact, he’d be staying here for the night at Gansey’s house.
But see. The thing was.
The reason he had accepted Gansey’s invitation to fly with him to a party at his family home in the middle of the week was because Gansey had (probably) unwittingly dropped into the conversation a perfect Adam Parrish bait.
He had said, “Do you remember Lynch? He’s going to be there.”
For the majority of Adam’s life, he had lived in a small dusty town called Henrietta, and for the majority of his time in Henrietta it had been dull and painful and boring and he had been itching to leave, leave, leave. Part of his plan for leaving successfully had been to worm his way into the elite Aglionby Academy so as to stand out in his university applications. He had accomplished this, through no little effort, and fell into the company of Richard Campbell Gansey the third, who he had thought would be a good study partner.
The problem with this third Gansey, however, was that he came with an extra limb of the name of Lynch. Ronan Lynch.
This extra limb hated studying, hated peace and quiet, and at first Adam had thought had hated him as well. Ronan almost put an end to Adam and Gansey’s study dates and early stages of friendship, but if there was one thing Adam was better at than lying it was being stubborn. Which meant that he gritted his teeth and ignored Ronan until Ronan stopped raging at his own tail and calmed the hell down a bit, and eventually it stopped being Adam and Gansey and Gansey and Ronan and instead became a three headed beast of RonanAdamGansey roaming the halls of Aglionby.
For a while it was good - possibly even great -, he had two firm friends, good grades, a hope for the future, a tickle in the pit of his stomach when Ronan held his gaze from under his dark lashes for two beats longer than he ought to.
Then it had happened and things had fallen apart. Some odd twist of luck, or fate, or curse maybe, had first of all brought in social workers to take him away, and then found the Henrietta foster homes full, and then shipped him off and away with no thought to his hard work getting into Aglionby, or his friendships he had waited his whole life for, or his painfully quiet realisations about himself.
He didn’t call Gansey or Ronan at first because he was ill with pain, and then with fear, and then with uncertainty. And then he didn’t call because he was ill with shame. And then he didn’t call because it had been a month and surely they had given up on him and didn’t care about him and wouldn’t want to hear from him, and -
He didn’t call. He was placed in foster home after foster home, never for long because few of the homes said they could keep him for longer than a couple of weeks, not with all the more needy, sweeter children needing care.
As soon as he had been able, he had removed himself from the system, studied, studied, studied, got into university in DC, and in his second year, as fate, or luck, or his curse would have it, he met Richard Campbell Gansey the third for the second time.
Whatever else Gansey had said about the party hadn’t made its way into Adam’s brain because he had mumbled out that yes, he remembered Lynch, and then he had sat dumb in Gansey’s presence itching to ask about Ronan, itching to peel back the years he had known Gansey for now (one year in Henrietta, three in DC), and ask Gansey the day they met in DC how Ronan was instead of not bringing him up and not bringing him up and not bringing him up because Gansey didn’t and Adam wouldn’t be the first to ask and who really cared and -
It turned out that Adam really cared because the tickle in the pit of his stomach was suddenly back and he was agreeing to go to a party, and going out to buy fancy shoes, and packing his bag, and taking a couple of days off his part time at the mechanics and his full time at the lab, and getting on a damned plane with Gansey.
He didn’t think Gansey knew which of the various reasons he had placed in front of Adam as enticement to come had worked, and Gansey didn’t ask, so Adam didn’t tell him.
However, he had been grinding up his courage for the moment of the party when he would bump into Ronan for so long by the time that they had arrived at the party, that he was sure he had blown his cover when Gansey at his elbow suddenly said;
“Oh! Lynch, I’ve been meaning to get you and Parrish here together.”
Lynch turned around, and Adam found himself stupidly starting from the feet and looking all the way up because; 1. It was a long way up and, 2. It was a good view.
Lynch was well dressed, his clothes formal and expensive looking but not starchy like so many of the Gansey family friends he had had to meet so far that evening. He was well built, like Adam remembered from school. He had a small child dressed in an oversized blue jumper and leggings perched on his hip. There was a child in his arms. A child. He finished his drawn out gaze at the face and realised with a start that this was the wrong Lynch.
“Declan,” Gansey was saying, “do you remember Adam Parrish? He was in my year at Aglionby. Fantastic fellow. He’s looking for intern options in medical research, and obviously he’s already had a lot of offers seeing as his grades are top notch, but I thought seeing as Ashley runs a Biomedical engineering lab you might want to run Adam’s name past her.”
“Indeed,” The Wrong Lynch said, “I remember Parrish.” He adjusted the child on his hip and held out a strong looking hand for Adam to shake, “Mostly I remember how you arrived in Aglionby and immediately became the top student. Very impressive. Childs was distraught when you left.”
“I’ll have to send him an apology,” Adam said, shaking Declan’s hand as firmly as possible, trying to smooth out any possible shock his face had betrayed after realising which Lynch Gansey had tricked him into attending this party with. “Maybe a basket of grapes.”
Declan’s lips twitched and he released Adam’s hand after a final squeeze. “Let’s swap numbers,” he said, “and I can drop a line to Ashley. Unfortunately she’s not here tonight, but if you’re in DC usually, we can probably set up a meeting with her instead of me as a middleman.”
“I’d like that,” Adam said.
Because he did know about Ashley Cordwell, he just hadn’t realised that she was Declan Lynch’s wife. He hadn’t even researched the requirements for getting into internships with her lab because he hadn’t thought he’d get in, but, if he’d researched he would have known about Declan, and then when Gansey had used Lynch as a point in his ‘why Adam should come to this party’ speech, he would have known which Lynch and could have said no. Of course, then he wouldn’t be getting this opportunity to speak to Ashley Cordwell at all, and well. Maybe Declan was the right Lynch for this moment.
He realised at this point, that Gansey had disappeared, apparently satisfied with this interaction, so he and Declan exchanged numbers, talked a little bit more about Ashley and biomedical science, and then were at a standstill.
“Oh,” Declan said, as if suddenly remembering a whole goldmine of conversation topics, “I almost forget. Let me introduce you to Darcy Lynch. Darcy, honey, say hello.”
Darcy, because she looked no older than two, simply lifted her head from where it had been resting on Declan’s shoulder and offered a mumble, and also her hand.
Adam shook her hand, damp from being a toddler.
“Nice to meet you, Darcy,” he said politely, “I’m Adam.”
“Actually,” Declan said then, hoisting Darcy a little higher on his hip, “honey, would you mind staying with Adam for a few minutes? I need to go to the bathroom.”
To Adam he said;
“I’ve been dying to for the last half hour but I don’t trust anyone here to keep an eye on her and stop her from diving into the chocolate fountain.”
Adam would have very much liked to have said no. Or to have said he was allergic to children, maybe, or, or, that he would definitely let her dive into the chocolate fountain because she was a toddler and that’s what toddlers ought to do, surely. Instead, he nodded, because he did want that good word said to Ashley.
“Sure,” he said, “do you want me to hold her or -”
Declan deposited the bundle of child and jumper in Adam’s arms and disappeared at an alarming pace.
“He really must have been busting,” Adam mumbled to Darcy, who upon being placed in Adam’s arms had gripped very tightly to his collar and clenched her knees around his waist like she expected he would drop her. “But he’ll be back soon, don’t worry.”
“You have Darcy!” Called a voice behind him, and he turned around appreciatively to see Blue Sargant striding up behind him in a voluminous and sparkly yellow dress.
He had never spoken to Blue when they had both lived in Henrietta, though he had had a small crush on her when he’d seen her around Nino’s where she worked and he and Gansey and Ronan ate often. Once he had admitted his slight crush on her to Gansey and he had gone to suggest to Blue that she might ditch her shift and come talk to him and she had all but slapped Gansey. It had been mortifying. Which made it all very surprising when once Adam and Gansey were reacquainted in DC, Adam was finally introduced to Blue, and as Gansey’s girlfriend. She and Adam often banded together to make fun of Gansey, and he was very pleased to finally be friends with her, and possibly even more pleased that he got to make friends with her after he’d gotten over being an awkward teenager with a crush.
“I do,” Adam replied, grinning widely at Blue.
Darcy leaned out of his arms towards her, and he adjusted his statement.
“I did,” he said, and Blue chuckled as she took Darcy from him.
“I’m glad you came tonight,” she said, “I had to come early because Gansey’s mother wanted to have a ‘girls day’ with me and Helen for some horrible reason and I’ve been looking forward to getting to talk to at least one person who doesn’t refer to Starbucks as ‘that poor person coffee shop’.
“People don’t talk like that,” Adam said with a snort.
“They do!” Blue insisted, “I’ve heard them! I’m right, right, Darcy?”
“Uh-huh,” Darcy said, pleased to be included.
She looked a lot more relaxed in Blue’s arms than she had been in Adam’s, her head resting on Blue’s shoulder like it had on Declan’s, and her arms loose around Blue’s neck.
“So,” Adam said, aimed for wit as he gestured between Blue and Darcy. “How do you two know each other then?”
Blue snorted, jiggled Darcy on her hip until Darcy giggled. “I’m her godmother,” Blue said as if it were obvious, “so I met her when she was still growing under the pumpkin in the backyard, right, pumpkin?”
Darcy giggled again, and Adam frowned.
“I didn’t know you were a godmother,” he said.
“Well not the magic type,” Blue teased, then relented, “I’ve definitely mentioned visiting my godchild before. She’s too cute not to have brought up at least a million times.”
“Ok,” Adam admitted, “I guess you did, but I suppose I… I suppose I thought you were godmother to a niece or something.”
“You need to ask more questions,” Blue said, “otherwise you end up making silly assumptions. And you know what they say about assumptions! Right, when you assume you -”
She said this last bit to Darcy, who suddenly grinned wide and said, “You makin’ ass of you’n’me!”
“I can see your godmotherly influence is certainly taking effect,” Adam said, possibly a little shell shocked at this tiny child.
‘Oh, no,” Blue said, “that’s all her father. I just go along with it because it’s funny, and she likes it.”
Declan Lynch was turning out to be a lot more interesting than previously thought.
“I can’t believe you didn’t know about Darcy,” Blue said, bouncing Darcy as she spoke, “she’s my favourite Lynch and my favourite person.”
“Well we know each other now,” Adam said with a shrug, “right Darcy?”
“Mm-huh,” Darcy said, then pointed dramatically at the chocolate fountain. “I need it.”
“Sorry, Adam,” Blue said, “duty calls.”
He watched as Blue and Darcy made their way off through the throng of suits and dresses (that didn’t hold a candle to Blue’s yellow explosion), and then turned to find a conversation he could slip himself into without having to exhaust his entire social energy reserve.
He found a group of Gansey’s friends he knew from university, and they waved him into the conversation and Adam only had to use about 2% of his brain talking about various professors and everyone’s plans for the upcoming holiday until someone came up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder.
What he saw when he turned around required much more than 2% of his brain.
“I was told you had Darcy,” Ronan Lynch said, looking extremely out of place despite the suit he was wearing. It was just his face. “But I see you do not.”
“Uh,” Adam said, not having engaged the rest of his brain yet, “Blue has her.”
“Oh right,” Ronan said, “they’re probably knee deep in the chocolate fountain then.”
“Last I heard, yeah,” Adam said, “I uh - I didn’t realise you were here.”
Ronan snorted, crossed his arms, and looked over his shoulder. “Right,” he said, “well. It’s been a while, Parrish.”
“Yeah,” Adam replied, realised he was having far too much difficulty engaging his entire brain for this conversation. “A few years.”
“I should go scoop Darcy up then,” Ronan said, glancing over his shoulder again, “later, Parrish.”
He turned to go, and for God’s sake, Adam didn’t get on a fucking plane to come to a party to only swap numbers with the wrong fucking Lynch.
“Lynch,” he felt himself jerking forwards like someone had kicked him from behind. “Are you uh - are you stayin’ at Gansey’s tonight? We should catch up.”
Ronan barely even glanced over his shoulder. “I’m heading back to Declan’s soon,” he said, “you’re in DC right? I’ll be around there.”
“Oh,” Adam said, “oh. Great. Yeah. So, not tonight?”
“Not tonight,” Ronan said, and then disappeared.
That could probably have gone better. He turned back to the conversation he had abandoned for stuttering at someone who obviously didn’t give a shit about him and found the topic had shifted from these coming holidays to previous holidays. He dropped his attention span to 1%.
“I really appreciate you coming,” Gansey said, much, much later once most of the guests had gone and the people left in the house were all going to bed. Gansey had just ‘popped in’ to check in that the guest room was acceptable.
“Thanks for inviting me,” Adam said, glancing up from his laptop. “And for that connection to Ashley.”
“Of course!” Gansey said, far too bouncy for this time of night. He let his bounce bounce him into the room and onto the end of Adam’s bed. “You’ll meet up with her when you get back to DC?”
“Hopefully,” Adam said, poked at Gansey’s legs from under the blankets with his foot. “I saw Ronan tonight too. He’s looking good.”
In truth, ‘looking good’ was absolutely the weakest description. He didn’t want to get into exactly how good Ronan looked because it was too much to think about even in his own head.
“He’s doing really well,” Gansey said, actually literally bouncing a little bit on Adam’s bed. “I’m so excited that he’s moving to DC, finally. I know he’s only been putting it off out of stubborness for so long.”
“He’s moving to DC?” Adam asked, choked a little on his own spit, “Oh.”
“Didn’t he tell you?” Gansey asked, “He’s staying at Declan’s while he sorts out his new place.”
“I knew he was staying at Declan’s,” Adam mumbled, “but that’s all.”
“Huh,” Gansey said, fiddled with the blanket on the bed. “You’ve not seen him since Aglionby, have you?”
Adam shook his head. This felt like a rather pointless conversation.
“I know you two didn’t really get along,” Gansey said, “not all the time. But I hope when he’s all moved in that we could spend some time together, the three of us. Relive some of the good times.”
“Make new ones,” Adam suggested, carefully looking at his laptop screen. “I think that could be good.”
“Right-o,” Gansey said, patted Adam’s foot, “I should go to bed. I promised Blue a back rub. See you in the morning, tiger.”
“‘Night, Gansey,” Adam said.
He waited until Gansey had shut the door behind him, and his footsteps had faded away, before he closed his laptop and lay back on his bed to stare at the ceiling.
Ronan Lynch was moving to DC and there was a 98% probability that they would ‘hang out’ together, and Adam was fucking 22 and should not be as stupidly excited about this prospect as he currently was.
Adam had been back in DC for nearly two full days before he heard any word from any Lynch’s. He had decided to give Declan a full week before texting him to ask about Ashley, and Ronan five days to ask if he wanted to hang , but as it turned out, he didn’t have to wait at all.
“Parrish,” Declan said, “I’m calling on behalf of Ashley because apparently I’m a secretary now,”
“I hope you get good job benefits,” Adam said, pinning his phone between ear and shoulder so he could continue doing his dishes.
“Occasionally,” Declan allowed. “Look. We’d like to invite you around for dinner. Ashley’s usually worked with the people she gets into her labs and she prefers to know candidates personally first.”
“Oh,” Adam said, Oh. Ronan was staying with Declan. “That sounds good. Do you have a time in mind?”
“Tomorrow night?” Declan asked, then said something away from the receiver in a much softer voice. Maybe Darcy had come in. “I know it’s short notice, but -”
“Sure,” Adam said, “I’m free tomorrow so that works for me.”
“Alright, good,” Declan said, “honey, please wash your hands before climbing on me.”
“I’m going to assume that was directed at Darcy and not me,” Adam said, smirking and readjusting his phone with a soapy hand.
Declan laughed, a quick bark, and Adam could hear Darcy in the background complaining about being too short to reach the taps.
“Ok,” Declan said, sounding like he was being overwhelmed on his side, “listen. I’ll text you the details and the address. See you tomorrow.’
“See you,” Adam said, and Declan hung up.
So, that was happening.
He was going to see Ashley Cordwell and Ronan Lynch. He was going to have to dress up really fucking nice.
Back when he’d lived in Henrietta he had had no opportunity or resources to dress nice, or well. The closest he got to well dressed was his Aglionby uniform, and even that was second hand and something he had had to carefully hand sew and wash himself rather than send it off to a laundromat like all the other boys in his classes. Even while dressed in the clothes of the affluent he had never looked it.
Somehow, despite his scruffy clothes, and grease stained skin, and home haircut, Ronan had spent a lot of time looking at him. The knowledge that Ronan had found him attractive had been a small warm thing that Adam had carried around to help fight off the shame he had felt about how he looked. If someone as aesthetically pleasing as Ronan Fucking Lynch could find him attractive in ripped jeans and a stained t-shirt and choppy hair, it couldn’t be that bad.
So. Now. Now he had the resources to buy jeans that fit him, enough shirts that he could wear designated mucking out shirts, a good haircut. Now he had the outfit to match how he felt on the inside, hopefully it would mean that Ronan would be, like, extra attracted to him.
That was, of course, if Ronan was still even attracted to Adam at all. People changed. Adam used to think he’d want to marry a quiet bookish girl (and then he met Ronan), and now he was pretty sure he wanted someone with enough adventure in them that they could pull Adam out of his bare apartment and into something more exciting. Ronan hadn’t really seemed that impressed by Adam’s look at the party, to be quite honest, so actually, maybe he was just into the dirty shabby look.
He couldn’t turn up to meet Ashley fucking Cordwell in his mechanics outfit.
It had taken Adam far too long in Henrietta to realise that Ronan liked him, but after he realised he had spent a lot of his time thinking back to the other moments he ought to have realised this and over thinking everything and generally just thinking about how Ronan liked him. He had thought that Ronan had started to like him almost the same time that Ronan had stopped hating him. That was when he had first noticed Ronan’s eyes lingering on Adam’s hands, that was when Ronan had started just showing up outside Adam’s work at the ends of his shift and dragging him off to abandoned lots to fuck about with trolleys and the BMW. All the physicality of it - not only of Ronan dragging him on a literal dolly behind a car and the both of them ending up bloody and bruised, but of Ronan wrestling with him, skin to skin, holding him in a headlock against his heaving chest - had been so intense after years and years of the only touch he received being something he tried to avoid, that he hadn’t been able to see past the feel of it at first.
It had just been so BIG at first until he got used to being touched, being a normal human who wasn’t so touch starved that his brain went numb just at a friendly brush of shoulders, just at Gansey offering him a fist bump. So, when he was used to this contact he had begun to realise that Ronan touched him a lot. More than Gansey did. More than Ronan touched Gansey. And always in such incongruous ways. Stuffing himself onto the couch next to Adam so that their thighs and sides pressed together. Sitting in the backseat of the Pig next to Adam and throwing his legs over Adam’s. Wrestling. Shoving the back of Adam’s head. Poking him in the side. Brushing an eyelash off of Adam’s cheek.
It had been so obvious in retrospect. What was even more obvious in retrospect was the way Adam’s stomach had been driving in donuts at every single one of these touches.
He was getting off track.
He couldn’t keep living in the past, thinking about moments when he had been a teenager. They weren’t teenagers anymore, they didn’t know each other anymore, and just because Adam still carried around that warm feeling of Ronan’s affection for him didn’t mean that Ronan still felt the same heat.
In the end, he had rung up a couple of his friends who had had high end intern lab interviews. They had pointed out that he’d been to his own interviews and hadn’t needed fashion advice for them, but gave it anyway. Possibly he was really calling up to brag about the fact that he was meeting Ashley at her house. Possibly he was really calling up to let out the nervous energy he was feeling about seeing Ronan by pretending he was nervous about meeting Ashley.
He got to Declan and Ashley’s house half an hour early. Which was definitely a faux pas, so he drove off again and parked outside a park and read an essay a friend had recommended him on his phone until it was ten to. He could get away with being ten minutes early but he couldn’t risk staying a little long and getting there even one minute later because that one minute would stick in his stomach like lead for the whole evening and he wouldn’t be able to eat and that would be a bad look as well and -
It was a very, very posh looking house, not that Adam had expected anything different. This was the type of neighbourhood that Blue talked about egging, and all of the houses were huge and fenced and very separate from one another. None of that wall to wall going on here, just expanses of green lawn. He had to be buzzed through the fucking gate.
Declan was waiting at the door when he got there, holding it open, and he shook Adam’s hand once Adam stepped inside.
“Ash’s in the lounge,” he said, releasing Adam’s hand and pointing down the hallway, “first door on your left. I’m just getting drinks, want anything?”
Adam must have hesitated a moment too long, because Declan prompted him.
“Whiskey? Coffee? Tea? A wine? We have some nice rare tawny, some Villa Maria Cabernet?”
“Oh,” Adam said, “just a water would be great, thanks.”
“Just water?” Declan raised an eyebrow, “How about juice?”
“Water’s fine,” Adam insisted. “First door on the left?”
“That’s the one.”
Ashley was sitting on a long low sofa when Adam knocked on the door frame. She had her phone in one hand and her other hand was stroking Darcy’s head where it lay in her lap. She looked up from her phone and smiled widely at Adam, and he felt for a moment like maybe they had met previously?
“Adam,” she said, “how lovely. Come in, have a seat.”
Usually, Adam would have chosen to sat on one of the armchairs facing the couch, but she had paired her greeting with a firm pat on the sofa beside her and it would be rude to ignore this.
“It’s so nice to meet you,” Adam said, voice low so as not to disturb Darcy, as he crossed over to sit beside her, “I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time.”
“I always like hearing that,” Ashley said with a grin, “you don’t need to be quiet, she’s awake.”
“Oh,” Adam said.
“Jus’ thinkin’,” Darcy piped up. “‘Lo.”
“Hello,” Adam replied, bemused to be speaking to the crown of a toddlers head.
“So, Adam,” Ashley said, “Dec tells me your grades are a sight of beauty, and in fact, I have had one of your essays cross my desk before.”
“Please,” Adam said, “please tell me it wasn’t the one with the pre-hand in title.”
Ashley snorted, stroked a sticky up patch of Darcy’s hair down. “If you’re referring to your essay on cell fusion entitled, ‘Proof my lecturer is not human part. 3’, then yes, it was.”
“Oh God,” Adam said, “I feel like I ought to let you know that I admire my lecturer greatly, and he thought it was very amusing.”
“Yes,” Ashley said, “he told me. I did have the essay sent to me because of the title, but I was extremely impressed with the content as well.”
Declan came into the room now with a drinks tray. These people really were living in that one percent life.
“Sweetheart,” he said (it was still odd hearing Declan Lynch using pet names, despite the length of time he hadn’t seen him), handing a dark red wine to Ashley, “honey,” he said to Darcy, holding out a sippy cup. Ashley took that as well. “Water for you, Adam.”
After handing out the drinks, he plucked his own glass (it looked like whiskey) off of the tray, and put the tray down by the side of coffee table and sat down as well.
Darcy sat up now as Ashley handed her her sippy cup, and leaned against Ashley’s side.
“Done thinking?” Adam asked her, resisting the urge to tap his thumb against his glass as an outlet for the nervous energy still coursing through him.
“Nah,” Darcy said, very seriously, “not even a li’l.”
“She’s a deep thinker,” Declan said, “always thinking up interesting things.”
“Like her dad,” Ashley said.
“Dad says,” Darcy mumbled around her sippy cup, “I’m pr’b-ab-ly a norkle.”
“An oracle,” Declan translated.
“And what do you think about that?” Adam asked, wondering if Darcy was somehow part of the test for getting this internship. If she was, that was very clever.
“I think,” Darcy said slowly, “I needa nicecream.”
“Your daddy said no more icecream today,” Ashley said, squeezing Darcy gently, “and that your uncle is too soft on you,” she added, raising an eyebrow at Declan.
“That reminds me,” Adam said, “Ronan said he was staying here, will he be joining us for dinner tonight?”
“He is supposed to be,” Declan said, checking his watch as he spoke, “but he said he might get caught up with the viewing he was doing today, so we’ll see.”
“Bu’ backfer stories?” Darcy asked loudly, “Backfer stories?”
“Of course,” Declan said. He tossed back a mouthful of his whiskey, then stood up and swept Darcy off of the couch, sippy cup and all. “Come on, honey. Let’s go check on the chicken.”
Once Declan and Darcy had disappeared, Adam turned back to Ashley who was already watching him, eyebrows arched.
“Let’s talk about your plans for the future,” she said, “I know your type. You’re like me. Big dreamers, big doers as well. Declan told me about what you were like in high school, and it’s obvious that you’ve gone and succeeded what you planned on doing then. So. Tell me what’s next on the plate of Adam Parrish.”
“Hopefully that chicken,” Adam said, smiled as Ashley laughed (hopefully with real amusement not just politeness), “Right, my plans -”
He and Ashley talked for the next fifteen minutes; Adam outlining his ideas for his upcoming thesis, where he wanted to take his studies, the research he was interested in, Ashley asking questions about the papers he’d written, saying she thought he’d get on very well with one of her coworkers, and quizzing Adam on the types of cars he’d fixed. Then Declan popped his head around the door and announced that dinner was ready and served, so they got up and made their way to the dining room.
The table was resplendent with a huge dish of what looked like chicken alfredo, baskets of garlic bread, juice, and also, Ronan Lynch with Darcy in his lap.
It was a little unfair, because Adam had spent over an hour dithering about his outfit and Ronan had probably just got dressed without worrying at all today and he looked about 500% better than Adam did, and about 600% too handsome for Adam to be able to look at full on without that stupid warm ball in his chest trying to escape out of his mouth.
“Ronan,” Adam said, unable to contain his surprise.
“He turned up just in time to not help with the pasta,” Declan said, “have a seat.”
“Are you and Ash finished hobnobbing?” Ronan asked, putting his hand out to stop Darcy from grabbing the juice jug, “Or will dinner be research talk too?”
Adam looked at Ashley who was moving to sit between Declan and Darcy’s highchair, and she laughed and reached over the highchair to shove Ronan’s shoulder.
“Even research talk must be better than having to talk about your house hunting,” she told him, and Ronan shrugged one shoulder but grinned back at her. “I think we’re done doing work talk, though,” she continued, “so you and Adam are safe now. Only fun topics at the table.”
“Rickers,” Darcy announced.
“Crickets,” Ronan footnoted, “they are very loud tonight, aren’t they?”
“Hey Darcy,” Adam said as he sat down in the free chair next to Ronan and Darcy, “do you know how they make the noise?”
“Villains,” Darcy said firmly.
Adam glanced first to Ronan, and then to Declan, and then snorted. “Violins?” He asked, “Very close. They rub their wings together and that makes the noise. Like a violin bow against the strings.”
“I need nings,” Darcy declared.
“Maybe after dinner,” Ronan said, “hop into your chair now, little cricket.”
Dinner went well. Adam was reasonably certain that if he wasn’t getting this internship, he was at least going to get a good friend in the field. Ashley was very fun to talk to, and Declan was a lot more interesting than Adam remembered from his time in Henrietta. He supposed this wasn’t surprising seeing as the majority of his interactions with Declan back in high school had been mainly negative and involving Ronan and Declan spatting.
Now, Ronan and Declan seemed to get along, or at least, the insults they threw at each other appeared to be good natured, even in Ronan rolled his eyes at about 45% of everything Declan said.
The problem was that even though Adam and Ronan were sitting next to each other at the table, and that Ronan was chatting with Adam along with everyone else, was that Ronan wasn’t really talking to Adam, wasn’t making an effort to make a connection.
To be fair, Ronan was busy feeding Darcy dinner and stopping her from throwing her pasta at Declan, and also? Adam wasn’t feeling quite brave enough to be the one to turn to Ronan and say, ‘hey, I know we haven’t seen each other in years and that’s probably my fault, but let’s be best friends?’.
So. It was a surprise when after dinner and dessert and tea, and after Ronan had disappeared upstairs to put Darcy to bed, and after Adam had thanked Ashley and Declan for having him, when Ronan appeared suddenly in the hallway as Declan walked Adam to the door.
“Wait up,” Ronan said, and Declan paused, his hand on the door handle.
“Right,” Declan said, “I’m sure I’ll see you again soon, Parrish. Goodnight.”
“Night,” Adam said, accepted Declan’s quick hand shake, and then turned to look at Ronan who had leaned against the wall about a metre away from Adam. ‘Hi.”
Ronan didn’t respond until Declan had left the hall and gone back into the lounge, and then he did so with a frown.
“You were just going to leave without saying bye?”
“I thought you were busy,” Adam said, fiddled with the buttons of his jacket that he had only half done up.
“I was,” Ronan said unhelpfully. “Put your number in.”
“What?” Adam asked, then blinked down a the phone Ronan was holding out to him.
In all of Adam’s memories, Ronan had hated using his phone, had avoided answering calls, barely had it on him, certainly wouldn’t offer it out to people for their numbers.
“Oh,” Adam said, “Right. Yeah. I meant to get your number at Gansey’s the other day.”
“I meant to give mine to you,” Ronan said.
The thing was, Adam thought as he took Ronan’s phone and thumbed his number in, was that the things Ronan were saying were the things that Adam wanted him to be saying but he wasn’t saying them in the right way. Everything he was saying was deadpan and almost bored. He had sounded more excited persuading Darcy to eat her garlic bread crusts than he did now. He handed the phone back to Ronan.
“I have a viewing tomorrow,” Ronan said, “near where Gansey said you lived. I thought I could come around if you were free. We could grab a coffee. Catch up.”
“I’m free between two and five,” Adam offered, “if that works? There’s a great coffee bar just down the road from mine.”
“Cool,” Ronan said, “I’ll text you my number. Text me your address?”
“Ok,” Adam said.
Ronan leaned forward and knocked Adam’s shoulder with his fist.
“Right,” he said, “bye.”
Back at home, Adam allowed himself to think about how weird that whole interaction had been. Ronan had always been… weird, but had never been so awkward. He was as straight to the point as usual but there was something stilted and off about it. Like he was following a script. Like someone had instructed him to be nice to Adam or some shit. God.
Had Gansey finally figured out Adam’s years long crush on Ronan? Had he set this whole thing up? Had this whole thing - from Aglionby to university to right now - been an elaborate prank run by Gansey on exposing Adam’s stupid crush?
He needed to get a grip on himself.
First of all, he knew Gansey better than that, and Gansey would never. Second of all, he knew Gansey had no clue about his crush. Third of all, what sort of stupid train of thought had that been???
Still. Ronan was being weird, and it made Adam feel weird, and weirder still because it did nothing to diffuse the stupid warmth in his chest whenever Ronan spoke to him, even if it meant it was accompanied by a lead ball freaking him out.
In Henrietta Adam had mostly seen the rough and calloused side of Ronan, the side of him that wanted nothing more than car crashes and hangovers and bruised knuckles, but. But sometimes he’d see the other side. The side of Ronan where he held baby mice to his cheek to feel their heartbeats, or where he’d buy Gansey juice because Gansey was stressed out, or where he’d sense that Adam was having one of his bad days and he’d drag Adam out of his head and ground him with adrenaline and soft words, and.
That Ronan was the part of Ronan that had cemented Adam’s feelings for him. He was already attracted to the grazed knees, bite worse than bark Ronan, but knowing that he was capable of being so gentle had just done him in.
And now? It felt like Ronan had been turned inside out. He was a soft creature with Darcy, careful words and soft hands, and a smile always turned on for her, and it was like the rough and bloody Ronan was the one that snuck out.
Or maybe Adam was just imagining things. Or maybe Ronan had just grown up. Or maybe Adam should just roll over and go to sleep instead of trying to replay every moment he’d ever spent with Ronan Lynch in his head to try and puzzle him out and piece him together.
By the time tomorrow came, Adam had decided it was stupid. He was looking forward to seeing Ronan, he wanted to be friends with Ronan, and it seemed like Ronan wanted to be friends with him too, and that’s all. Which was fine. Because honestly? Adam probably only had a crush on the memory of having a crush on him, which was stupid because he’d dated several people since leaving Henrietta, and he should stop holding so tightly on to an old feeling that had never taken him anywhere just because it felt nice.
He was going to be friends with Ronan, and it was going to be fine, and all that shit.
next chapter is where things start to HAPPEN and i'm looking forward to it.
They had been planning to meet at Adam’s flat and then go to the coffee shop together, but Adam was running late. He only worked at the Mechanics twice a week, and he was almost always on top of all his work, but only half an hour before his shift was over another of the guys on managed to put his back out and had to go home and Adam was asked to cover his work.
This meant that he didn’t have time to get home in time to meet Ronan there, and certainly didn’t have enough time to get home, shower, change, straighten the flat up a little more, and then meet Ronan. So he texted Ronan one handed and made peace with the fact that he was going to turn up to a one on one with Ronan while he was sweaty and grubby and -
Part of him was very busy whispering that maybe Ronan would like that, because after all, isn’t that one of the things he’d noticed Ronan liking about him when they were teenagers? But a larger part of him was reporting to him about how Ronan had looked the last couple of times he’d seen him; clean, tidy, well dressed. Not the stubbly, ripped jeans guy anymore.
Ronan was waiting outside the coffee shop by the time Adam arrived. He was leaning against the wall beside a motorbike that was undeniably his; a leather jacket over his arm, leather boots laced up his calves… ripped jeans.
Adam felt like he was going to have a whole fucking heart attack.
He had thought, briefly, briefly, briefly during moments at midnight that he prefered Ronan in suits and pressed trousers, but the blood refusing to pump into his heart was telling him otherwise. Still. He was clean despite the leather and ripped pants, and Adam was still dirty despite the quick wash he’d had in the sink at the shop.
He considered stepping back away and texting Ronan some inane excuse about being even more held up and could they rechedule? But then Ronan caught sight of him, his eyes shifting from the horizon to Adam and then doing a very obvious slow sweep of his bedraggled look. Only after he’d taken Adam in did he lift a hand in greeting.
“Sorry I’m late,” Adam relented, stepping closer while tightening the knot of his coveralls around his waist, “I had to cover a co-workers shift.”
“Of course,” Ronan said, he looked almost amused, his eyes were still darting up and down over Adam’s outfit, “just like the old times.”
Adam opened his mouth to argue that he was barely even late to things, especially back in high school, but Ronan got in first with the correction.
“Covering for others, that is,” he said, “not being late. That bit was a surprise. I thought you were just trying to stand me up.”
“No,” Adam said, relieved he hadn’t, “come on then. Coffee.”
Ronan trailed Adam into the shop, leaned down a little to mutter in Adam’s ear that the coffee smelled great but the names were ridiculous. They ordered, for take-away because Adam hated being tied to staying in one place for long enough to finish a coffee, and as soon as they were handed their coffees, Ronan headed for the exit.
“Oh,” Adam said, his turn to be trailing after Ronan. “I thought we’d drink them here?”
“I want to see your place,” Ronan said easily, holding the door open for Adam, “and I hate talking in cafes and shit.”
“Fair enough,” Adam snorted, recalling the amount of times they’d been kicked out of Nino’s in Henrietta because Ronan was not good at talking in cafes. “I don’t want to be blacklisted here.”
“I’ve gotten a lot better at not yelling in small spaces,” Ronan said, leading the way around the side of the building again, “but I’m told my jokes are often not acceptable for public audiences.”
Adam would have replied to that, but Ronan had stopped by the motorbike and had fished up two helmets. He changed course.
“My place is in easy walking distance,” he said quickly, “a waste to drive.”
“I’m not leaving my bike here,” Ronan said, “and you were running late, so I’m making up for lost time by getting there quicker.”
“I’m all greasy,” Adam said, waving one hand down at himself.
Ronan’s eyes followed Adam’s hand appreciatively, and the whispered voice in Adam’s head finally managed to elbow the other one out of the way. Ronan did like how Adam looked all greasy and mucked up still.
“I don’t give a shit, Parrish,” Ronan said, “this jacket’s had worse on it.”
Adam had always wanted to ride a motorbike. He gave in and took the helmet from Ronan. Ronan in return took Adam’s coffee and stuck it with his own in what looked like a custom made coffee holder before putting his own helmet on and hopping onto the bike.
Adam had given up on expressing hesitation when he was seventeen, so he swallowed it down and just got onto the back behind Ronan, and wrapped his arms around Ronan’s waist because he didn’t want his first time on a motorbike ending with himself ass to gravel.
Ronan hadn’t put his jacket back on, so Adam had his arms around his waist covered only in a thin black t-shirt, and he could feel his warmth through the fabric easily. His own body tended to be a little too cold at all times, so it was a comfort feeling Ronan so warm against him. Ronan didn’t comment at Adam’s eagerness to wrap himself around his back, just started the bike up and looked over his shoulder at him.
Adam nodded, and Ronan took off.
They made it to Adam’s flat quickly enough that he didn’t even really have time to worry about what he ought to have tidied up this morning, and barely had enough time to consider how he could feel Ronan’s stomach muscles against his arms. Pretty rude, to be honest.
“It’s nice,” Ronan said, staring around Adam’s very small kitchen from where he sat at the counter, “I mean. If you like living in a doll’s house.”
“It is nice,” Adam said archly, took a long sip of his coffee, “especially if it’s all you can afford while studying.”
“Fair,” Ronan said, then led with the question Adam had thought was just going to be completely ignored. “Why didn’t you call?”
“I mean,” Ronan shrugged one shoulder, picked at the top of the counter where it was peeling slightly. “I get that you must’ve been busy. After you got… kidnapped by the government. But after you settled down a bit. You didn’t think we’d wonder where you went?”
“I wasn’t kidnapped,” Adam said, smacked Ronan’s hand away from peeling, “I was re-located for my own benefit.”
“That sounds like you’re been fed lines by a wire,” Ronan snorted, and Adam grimaced.
“Gansey must have told you what happened,” he said.
“Sure,” Ronan shrugged again. His hand was inching its way back to the peeled bit of the counter. “That’s not the bit I’m having trouble getting.”
Adam had explained this bit to Gansey as well. Why he hadn’t made contact. Possibly not very well, possibly not to Gansey’s satisfaction, but Gansey at least had had the good sense to drop it because it was obvious Adam didn’t want to talk about it.
“I didn’t think you’d want to hear from me,” Adam said as simply as he could, shifting a stack of books over the peeling counter to stop Ronan from destroying the whole kitchen.
“Why?” Ronan persisted, shifting now to pick at a loose thread coming from the spine of one of the books Adam had shifted.
“Because it took me so long to get settled, man,” Adam grunted, letting Ronan pick at the book. It was deadly boring and he disagreed with the author, so. “I thought it’d have been too long. Like. You guys would have moved on.”
Ronan actually laughed at that.
“Gansey went half crazy,” he said, “he barely slept until he found out where you had gone.”
Adam ducked his head.
“Ah shit,” Ronan sighed, “I’m sorry.”
That was surprising enough that Adam lifted his head again, raised an eyebrow at Ronan.
“I’m not trying to - shit,” he said again. “I didn’t mean to go all Spanish Inquisition on you. Or to make you feel shitty, just, God, Parrish. You were our best friend and you thought we wouldn’t give a fuck?”
Adam nodded. Ronan continued.
“And now it’s like,” Ronan cleared his throat, “you’re Gansey’s mate again, but I don’t even know who you are.”
That hurt, though it probably shouldn’t have.
“I’m still me,” Adam tried, “just… just with more freedom, and my own place.”
“Yeah?” Ronan said, his eyes flickered back over Adam, “You’ve got the same outfit, I guess.”
“I have a part time gig at a Mechanics,” Adam said quickly, “I don’t usually wear this.”
“I like it,” Ronan said.
The whisper in Adam’s head cheered.
“When I met Gansey again,” Adam said, emboldened by Ronan’s truthfulness, “I should have reached out to you. I’m sorry I didn’t. I was… afraid.”
“Dumbass,” Ronan mumbled. “Same.”
“Yeah,” Adam took another drink of coffee, grateful to have something to do with his hands. Ronan’s hands were still occupied with the thread. “So. Ok. You don’t know who I am anymore, and I don’t know who you are anymore, so let’s start again. How come you’re moving to DC? You hated it last I heard.”
“Oh I do,” Ronan said, “but I want Darcy to have more family around. She doesn’t have grandparents, so. Matthew’s mostly in DC as well, but he travels around a lot.”
“That’s really… that’s really good of you,” Adam said, “you’re really good with Darcy.”
“Thanks,” Ronan mumbled, cleared his throat, looked a lot like he was waiting for Adam to follow up with something else. When Adam didn’t, Ronan continued. “Gansey said you’re studying to be a science doctor or something?”
“Or something,” Adam snorted, “I mean, I guess you’re well informed on that now, you know I’m looking for a good internship.”
“You don’t need to look anymore,” Ronan said, “you’ve definitely got it with Ash.”
“Oh,” Adam said, “oh? I do?”
“I mean,” Ronan stopped fiddling with the thread to turn his attention to the seam of his coffee cup. “That’s what I’ve heard. I guess I shouldn’t really say anything until she actually gets in touch with you.”
“Yeah,” Adam said, “I - wow. Ok. Um. So. What are you up to these days then?”
“I’ve been running the family farm,” Ronan said, “and, uh. I’m a tattoo artist. Part of the reason I moved, actually. I got a real good offer of work from a popular place here, and it coincided with Gansey’s cajoling, and Declan’s nagging, and what Darcy wanted, so.”
“That’s - that’s definitely something I would have imagined you doing,” Adam said, snorted, “I like it. That’s cool.”
“Maybe not as cool as bio-med research or whatever,” Ronan grunted, “but I like it. Except there’ll be a hell lot more stupid university students wanting dumbshit.”
“So many,” Adam said, “I saw a guy last week who had a dream-catcher in the infinity shape on his lower back.”
“What the hell!” Ronan said, “I hate it.”
“Maybe I’ll get one,” Adam said, screwed his face up in mock concentration, “A tramp stamp, that is,” he added, grinning at Ronan, “What’s that thing - it’s always on the university page. That cat saying you’re not immune to propaganda.”
“Awful,” Ronan said.
“I’d get you to do it, of course,” Adam said, “you’d do that for me, right?”
“You’re pushing your luck,” Ronan growled, but then grinned as well. “You have any tats?”
“No,” Adam shook his head, “there’s nothing I like enough to have permanently. I guess you have more than your back tattoo now?”
“Yeah,” Ronan said, “but showing you would require stripping.”
Adam would not mind that.
They chatted more about random shit. Like about how Ronan had dropped out of Aglionby for their last year, and about how none of the other schools Adam had gone to after Aglionby offered Latin because they weren’t pretentious shits. About how Gansey and Blue had gotten together, and about how Ronan and Adam both thought that was hilarious. About Adam’s study, and Ronan’s farm work. About shit and stuff, until Adam noticed the time and had to shower and change quickly before his evening class. Ronan stayed for that, and then drove him to class on his bike. He wore the jacket this time, which was a bit sad, but the trip was longer, and Adam spent it with his face pressed in between Ronan’s shoulder blades with the excuse that he wasn’t used to riding on motorbikes, and Ronan let him. When they got to Adam’s class, Adam stood a moment beside the bike, helmet in hand.
“Catch up again soon,” Ronan grunted.
“I promise I won’t leave it another five years,” Adam replied, hoping this would be more amusing than painful.
Ronan punched him lightly on the shoulder.
“Asshole,” he said, “give me my helmet back.”
“Hey,” Adam said, once the helmet had been returned and Ronan was moving to put his visor back down. “I -”
Ronan was looking at him oddly. He was backlit by the fading sun, and Adam wished he looked a little less like the love interest in a romance because he had to have his head screwed on properly for his class, and Ronan lit in pinks and reds in his biking leather was not helping with that.
“I like the bike,” Adam finished weakly. “You should give me rides on it more.”
“Whatever, Parrish,” he said. “Next time.”
Next time ends up being the very next day because they bumped into each other while Ronan was coming back from a meeting at the Tattoo shop and Adam was going for lunch, so they ate lunch together. Ronan had Darcy with him (Darcy was covered in fake tattoos), and they ate sandwiches in the park and Adam and Ronan took turns pushing Darcy on the swings because she wanted to see who could push her highest (Ronan, because Adam was too scared to push too hard in case she flew out of the seat).
Then Ronan texted later that evening and asked if Adam would look at his bike for him the net day because it was making a weird noise, and Adam said yes, because of course, so the following evening Ronan brought the bike around and Adam looked at it and found a barbie head shoved into the exhaust pipe, and Ronan bought them fish and chips for dinner and Ronan told Adam about the time Darcy had flushed an entire nappy down the toilet and it had flooded the house.
Then the following afternoon, Ashley called Adam to tell him that he had definitely gotten the internship, and actually, yes, it was a paid role, it’s important work you’d be doing Parrish, what are you on about? And had followed up this news with inviting him around for dinner again to meet the rest of the team.
He texted Ronan after this phone call to tell him that he had been right, and, surprisingly, Ronan responded by calling him back.
It had already been odd with how much Ronan had been texting him since they’d reconnected because Ronan had never liked his phone, but he hadn’t expected him to have grown so much to actually make a phone call.
“Congratulations!” Ronan said as soon as Adam answered the phone, and Adam laughed.
“You already told me that I was getting it,” he reminded Ronan, “but thank you.”
“So I ought to have said congratulations then,” Ronan replied, “let me take you out to dinner to celebrate?”
“Oh,” Adam said, “Ashley’s invited me around for dinner on Saturday. Me and the rest of her research team.”
“Let me reiterate,” Ronan said, “You and me. Let’s go out to dinner.”
“Oh,” Adam said again. “Ok.”
“You free tonight?” Ronan asked.
“Yeah,” Adam said, then snorted, “you’ve seen me every day for like a week, surely you’re sick of my face by now.”
“Nope,” Ronan said. “Pick you up about seven?”
“Pick me up?” Adam asked.
“On my bike,” Ronan clarified, “I’ll take you somewhere nice.”
“Wait,” Adam said, “somewhere nice as in dress up nice, or somewhere nice as in good for doing wheelies?”
Ronan laughed, and hung up, so, Adam was just going to have to wing the outfit.
It was stupid. Because. Usually when Adam liked someone he had a reasonably easy time of it. He’d meet someone in one of his classes, or at work, or whatever, and he would notice that he liked them, and so, if he had the time and energy, he would ask them out. If they said yes, he would date them. It was all very clear cut. They would go on a date together, and if it was good, another the next week maybe, and so on and so forth until they decided they wanted to end it or define it, but either way, he always knew what he and his feelings were doing.
This was so different. There was no clear line. Not even in Adam’s emotions. Because. God.
He had so much emotion over Ronan. It was the warm thing in his chest, and this heavy, heavy, aching thing in his stomach, and it felt like nostalgia, and it felt a bit painful, and it felt a bit like lust, and it was difficult to get into one box to label as one thing. He could point out various bits. Like, yes. He was very attracted to Ronan. Who wouldn’t be, after all? And, yes, he was comfortable around Ronan. They had been best friends, of course, so that was old comfort in a new dress. So, sure, he wasn’t bored of spending time with Ronan even after seeing him daily. But they had a lot to catch up on.
And then there was the fact that when they were teenagers they had never acknowledged the obvious attraction between them. And now they were adults, they were continuing this trend. Adam hadn’t asked Ronan out, Ronan hadn’t asked Adam out, but bits of this felt like dating, so did it make it dating? And if so -
It was doing his head in.
He ended up in jeans and a nice jumper because that felt like a good compromise between wheelies and fancy restaurants. Then he called Blue.
“You what?” Blue asked.
Adam sighed, collected himself, and tried again. “I need your opinion on whether Gansey would be pissed off or beside himself if I tried to date Ronan.”
“Oh,” Blue said, “I did hear you correctly.”
“Come on, Blue.”
“So,” Blue said, not coming on, “is this like, new affection you have for Ronan? Or did his reappearance in your life reignite some long forgotten feeling in you?”
“I didn’t forget it,” Adam grumbled, and Blue whooped.
“Adam Parrish,” she said, delighted, “no wonder you’re so atrocious at dating other people then, if you’ve been sitting on this the last few years!”
“I’m not atrocious at dating,” he said.
“Please,” Blue snorted, “since I’ve known you, you’ve been broken up with three times because you apparently don’t like them enough. I thought it was because you were married to your studies, but that’s not it, is it?”
“I’m not atrocious at dating,” Adam repeated, quite put out.
“Sure,” Blue said, “ok. What do I think Gansey will think?”
“Why don’t you ask him?”
“Because,” Adam sighed, “because Ronan is his best friend. And - I don’t know, Blue. it felt safer to ask you.”
“I’m Ronan’s best friend, too,” Blue said, and he could hear her pout over the phone, “but fine. He won’t be pissed. Confused, maybe? Pleased, certainly.”
“Thanks,” Adam said.
“We’re going to talk about this, very soon,” Blue promised him, “properly. You’re only off the hook until Gans and I get back to DC.”
“How long are his parents holding you two captive there for anyway?”
“Too long,” Blue said, sighed dramatically, “I mean, I get wanting to celebrate your wedding anniversary, but this… festival of activities is more like… I get the very annoying feeling that they’re hoping Gans will either propose or break up with me.”
“That’s an interesting couple of things to try at once,” Adam snorted, and Blue laughed as well. “Would you say yes?”
“To breaking up? Sure, anything to stop old ladies telling me that my mother’s lifestyle is ‘unique.’”
“To a proposal, Blue, focus.”
“Oh,” Blue snorted, “of course. Come on, Adam. But I’d tell him to tell his parents I said no so they’d cancel the party and we’d be free.”
Really, the question he had wanted to ask Blue was how to know if this was a date without having to do something so mundane as to ask . Because sure, maybe that’s how he did all of his other romantic endevours, but Ronan and normal routine didn’t feel like they meshed. With Ronan things just were. They were strangers in Henrietta until they weren’t. They didn’t talk about, they just became fast friends. They didn’t discuss the fact that Adam would do almost anything for Ronan, it just was. The problem was that Adam was out of practice with things just being if you hadn’t worked and asked for them, so how was he supposed to know?
Ronan arrived three minutes early, while Adam was still doing his shoes up, and knocked heavy and loud on the door until Adam gave in and hopped over to open it for him. No clues as to whether or not this was a date. Although Ronan did snort loudly, drop down into a squat, and do Adam’s other shoe up for him.
“I feel like Darcy,” Adam mumbled so as not to spend the entire evening thinking about Ronan at his feet.
“Darcy knows how to tie her own shoes,” Ronan replied, double knotting Adam’s shoes as he spoke, and then standing again. “Are you ready?”
“Hard to be ready when I don’t know what we’re doing tonight,” Adam replied.
Ronan looked him over, head to shoes. He didn’t look displeased.
“You’re ready,” Ronan said, “come on.”
They rode in silence - or as much silence as you can while on a motorbike - and Adam watched as familiar scenery whipped past, until he became lost, not recognising the road they were on, or the street names around them. When Ronan stopped, Adam had no idea where they were, and he didn’t really care, especially not when Ronan helped him off of the bike and helped steady him while he got used to his legs again.
“Where are we?”
“You always liked forests and shit,” Ronan said vaguely, “I swear I used to think you were a dryad or something, the way you got all quiet when you were around trees.”
Adam looked around. There were plenty of trees around, sure, but also buildings, and nothing to tell him exactly where they were.
“Ok,” he said, “so is this just a nice secluded place to kill me?”
“No,” Ronan said, “I would have gone to the mountains for that. This is an outdoor restaurant. They have blankets.”
They did have blankets, and huge roaring fires, and a great menu. He and Ronan ended up at a table with only one booth - a fireplace instead of the second booth - and they were certainly sitting a lot closer together than he sat with his friends, or colleagues, or even most of his dates. If he put his hand down it would land on Ronan’s thigh, not the seat.
“Do you want the wine list?” Adam asked, lifting it out of the middle of his menu.
“I don’t drink,” Ronan replied, which was something they hadn’t covered in their catching up yet.
“Oh,” Adam said, “neither.” He placed the wine menu to the side and frowned at his menu. His reasons for not drinking were pretty clear, he was sure, but. “Why?” he asked.
“Stopped when Darcy arrived,” Ronan grunted, which was not the answer to the questions asked. He didn’t look up from his menu. “Wwhat do you want to eat?”
Adam wanted the burger and fries. But he also wanted the steak and salad. But also he was very into the hot pot pie. They complained about the menu for a while, how dare it have so many good options, and then ordered, and talked shit to each other about a couple on a date a few tables away from them, and then Adam told Ronan about a stupid guy in his class, and Ronan told Adam about a flat he’d seen, and the food arrived, and they ate, and their thighs pressed together the entire time and Adam couldn’t drop his hand down to his side because if he did he knew he wouldn’t be able to drag it back up because he could just pretend it was an accident if he did it once but not if he did it twice and if he did it once he would want to do it twice. So.
It was a good meal. It felt a lot like old times. The two of them going out for greasy pizza and driving out into the hills on nights that Gansey was busy or out of town. Eating it under the stars on the hood of Ronan’s car, or on the table of a picnic table. They were always pressed close then, as well, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder. They hadn’t talked about that then either.
God. He wanted to talk about it now.
The finished eating. The paid the bill. Adam got back onto the bike behind Ronan and wrapped his arms around Ronan’s waist and pressed his head to Ronan’s back and listened to his heart beat erratically until Ronan started the motorbike up again and drove them off into the dark.
He had to keep reminding himself on the drive home, that he hadn’t known Ronan for the entire time he had known of him. That he couldn’t count the five years of absence as knowing Ronan because in all honesty those years were more erasing the first year than anything else, and - if he was honest with himself he had truly only known Ronan a few short days.
No matter that he remembered that Ronan didn’t like apple, or that he still smelled familiar, or that all it took was an evening spent together to go back to finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences, and-
Ronan dropped him off at his door, shook his head when Adam invited him in.
“I’ve got to get back,” he said, “I promised Darcy I’d read her a story and it’s already late.”
Adam nodded, “She’s lucky to have you,” he said before he could convince his tongue that wasn’t something he wanted to say, and Ronan smiled - soft - in return.
“I’m lucky to have her,” he replied.
If this had been any other date, one in which Adam knew what he was doing, in which there were clear cut lines of we are on a date. This would be where Adam would lean forward to test the waters, and if the waters stayed clear, where he would kiss Ronan like he’d been wanting to kiss Ronan all night, all week, his whole fucking life.
It wasn’t any other date. Adam didn’t know what he was doing. He was very caught off guard when Ronan took his helmet off, leaned forwards and kissed him instead.
Ronan pulled back just enough to make eye contact with Adam, who, caught by complete surprise, just stared back, mouth hanging open.
“I’ll see you again soon?” Ronan asked, not shifting back at all but also not moving forwards to kiss him again.
His voice sounded firm, but was tinged with an uncertainty that Adam felt resonating through himself.
“Yes,” He replied, voice embarrassingly hoarse.
He was scared Ronan would just put his helmet back on and get back on his bike, and go back to Declan’s and somehow this would all just be ignored and shoved into the closet with the rest of their many, many moments of hands brushing together, and gazes held for too long, and fake naps on shoulders, and… God.
He reached up to grab onto Ronan’s elbow, catching him first by the fabric of his leather jacket, and then shifting to solidify his grip. He wanted to kiss Ronan again so badly that he could taste it in the back of his throat.
“Yes?” Ronan repeated, his eyes fixed on Adam’s hand on his arm.
“Yes,” Adam said, “I’ll see you again soon. And I’ll kiss you again soon. And whatever else.”
Ronan snorted, and Adam rolled his eyes, tilted his head up further as he leaned in towards Ronan. He knew he could be the one to lean in here now, Ronan had already taken the guesswork out of it, but it just felt… he felt like he needed Ronan to be the one to kiss him again in confirmation.
“Whatever else?” Ronan asked, voice low, “Skydiving?”
“Maybe,” Adam admitted, shifting closer still so their chests pressed together and Ronan’s breath hitched.
Either Ronan could read minds or he wanted to kiss Adam again as much as Adam wanted him to kiss him again, because he closed the minsecule distance and kissed him again and this time Adam got his head on straight and kissed him back.
This time when Ronan pulled out of the kiss, it was only to rest his forehead against Adam’s and to exhale heavily.
“Tell me you want this,” Ronan said quietly, and this time the tinge of uncertainty was bare in his voice, as if this second kiss had cost him all his confidence.
“I want this,” Adam said, as confidently as he could muster while his heart was beating a chaotic Foxtrot. “For years. I have for years. I want this. You.”
If his debate team tutor could see him now, he would fail Adam on the spot. Ronan exhaled heavily again, then drew in breath roughly, like it hurt, then kissed him again.
The first two kisses had been soft, tentative even, this time Ronan kissed him like he meant it. Like he intended on making up for every single year he hadn’t kissed Adam.
Adam was trying to give as much as he was getting, his hand jumping from Ronan’s elbow to his waist, one hand getting a thumb under the hem of his jacket. Ronan was backing him up against his door, his own hands pushing at Adam’s chest until his back hit the door with a dull thunk, and then Ronan suddenly stopped.
He lifted his hands to cup Adam’s face, much gentler than the kissing, and just looked at him.
“Why’d you stop?” Adam asked, because while being pressed against your front door was sexy, it was much sexier while you were being kissed.
“I do have to go,” Ronan mumbled, staring at Adam’s mouth, “I’m already late.”
Adam would very much like to try to persuade him to stay. To suggest that maybe Darcy’s dad could read her her bedtime story tonight, and Ronan could come in and read Adam a bedtime story, but.
First of all, Adam tried very hard not to be an asshole and telling Ronan to break his promise to his extremely cute niece was definitely an asshole move. Secondly, Adam was pretty sure that his adrenaline would definitely carry him a very long way with whatever might happen next if Ronan stayed, but that his brain wouldn’t be able to catch up until maybe after things were done . And yes. He was sure he wanted this, sure because nothing else in the history of Adam Parrish had tied his stomach up in knots and his lungs up in certainty like Ronan did, but. It had been five years. It had been five years and they were different people, and Adam was nothing if not sensible - so he liked to think - and he wanted to be able to decide with his brain how this was going to go.
“Ok,” Adam mumbled, pressed forwards against Ronan’s hands to press another firm kiss to Ronan’s mouth, “Ok. I should sleep, too.”
Ronan didn’t remove his hands from Adam’s face, which Adam was not complaining about.
“I want to do this again soon,” Ronan said, “we should do this again. Very soon.”
“Agreed,” Adam replied, “go home to Darcy now, before I need you to come in.”
Ronan texted him when he got home. Or, after he’d gotten home and read to Darcy or whatever. It was a very simple text. It read; ‘Wanted 2 do that since we were 16.’
Adam had an annoying habit of ignoring texts for a good few hours after he’d received them. He was diligent with this habit, so as to make sure people expected it of him and didn’t just think they were being blanked. He didn’t like to be on constant call, and resented his phone for giving off that implication. However. He did text Ronan back immediately, and only just held himself back from replying with a rush of emojis that Blue would be proud of.
‘Same’, he texted, then, ‘date tomorrow? Solidify this thing?’
‘U dont want a trial run me first?’
‘Wasn’t that this last week?’
He called Gansey the next day during the half hour break between two of his classes.
“Oh, Adam!” Gansey greeted him on the second ring, “I was about to message you. We’re coming back to DC tomorrow, and I thought we should all go out for pizza! Like old times. I haven’t heard much from Ronan since the party, but wouldn’t it be nice for all of us to meet up? It’ll be an easier buffer for you two to meet again as well and -”
“Gansey,” Adam interrupted, both amused and surprised that Blue had not passed on his phone call with him to Gansey, “Ronan kissed me.”
The shocked silence on the other end of the line was extremely loud, so Adam pressed on.
“I kissed him back,” he said, “I - yeah.”
“Oh,” Gansey said, finally regaining use of his voice box, “Well that is a surprise. You - just - don’t break him, Adam.”
Now it was Adam’s turn to sit in silence.
“He’s not as tough as he - he - Adam,” Gansey said slowly, his voice melting down from firm to nearly mournful, “he was so cut up when you left.”
Adam cleared his throat. “Gansey,” he said, “I’m not an idiot. We’ll do the pizza thing when you get back, ok? I’ve got to go.”
“Adam,” Gansey said.
He hadn’t been entirely sure what he expected Gansey to even say, but it hadn’t been that. Maybe he should have been expecting that. He knew how much Gansey cared for Ronan, even if he and Adam both had avoided talking about Ronan together since they’d re-met, it was obvious. There were traces of Ronan all over Gansey’s house. A photo of him and Darcy on the fridge, an open text chain between him and Gansey (Gansey’s texts far more frequent), odd pieces of art hanging in Gansey’s lounge, all of them signed ‘R. Lynch’. He wondered if he ought to expect this sort of talk from Declan as well, or maybe Ashley. Who knew. Maybe he had been too hasty in telling Gansey at all, he hadn’t fully talked this out with Ronan yet, but.
But that kiss had been it. It had been it . It had been them shifting from not talking about it and ignoring it to being it . So.
‘Im bringng darcy 2 the date’, Ronan texted a little bit after three. Adam didn’t look at the text until half past because he’d been in class.
‘Ok :)’, he replied, because he liked Darc, and it wasn’t exactly as if he thought this date was just going to be them… fucking. He was happy to kiss Ronan in front of her.
‘Actually,’ Ronan texted back, so quickly that Adam thought he must have been texting already before Adam replied, ‘im taking he 2 a flat viewing 4 a flat im v keen on. Wnt 2 come 2?’
‘Sure,’ Adam replied before his brain had a chance to fret about the implications of going to look at a possible flat with your boyfriend of one day. ‘Send me the address and time. I finish up at uni at 4.’
Ronan and Darcy were waiting outside the apartment building when Adam got there, Darcy on Ronan’s hip, the both of them wearing matching leather jackets and sparkly blue nail polish.
It was a nice area, close to the town center, and very close to the tattoo parlour Ronan had told him about. Also, pretty close to Adam’s flat.
“Hey,” Adam greeted them, ducking down a bit to grin at Darcy, “I’m loving the nail polish.”
“‘S’sprackley,” Darcy informed him, sticking one hand out into Adam’s face so he could examine her nails (very) close up. “Dad’d’em.”
Adam took Darcy’s hand carefully so he could make a show of looking at her (very neatly painted) nails.
“Wow!” He said enthusiastically, “Darcy! So sparkly!” To Ronan he said, “Did Declan do yours?”
Ronan frowned, but snorted, and shook his head. He shifted Darcy in his arms so he was only holding her with the one arm, and held his hand up as well.
“Darcy did mine,” he said, which was very evident in the splotchy nail polish on his hands.
Adam took Ronan’s hand as well, squeezing it a little, but continued to talk to Darcy as he looked at Ronan’s nails.
“Wow,” he said again, “you did so well, Darcy! You’re a little artist!”
“Like dad,” Darcy said, very pleased.
She freed he hand from Adam’s, poked him happily in the cheek, and then returned her hand back around Ronan’s neck. Adam hadn’t been aware that Declan did any sort of art at all, but he supposed that he didn’t know Declan very well, and if Ronan was an artist it kind of made sense that it would run in the family.
Ronan didn’t free his hand from Adam’s, just squeezed it back and lowered the both of their hands down to his side, tugging Adam forward a little as he did, his gaze questioning. Adam answered his question by leaning in to press a quick kiss to his lips.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” Ronan replied.
“Hi!” Darcy reiterated, very loud in Adam’s ear. “Kisses fa me too.”
Adam kissed her as well, a gentle peck to the forehead, and she grinned.
“Shall we go up to the flat?” Ronan asked, squeezing Adam’s hand again.
“Yeah,” Adam said, pulling away so he could fall into step beside Ronan, “you’ve seen this flat before, right?”
“Yup,” Ronan said, leading the way, “this is the only one I’ve wanted a second viewing on though, and it’s only for Darcy’s opinion, really. I’ve pretty much decided I want it, but I just want to make sure she likes it before I commit. Plus it’ll be useful having you here to notice anything I might have missed.”
“Darcy has a lot of sway, huh,” Adam grinned, leaning a little to bump his shoulder against Ronan’s, “what if she’s not a fan of the light fixtures?”
“Well then,” Ronan said, his voice heavy with faux seriousness, “I’ll have to look for a different flat.”
They meet the realtor in the lobby, and she led them upstairs and to the flat, which was really quite nice. A two bedroom with an ensuite and a seperate bathroom, and a large open plan living area, plus a balcony. Much nicer than any flat Adam had ever looked at.
Once they were inside, Ronan had put Darcy down, and she tore around the flat looking into cupboards and under the staged furniture and out the windows. Ronan and Adam walked around at a much more sedate pace. Adam asking the realtor about water pressure and window insulation, and soundproofing. Ronan asking about the possibility of re-painting walls and the policy on pets.
After answering their questions, the realtor stepped outside to give them some time to chat alone - Adam wondered briefly if he ought to explain that he wasn’t moving in too - and Ronan sat down on the edge of the bed in what would be his room, and patted the mattress next to him. It just felt… very domestic.
Adam sat down, leaning into Ronan’s side, kissed his cheek. “It looks nice,” he said, “I can’t find any faults that can’t be fixed with a paint job. What do you think?”
“I like it,” Ronan agreed, tilted forwards to kiss Adam again. “Is it close enough that you’d visit?”
Adam snorted, saw Ronan was serious, and reached to take Ronan’s hand. “Yes,” he said, “maybe I’d even stay the night. You’ll have a guest room, after all.”
Ronan rolled his eyes, “No I won’t,” he said, “though I mean, Darcy does sleep in my bed half the time, so theoretically it could be a guest room. So like. You could always sleep in her bed and she could sleep in mine. If that’s what you want.”
“What?” Adam asked.
Darcy ran into the room, barrelled straight towards Adam’s legs, crashed happily into his knees. Ronan reached down to pick her up, placing her on his knee, and jiggling her up and down chaotically while she laughed.
“What do you think, Pumpkin?” Ronan asked her once the two of them had calmed down a little. “Do you like it?”
“Uh-huh,” Darcy said enthusiastically. “Big bath.”
“It is!” Ronan agreed, “You can have so many bubble baths! Did you like your room?”
“Uh-huh,” Darcy said again, bounced on Ronan’s knee, “Painty?”
“Yup,” Ronan said, “we can paint it whatever colour you like!”
“Gren,” Darcy said immediately, “an’ yell’, an’ lurple, an’ nink.”
“Sounds amazing,” Ronan said, “new house?”
“Yep!” Darcy crowed, wiggled her way off of Ronan’s lap, and dashed back out the door.
Adam felt … confounded. He had been pretty sure he was rightfooted until just a few moments ago, and now he had been thrown off by something completely left field.
Ronan was a great… uncle. But. Even great uncles probably didn’t buy a new house specifically on the request of even the cutest niece, and certainly didn’t pain them a room, right?
Darcy slept with Ronan half the time?
“Ronan,” Adam said, his gaze fixed on the door Darcy had ran out of. He could hear her in what would be her bedroom, yelling about the curtains. “Darcy’s your daughter?”
“What?” Ronan asked.
He had had his hand on the small of Adam’s back, his thumb pressing comfortingly in against his spine, but he moved his hand away now, and Adam could feel him shifting away a little on the mattress. He turned to face Ronan, to see the complete confusion on Ronan’s face.
“Darcy isn’t Declan’s daughter?” Adam asked.
“No,” Ronan said, sounding affronted, “what the fuck, Parrish. Darcy’s my kid. I’m her dad.”
“Oh,” Adam said. Watched as Ronan’s expression shifted from confused to horrified, and then watched as Ronan sprung up from the bed.
“Holy fuck,” Ronan said, voice low so as not to disturb Darcy, “you’re being serious. You didn’t know.”
“No,” Adam admitted.
“This whole time,” Ronan said, slow, “you thought Declan was - God - you thought I was Darcy’s uncle?”
“Fuck,” Ronan said, “shit. Oh God . I guess that makes sense -”
“Ronan,” Adam tried.
“Nah,” Ronan shook his head. “I guess I was… I was shocked at how easy you accepted me having a kid. Like. We didn’t even talk about it, I thought you were easy about it - but -”
“Ronan,” Adam interjected.
“I wouldn’t have kissed you if I didn’t think you knew,” Ronan continued, “I wouldn’t do that to Darcy.”
Adam felt a spike of annoyance making its way through the general confusion. “You never said anything!” He butted in, “You can’t pin this on me not knowing if you were the one who didn’t tell.”
Ronan fell silent, chewing his lip.
“She’s your kid,” Adam said, “how the hell does that even work?”
Ronan scoffed, angry, then shook his head as if changing track and asked; “Tell me truthfully, if you had known Darcy was my daughter last night, would you have kissed me back?”
Adam didn’t know. Probably? His hesitation must have been obvious on his face, because Ronan scoffed again.
“Ok,” he said, “I get it. So, sorry for the last minute notice, but I have a fucking kid, who I fucking love, and I’m cancelling the date tonight.”
Someone had just opened a trapdoor under Adam and the bottom of his stomach had dropped clean away. The annoyance was still there though, and it stood him up.
“Fine,” he said, “I’ll go home, then.”
“Fine,” Ronan replied, “Send the realtor back in.”
Adam sidled past Ronan, very intent on not brushing up against him because if he did he would absolutely need to push up against him and hold onto him. He made his way quickly to the front door and let himself out.
“Hey,” he said to the realtor, who had looked up from her phone with surprise at his sudden appearance, “He’s ready to chat to you now.”
“Oh,” she said, pocketing her phone. “Lovely! Let’s go in.”
Adam shook his head, strode over to the stairs, and started jogging his way down them.
He was a fucking idiot.
By the time he had made it to the ground floor and let himself out onto the street he knew it for sure. He was a fucking idiot. He should have stayed up there in the bedroom of what he hoped would be Ronan’s new flat and convinced the both of them that Darcy being Ronan’s daughter didn’t change anything.
He thought about Ronan’s anger though, the betrayal that had swam across his face as if Adam had purposefully not known, and couldn’t bring himself to stay and wait for Ronan and Darcy to come back down.
They both needed some time to think on it, to cool down, to something.
It was just.
Darcy was Ronan’s daughter.
And Adam was an idiot.
He had made it all the way home and out of his clothes and under his covers (the sun still shining through his bedroom window), by the time he fully decided that he did know what the hell he wanted, and that there was a very large possibility that if he didn’t speak up about that now then he might have been the idiot who walked out on probably the best thing in his life for the second time, and -
He considered calling Blue, or Gansey, or even one of his uni mates, but honestly? He didn’t feel like that was fair when it was Ronan he needed to speak to, Ronan he needed to clear things with.
He got dressed again. He washed his face. Tried to persuade his eyes to stop wearing the freshly cried look because he wasn’t a child. Headed to Declan’s place.
Ashley was the one who met him at the door after he was buzzed through the gate, and she looked concerned.
He ought to have known that Darcy wasn’t her daughter. Darcy looked nothing like Ashley. In fact. Darcy didn’t even look like Declan (or Ronan for that matter). He had seen them together and just hadn’t questioned it.
“Adam,” Ashley said, “I’m assuming you’re here for Ronan?”
“Yes,” Adam said, feeling a lot like he was facing down with the parent of a boyfriend he’d wronged, rather than his future boss. “Is he here?”
“He’s out the back with Darcy,” Ashley said slowly. “Parrish,” she said, “whatever the outcome here is, it won’t disrupt your internship, but I’ll have you know I much prefer Ronan when he’s happy.”
Adam nodded, because he didn’t think there was anything else useful he could reply to that. Ashley stepped back to let him into the house.
“Go down the hallway,” she said, “Follow it to the left, and the door out is obvious.”
He nodded again, and Ashley closed the front door behind him.
The door out was obvious seeing as it was propped open, diffinatively leading to the back yard. He could hear Darcy laughing and whooping with calls to go ‘Hi- hi-A!’
He had to step outside, follow the stone path around the side of the house to find Ronan pushing Darcy on a swing set overlooking a large flower garden, and then it was Darcy who saw him first - spotting him over Ronan’s shoulder while at the top of her swing.
“Hi!” She called, and Ronan caught the swing by the seat, and turned to look.
“Hi Darcy,” Adam replied, watching warily as Ronan, without any preamble, began unbuckling Darcy and hoisted her out of the swing seat. “Ronan,” he said, “can we talk?”
“Let me put my daughter inside,” Ronan said stiffly, swinging Darcy onto his hip. He had turned around to face Adam but wasn’t looking at him. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
Ronan walked off quickly, and Adam stared after him, shoved his hands in his pockets, kicked at a loose stone on the path. This had to be something they could fix, surely, because… because it had been a misunderstanding. That was all. Because it just required them to talk about it. For Ronan to listen, for neither of them to jump to conclusions.
“What?” Ronan said brusquely in greeting as he reappeared in front of Adam. “This couldn’t have been done over text?”
“Ronan,” Adam said, feeling a little helpless in the face of Ronan’s indifference, “I shouldn’t have just left this afternoon. That was childish of me.”
“Yeah,” Ronan agreed. He walked past Adam, just a little past the swing set and sat down on a bench Adam had not previously seen. He sighed as he sat down, and then leaned forwards to put his face in his hands. “Look,” he said lowly, “I should have been more upfront. I just assumed you knew. You didn’t. You’re under no - no fucking obligation to continue this.”
“God,” Adam groaned, stepping quickly over to the bench and sitting down next to Ronan. “I didn’t come here to officially break up with you,” he said.
Ronan didn’t reply, didn’t lift his face from his hands.
“You caught me by surprise,” Adam said, slow, “I wasn’t expecting that plot twist, and I didn’t react to it well, but it doesn’t mean I dislike it.”
“Doesn’t sound like you like it, though,” Ronan chipped in.
“Please,” Adam sighed, “please just let me talk, Lynch, God.”
Ronan grunted. Adam continued.
“I like Darcy a lot,” he said, “and my opinion of her wouldn’t have changed if I’d known she was your kid, but my actions might have. You asked if I would have kissed you the other night if I’d known about Darcy and I wasn’t sure when you asked but I am now. Ronan,” he nudged Ronan in the side, wanting Ronan to just fucking look at him. “I would have kissed you. If I’d known Darcy was your kid the whole time I would have kissed you.”
Ronan didn’t look up at him.
“I think you’re missing something,” Ronan said, his voice stiff still, difficult to tell if he cared at all about what Adam had just said. “Darcy isn’t just an added extra, she’s part of the package. I can’t - I’ve tried dating people who don’t see that and I’m not willing to do that again. Darcy is my baby and she comes first. You can’t just say you’d have kissed me knowing Darcy was mine. I can’t do this sort of thing without commitment to it, and I ought to have been clearer, I see that now.”
Ronan was being surprisingly eloquent. It made Adam want to take his hand in his and be eloquent right back.
“You’re never clear,” he said instead, “I had no idea we were dating until you kissed me.”
“Because you’re an idiot,” Ronan mumbled, “next you’ll say you had no idea we were dating back in Henrietta either.”
“We were what?” Adam asked, shock making his voice overly loud, and Ronan finally lifted his head out of his hands to look at him in disbelief.
“God,” Ronan snorted, “you didn’t fucking know.”
“We never kissed in Henrietta,” Adam said, stumbling over his words, “or - we didn’t - we didn’t date - we - oh. We did date.”
“The hell did you think we were doing parking up on hills during sunsets?” Ronan grumbled, “Why the fuck else would I have suggested we fucking studied together at the library, just the two of us?”
Adam’s brain felt like it was melting as he re-pieced his friendship with Ronan. All the lingering glances, the brushed hands, the late evenings spent together, Ronan’s willingness to be quiet and still and warm against his side while he studied.
He was a fool.
“You never said anything,” he said, defending his ignorance, “we never kissed. How was I supposed to know?”
Ronan grimaced, it looked painful. “I thought you would have figured it out, you were supposed to be the clever one.”
“I don’t get things unless I break my back for them,” Adam said, “or at the very least ask for them. I don’t get things handed to me. I don’t -”
“You had me,” Ronan snapped, “you had me, in your hands, and I was happy there, and I didn’t want you to have to ask for me, or to work for me, I just wanted to be yours.”
If this was surprising for Adam to hear, it appeared it had also surprised Ronan to have it come out of his mouth, because he flushed brightly and turned away.
“I’m sorry,” Adam said. “I’m sorry I was so blind. I’m sorry I left you. Ronan,” he said, “I never wanted to leave you.”
Ronan shrugged, still looking away. His shoulders were so taut, so tightly wound that Adam felt if he reached out to touch them the recoil would hurt them both.
“I try not to assume more than I think I’m worth,” Adam said then, trying not to sound as pathetic as his words painted him. “And I guess that did a lot more harm than I realised. I’ve spent so much of my life wishing I’d told you how I felt back in Henrietta, so, to hear now that you knew and thought that I knew you knew is both… it’s shocking and also… also painful. I wanted to have that with you, and I guess I did, but. God.” He cut himself off to rub his hands over his face, to stare up into the trees surrounding the property line.
“This past week,” he started again, “has been the best week for a long time. Because of you. I know you want - need - commitment for yourself, and for Darcy, and I want to give that to you. I think I can give that to you. When I think about the idea of being with you and with Darcy I don’t feel any - it makes me warm. I can’t say it doesn’t scare me. Being with someone who has a kid, because I have no experience with kids and I don’t know how to deal with kids, and if we got married she’d be my kid too and I never thought I’d have kids, but also -”
God. He had definitely just gone way too far according to Ronan’s incredulous expression. At least he was looking at him again.
“If we got married?” Ronan repeated, “I thought we were kind of broken up, but you’re thinking about getting married?”
“I just meant,” Adam carried on staunchly, face hot, “that at this point in time I can’t promise you 100% that I feel entirely put together about having a toddler in my life, but that I can promise you 100% that that is what I want anyway. Because. It means having you in my life, and I want that more than anything.”
Ronan was silent for a long time, long enough for the crickets to start chirping, calling in the evening. His eyes were fixed on his lap, and it took Adam all his will power not to fidget and squirm and call Ronan’s attention to him.
“More than you want more ?” Ronan asked, “Because I’m never going to be that. I’m never going to fit into your academic life like you do, you know that, right? I didn’t go to university, I won’t go to university. I have a child. This is me.”
“God,” Adam said, “this conversation would have been such a good conversation to have had like, a week ago.”
“Dickhead,” Ronan mumbled.
“I like you how you are,” Adam said, “Some of you is still surprising, like the fucking kid part, but. I like it all. I want it all.”
“So you’d be ok with me putting Darcy first,” Ronan said, “if we were together, you’d have to be ok with her wanting to sleep in my bed some nights. With stickly toddler hands. With toddler related emergencies.”
“I’m ok with that,” Adam said, “so long as she’s on your side of the bed.”
“Both sides are my side,” Ronan replied archly, but he didn’t sound cross, or hesitant, or put out at all. “Tell me you want this,” he said, echoing the night they’d kissed the first time. “Tell me you want us.”
“I want this,” Adam said, as firmly and as confidently as he could while his stomach twisted to the waltz. It wasn’t twisting with fear, or regret, just simple anxiety of anticipation. “I want you both.”
It felt like he was partaking in some commitment ceremony. Like he had signed a piece of paper. This wasn’t him, not according to his entire history. He didn’t commit to things so quickly, or recklessly, with such abandon. But he did commit to things he was sure about, things he was certain were the best choices for him.
“I thought you were gone again,” Ronan said now, voice so low it was close to fading away under the cricket buzz, “I thought I’d lost you again.”
“I’m sorry,” Adam said, leaning in because Ronan had finally dropped the defences around himself now and his shoulders were open and inviting. “I’m sorry.”
Ronan leaned in too, pressed his forehead to Adam’s. Snorted.
“I was so surprised you didn’t even ask about Darcy,” Ronan mumbled. “I thought Gansey must have filled you in.”
“Gansey did not fill me in,” Adam mumbled back, lifting his hand up from the bench to press his fingers gently against Ronan’s jaw line. “I made the mistake of never mentioning you to him for fear of rebuke, and so he never mentioned you to me either.”
“Ah,” Ronan said, lifted his own hand to cover Adam’s on his face.
“I’m sorry,” Adam said again, “if I could do it again, I swear I’d - God. I would never have left you in the first place.”
When they made their way inside, hand in hand, Ashley was in the lounge with Darcy, the two of them absorbed with their own activities; Ashley writing furiously on her laptop, Darcy drawing what looked like a many headed bird.
“Oh,” Ashley said, barely glancing up from her laptop, “you two made up.”
“Yes,” Ronan said, squeezed Adam’s hand.
“Ah,” Ashley did look up from her laptop now, “I didn’t need to call Declan and tell him to come home, after all then?”
“I told you not to!” Ronan replied, “He’s not coming, is he? He’s hours away.”
“Hours closer now,” Ashley said, going back to her writing, “Think of it as a favour for him, he hates staying in hotels for away meetings.”
“God,” Ronan grumbled, “I told you I was fine, Ash, you didn’t - right. Never mind. Adam and I are going to go to his place with takeout. Do you wanna come, Darce?”
“Uh-huh,” Darcy said, still scrawling, “in a minna.”
“She got that from you, y’know,” Ronan told Ashley who appeared unphased, “before we stayed here things were never ‘in a minute’,”
“Sure,” Ashley said, waved a hand at the two of them in dismissal, “leave the lady for her minute.”
Ronan snorted, then turned on his heel, and dragged Adam out of the room.
“I’m going upstairs,” Ronan told Darcy over his shoulder, “come get me when your minute is done.”
“Are you taking me to your room?” Adam asked once they were back in the hallway, “It’s not a forbidden place like back in Henrietta?”
“It was never forbidden to you in Henrietta,” Ronan replied, leading Adam up the stairs, “and I lost the ability to have a forbidden room once Darcy came along. Anyway, this is barely my room, it’s just where me and Darce are sleeping while we’re staying here. All of my shit is in storage waiting to be moved in.”
“Um,” Adam said. They were at the top of the stairs now and Ronan was leading them down a lushly carpeted hallway. “About that - how did - how did Darcy come along? Can I ask that?”
“I mean,” Ronan snorted, shouldering a door open and tugging Adam through, “I have been waiting for you to ask since Gansey’s parents’ stupid party.”
Ronan threw himself onto the large bed in the middle of the room. He was right that this was barely his room, it was very obviously a guest room with a plain landscape painting hanging above the bed, and an ugly lamp on a bedside table. A couple of suitcases sat open on the floor by a dresser, and toddler toys were strewn about as if it had rained barbies and blocks. Adam sat down next to Ronan, looked at the tiny footie pajamas covered in hearts and leaves half pushed under a pillow.
“How did Darcy come along?”
“Found her under a pumpkin,” Ronan said promptly, “next question.”
Adam shoved Ronan’s shoulder with a snort, and Ronan rocked back, then forwards again to grab onto Adam and tugged him down against the mattress.
Adam did, very much so, want to know about Darcy, but also, he was not about to give up a wrestling session on Ronan’s bed in which the objective was less about winning and more about getting their hands all over each other and also for Ronan to end up straddling Adam’s hips and pressing him down into the mattress.
Once their objective was met, Ronan ducked down to kiss Adam briefly, and slid himself off of Adam’s hips and onto his side next to him, took his hand in his, brought it to his mouth.
“I broke my leg,” Ronan said into Adam’s knuckles.
Adam frowned. Their wrestling session had not been that intense.
Ronan seemed to sense Adam’s confusion, because he snorted and squeezed Adam’s hand. “Just listen,” he said.
“I broke my leg. Fell off a shed roof I was painting. I went to the emergency department, and apparently it was a big night because even with my broken leg I had to wait for ages, and about half an hour in this young woman comes in with a baby and a broken wrist and sits next to me. And like. It’s obvious she’s having trouble holding the baby with the one working hand, so I offer to hold it and she hands me this tiny - I mean tiny - baby like she couldn’t wait to get it out of her arms.”
Ronan pauses here to let go of Adam’s hand and hold up his own hands above their faces to illustrate just how small he was talking.
“I guess I - I asked if she was ok and she just like… exploded with this story about how she’d been a surrogate, and it had fallen through dramatically, and she hadn’t even got paid, and she was stuck with a baby she never wanted, and wasn’t attached to at all, and how she’d agreed to the surrogacy to pay for her student loans, and now she was stuck with the loans and a baby and -”
Ronan paused again, breathed deeply, took Adam’s hand back in his.
“I dunno. I guess - I guess I’ve made a lot of rash decisions in my life, but I still don’t class this as one. I just knew. It felt right. I was holding this baby, and it felt so fucking right, Adam. I offered to adopt her, right there. I said I could get references made up to prove to her I was a decent human, I could pay for the lawyer fees to get the adoption papers drawn out, I would pay what her original clients had offered. I think I even offered to mow her lawn.”
“Shit,” Adam snorted.
“Either she just really wanted to not have to have a baby for a moment more, or she trusted me. I called Declan’s favourite lawyer after we finished at the ED, and I - I ended up with a kid that evening. It doesn’t sound real, but I swear to you that’s the honest truth of it all. Katherine - the surrogate - insisted that she give up all parental rights, she didn’t want a phone call in the middle of her life asking for money. So. I’m Darcy’s parent. Her only parent.”
Adam stared at the ceiling. It did sound a lot like a - a Disney movie or something, but. But things around Ronan were often strange, and this might be one of the least strange options for him suddenly having a baby that Adam could think of.
“That’s so crazy,” Adam mumbled, “you just - you just became a dad. Instant dad. And you were what - barely 20? That’s -”
“Insane,” Ronan supplied, “irresponsible, stupid, crazy, worse than that time I got a tattoo that covered my whole fucking back, immature. I know. Declan told me all of that when I called him up after all the paperwork was processed.”
“No,” Adam said, “that’s so fucking brave. I can’t - you’re like a fucking knight, or some shit. Saving people in need.”
“Ok, fuck off,” Ronan said, leaned forwards to press his cheek to Adam’s shoulder, “no need to get all wet about it.”
“If we were together and you’d brought her home,” Adam mumbled, lifting his hand to rub his thumb against Ronan’s jaw, “I would have been so freaked out. I would have been terrified. I don’t know the first thing about being a father, and you just - you just adopted a kid.”
“I was terrified,” Ronan admitted lowly, “but I like a little bit of terror in my life.”
“Dad!” Darcy yelled down the hallway - Adam wished she’d done that sort of thing like a full week ago. “Put-ya-shuss on!”
“Ok,” Ronan said, “let’s go?”
ohhhhhh! we r getting there!!!
They had gotten pizza and gone to Adam’s place, and Adam had showed Darcy his pot plants and dug out his old transformer, and they had eaten in his small lounge, and Darcy had fallen asleep on the floor, and Declan had called Ronan to check up on him, and Adam had done his very level best to be sensible and open at the same time, and Ronan and Darcy had gone back home about ten, and Adam was.
Adam was possibly in some sort of shock. Like.
Everything had gone the best possible way for it to have gone. Ronan had forgiven him his ignorance and stupidity, they had had a good dinner. They had all hung out and Adam had gotten a nice chill evening to experience Darcy and Ronan together while knowing they were father and daughter, and -
Things had gone well.
And Adam was like, 99% sure this was what he wanted.
Darcy was two. Darcy was a small, impressionable child, and it was obvious Ronan was an amazing father, but -
Adam remembered one of the foster homes he’d stayed in, for just a short time, maybe a month all up. The woman - Laura - had been lovely. Her boyfriend markedly less so. It wasn’t exactly that he was cruel, or rude, he just obviously didn’t know how to handle a teenager, or a child, or anything like that, and that had been… a bad experience.
Maybe Adam would be like that boyfriend.
And if he wasn’t - if he managed to scrape by as an adequate boyfriend of Darcy’s father, than what if he and Ronan did get married (something that Adam told himself was very far fetched at this particular moment, but, also felt excessively like something he had been waiting for since he had met Ronan in high school), and Adam became Darcy’s father as well, then what if -
What if Adam was like his own father? That was genetics, right? That was something that could be passed on, like heart disease.
“Parrish?” Ronan mumbled, “It’s like... Fuck, man, it’s barely five. Look, I don’t give a shit if this is your usual awake hours, I refuse to be human yet -”
“Ronan,” Adam cut in, “do you remember my dad?”
There was a beat of silence, and then Ronan spoke again.
“The fuck?” he asked, “Is he there? Are you ok? What’s going on?”
“No,” Adam said quickly, should probably have actually slept last night, or even this morning, should probably not have called Ronan after staying awake all night with anxiety waging war in his head. “No, just. Are you sure you want Darcy around me?”
Another beat of silence, and then faint muffled noises like Ronan was climbing out of bed, quiet footsteps, and the noise of the door being shut.
“Parrish,” Ronan sighed into Adam’s ear, “what the - are you seriously - you think I’d let my baby be around anyone I didn’t think was safe?”
“No,” Adam replied truthfully, but then barged on, “but you haven’t known me for as long as I have.”
“Ok,” Ronan said, “so, tell me, in the time I haven’t known you, have you hit children?”
“Ok,” Ronan said again, there was a clank like he’d sat down on a toilet seat, “do you yell at children?”
“No,” Adam said, tried to figure out how he was supposed to explain what he was feeling to Ronan, “but -”
“Do you see children and want to hurt them?”
“Do you want them to suffer?”
“God, no, Lynch -”
“Have you slept at all since I saw you?”
“No, but -”
“Adam,” Ronan said, voice very, very firm. “I trust you with Darcy. I trust you. Go the fuck to sleep. This won’t seem as terrifying to you after you’ve been asleep a while. Ok? We’ll talk about this again once you’ve regrown your brain.”
“Adam,” Ronan repeated, “I’m not talking about this with you while you’re so fucking sleep deprived. Sleep.”
“Ok,” Adam said, “I’m sorry.”
“You’re an idiot,” Ronan snorted, “goodnight.”
When he woke up it was well past noon, and someone was knocking at his door. His phone was blinking with numerous missed messages. He rolled his way groggily out of bed, and made his way to his front door.
It wasn’t a surprise to see Ronan there, but it was very nice to see the bag of breakfast he held in his hand.
“Do you call all you partners up after your first official date to panic about the eventuality of being a father?” Ronan asked, handing Adam the bag of extremely good smelling food.
“Just the ones with kids,” Adam replied blearily, ripping the bag open and shoving a hashbrown into his mouth. “‘Ankth.”
“Welcome,” Ronan replied, pushing his way inside gently past Adam, and shutting the door behind him before wrapping his arms around Adam’s waist and leading him over to the couch. “Idiot.”
Adam let himself be lead, and sat down on the couch, and arranged against Ronan’s side, while he devoured half the bags contents.
“Are you still worried about turning into the worst sort of asshole?” Ronan asked, once Adam was licking his fingers and considering licking Ronan’s fingers as well to sate a different type of hunger.
“Yes,” Adam replied truthfully, dropping the bag down by the couch, “but - a lot less than this morning. I’m sorry.”
“You are, without a doubt, the dumbest person I’ve ever met,” Ronan said kindly, “and I went to Aglionby.”
“We moved too quick yesterday, huh?” Ronan said then, “You found out I had a kid, and then I all but made you promise to commit to her.”
“No,” Adam mumbled, “not too quick. I meant everything I said yesterday.”
“But you still ended up having what sounded like a horrifyingly long panic attack,” Ronan contradicted.
“That’s - ok, it’s connected, but it’s more - I think - shit,” he groaned, needed a moment to gather his thoughts. His brain was still sleep fogged.
“It’s ok if you need to go a bit slower,” Ronan said slowly, “I know I said differently the other day but I - I was feeling vulnerable, I needed - we can go slower -”
“I don’t want to,” Adam said loudly, “shit, Lynch. I don’t want to. I want to be dating you, and I agree that you and Darcy are a joint package. I date you with Darcy or I don’t at all.”
“Ok,” Ronan said, lifted one hand to cup Adam’s face.
“I need to go to therapy, I think,” Adam mumbled now. Ronan didn’t reply, so Adam pushed forwards. “I used to go. The fostering program sent me. I hated it at first but it was really good for me. I didn’t - I never talked about kids there because that was very much not on my mind, but - I think it’d be good for me to talk about this shit with a therapist because - because -”
“I get it,” Ronan said, rubbed his thumb down Adam’s cheek. “I get it. I’m not pissed at you for needing support around this. It’s fine.”
Adam had a lot he felt like maybe he could say here, but instead he looked at Ronan, and nodded.
“Ok,” he said. “Ok. Sorry again for - uh - for the five am call.”
“It’s all good,” Ronan said, “it’ll be a funny story to tell at our wedding.”
Adam choked a little on his own spit.
“You’re the one who keeps bringing up getting married,” Ronan said with a grin, “I’m just going along with it.”
Adam shoved his shoulder.
“Anyway,” Ronan said then, dropping his hand from Adam’s cheek, “Gansey and Blue took Darcy to a fair in town this morning, and they suggest we meet up for a late lunch. All of us. You weren’t answering your phone, so I said I’d pick you up.”
“Oh,” Adam said, “god, I completely forgot he wanted to meet up today.”
“I know,” Ronan snorted, then, “you told Gans about us?”
“Uh,” Adam said, “yeah? A little.”
“Cool,” Ronan said, not looking at all put out. “We have a couple of hours before we need to head out, so -”
“Hm?” Adam prompted, then, “Oh! I haven’t showered today.”
“So?” Ronan said, leaning in, “You still smell great.”
“Ew,” Adam laughed, didn’t push Ronan away, had a sudden bolt of memory that struck him like a full blown idiot. “Oh my God!”
“Hm?” Ronan asked, pushing forwards against Adam’s chest and kissing at his jaw.
“You used to tell me I smelled good all the fucking time but in high school,” Adam said, “Oh my God I’m an idiot!”
“Yeah,” Ronan agreed, kissing him again, making his way down his neck, “I also gave you a fucking mixtape on Valentine’s day, and took you out for dinner.”
“God,” Adam moaned, letting Ronan push him down against the couch cushions, “why did you never kiss me back then?”
“Because,” Ronan said, tugging the neck of Adam’s sleep shirt down so he could kiss at Adam’s clavicles, “I thought you needed us to be on the down low. Or that you weren’t ready for us to be physical at all.”
“I would have needed us to be on the down low,” Adam admitted, watching Ronan’s hands push up under the hem of his shirt, “but I spent a lot of my time back then imagining pulling you onto my lap in the back seat of your car or something and just making out with you.”
“Idiot,” Ronan grumbled, pushing Adam’s shirt all the way up and starting to work it off of him, “I’m fucking glad we’re better at communication now.”
“Barely,” Adam said, lifting his arms to help Ronan strip him of his shirt, “I almost completely fucked things up again just the other day.”
“But you didn’t,” Ronan said, throwing the shirt at the floor and dropping his lips back down to Adam’s chest, “and I didn’t. So we’re doing better. Can I keep doing this?” He added, dragging his lips down Adam’s stomach.
Adam figured it was probably time they stopped talking about dumb shit and actually pay attention to what Ronan was doing.
“Yes,” he said firmly, shuddered as Ronan grinned against his skin.
“God,” Ronan said, “I’m so fucking glad I get to touch you this time.”
“So,” Blue said, not looking at Ronan or Adam, but opting instead to watch Gansey chase Darcy around the playground in the outside seating area at the cafe, “are you seriously telling me that, first of all, you two have been dating for a week but Adam only just realised, and secondly that you never told Gansey that you were dating in henrietta?”
“I didn’t want him to try and like, comfort me about being dumped,” Ronan said easily, snagging some of Blue’s fries and stuffing them in his mouth, “and yes, we are seriously telling you this.”
Gansey, a cackling Darcy stuffed under one arm, arrived back at their table.
“Gansey,” Ronan said, shifting in his seat to face him, and speaking through his fries, “Sargant here is having trouble grasping just how stupid Adam is.”
“Oh,” Gansey said, sitting down next to Blue and also stealing some of her fries, getting a smack for his troubles. “Blue,” he said, very serious, “When I first asked Adam if he wanted to come get pizza with me and Ronan at Aglionby, he was convinced I was planning on attempting to bully him.”
Adam rolled his eyes, accept Ronan’s half sarcastic comforting nudge to the shoulder.
“Nah, nah,” Blue said, “I have had no trouble at all believing how completely dense Adam is, I was just more caught up on how stupid the both of you together are. Like, it’s one thing to not realise you’re together, and another for someone to not realise you’re together and for your partner not to realise that you don’t know.”
“I’m very offended by this conversation,” Adam said now, testing his luck as well by reaching over to grab some of Blue’s fries. “Can we stop discussing how dumb I am and start talking about the fact that you two are engaged? I can’t believe you gave in to the peer pressure, Blue.”
“Oh shut up,” Blue snorted, “and if you guys want fries, you should have ordered your own.”
Darcy steals one of Blue’s fries. She accepts this.
“So, I was thinking,” Ronan says late that evening while he’s driving Adam back to his place - Darcy dead asleep in her car seat in the back.
“That’s new,” Adam teased, “when did you learn to do that?”
“Fuck off,” Ronan laughed, reaching out with one hand to bat at Adam’s shoulder. “Listen. Your internship with Ashley’s company? That’s gonna be a bit of a commute to do every day.”
“Not too long,” Adam said, shrugging, “barely another quarter of an hour to my usual trip to uni, or any of my other jobs.”
“Still,” Ronan said, “wouldn’t it be nice to take some time out of that trip?”
“Sure,” Adam snorted, “and wouldn’t it be nice to go to bed early every night.”
“All I’m saying,” Ronan said, “is that the flat I just signed the lease for takes the whole quarter of an hour off.”
Adam didn’t reply for a moment, squinting out the windshield instead, until Ronan came to a park outside his place.
“Lynch,” he said, “I can’t just move in with you.”
Ronan shrugged. “I don’t see why not.”
“You don’t see why - Ronan .”
Ronan shrugged again.
“The why not is because we’ve only just got together properly, with the both of us on the same page. The why not is because it would be odd for Darcy if I just suddenly lived with you guys. The why not is that I don’t think I can jump in that deep right away.”
Ronan looked very much like he was going to argue, mouth open, eyebrows furrowed, and then instead he nodded.
“I know,” he said, soft, “I just - you know when you’re sure of something?”
Adam knew that feeling a lot more now. He nodded.
“I’m sure of this,” Ronan said to his steering wheel, “and maybe that makes me the idiot this time around.”
“It doesn’t,” Adam said, “because I’m sure of it too. But just because we’re sure doesn’t mean we should just try the high jump without any practice.”
“Nerd,” Ronan mumbled.
“Pretty sure that analogy makes me more of a jock,” Adam shot back.
“Whatever,” Ronan said, “go get that early night you want, Parrish.”
Adam undid his seatbelt. “We’re good?” he asked, “We’re ok?”
“We’re great, Parrish,” Ronan said.
He reached across to cup Adam’s face, to tug him close again.
“Point out how much closer your flat is to my new job once we’ve made it further in our relationship,” Adam mumbled, closing his eyes against the feeling of Ronan’s thumb brushing up against his cheekbones. “And nearer to the end of my lease. That’s three months away, by the way.”
“Noted,” Ronan said, dipped forwards to kiss Adam quickly, “When do I see you next?”
“I’ve got Ashley’s dinner tomorrow evening,” Adam said, “and then I’m actually gonna be busy for a few days, so, I’m not sure. In a couple of days? Text me. I’ll text you.”
“Fine,” Ronan said, kissed Adam again, “I guess I should do actual shit about moving.”
“Uh-huh,” Adam agreed, “I feel like I’ve impeded your actual reason for coming to DC.”
“Hm,” Ronan snorted, “yeah. I abandoned my dreams of moving out of Declan’s spotlessly clean house in favour of chasing an oblivious high school crush.”
“Sounds reasonable to me.”
Apparently Adam’s friends thought he was entirely insane. That’s what they told him almost word for word during lunch as they sat in the campus main hall, lunch debris and take-away cups surrounding them.
“Ok, ok, ok,” Blaise said, waving one hand in the air to silence the rest of the group. “You are kidding, right? You expect us to believe that you, our Adam Parrish, are like… full on in a committed relationship with this dude you met a week ago and his toddler daughter?”
“I told you we were dating back in high school,” Adam defended himself, “we were really close.”
“You also told us you didn’t realise you were dating in high school,” Ezra pointed out, “and that you haven’t talked to him since you left your hometown, so, you basically did just meet him last week.”
“It’s not like how it sounds,” Adam protested, “it’s not a - a hookup with an ex because we’re bored of being single or something, it’s - I -”
“I feel like this is the first time I’ve ever heard Adam not have the answer to something,” Amijah laughed, “but come on guys, let’s try an be a little less critical. Adam’s got a boyfriend, try a yay!”
“Thanks, Amijah,” Adam grunted.
“Right,” Ezra said, “but. This is the same guy who was dumped just two months ago because his ex said he was more into his study than her, and he agreed with her.”
“So,” Blaise said, prodding Adam in the arm, “does this guy care if he comes second to your homework?”
“He doesn’t,” Adam said.
“Because he hasn’t experienced you in full exam mode yet,” Ezra teased, grinning.
“No,” Adam said, cleared his throat, “I meant. He doesn’t come second.”
His friends are silent for a very long beat, and then Amijah speaks up again.
“Not even your health comes before your studies,” they said loudly, “Like. Nothing comes before study. Not food, or sleep, sex, nothing!”
Adam shrugged. He knew that already. He also knew that rules changed when it came to Ronan.
“It’s different for him,” he said lowly, “because he - he’s what - he’s -”
“Oh my God,” Ezra said, “you really are done on him, aren’t you? Is he a witch? Has he bewitched you? Do we need to like douse you in herbs or something and cleanse you?”
“He makes me feel alive,” Adam grumbled to his knees, “he always has. I’m not letting go of that again.”
His friends are quiet for a few beats more.
“Ok,” Blaise said, slow, “ok. I guess we’re just… surprised.”
“Wary,” Ezra offered.
“Cautious on your behalf,” Amijah followed up. “We don’t want you to be hurt by… rushing.”
“Only fools rush in,” Blaise added with a wink.
So Adam was a fool, and really, what of it?
He went to the intern dinner, met his new colleagues, schmoozed as well as he could while surrounded by people he greatly admired and wanted to impress. The dinner was in the city at a restaurant, not at Ashley and Declan’s, which Adam ought to have realised, but.
It was a good night, and he enjoyed meeting his workmates, and he enjoyed the conversation, and the food, and company, and he still left a little early and went straight to Ronan’s new flat.
He knew Ronan was going to be there until late, painting the walls before they started to move furniture, and he knew that he was going to busy with classes and work during the day tomorrow, and that he would be too tired in the evening, and right now?
Right now he was filled with energy and excitement at the prospect of the life opening up to him - both with Ashley and with Ronan - and all he wanted to do was go share that excitement with Ronan rather than going back home to his empty flat and his empty bed and -
He just wanted to see Ronan and there was nothing wrong with that.
He texted Ronan as he got off the bus, a few minutes away from the apartment building, and Ronan, again, called him instead of texting back.
“Hey,” Adam said, surprised and pleased at once.
“Parrish,” Ronan said, his voice sounding echoey as if he had his phone on speakerphone. “You’re coming over?”
“If that’s ok,” Adam said, “and I hope it is, because I’m basically at your front door.”
“Of course it’s ok,” Ronan said, “it’s just that it smells like a paint factory in here, and I’m super grubby.”
“So I’ll get grubby too,” Adam replied, leaning against the building doors, “I’ll help you paint. Buzz me in?” He added, jabbing Ronan’s flat number on the intercom.
The doors beeped open.
“You’re not wearing some super poncy clothes?” Ronan asked as Adam walked in and pressed the button for the elevator, “Some nice as shit suit for the dinner? You wouldn’t want to get that dirty.”
“I’ll take it off,” Adam replied simply, stepping into the elevator.
“Hm,” Ronan replied, his voice a little staticky now the elevator doors were closed. “But what about your skin? It wouldn’t do for a professional like you going around all painty now.”
“In my profession,” Adam said, pushing through the elevator doors before they were even fully open, “it befits you to get a bit messy sometimes.”
“Oh?” Ronan asked. Adam could hear a shadow of his voice down the hallway, like his front door was open. “In which of your professions? Bio med? Mechanics? Studying?”
Adam ended the call as he turned the corner, grinned at Ronan standing in the doorway of the flat in a very grubby ripped pair of jeans and a stained t-shirt.
“Hey,” Adam said, pocketing his phone.
“Hurry up and take your suit off,” Ronan replied, stepping backwards further into the flat as Adam approached, “because I wanna kiss you hello and I don’t wanna invoke your wrath this early into the relationship by ruining your clothes.”
“You have matured,” Adam said with a snort, stepping after Ronan into the flat, and then closing the door behind them.
It did smell very strongly of paint in here, even though he could see that Ronan had opened the windows.
The room he had just stepped into - the lounge/entryway, looked freshly painted, walls a deep clean green, and he figured this would probably be the safest place to leave his clothes seeing as the drop cloths had already been removed.
“You left Darcy at Declan’s?” He confirmed, stepping out of shoes by stepping on his heels. He oughtn’t do that, they were his good shoes.
“I did,” Ronan replied, folding his arms as if he was forcibly stopping himself from reaching out to Adam. “It’s just us.”
“Ok,” Adam replied, shuffling his shoes to one side and removing his coat.
He folded the coat, placed it on top of the shoes, then began undoing his tie, his eyes on Ronan’s eyes, which in turn, were on Adam’s hands.
“I told my friends about you today,” Adam said, and Ronan’s eyes flickered from Adam’s hands to his face, then back to his hands as Adam tossed his tie onto his coat. “They’re all rather… surprised.”
“Surprised?” Ronan repeated, eyes flickering up again before going back to Adam’s hands undoing his shirt buttons. “Because I have a kid?”
“Because it’s so fast,” Adam clarified, “but also because you have a kid, probably.”
“They didn’t try to persuade you out of it, then?” Ronan asked.
“Oh,” Adam snorted, shrugged his shirt off, and folded that carefully as well. “They tried. Ronan,” he said, as he dropped his shirt onto his pile of clothes, “I’m not gonna be persuaded.”
He was shirtless now, a little chilly with the windows open, less chilly with Ronan’s heated gaze on his skin. He undid his belt.
“Just so we’re clear,” Ronan said slowly, “are you actually going to paint, or are we planning on just… getting dirty some other way?”
“I’m going to paint,” Adam said, stepping out of his trousers and folding them. “In my underwear. We can get dirty other ways afterwards.”
He dropped his trousers, stepped away from the pile, and Ronan stopped holding himself back.
“Shit,” Adam snorted as Ronan wrapped his arms around his waist, tugging him close until they were chest to chest. “You’re hands are freezing, Lynch.”
Ronan stuck his hands on Adam’s stomach, and Adam cursed and wriggled, making sure to stay within Ronan’s grip.
“I was just finishing up in my room,” Ronan mumbled into Adam’s neck once Adam had stopped wriggling and Ronan’s hands had warmed up against Adam’s skin. “And then we’ll be done here.”
“Pity your room will smell like paint hell,” Adam complained, arching up to press a light kiss to the side of Ronan’s mouth, “otherwise that would be a perfect place to finish up.”
“Pity I haven’t moved my bed in there yet,” Ronan returned, “maybe we could go to someone elses bedroom afterwards.”
“Hmm,” Adam said, letting Ronan take him by the hand and lead him to the bedroom. “Who’s were you thinking? Blue’s is a nice room.”
“Don’t be a pain in the ass, Parrish,” Ronan said, “just tell me I can come over to yours for a sleepover.”
“Darcy won’t miss you?” Adam asked, which was a serious question.
“Darcy’s asleep already,” Ronan replied, “and if she needs comfort in the night, she can go put her cold feet on Declan’s back.”
“Then yes,” Adam said, ducked back into Ronan’s arms, “you’re invited for a sleepover.”
“Fantastic,” Ronan said briskly, kissed Adam briefly, and then released him to stride over to the paint trays in the corner of the room.
The whole room was covered in drop cloths and paint tins and rollers, and Ronan first picked up a paint splattered apron and handed it to Adam.
“So you don’t get too cold,” he said, “and also so I don’t have to lick paint off your stomach later on tonight.”
“Oh I see,” Adam said, nodding as he took the apron, “this is all for your sake.”
“Absolutely,” Ronan replied, picking up a roller for Adam, “Of course.”
The rest of the painting took only an hour, which was long enough because Adam had already had a long day, and Ronan looked like he had been painting since dawn. They took a shower at Ronan’s because the water pressure and heating (and everything) was eons better than Adam’s, and then Adam put his trousers and his shirt and shoes back on, and Ronan donned a grubby looking jacket and produced a backpack for Adam to shove the rest of his clothes into, and then they both climbed onto Ronan’s bike and he drove them back to Adam’s, and Adam got pushed into his front door again which was something he was a little surprised to find he liked so fucking much.
“I still don’t have condoms,” Adam mumbled into Ronan’s mouth after they’d stumbled through his small flat into his bedroom, shedding clothes and shoes as they went. “I didn’t think tonight would end up here -”
“S’okay,” Ronan replied around Adam’s lips, “I’m in no rush.”
“You sorta feel like it,” Adam contested, not protesting at the haste Ronan was using in getting him out of his trousers.
“In a rush for this,” Ronan replied, cut himself off with a triumphant noise as he managed to wrangle Adam’s pants off and Adam onto the bed in one move, “you in your stupidly small undies for an hour flexing in my fucking face -”
“I was painting,” Adam laughed, shifting further up the bed on his back as Ronan climbed onto the mattress over him. “And if I were flexing, you were just showing off.”
“Uh-huh,” Ronan agreed, “but I mean - I wanna touch you right the fuck now, sure, but I’m in no rush to go further - we can go slow - you know that right?”
“Hmm,” Adam said, tipping his head back as Ronan’s lips press against his stomach. “Sure feels like it when your mouth is where it’s at.”
Ronan’s lips suddenly lifted from Adam’s skin, and then the rest of him as well as Ronan shifted off to the side and sat next to Adam instead.
“Hey,” Ronan said, hands clear from Adam’s body. “We can go as slow as we want. I’m in no rush. I’m fucking happy to just be here with you.”
“Ok,” Adam said, “ok.”
He reached out to brush his hand against Ronan’s cheek, and then shifted onto his side and then up on his knees.
“I’m happy to just be here with you too,” he continued, voice low, “but you know - I want you. I’m happy to go slow too, but I want you, Lynch. If you wanna, I’m buying condoms next time.”
Ronan grinned at him, wide and ridiculous, then flipped himself around and back onto Adam’s lap. “Ok,” he said, “well I’m fucking looking forward to that then.”
“Same,” Adam replied, kissed Ronan hard, “I have to get up early tomorrow, so, let’s do this.”
“Oh, sexy,” Ronan snorted.
Adam had had partners stay over before. He had had a girlfriend who basically lived with him for a few months until she got sick of his late nights and early mornings. He was used to waking up alone, and he had gotten used to waking up next to someone, and then again, to waking up alone.
This was stupidly different. It felt different. It was different.
Adam woke up with his alarm, and when he rolled to turn it off, Ronan rolled as well to wrap his arm around Adam’s waist to tug him back in against his stomach.
“Shit,” Adam mumbled, let himself be hugged, stomach to back, “I gotta get up, Lynch,” he whispered.
Ronan responded only by grumbling, his face burying itself in Adam’s hair.
“Lynch,” Adam mumbled again, and then decided that hey, he’d had a shower last night, he just needed a quick rinse this morning.
He could stay in bed a little longer.
He could roll over in Ronan’s sleep loose embrace and press stomach to stomach.
He could push his fingers between Ronan’s and hold him tightly.
When he finally did pull himself out of Ronan’s grip, and climb out of the bed to get ready for work, Ronan rolled out of bed as well, and got ready alongside him, and then dropped him off at work on his way back home.
It was different.
This was different.
Sorry it's a short chapter, next one will be longer!
He didn’t see Ronan again until Wednesday, which, though it wasn’t long in comparison to the years they hadn’t seen each other, but after seeing him nearly every day since meeting him again it was a long fucking time .
He had wanted to be able to help Ronan and Darcy actually move into their new place, do the classic boyfriend thing of carrying the couch or whatever.
They did text though, which was nice, even if Adam was still unused to Ronan actually using his fucking phone. He supposed it was just one of the things that had changed about Ronan while they had been apart, but it stuck out to him constantly. Ronan sent photos of the moving process, and photos of Darcy, and one photo of half his face all sweaty from shifting shit all day that Adam had very much liked.
On Wednesday night they had planned to have a date which was specifically aimed at Darcy, so that he and Darcy could get to know each other better, and she could feel involved in her dad’s new relationship. It oughtn’t have been as nerve wracking as it was, seeing as Adam and Darcy had already met a few times, he’d already kissed Ronan in front of her for God’s sake, and yet. Well, he was nervous, and there was nothing to about it except get through it because he wanted to .
Ronan buzzed him in, and then met him at the door, kisses him on the cheek and pulled him inside.
It smelled a lot nicer in the flat now that it didn’t smell like a paint factory. Instead it smelled like meat and herbs cooking, and Ronan’s aftershave, and flowers, and some sort of pine like smell. It was nice.
“You’re early,” Ronan mumbled, kissing him again, this time getting it right and kissing him on the lips, “dinner isn’t ready.”
“I thought I could hang out with Darcy for a bit while you cook,” Adam replied, hooking his fingers in the belt loops of Ronan’s jeans, “and also I just… missed you.”
“It’s been barely three days,” Ronan replied, kissed him yet again, “I missed you too. Darcy’s in her room dressing up as a fairy dog if you wanna go hang out with her.”
“Ok,” Adam said, not letting go of Ronan because it may have only been three days but his hands ached with not having held Ronan’s. “It smells good in here.”
“You smell good in here,” Ronan retorted childishly, then, quite seriously, “seriously fucking good. You been at the garage?”
“I was this morning,” Adam replied, rolling his eyes, squirming slightly as Ronan dropped his mouth to his neck, “but I showered, stop, I’m ticklish there -”
“Mmhm,” Ronan said, pleased, “I know. Ok. Go,” he said, dropping his hands to Adam’s waist and turning him half around, “God play with Darce. I’ll finish cooking.”
He patted Adam’s ass in final farewell, and Adam snorted and walked off.
While the rest of the house and furniture he had seen so far looked not quite finished - boxes still piled on chairs, piles of unshelved books by shelves, a coffee table without legs - Darcy’s room looked entirely put together. There was a sign covered in feathers and shells that spelled out her name hanging on her open door, and it jingled slightly as he knocked lightly to make his presence known.
Her bed was made up with a extremely comfortable looking duvet patterned with hearts and leaves and stars, piled with teddies. Everything was in place, except for the enormous amount of dress ups spilled all over the floor and pouring out of a large treasure chest in the corner of the room that Darcy was sticking half out of.
She pulled herself out - her large monarch butterfly wings getting momentarily caught on the chest lid - and grinned widely at Adam.
“Am!” She greeted him, “Nings?”
She was holding another pair of wings in her hand, and Adam crossed the room to take them gently from her. These ones looked homemade, made up from a collection of feathers that looked like they came from all different birds. There was definitely a peacock feather there.
“For you?” Adam asked, “Or for me?”
“You,” Darcy said, hopping from foot to foot in a disjointed circle around Adam, “I got nings a’ready.”
“You do,” Adam agreed, “they’re very beautiful wings.”
“Um a flairy,” Darcy said, and the spun around to show she had a scarf tied around her waist to act as a tail, “Anna dog.”
“Fairy dog mother,” Adam mumbled, smiling at her, “you look great! Are you playing a game?”
“No,” Darcy said, very seriously. She stopped hopping, and crowded up against Adam’s knees which were starting to ache from crouching to be at her level. “Put’em on?”
“Oh yeah,” Adam said, shifting to sit on his knees before stretching around to put the wing straps on, Darcy helping as much as a toddler can help. “There?”
“Uh-huh!” Darcy said, clapped her hands, resumed the hop circle, “An’now you! Hop!”
“Ah,” Adam said, allowed Darcy to take his hands in hers and stood himself up while pretending she was the one hoisting him up. That was more difficult than he had thought it would be. “Hop?”
“Hop,” Darcy agreed, hopping, “circles.”
“Good, nice,” Adam said, attempting to meet Darcy’s level of seriousness and enthusiasm for hopping. “Like this?”
He hopped with both feet, and Darcy laughed.
“Silly!” She said, tugged at his hands, “watch!” She ordered, and hopped with the one foot.
“Oh,” Adam said, then skipped. “Like that?”
“Silly!” Darcy reiterated, laughing, “Like this, watch, watch, watch!”
“I’m watching,” Adam chuckled, made a show of squinting at her feet as she hopped again on the one foot.
It was a little difficult trying to think of another way to fuck up a hop, but he managed. He lifted his hopping foot and stamped it down carefully instead. “Like that?”
Darcy howled with laughter, collapsed to the ground, still holding Adam’s hands, and Adam had no choice but to crouch back down and laugh hysterically with her until Ronan turned up in the doorway.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, and Darcy looked up from her puddle of mirth and laughed louder.
“Um,” Adam said, glancing over his shoulder, “I’m pretending I don’t know how to hop.”
Ronan snorted, Darcy kept laughing.
Dinner was held on the couches after shifting the unpacked boxes, all three of them wearing wings and ‘tails’, and Darcy moving every few minutes to sit first on the floor, and then a box, and then Adam’s knee, and then the couch, and then Ronan’s knee, and then running out of the room.
“She’s pretty hyper,” Ronan said as they listened to Darcy yell that she wanted to eat her dinner in the bath. “Apparently moving house is very exciting. There’s been at least twelve tantrums about how happy she is in this house since we started moving in.”
“Happy tantrums?” Adam asked with a snort.
“Yeah,” Ronan rolled his eyes, “you know how toddlers get all overwhelmed, sometimes when they’re too happy that’s bad as well and they get all grouchy about that and have to pitch a fit. It’s very difficult to comfort a toddler when she’s crying that she’s just ‘sooooooo happpppppyyyy,’”
Adam laughed outright, shaking his head. “I apparently know nothing about toddlers,” he said.
Ronan shook his head as well. “You’re picking it up really well,” he said, sounding all too serious for how silly their conversation had been up until then, “you’re really good with her.”
Adam swallowed. Took a few moments to consider his words. “Thank you,” he said eventually, “but I haven’t spent that much time with her yet. I’m glad I’m… doing it right, but - but you can’t know how I’ll be with her just based on a few interactions.”
Ronan shrugged, shifted so their shoulders pressed together.
“I can,” he said, “I won’t if you don’t want me to.”
“Give it a bit longer,” Adam mumbled, “I don’t want you to think I’m like - a baby genius for the first few days only to be disappointed within the week.”
“I am fully expecting you to have zero clue what to do when she tantrums,” Ronan said, “or when she had an accident in her pants, or a whole myriad of things. You don’t have to know this shit straight away, Parrish.”
“I don’t want her to hate me,” Adam said, and Ronan laughed loudly. “Dick,” Adam mumbled.
“No, no,” Ronan said, still snorting a bit, “you’re just an idiot -”
“Dick,” Adam repeated.
“It’s just,” Ronan shook his head. “She’s not gonna hate you, Parrish. She’s already in love with you and like you said, you’ve only met a few times. It’s all, ‘when’s Am gonna come over? I wanna paint Am’s nails, Am, Am, Am’. You’re gonna be fine. She might get pissy with you sometimes, but like, you’ve already got her affection.”
“She wants to paint my nails?” Adam asked, because that was the easiest thing to reply to that.
“She very much does,” Ronan said, “and she’s going to, because I had to promise her she could last night so she would go to bed.”
“Ah,” Adam says.
“But I mean,” Ronan cleared his throat, “if you don’t wanna, I’m sure she’ll have forgotten by now -”
“I’m fine with it,” Adam said, “and something tells me that Darcy never forgets anything.”
“Thank God,” Ronan said, “because yeah, she really doesn’t.”
He didn’t stay the night because, yeah, they might not be taking it exactly slow, but they didn’t want to rush Darcy. It was one thing for Adam to be around a lot and kissing Ronan and all, but another thing entirely for her to find him in Ronan’s bed. So.
He went home.
He went home and he dreamed about Henrietta.
He hadn’t dreamed about Henrietta for years. The first few years after he’d left Henrietta he had felt haunted by it. Like he’d go to sleep and his father would be there waiting in his dreams with his fists and his anger and his disappointment. Or he’d go to sleep and dream that he was late for work at Boyd’s. Or that he was drowning in the Henrietta dust. Or that he was sleeping in a field with Ronan and Gansey and their hands were all touching and the ground was disappearing, and -
Mostly they had been bad dreams. Dreams that had slowly dispersed with the therapy, and with Adam starting to feel stable and safe and independent. Dreams he had thought he had forgotten but now knew he hadn’t.
This dream pressed him on all sides with the heat of a Henrietta summer, the knowledge of a blooming bruise spread across his forehead and down in the hollow of his eyes.
He dreamed of Ronan’s hands, cold and callused, pressing gently into the angles of his cheeks and tipping his face side to side as he examined the bruising. He dreamed of the waterfall of curses and angry words tumbling from Ronan’s mouth. He dreamed of the tears salty and warm on his own cheeks. He dreamed of turning away from Ronan’s hands and immediately smashing into a fist and the ground was gone and the air was gone and the sun was gone and -
He woke up with a flail and a gasp. Got out of bed immediately. Went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, sat at the counter, pressed his cheek into its cold surface.
How had he missed the fact that he and Ronan had been dating in Henrietta? His dream had been less a dream and more a memory and seeing it played back in his own mind was a ridiculous experience. The thought struck him that probably his own father had known the truth of his relationship with Ronan before he had.
He finished his water, scrubbed his face in the bathroom, got his laptop out, and set about finishing he citations for an essay due next week.
On Thursday he used his lunch break to go visit Ronan at his first day at work. He wasn’t really sure what he had been expecting the tattoo shop to be like, but he certainly hadn’t expected to let Ronan bring Darcy to work with him, and yet, there she was in the studio chatting with the man Ronan was tattooing.
“Parrish,” Ronan said brightly as Adam walked in, gesturing to him before the lady at reception could greet him. “C’mere. Do you remember Henry?”
“Um,” Adam said, because of course he remembered Henry, Gansey reintroduced them at every party they both went to. “Yes. Hi, Henry.”
“He’s babysitting Darcy today,” Ronan said casually, leaning over to kiss Adam as soon as Adam came close enough, “but apparently that involved coming to get a tattoo from me and making me have to babysit him babysitting her.”
“Sounds like a Henry Cheng thing alright,” Adam snorted, reached down to offer his fist for Henry to fist bump.
“Parrish,” Henry said, “Ronan’s not lying through his teeth then? You two are finally bumping uglies? Smashing? Pashing?”
“Keep your mouth clean around Darcy,” Ronan said, “or I’ll muck this tattoo up on purpose you weevil.”
“Woops,” Henry said, “sorry, sorry. True?”
“Yes,” Adam said, utterly bemused, “he wouldn’t lie about this.”
“Probably not,” Henry agreed, “hey, shuffle around a bit and check out what my tattoo is gonna look like.”
Ronan stepped aside a little to allow Adam to step in closer and peer at the fine lines Ronan was inking in between Henry’s shoulder blades. A crowned bee. Very pretty.
“Nice,” he said, “did you or Ronan design this?”
“I designed it,” Henry said as Ronan said, “Me.”
“Uh,” Adam said.
Darcy was climbing up onto Henry’s lap, squishing in between the back of the tattoo chair Henry was leaning against and his stomach.
“Ok fine,” Henry said, arching a little to allow Darcy onto his lap, “I told him what I wanted, which is part of designing really, and he drew it.”
“Dipshit,” Ronan mumbled, “stop wriggling.”
“You’re continually piercing me with a needle,” Henry complained, “It’s hard not to wriggle.”
“God,” Ronan groaned, then, “Darcy, baby, hop off uncle chicken, he needs to stay nice and still.”
“I can stay nice’n’still,” Darcy protested, popping her head out the side to pout at Ronan, “watch me!”
She did not stay very still. Ronan lifted the tattoo gun away from Henry’s skin, rolled his eyes. “Adam,” he said, “can you take her, please?”
“Uh,” Adam said, “sure.”
Henry sat up properly to allow more room for Darcy’s removal, and luckily Darcy came happily, clinging to Adam like she was practicing to be a limpet.
“Thanks,” Ronan said, pushing Henry back against the chair and continuing to tattoo, “I’ll be finished with this in about five,” he added, “sorry, I thought I’d be done before you got here but someone insisted they were good at getting tattoos and then needed a five minute break every four minutes.”
“This is my first real tattoo!” Henry protested, though Adam could hear the laugh underneath.
“All good,” Adam said, wanting very much to kiss Ronan again but thinking it probably best not to while Ronan was drawing permanently on someone’s skin. “I was thinking about going to pick some sushi up? I could take Darcy with me and we could bring it back here.”
“Sounds nice,” Ronan said, looking up from Henry’s back to smile at Adam, “I’d love that. There’s a good sushi place just three shops down from here.”
“Ok,” Adam said.
“I’d like california rolls and a sashimi platter!” Henry chipped in, “And an organic peach juice, please.”
“Cheng,” Ronan snapped, “Adam’s not your PA.”
Adam rolled his eyes. “I can get that,” he said, “Be back soon,” he added to Ronan, and then stalled as Ronan shook his head and held his hand up.
“Hang on,” Ronan said, digging in his back pocket, “lemme give you my card.”
“Lynch,” Adam said in warning, but Ronan ignored him and tugged his wallet out.
“Here,” he said firmly, passing Adam his card, “you’re buying sushi for me, Darcy, and Henry, so let me pay, ok?”
Adam kind of wanted to argue about this (a lot. He wanted to argue about this a lot), but, he didn’t want to argue in front of Darcy, and he didn’t want to have to get into this in public, and he also didn’t want to have so many issues around money, so he took the card.
The sushi shop was nearby, and he carried Darcy to it, and the two of them picked out sushi with eyes bigger than their stomachs, and asked for far too much wasabi, and looked at the fish in the fish tank, and Darcy wanted to ask about the octopi, so they did, and Adam didn’t look at the total at the check out because he didn’t want to know how much of Ronan’s money he’d spent.
“Oh yes!” Henry cheered as Adam and Darcy returned, “Sushi!”
Henry was upright now, staring at his tattoo in a handheld mirror and a standing mirror, Ronan was nowhere to be seen.
“Come check this bee out, little honeybun,” Henry said to Darcy, holding his hands out and dropping to his knees, and Darcy foisted her sushi off on Adam and ran over to peer eagerly at Henry’s back.
Ronan stepped out of another room and came over then, grinning. At the food or Adam, he didn’t know.
“Hello,” Ronan said again when he reached Adam, bent a little to kiss him again, this time more of a proper kiss than the peck they had shared a little earlier. “It’s nice to see you again.”
“You saw me last night,” Adam mumbled, letting Ronan take the bag of sushi from him, “don’t be needy.”
“I’d have prefered to have seen you last night, and this morning,” Ronan said with a shrug, do you wanna eat outside? It’s sunny.”
They ate outside in a park just a short minutes walk away from the shop, Henry carrying Darcy like a bag of flour and pretending to drop her the whole way there to make her squeal with a mixture of horror and delight.
Once they’d eaten, Henry and Darcy got up to try and climb a tree together, and Ronan leaned in to kiss him again.
“I dreamed about you last night,” Adam admitted, his eyes still closed from the kiss.
He could feel a small puff of air of his face as Ronan exhaled amusement, and then Ronan’s hand was on his face, his thumb stroking down his cheek.
“What did you dream?”
Adam laughed, opened his eyes to look at Ronan who was flushing just slightly.
“Nothing dirty,” he chided, “just. Remember the time when um - my face was all mucked up and you skipped school to come find me at Boyd’s, and waited until my hours finished with me and then -”
“We drove up the that park you liked,” Ronan said, “yeah. I almost kissed you that day.”
“I wish you had,” Adam said, then sighed, “I wish I’d kissed you.”
“Well,” Ronan said, “Declan says wishes are wasteful and to just do instead.”
Adam snorted, “oh is that so, thanks, Declan, I guess.”
“Just do,” Ronan repeated.
Adam leaned in and kissed him.
“Hey lovebirds!” Henry hollered, “Stop macking and come slide down this hill with us!”
On Friday his hours were ridiculous and he barely had time to eat, let alone time to see Ronan, so he went without. Darcy called during his dinner break.
“Hey Parrish,” Ronan said when Adam picked up. “Darcy wants to say goodnight.”
“Oh,” Adam said, swallowed his mouthful of sandwich, “ok, put her on.”
There was a lot of fumbling noises, and then Darcy’s voice loud in his ear. “Gotta paint ya nails,” she informed him, “c’m’over.”
“I would love to,” Adam said, “but I’m at work right now! How about tomorrow?”
“Bu’ I wanna do it now,” Darcy said, her voice wobbling.
“Uh,” Adam said, “I know. I wanna do it now too.” Before Darcy could get another waily word in edgewise, Adam continued quickly. “Are you having a story before bed? What’s your daddy gonna read you?”
“Um,” Darcy mumbled, sniffed loudly into the phone, “babbits.”
“Oh cool,” Adam replied as soothingly as he could manage, “are you in your pjs? Nice and snuggly?”
“Uh-huh,” Darcy said, “lurple ones.”
“I love purple,” Adam said.
“Ok,” Darcy said, “g’night Am.”
“G’night, Darce,” Adam said, “sleep tight.”
There was a little bit more fumbling, over which he could hear Ronan telling Darcy to go climb into bed and he’d be there in a minute, and then Ronan spoke to him again.
“Thanks,” he said, “I should have realised she’d get distracted.”
“It’s fine,” Adam said, “it was nice.”
“You’re nice,” Ronan shot back, “when do you finish up tonight?”
“Late,” Adam sighed, “too late.”
“So,” Ronan said, “no chance of you coming over later?”
“No,” Adam said, “I’m sorry. I’m just gonna go home and get into bed. I can come over tomorrow after work, though?”
“Yeah,” Ronan said, cleared his throat, “When?”
“Two?” Adam asked, picked at the remnants of his sandwich. “Will you be at home?”
“Yeah,” Ronan said, “we’re doing the bookshelves tomorrow. Wanna help?”
“Yeah,” Adam said as well. He had five minutes break left. “Tell me what you’ve been up to today?”
“Dropped Darcy of to Gansey and Blue this morning,” Ronan said, “they want to spend more time with their god daughter and I haven’t decided on a kindergarten or anything for her yet. Then went to work and tattooed this extremely hair guy. That was fun- “
He paused here, ostensibly because Darcy was yelling something from her bedroom.
“Babe,” he said, “I need to go read to Darcy.”
“Put me on speakerphone,” Adam said quickly, “I wanna listen too.”
Ronan snorted. “Ok,” he said, “ok. Come on then.”
Adam sat there in the break room, phone pressed to his ear, listened as Ronan padded into Darcy’s room and sat down on her bed with her, listened as Darcy climbed onto Ronan’s lap for a hug, and then Ronan tucked her into her bed and grabbed the book.
“You ready, Parrish?” he asked.
“Ready Am?” Darcy echoed.
“Yeah,” Adam said, I’m listening.”
Ronan read. Darcy questioned the illustrations. Ronan explained the illustrations. Darcy started snoring, and Adam listened quietly to the creaking of the bed, the soft smack of Ronan kissing Darcy’s forehead.
“Ok,” Ronan whispered, the hush snick of a door closing in the background, “she’s out.”
“So am I,” Adam said, “sorry. My break’s up.”
“Thanks for listening,” Ronan said, “Text me when you get home?”
“Ok,” Adam agreed. G’night.”
He texted Ronan when he got home, got an almost immediate text back, just a little blue heart. He went to bed.
His Saturday shift seemed to take for-fucking-ever. All he wanted to do was get out of his coveralls and scrub himself clean and run the fuck over to Ronan’s house.
Blaise called him right after his shift finished, as he was clocking out.
“Hey,” Adam greeted him, extremely cheerful with the anticipation of catching the bus to Ronan’s.
“Hey man,” Blaise replied, “you just got off work, yeah?”
“Yup,” Adam said, “walking out the building right now. What’s up?”
“Just wondering if you’d like to come over,” Blaise said, “Amijah’s here and we’re reading through our essays for next week. Could use your input.”
“Ah,” Adam said, speed walking towards the bus stop, “I’m actually on my way to Ronan’s.”
“Ahhh,” Blaise said, then repeated what Adam had said, Adam assumed for Amijah’s benefit. To Adam he said; “When do we get to meet him, huh?”
“Uh,” Adam said.
“We need to vet him,” Blaise continued, “because it sure sounds like he’s probably bewitching you somehow.”
“Ok,” Adam said, rolling his eyes. “Look, I’m sorry I can’t come over today. I dunno when you guys will meet. I mean, we’ve just started dating -”
“Uh-huh,” Blaise cut in, “but you’re the one who said it was serious.”
“It is serious,” Adam protested, leaning against the bus shelter, “just -”
“Hm,” Blaise said, “I know. Just not there yet. Ok. See you on Monday?”
“Yeah,” Adam agreed. “Say hi to Amijah for me.”
“Sure,” Blaise said, “say hi to your sugar daddy for us.”
“Fuck off,” Adam snorted.
After Adam had had his nails painted (pink and green), and had helped Darcy rearrange her teddies on the lounge windowsill so they could look at the view, and read Darcy three books in a row, she released him because she wanted to play by herself now thanks very much, and he went and joined Ronan with the books.
“She decided she’s bored of people?” Ronan asked, shoving an empty box aside to give Adam room near her.
“Yup,” Adam snorted, dropping to his knees by Ronan, and poking at a pile of books. “How’s this going?”
“I never realised how many books I own until I moved,” Ronan grunted, “I swear I can’t have read all of these books, but they’re all very familiar. I haven’t found one I haven’t read yet.”
“Are you arranging them in a particular way?” Adam asked, “Alphabetically? By Author or title?”
“Uh,” Ronan said, “I’m arranging them by colour. Rainbow. See?”
He waved at the books already in the shelf, only reds, orange, and yellow covered books.
“Oh God,” Adam said, “how will you ever find anything?”
“Because I know what colour it is,” Ronan replied, “don’t be such a book nerd.”
Adam shoved him lightly, Ronan shoved him back. It would probably have turned into a full on shove fight if they weren’t surrounded by piles of books that Adam didn’t want to tip over. Instead of shoving back, he leaned in close against Ronan’s chest and kissed him hard.
“I’ll help,” he said when he pulled back, “but we can never tell my friends.”
“I guess I can keep that secret,” Ronan said, and then, “do I get to meet your friends?”
“Um,” Adam said, “I guess.”
“Well,” Adam said, “I mean. Yes. Of course you get to meet my friends. I just - I don’t think there’s a rush, is there?”
“No,” Ronan said slowly, picking out a vaguely greenish yellow book. “But is there a reason to delay?”
“No,” Adam said, scanning around the scattered books for other greenish yellow covers. “Of course not.”
Ronan nudged his shoulder gently, gave him the few moments he needed to organise his thoughts while he searched through the books.
“I want them to like you,” Adam said eventually, handing Ronan three yellowish green books.
“I don’t mind if they don’t,” Ronan said, taking the books, “why do you care?”
He didn’t say it as an accusation, it was very much a serious question.
Adam needed to think about this too. He started looking for greenish yellow books.
“Because,” he said slowly, “because their opinions are important to me and - and I think - I know that you’re more important to me than them, and if their opinions on you are bad then I think I might think less of their other opinions.”
“Quite a lot of people don’t like me very much at all,” Ronan said, “I’m known to be a little bit of an asshole sometimes.”
“Lynch,” Adam said.
“I get it,” Ronan said, put the books in his hands down on the shelf and reached to take Adam’s face between his hands. “I think I’d have the same worry if it wasn’t for the fact that all my friends already love you.”
“Hush,” Adam snorted.
“So,” Ronan prodded, “you’re not embarrassed by me, then?”
“Don’t be stupid,” Adam said, rolled his eyes. “It’s not that.”
“Ah,” Ronan said, “you are embarrassed by something, though.”
Adam shrugged, tipped his head forwards in Ronan’s hands. “It’s a little embarrassing,” he said, voice very low, “how quickly I fell for you. I’m just - that’s not who I am. I didn’t think. But I - for you it’s always been - it’s embarrassing how much I feel like I”m in a fairy tale. Met my prince, get married next week, live happily ever after.”
Saying this was possibly more embarrassing. God. Ronan looked absolutely delighted.
“I’m a prince, huh?” Ronan asked, grinning ear from ear like a cheshire cat. “Why? Because I’m Charming?”
“Don’t push it,” Adam groaned, letting Ronan tug his face closer. “I’m not embarrassed about you, ok? I’m embarrassed about me.”
“Well be embarrassed about me,” Ronan said, moved to wrap his arms around Adam’s shoulders instead. “Because if you fell quick so the fuck did I. Wanna know when I decided I was completely in love with you?”
“Um,” Adam said.
“Fourth period on the second day of you coming to Aglionby,” Ronan said promptly, “when you snarked Rod fucking Davies.”
“Don’t be a dick,” Adam laughed, and Ronan shook his head and hugged him tighter.
“Not kidding,” he said, “I mean. I’m sure it was a bit like, just a crush at first that just felt more. But I never stopped feeling it after that moment.”
“Oh my God,” Adam mumbled, pressing his face into Ronan’s shoulder.
“Uh-huh,” Ronan agreed, “so when your friends tease you for being a sappy princess, you can inform them that actually it’s me who’s the sappy princess.”
“Huh,” Adam said, pressed a kiss to Ronan’s jaw. “Well.”
“I don’t have to meet your friends anytime soon,” Ronan continued, “honestly. Like. I’d like to eventually, but I don’t need to.”
“Ok,” Adam said, “ok. Cool. Well. Cool.”
“God,” Ronan said, “eloquent as all shit.”
“Bad! Words!” Darcy scolded, having suddenly appeared behind them, “Bad! Dad!”
“Oh no!” Ronan wailed, falling away backwards from Adam, towards Darcy, in a pose of intense despair, “my darling, Darcy! Please! Forgive me!”
“Hmmmm,” Darcy said, crouching down and peering at her father’s face. She poked him in the cheek. “Hm.”
“Will you forgive me?” Ronan asked, “For a kiss?” He lifted his head to press a loud kiss to her cheek and she laughed loudly.
“Hmm,” Darcy said, jumped around Ronan’s shoulders and clambered onto his chest. “For gave.”
“Thanks, baby,” Ronan said, wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her until she laughed again, then kissed the top of her head.
“Stay the night,” Ronan persuaded, much later that evening, after they’d had dinner (couscous salad with lamb), and put Darcy to bed. “You don’t have anything on tomorrow, right?”
“Mm,” Adam said, considering allowing himself to be so easily swayed, “No. But. I still think we need to give Darcy a bit more time.”
“Anyway,” Adam added, “the condoms are at mine.”
“I bought some too,” Ronan said, “obviously.”
“Not tonight, ok?” Adam mumbled.
“Ok,” Ronan sighed.
“I just don’t want-” Adam said lowly, “I just want to get to like… be loud with you for the first time at least. And I definitely can’t do that if I think a toddler is gonna walk in on us.”
“Fair enough,” Ronan said, kissed him hard. “Ok. Go home. Bye, shoo, get out of here.”
“Lynch,” Adam snorted, plucking at Ronan’s hand where it was wrapped around his shoulder holding him in place. “I do need to get home.”
“Ok,” Ronan sighed. Kissed him again. “Love you.”
Back at home, Adam considered what he ought to have said in reply to that instead of just kissing Ronan again and saying goodnight.
Because. He sure did love Ronan. He was pretty sure that could be the only name for what he felt for him. But like he’d expressed earlier that day, it was embarrassing having this happen so fast. It was one thing to pretend like it wasn’t dangerous moving so fast so seriously, but another thing entirely to get over the shame he felt about it just for himself.
It was stupid.
He loved Ronan.
And that was also stupid.
He went to bed.
He dreamed of Henrietta.
He wished he’d dreamed of the Henrietta with stars, and with Ronan’s hand on the small of his back, of Gansey’s laughter, of learning to drive stick with Ronan, of the sun. Instead he dreamed of his father and his mother and his father’s hands as hot as the sun breaking his skin.
He had work on Sunday morning, and he felt sluggish all through his shift - his dreams the previous night having exhausted him. All he wanted to do today was go home and try to sleep again. Or, better yet, go to Ronan’s and curl up next to him on his fucking huge bed, feel him pressed up warm and solid against his back, and sleep there while his hair gets stroked.
That was the fucking best daydream.
Instead, he finishes his shift and then heads into town because Ezra had messaged that morning and asked him to join them and Blaise for lunch, and well. He might have wanted to go to Ronan’s a little bit more than he wanted to go out for lunch, but, these were his friends and he did like them, and he would lose them if he didn’t put any actual effort in to keeping them.
“Lover boy!” Ezra greeted him as he let himself into the cafe, “You look exhausted!”
“I didn’t sleep well last night,” Adam acknowledged, sliding onto the empty chair at the table and plucking the menu out of Blaise’s hand because he was only using it as a fan.
“Ah,” Blaise said, “you didn’t sleep well last night, huh?”
“Yup,” Adam replied, rolled his eyes, “not like that. I was at my own house, by myself, just not sleeping well.”
“Ok,” Ezra said, then, “not to push or anything, but when do we get to meet this man who keeps you from sleeping?”
“God,” Adam groaned, lifted the menu up in front of himself as a makeshift shield and squinted at the cheaper lunch options. “Soon,” he allowed, not lowering his shield. “Ronan wants to meet you all too.”
“Oh,” Blaise said, reached over to lower Adam’s menu so they could see his face, “sensible man.”
Lunch went well, they mostly talked about uni after that, uni and Blaise’s upcoming paper being published, and Ezra’s new dog.
If he were dating anyone else - if his newfound (old re-discovered) love was anyone else - Adam would feel needy, or clingy, but - but.
But he was in fucking love with Ronan and Ronan was in love with him, and they had literal years to make up for, and he didn’t have any homework, or anymore work today, and he just wanted and wanted and wanted.
“Are you home?” He asked when Ronan picked up his call on the second ring.
“Hello to you too,” Ronan snorted, “I’m about to be, yeah, just on my way home from church and lunch with Declan.”
“Oh, of course,” Adam mumbled, “um, well. How far off are you?”
“I’ve just got into my car,” Ronan replied, “so about ten minutes, maybe?”
“Ok,” Adam said, “well, not to sound like a stalker or some shit, but I’m outside your flat. So. See you in ten?”
“Sounds good to me,” Ronan said, Adam could hear his grin through his voice, “see you soon, stalker.”
“Fuck off,” Adam snorted back, hung up.
He googled nearby bakeries, and then went to the closest nicest one and bought a bag of sugary doughnuts, and then on his way back his eye caught on some very bright colours and he went in and bought a sparkling blue nail polish for Darcy, and when he got back to the flat, Ronan and Darcy were waiting at the door for him.
“Hi,” Ronan said, sounding a little bemused, but mostly pleased. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”
“Impatience,” Adam replied, stepping closer, and then closer again so he could press a kiss to Ronan’s cheek and then to Darcy’s. “I have doughnuts.”
“Well then,” Ronan said, wrapping his free arm around Adam’s waist, “you are very much invited upstairs.”
Upstairs, Darcy sang them both a very long song about how much she like doughnuts (Ronan informed Adam that it was mostly to the tune of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’), and then sand a much shorter and less coherent song about the nail polish and sat down right then and there on the kitchen floor to paint her toenails.
Ronan picked her up to put newspaper underneath her so she wouldn’t get the polish on the floor, and then he and Adam shifted to the couch with the remaining doughnuts.
“You ok?” Ronan asked once they’d settled down on the cushions.
He reached out to brush back a lock of Adam’s hair, and the touch was tender enough that Adam felt like he would break.
“You look tired,” Ronan added, “are we working you too hard?”
Adam reached up to catch Ronan’s hand on his face, to bring it down to cup his cheek, so he could turn his face in Ronan’s hand and kiss his palm.
“No,” he said, “I mean, I am tired, but it’s - I booked an appointment with a therapist this afternoon. I’ll see them on Wednesday.”
“Oh,” Ronan said, thumb rubbing against the bags under Adam’s eye, “that sounds good. I’m proud of you.”
Adam snorted, didn’t pull away from Ronan’s touch.
“I wanted to see you,” he mumbled instead, letting his hand fall from Ronan’s hand on his face, to his wrist, and wrapping his fingers loosely around Ronan’s pulse. “Because I love you too. And I couldn’t say it over the phone.”
Ronan didn’t say anything for a long moment, his hand still on Adam’s face, and them he smiled slowly and leaned in to kiss Adam gently.
“I love you,” Adam reiterated once they broke the kiss, Ronan pressed another kiss to his lips, “I love you and I don’t care if my friends will think I’m insane for being in love so quickly.”
“Good to hear it,” Ronan mumbled, shifting impossibly closer, kissing him again, and again. “I love you too,” he added in between kisses, “always have.”
They kissed for a while longer, until Adam remembered that Darcy was very close by, and then he dropped his head against Ronan’s shoulder and let himself be just held close.
“Can I nap here?” he asked after a moment of comfortable silence, “I’m so tired.”
“Of course,” Ronan said, “whenever you like. My home is your home.”
“Can you lie with me?” Adam followed up, not willing to relinquish the heat that was Ronan.
“Of course,” Ronan said again, “head to my room, and I’ll join you after I check on Darce.”
Ronan’s bed was even fucking nicer than Adam had imagined, and he had to actively stop himself from groaning with pleasure as he stretched out on it. This was what money could fucking buy - mattresses that didn’t scrunch your vertebrae.
Ronan joined him only a few short moments later, but Adam was already so relaxed on the bed he didn’t even bother opening his eyes. The mattress dipped a little beside him, and then Ronan’s hands were on his face, and then Ronan was kissing his forehead, and then Ronan was tugging the blanket underneath him.
“Get under the covers,” he said softly, “it’ll be comfier.”
Adam didn’t get under the covers so much as he was put under the covers by Ronan, which, he didn’t mind that because he didn’t think he would ever mind being physically shifted by Ronan and being reminded of the strength Ronan possessed. Under the covers, Ronan pressed against him, stomach to back like in Adam’s work daydream, and wrapped his arms tightly around him, pressed his face against Adam’s nape.
“I’ve been -” Adam mumbled into the pillows, “ - having bad dreams. Old dreams.”
Ronan made a quiet inquisitive sound as encouragement for Adam to go on, so he did.
“About Henrietta,” Adam said lowly, “or, I guess, about my parents.”
“Oh,” Ronan said.
“I guess because I - because I’m remembering so much of us there, my brain is just digging up other painful bits of the past.”
Ronan shifted behind him, pressed a kiss just behind his ear. Didn’t jump in with hurt about Adam referring to their past as painful.
“That’s part of why I wanted to see you so badly today,” Adam continued, eyes still closed, voice softened by the pillow, “I don’t want to relive the past. I want to be in today. With you. And Darcy. And how much I love you two.”
Ronan still didn’t say anything, which Adam appreciated, because he was still trying to chew up and spit out the rest of his thoughts on the matter and he didn’t think he’d be able to if he were interrupted.
“I don’t want to hide,” he said slowly, “any of it. I think - I think that’s part of why I’ve been having the… dreams. Because - because -”
“Because you were hiding so much of yourself back then,” Ronan supplied, “to keep yourself safe. Even though you weren’t safe.”
“Yeah,” Adam agreed, reveled in the feeling of Ronan’s arms tightening comfortingly around him, “I think I’m going to be the safest I can be, right here.”
“God,” Ronan mumbled, “fuck. Yeah. Parrish - Adam - love , I’m never going to hide you.”
Adam turned then, a bit of an arduous process while caught underneath the blankets and Ronan’s arms, but he needed to be face to face to Ronan now, so he wriggled around until their chests were flush together and Ronan’s lips were on his.
“I do need to nap,” Adam admitted after a few long minutes.
“So nap,” Ronan said, still pressing firm kisses to Adam’s jaw, his cheeks, his temple. “I’m not stopping you.”
When he woke, the room was dim, and he could hear faint murmuring. Ronan was still there, his arm around Adam, Adam’s body wrapped around him. Darcy was also there, propped comfortably in the curve of Ronan’s other arm, the two of them watching some kids show on Ronan’s phone.
He could stay here forever. Forever in Ronan’s bed with him and Darcy and the soft feeling inside his stomach that seemed to be whispering; ‘family, family, family-’ along with his pulse.
“You’re awake,” Ronan murmured, and Adam nodded against his shoulder. “Dinner?” Ronan suggested then, “I ordered delivery.”
Adam’s stomach grumbled before he could reply, and Ronan snorted.
“Sounds great,” Adam said, had to swallow a few times to wetten his mouth. “What’re you watching, Darce?”
“Blu-Clu,” Darcy mumbled, shifting up to sit on Ronan’s chest, and then tumbling onto Adam, “see?”
She held the phone up for Adam to see, and he moved so he could hold her in his arm to prop her upright.
“Looks fun,” he said with a smile.
Working with Ashley’s team was very fulfilling, as well as enjoyable (which was not something he was very used to his work being), and he rather enjoyed all of it, even the getting to know everyone thing which he had never been that keen on.
It was good pay too, which he had known but hadn’t really grasped until he got his first paycheck, and then --- and then he had quit all his other jobs except for one shift a week at the mechanics so he wouldn’t lose his touch.
It turned out that life was just so much easier when you only really had the one job to juggle with university and a social life, and he was discovering all sorts of patches in his week in which he had more free time. Which obviously actually just meant Ronan and Darcy time , because he had quickly discovered that if he used his free time to stay at home and read a book, or, to stare at the internet, or to whatever else, he fucking missed them. Which was stupid, because it wasn’t like he was being deprived of them, but - but - he also didn’t need to hold himself back from being around them as much as possible, so he didn’t.
“Maybe you could have a party,” Henry suggested -
The all of them - Gansey, Blue, Henry, Ronan, Darcy, Adam - were in Ronan’s lounge, remnants of nachos on the coffee table and Darcy’s face.
- “That way,” Henry continued, “there’s less pressure for your friends to be talking to Ronan constantly and turning him into the little grumpy hermit he is.”
“You do know I work with people - strangers - daily,” Ronan retorted, not actually grumpily as he tracked Darcy under the couch with a damp cloth so he could clean the sauce off of her fingers at the very least. “So I can’t be that much of a hermit.”
“I’ve seen you at work,” Henry shot back, lifting his legs so Ronan could drag Darcy out from under his section of the couch while she giggled and hung on to his jeans, “and you definitely carry your shell on your back to hop into and glower out of when you don’t like your customers.”
Ronan didn’t deign this with a response, so Adam jumped in here instead.
“I guess that would be an easier situation for all of us,” he agreed, “but it would also mean having a party, and you know neither Ronan or I do well with parties.”
“That’s an understatement,” Blue snarked, “you both looked like robots at Gansey’s parents party.”
“Beep Boop,” Gansey agreed solemnly.
Ronan finished cleaning Darcy’s fingers, and even a reasonable amount of her face, and dumped her onto Adam’s lap where she immediately attempted to curl up like a pill bug and burrow under his jumper.
“Can you blame me?” Ronan asked, dropping himself down next to Adam as well and throwing the cloth onto the coffee table, “I was anticipating meeting Adam again.”
“Well,” Adam said, attempting not to mind that Darcy was almost certainly going to stretch the jumper, “I was also anticipating meeting Ronan again, so I think our robotic appearance ought to be forgiven.”
“So it’s decided then?” Henry said, “We’re having a party? A housewarming for Ronan! Perfect. I’m in charge.”
“God,” Ronan groaned, but didn’t protest.
Henry decided the party would be best held at Ronan’s place because it was ‘so cute and will stop all Adam’s friends thinking you’re a heathen if they see you put all of Darcy’s drawings on the fridge’, and also because it was bigger, but mostly because it was right in the middle of town which was easiest for everyone.
He also decided what day it was going to be, what time, what snacks, how many people, and what Ronan ought to wear (the last bit Ronan ignored), which Adam didn’t mind at all because he might have had more time on his hands but certainly not enough time to plan a party when he hated planning parties.
“I cannot believe that you’re choosing to come to this study session rather than be at home prepping for your party,” Ezra said, poking Adam in the side while he tried to focus on not highlighting his entire book. “I thought you’d want to be playing house?”
“It’s not playing if it’s your reality,” Adam said blandly, only highlighting half the page. “And anyway, Ronan’s got it handled.”
“Yeah, don’t be a dick Ezra,” Blaise chipped in, tapping away madly at their computer, “anyway, I bet it’s only because this Ronan already knows how bad Adam is with parties and just wanted him the hell away so he wouldn’t stress the snacks out of something.”
“Oi,” Adam grumbled, half-hearted, “I thought you were on the defending team.”
“I play for both teams,” Ezra replied, “suck it.”
Although Adam’s main friends were Amijah, Ezra, and Blaise, it wasn’t like he didn’t have any other friends - which Henry knew - and a very large handful of them had been invited, plus his co-workers from his internship, as well as some of Henry’s friends, and Ronan’s new co-workers, and just a whole shitting bunch of people.
God, Adam fucking hated parties.
“I get that it’s a good idea to like… blend our groups,” Ronan grumbled under his breath after he and Adam had excused themselves into the kitchen under the guise of clearing away empty plates, “but does Henry think this is some… announcement party or some shit? Why the fuck do we need canapes? Or this many people.”
“We both know that Henry prefers extravagance over sensibilities,” Adam mumbled, rinsing sauce off of plates and handing them to Ronan to stack haphazardly in the dishwasher, “we only have ourselves to blame for letting him do everything.”
“I guess,” Ronan sighed, “you notice, of course, that he didn’t offer to help with any of the clean up.”
“Of course,” Adam snorted, “not his thing.”
“I like your friends,” Ronan said then, almost brusquely, “they’re nice. Very suspicious of me.”
“Sorry about that,” Adam said, “but -”
“Nah,” Ronan shook his head, “I like that they’re looking out for you. It makes sense. They don’t know us like Gansey and co.”
“Ok,” Adam grinned, “ok good. I like your workmates too.”
“I know,” Ronan snorted, “you came to the parlour last week specifically to chat with Cassia.”
“She’s cool,” Adam shrugged, realised he had no more dishes to rinse, and washed his hands instead, “plus I like that her dog and Darce get on so well.”
“Peas in a pod,” Ronan agreed, “demons in a ditch.”
Adam snorted, turned to dry his hands, and then Ronan was behind him and wrapping his arms around his waist, pressing a kiss to the back of his neck.
“We have to get back to the party,” Adam reminded him, turning as he spoke so he could wrap his own arms around Ronan as well, so he could lean in for a kiss.
“They’re having fun without us,” Ronan mumbled against Adam’s lips, “we could barricade the door -”
The currently un-barricaded door swung open at this, and Gansey poked his head around, and then his whole body.
“There you are, tiger,” he said with a loose grin, “I thought I’d find you two necking.”
“Wait,” Ronan said, not letting go of Adam, “is Adam tiger?”
“I’m tiger,” Adam agreed, “but you’re not allowed to call me that.”
“Not even in bed?”
“Still here,” Gansey sid loudly, then, “will you two be out anytime soon?”
“I came out years ago,” Ronan said, “and I think everyone knows about Adam too seeing as the party is at his boyfriend’s house.”
“Ha ha,” Gansey intoned dryly, “hurry up, Blue wants more nibbles and apparently some more stimulating conversation.”
“I’m glad we shipped Darcy off with Declan and Ashley,” Adam said through a badly stifled yawn, much, much later after everyone had finally pissed off, and there were a million more dishes to wash and shit to clean up. “I wouldn’t have wanted to try to keep her asleep while Henry and Blaise sang karaoke.”
“And I wouldn’t have wanted to try and persuade them out of it,” Ronan agreed, “they were so very intent on working their way through as much Kate Bush as youtube would give them.”
“I thought they were going to cry when Ezra told Blaise they were going home,” Adam said with a laugh, then yawned again, tossed a crumpled napkin in the rubbish bag he was holding.
“We could do this in the morning,” Ronan suggested, taking the bag from Adam, “and I could put you to bed instead.”
“Uh-huh,” Ronan said, “I could read you a story and everything.”
“Or,” Adam said, “we could go less paternal here and you could take me to bed instead.”
“Oh,” Ronan said, and then, “ Oh ,” he dropped the trash bag, “Darcy’s not here.”
“Darcy’s not here,” Adam agreed, “and I’m not as tired as I sound.”
“I gotta shower first,” Ronan said quickly, “uh - I gotta shower, and then - ?”
“Yeah,” Adam grinned, dropped all pretense of subtlety, “yeah and then I’ll fuck you?”
“Shit,” Ronan snorted, “make it sound a bit more romantic,” he teased.
“I’ll make love to you,” Adam amended only a little bit joking, “better?”
“Uh-huh,” Ronan mumbled, “ok. Ok. Shower.”
Adam wasn’t really the type of guy who saw sex as a relationship milestone. Not exactly. Like, sure, it often indicated a new level of trust and intimacy, but - but it hadn’t been that much of a big deal for him in his other relationships.
Also, also? He and Ronan had been intimate before. Clumsy and quick handjobs, sleeping together if not sleeping together , but.
Waking up in Ronan’s bed the next morning, after the party, after they hosting together, after the learning how to fuck Ronan properly ---
Waking up in Ronan’s fucking arms after the previous night made Adam very stupidly feel very, very much like just fucking going back to his flat and packing all his things up and moving right the hell in with Ronan and Darcy because he belonged here with them, and he loved it here with them, and it felt so fucking good here with them.
This wasn’t how he felt things, not usually. He took things days by day, thought them through, didn’t jump into situations without thorough thought, and certainly didn’t try and move in right after having sex for the first time.
“Stop thinking,” Ronan grumbled, shoving at Adam’s side, and then tugging at him to pull him in closer, “too early to think.”
“It’s almost ten,” Adam contradicted, “and who says I’m thinking?”
“Me,” Ronan said, draping himself entirely over Adam, “you had your thinking thoughts face on.”
“I was just thinking about how much I love you,” Adam said, squeezed Ronan tightly, “is that fucking allowed?”
“No,” Ronan mumbled, pressing his face into the crook of Adam’s neck. “God, no. You’re not allowed to think that.”
“Too bad,” Adam said, smiled, tugged at Ronan’s ear until he looked up at Adam, “because I’ve been thinking it a lot these past few weeks.”
“Gay,” Ronan replied, immature, and Adam rolled his eyes.
“You know when my lease ends,” Adam said now, “right?”
“Do you still… want me to move in here with you?”
Ronan narrowed his eyes at him, like he expected this to be a trick question somehow, and then he shuffled himself a little further up so he was pressed against Adam’s chest and hovering over him.
“What are you saying?”
“You know what I’m saying,” Adam rolled his eyes again, “I don’t want to renew my lease.”
“Keep saying it.”
“I don’t want to renew my lease,” Adam repeated, “and I want to move in here with you and Darcy. For the shorter commute, of course.”
“Of course,” Ronan said with a serious nod, then he laughed. “Ha,” he said, “all it took was getting you into bed, huh?”
“Fuck off,” Adam snorted, shifting his arms and rolled the both of them over wildly so that he was on top. “It took a lot more than that.”
Again Ronan shifted back into seriousness, though this time it wasn’t faked. He shifted under Adam’s weight, took his hand, brought it to his mouth, and pressed a kiss to his palm as he nodded.
“I would love for you to move in with us,” he said kissed Adam’s hand again, “so fucking much. And Darcy will love it too.”
“We ought to ask her anyway, though,” Adam mumbled, watching as Ronan kissed him again, and again, “this is her home too.”
“Ok,” Ronan said, “we can do that.”
They waited a couple of weeks, a little so that Adam could be entirely sure he wanted to move, but mostly because his schedule was a little bit busier those couple of weeks, and then he and Ronan took Darcy out for ice cream.
She didn’t mark this as anything odd, partially because she didn’t tend to find the prospect of treats as suspicious, and mostly because they took her out for ice cream maybe a little too often.
“So?” Ronan asked, “what do you think?”
Darcy had peanut butter ice cream on her nose, but still managed to look almost regal as she pulled what she dubbed her ‘statue think pose’.
“Ummm,” Darcy said, took a furtive lick of her ice cream, “uhhhhhhhhh,”
“Take your time,” Ronan snorted, rolled his eyes at Adam, who was attempting not to feel anxious about this possible impending judgement.
“Don’t you all-red-ay livev with us?” Darcy asked Adam, reaching across the park bench to take his hand with her very sticky one. “In dad’s roo-um?”
“Not officially,” Adam replied, failing to hold back his grin, “so you don’t mind that, then?”
“Nah,” Darcy said, licked her ice cream again, “like your scrombably eggies.”
“Nice,” Adam said, because it felt like the right thing to say at the time.
“Um,” Darcy said.
“Uh-huh?” Adam prompted.
“Y’know,” Darcy said, took another lick, “I livev with my dad.”
Ronan snorted, Adam managed to hold his own snort back.
“Yeah,” he said, “I know that.”
“So,” Darcy continued, “you are too.”
“Living with your dad?” Adam clarified, “Yeah, I will be.”
“No,” Darcy rolled her eyes, something which Ronan insisted she had learned from Blue, but everyone knew she’d learned from him. “You! Will. Be! My. Dad! Too.”
“Oh,” Adam said, “I didn’t realise it worked like that.”
“Does,” Darcy said simply, returned to her ice cream.
“It doesn’t mean that you’re her dad,” Ronan said, a few hours after they had returned from the park, and barely two minutes after he had put her down for a nap. “You don’t need to -”
“I’m not panicking about it,” Adam soothed, rolled his eyes (possibly he was also to blame for Darcy’s eye rolling), and reached out to pull Ronan to him. “I know a toddler telling me that isn’t binding - but also - Ronan.”
Ronan let himself be tugged closer, let Adam wrap his arms around him.
“I told you, right in the beginning,” Adam said lowly, “that I want you. Both of you. 100%. Maybe I’m not brave enough to respond to being called… ‘dad’ yet, but - but I will be. I know I will be. Remember? I’m in this for the long haul.”
“You,” Ronan mumbled, “are the absolute fucking, shitting, best.”
“You,” Adam replied, “need to learn some new adverbs.”
“Fuck you,” Ronan grinned, “you love me anyway.”
“I really fucking do,” Adam agreed.
HEY thank you ALL for reading this and sticking with it and commenting and leaving kudos! It always means so much to me, and I love every single comment (even if I don't get around to answering all of these).
This might get another chapter (or two, or three, idk) in the future with like... their life with the three of them, or like, the sex scene I completely skipped over. If there's something you'd super like to see in this AU, let me know!
OFC, I'm still working on the Ethan and Darcy AU as well!