Ronan thinks he's doing a pretty good job for his first time visiting Adam at college. He didn't get lost finding Adam's dorm. He forgot Adam's roommate's name, but they didn't talk for long, so he's pretty sure no one could tell. He survived lunch in the dining hall, which is a feat of heroic fucking strength; he's seriously going to start adding a lot more food to the boxes of random shit he sends Adam.
And -- okay.
He knows that they're a fucking gross couple. Sargent has given him shit more than once for overdoing the physical affection in public, not like her and Dick weren't always cuddling and calling each other pet names, at least when they weren't fighting. Not that he cared if Sargent took hypocritical shots at him -- that's kind of their thing -- and he really didn't care if strangers gave them dirty looks. None of that was a good enough reason not to kiss Adam when he wanted to, not to hold his hand or wrap himself up in him or rest his head on his shoulder, overcome with the knowledge that he could.
But that was in Henrietta. That was when they were alone, or with friends, or around people they didn't give a shit about. This is Cambridge, and there's people everywhere, and Adam is working so fucking hard to earn their respect. Ronan can keep his hands to himself and not ruin that. He's not some stupid horny -- well, he is a stupid horny teenager, but he can act like he's not if that's what's best for Adam.
And if he did reach for his hand and Adam pulled away -- better not to try.
So he keeps his hands to himself and leaves a space between them while they wander around campus, Adam taking care of the last few things he has to do on a Friday afternoon before the weekend can start. The last stop is Adam's dorm room; on the way they pass the common room on his floor, where people are making enough noise that Ronan would avoid the room on principle, except Adam glances in and stops.
"Oh, hey, you should meet these guys. They're cool," and Ronan isn't going to say no. He can meet Adam's friends. It can't be any worse than the dorm food.
It's a big room with a dozen or more people. Adam heads for one corner, where a few kids are sitting in chairs and on couches, circled around a table. A short dude and a chick with purple hair are arguing about whether something is illegal, which gets Ronan's attention until he realizes that they're just talking about the board game on the table in front of them. So much for these guys are cool.
Everyone's really invested in arguing about the rules of the game (seriously, Parrish, we need to have a talk about the kind of people you're hanging out with), so Adam slides onto an empty couch and just exchanges a few nods, sparing Ronan a bunch of introductions.
Ronan sits down leaning against the arm of the couch, instead of squishing obnoxiously onto the same couch cushion as Adam.
The short dude on the couch across from them leans forward. "Adam!"
"Hey!" Purple hair girl points at him, threatening. "No pinch hitters."
"I just want to ask him about stats homework."
"Finish your turn first."
"He can't win at this point, anyway," Adam says, having figured out the status of the entire game from one look at the board, even though the game looks complicated enough to give Ronan a headache.
"You're the king of Monopoly?" Ronan asks him, scathing.
"Some of us are good at things, Lynch."
"Not me." Short guy sighs and moves some shit around on the board. It's either legal or he's losing so badly no one cares what he does. "Okay, now please tell me you finished the problem set, I need a win."
"I'm going to work on it Monday. Lynch is only in town for the weekend." He says it so easily, and Ronan burns: Adam is putting school work on hold to be with him.
Adam and the short guy chatter on about probability and regression and bisexual distribution and some shit; Ronan tunes it out. Everyone else is still focused on their game, so he figures all he has to do is exist. He's good at that. He's great at that, except then the girl in the chair next to him finishes her eight-hour long turn and needs some other boring and painful experience, because she twists around in her chair to hold out her hand and say, "hi, I'm Madison."
Ronan takes a beat too long to remember how people introduce themselves, during which Adam says, "yeah, let me just grab it before I forget," and then "Lynch, I've got to get something from my room, I'll be right back."
"This is gonna be a long fucking weekend if you're tired of me already," Ronan says.
Adam flips him off as he leaves.
The girl next to Ronan looks a little stumped, but that's not enough to stop her from making small talk, which, why would someone not take the slightest excuse to get out of small talk. She does withdraw her hand without waiting for him to shake it and fidgets with the hem of her flannel shirt, though, self-conscious. "So, Lynch, how long have you known Adam?"
Okay. So Adam doesn't do story time and tell everyone about how they met and shit, that's cool. He'd expected that. That's why he's been chilling the fuck out on this trip, in case Adam doesn't want to broadcast their whole relationship.
"You went to school together?"
"Yeah." That's the kind of answer he'd give if he was deliberately trying to end a conversation, monosyllabic and boring. The trouble is, he doesn't know how to not throttle small talk. "Uh. I didn't take all the honors classes like he did."
The purple-haired girl moves a few pieces around the game board, thunking them down angrily. Ronan figures his chatty new friend will go back to talking to the person she actually knows, now that she's no longer distracted, but she doesn't. Apparently she's committed enough to small talk for both of them. "Was Adam just a huge nerd in high school?"
"He's a huge nerd now," Ronan says.
"You think so?"
"He goes to Harvard."
"Oh, so we're all huge nerds?" she asks, but she's smiling like she isn't offended.
"Yeah. Sorry you had to learn it like this."
"It wouldn't help if I mention that I played a lot of D&D in high school, would it?"
"Okay, so what did you do in high school, if you're so cool?"
"Huh. I would've thought there was more to being cool than that."
"Sometimes we didn't drive around," Ronan says. "It was a small town, an exciting day was going out for pizza."
She laughs. Hey, he's doing pretty okay at this conversation thing.
"So if you all hung out together," she says, "you must know Adam's boyfriend."
Ronan's mind goes completely blank. He can barely do small talk when it makes sense, and this does not make sense. All he can manage is, "huh?"
"Ronan," she says, and he thinks yeah, what? But she doesn't ask him anything, even when he waits for it, and she starts to look uncomfortable. "Adam talks about him all the time, I figured you knew..." and Ronan belatedly realizes that she wasn't addressing him, she was answering his question: Adam's boyfriend. Who? Ronan.
It occurs to him -- he'd backpedaled off acting really grossly affectionate, and then Adam had called him Lynch and insulted him and flipped him off, which even grosser if you know them. But she doesn't know them, and Adam calls him Ronan when he talks about him -- which he does all the time, apparently.
Now he knows what the hell is going on. He can correct her and straighten this whole thing out and go back to excruciating small talk, none of which will be about what Adam says about him when he's not around.
"Yeah, I know Ronan," he says. She looks relieved to discover that she has not outed Adam to his own boyfriend. "I didn't figure Adam would talk about him that much."
She frowns a little. "I mean, they're really serious, right? It'd be weirder if he didn't talk about him."
The purple-haired chick rolls her eyes. "How serious can it really be if they don't even follow each other on Instagram?"
"You're just annoyed because you can't cyberstalk a Luddite," the flannel girl tells her.
"Trust me, they're doomed," purple hair says. "Long distance never works." Ronan decides that he hates her.
"No one's impressed by your cynicism, Zoe. Hope is radical."
Purple hair rolls her eyes. "Back me up on this, Lynch. Ronan can't really be as cool as Adam says he is."
Ronan says, "honestly he's kind of a dick."
"Wait." One of the guys on the other couch abandons the board game to lean into their conversation. "I heard the magic word."
"Dick is the magic word?"
"Are you saying it's not?" the guy asks. Ronan considers the possibility that when Adam said these guys are cool he actually meant these guys are gay.
"This is dick like asshole, not dick like penis," purple hair tells him.
He shrugs. "Still good. Who are we shit talking?"
"Adam's boyfriend. Lynch says he's a dick."
"Makes sense," Adam's stats friends says, probably just to keep everyone from going back to the board game he's losing. "Adam's a dick too."
"He's always been nice to me," flannel girl says, and maybe if people were less nice to you then you wouldn't be so horny for small talk. "I think that says more about you than it does about him."
"No. Mm-mm. Mm-mm. You don't have class with him. You've never heard him in discussion when someone tries to show off by reciting a Wikipedia article. I swear one time he made a dude cry."
Ronan is so fucking proud of his boyfriend. Scaring the shit out of lazy Harvard losers.
"Is his boyfriend intense too?"
Ronan shrugs. "Not as intense as Parrish, but yeah."
"They can't both be the intense one." Purple hair cements her place on Ronan's shit list.
"Says who?" short guy asks.
"Um, logic? If you have two intense people, no one ever gives any ground and every argument turns into the apocalypse." Ronan refuses to admit that anyone on his shit list could be right, but if she weren't on his shit list...she'd still be wrong, fuck you, Zoe.
He almost clears his throat but stops himself in time. He doesn't want anyone to think he's too interested in this. "Is that what Parrish says? That he's too intense?"
"Are you kidding?" The dick enthusiast on the other couch rolls his eyes. "Adam talks about him like he's a long-lost Hemsworth brother, honestly I always thought he was fake. No one can be that great."
"But now we have independent verification that he exists," flannel girl points out.
"Maybe Lynch is in on it."
"I wouldn't lie just to make Parrish look cool," Ronan says.
"Oh, no one said he's cool," short guy says. "He's practically married, that's the opposite of cool."
Ronan can't even point out that the opposite of cool is Harvard. His brain is all fireworks, bright lights and loud noises: practically married.
"I think it's sweet," Ronan's self-appointed new bff says. "I want to find someone who lights up like that just from getting a text from me."
"Why would you want them to light up when you text them? You wouldn't be there to see it."
"I was being figurative, Zoe."
"How is that figurative."
"It's part for whole. What is that, metonymy?"
"Synecdoche," dick lover says absentmindedly, like he didn't even have to think about it.
Ronan rediscovers language long enough to say "way to prove me wrong that Harvard kids are all nerds."
"All right, Lynch." Short guy leans in, trying to look more intimidating than he is. "Tell us what your deal is so we can make fun of you."
Ronan thinks. How little detail he can get away with here? I dropped out of school to live on a farm is going to give it away. Even Harvard students wouldn't be dumb enough to believe Adam knows two guys who did that.
Adam comes back before he can settled on an answer, holding a book in one hand. "Sorry that took so long, I ran into the RA," and then he takes in the fact that the whole circle has turned in toward Ronan. "You're having a conversation?" he asks in open disbelief.
"Yeah," Ronan says. "We were just talking about how embarrassingly married you and your boyfriend are."
He can see Adam doing some familiar calculations. He hits on it faster than Ronan did, anyway. "Oh, you're fucking with me."
Adam shuts his eyes, presses the heel of his hand to his forehead like he's trying to push away a headache. "It didn't occur to any of you that Lynch who came to visit me and Ronan my boyfriend might be the same person?"
Adam's friends make various huh sounds at this news, but Ronan barely hears them; he's zeroed in completely on Adam. "You'd think they would have recognized me, since you talk about me all the time -- "
"And you couldn't have just cleared up the confusion," Adam says.
"What fun would that be?"
Adam is struggling to hold onto annoyance, but he gives up before he's even finished saying "you're such a pain in the ass."
He sits on the couch. Ronan figures if people already think they're practically married then he can't do anything too disastrous for Adam's image, so he puts an arm around him, along the top of the couch, and kisses his ear.
"Here." Adam tosses the book in his hand onto the other couch. "Can you hurry up and lose this game so we can start a new one?" and that gets the conversation going back where it had been before he'd left. Ronan doesn't get to hear anymore of what Adam says about him, about them, when he's not around. He doesn't care, though, because Adam leans into him, and brushes his thumb over his hand, and rests his foot up against Ronan's, a thousand little touches like he doesn't care if anyone's watching.
"So what did you hear while I was gone?" Adam asks, soft, when the conversation has gotten sidetracked into a rant about some professor.
"You make me sound so great that people think I'm fake," Ronan says. Adam snorts. "And you light up when you hear from me. Apparently we're really serious."
"So nothing you didn't know already."
Ronan rubs his thumb over Adam's shoulder. "I didn't know they knew," he says. "I didn't know how open you'd let me be."
Adam frowns at him, going tense under his arm. "I'm not in the closet, and I'd never make you be -- "
"Not that," Ronan says. "Just -- us. Everything. I thought I had to be restrained about you."
"I don't want you to be restrained. I love that you go all out. And maybe it's kind of selfish but..." Adam looks down at his hand, resting on Ronan's thigh. "I like when you go all out about me."
Ronan takes that in, and then he says, "okay, we're getting out of here."
Adam had started to relax back against the couch, but he freezes at that. "What? Why?"
"I want to kiss you."
Adam blushes. "I'm okay with that."
"In a couple of minutes everyone else in the room is going to start complaining."
Adam blushes, darker, but stands up. Ronan takes his hand. Adam doesn't object; Adam isn't just going to let him show off how much he feels for him. Adam wants him to do it.
"Uh, we're going to head out now," Adam says, awkwardly, to the group at large. Ronan is already tugging him forward, out of the room.
"You're ditching us to get laid?" one of the guys asks.
Ronan says "yup" without bothering to check who it was. On their way out the door he hears:
"Married people don't have sex."
"Get over yourself and finish your turn, Zoe."