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Your Place Not Mine

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-

 

Adam hadn’t intended to be the type of person to get a dating app, let alone a dating app that was very much more of a hook up app, but - 

 

It wasn’t that he looked down on people who did use them, that was their prerogative, but - 

 

No. Maybe he did look down on them a little. He had always thought that the best way to meet someone, especially someone you wanted to connect with, was through real life. Maybe that made him old fashioned. He liked meeting people out in the fresh air, seeing them in real HD, sunlight, hearing their voices raw and un-staticked, touching

 

Which made it all the more… shameful that he had caved, had downloaded grindr onto his shitty phone. He’d been almost surprised that he could get it on his phone, some small part of him hoping it wouldn’t work so he wouldn’t end up getting it. 

 

But it did download. And a larger part of him was relieved it worked. Because. 



Because sure, he loved the idea of meeting someone naturally. Of making friends with someone and then letting it just tumble into something more. But. 

 

But he’d just spent the last eighteen years of his life clawing and scratching his way out of Henrietta, out of a shitty, leaky trailer, out of bruises, and broken fingers, and unavoidable pity, and now? 

 

He had thought that when he finally got here - university - Harvard University no less - that things would become easier. He had known, logically, that he would still have to work insanely hard. He had a scholarship, but that hung on his grades staying perfect. He had accommodation, but that hung on him squeezing as many hours of sweaty, grimy mechanic work in between his classes, and study, and sleep. He had friends, but - 

 

Truth be told. 

 

He had never really had a friend before. Sure, he had work mates. Guys at his various workplaces in Henrietta who’d clap him on the shoulder and include him in their gossip. But that was all they were, there were no after work hours conversations that didn’t include covering a shift, not intimate knowledge shared - except what each others farts smelled like.
He didn’t have friends at school. Too many of his classmates shared the trailer park with him. Knew what his home life was like.Too many of his classmates thought he was odd, and stand offish. He hadn’t cared. He hadn’t. His goal in Henrietta had been to get out. It would have been harder to get out if he had connections he cared about. 

 

But it made it difficult to make friends here. 

 

His goal here was to thrive, but. He didn’t want to just thrive in his classes, thrive just by having unbroken skin. Thrive by making money. He wanted all of those, but he wanted to actually connect to people as well, and there was something horrendously difficult about that when making friends apparently involved talking about yourself a bit as well and he had nothing about himself that he wanted to share. 

 

He wanted to be a blank slate, he wanted to be Adam from Harvard, doing bio med, living up the hill. 

 

Which meant. Which meant that the friends he had right now were somewhat one dimensional. They were people he sat with in class, or at lunch. Had group assignments with. People who talked about the coursework with, or about politics with, but closed his mouth and edged away when the the group conversation turned to families, parents, home town, high school - 

 

He needed - 

 

He missed - 

 

No he didn’t miss touch . He hadn’t ever really had touch so he couldn’t miss it, could he? 

 

He could. He could miss it. 

 

When he was young - very young, maybe four, maybe three - his mother had held him in her arms during a thunderstorm. Robert was out, in the next town over maybe, he had the truck. The thunder had been so loud in the trailer, and the lightening so bright and close, and his mother had bundled him up and held him tight. 

 

He didn’t have any other memories of her being… tender towards him, and he was pretty sure he would have remembered if she had been after that. 

 

When he was seven he had fallen in the school yard, tripped on his shoelaces on the way in from recess. He hadn’t cried, no point in crying over a split knee, and his teacher - Miss Avery - had told him that he was so brave , had given him a hug and a plaster. 

 

He could still faintly recall her perfume - flowery and smokey all at once. 

 

From then, touch in his life - good touch - got somehow even more sparse. He’d begun to crave the shoulder pats from work mates, the accidental brush of people moving past you, the press of shoulders in a too small room.

 

He knew it was unhealthy, knew it from the way he wanted it so much. Knew from the way he recalled memories of being touched just to cheer him up. Knew it from the way he sometimes felt physically sick on the long weeks when no one even came close enough to accidentally graze him. 

 

When it was like that, even the back of Robert’s hand was better than nothing. 

 

So. 

 

Coming to university he was constantly surrounded by people. His shoulders were brushed against daily, hands shaken or fists bumped, he was getting touch but this was where it got even stupider. 

 

It made him want so much more. He wanted more than this accidental touch. He wanted someone to purposefully touch him. To touch him and have it mean something. Friendship. Lust. Anything. 

 

Which is how he got to be here. Too scared and stupid to let himself make any real friends, friends who might hug him. Resigned to downloading a hook up app because he was also too scared and stupid to date, to open himself up to any kind of knowing that wasn’t physical. 

 

-

 

His profile was as basic as he could bear. He didn’t want anyone to know him, he just wanted someone to know him. He didn’t show his face, didn’t want anyone to swipe past him and then see him in public and know how desperate he was - although, yes, he knew that if someone saw him on there they were on there too, and therefore no one in the same boat should judge, right? 

 

His arms were well toned from years of physical labour, tanned and freckled from working in the Henrietta sun. He took his profile picture in his shoddy shared bathroom on his shoddy phone, taking it in the mirror, capturing his torso and his arms, his hipbones and the beginning curve down from his navel, reflected in the tarnished mirror, face blocked out by his hand and phone. 

 

He wrote; Adam. 18. Dtf. your place not mine. 

 

-

 

He got his first response that wasn’t just a dick pic on Friday, right after he’d gotten out of class. Their screen name was ‘uwannacumbro’, their profile placed them as a Harvard Law student, nearby, their photos showed that they were well muscled, big dicked, and liked facial anonymity as much as Adam. 

 

He didn’t even have his name on his profile, but he had written; ‘hey handsome. Dtf too. You live near campus? I’m a block out w/ a nice bed if you wanna come over tonight.’ 



Adam… kind of did want to go over tonight? He’d just handed in an assignment. He didn’t have anything else hanging over his head. He had work only until eight. He had been day dreaming all through class about resting his head on someone’s shoulder. 

 

‘Be there at 9. What’s the address?’ 

 

-

 

The apartment this guy lived in was technically attached to Harvard, but it was the type of university housing that was only available to those whose families had connections to Harvard. It was clean, warm, beautiful. The elevator worked properly, dropped Adam off on floor five with a melodic ding. 

 

He had messaged to let the guy know he was coming over now, but hadn’t heard back by the time he got to the door. He knocked and waited. No answer. Wondered if he ought to message again. Gritted his teeth. Knocked again. Heard faint movement through the thick looking door. 

 

The door swung open, and Adam realised he knew this stranger. Didn’t know him know him, but - 

 

One of Adam’s ‘group friends’ was a charismatic individual who went by Gansey. He seemed to like Adam well enough, and seemed content to only talk about academic things with Adam, which Adam appreciated enough that he considered Gansey one of his closer friends despite the fact that he didn’t even know what his last name was. What he did know about Gansey though, was that he was almost constantly with a shaved headed, broad shouldered, scowling, walking, mountain named Ronan. 

 

Ronan was the one who was glaring down at him now, his expression so unnerving, that it prompted Adam to just blurt out the first thing that came to mind. 

 

“We can fuck, or I can just go home.” 

 

Ronan’s eyebrows lifted so high, that Adam was pretty sure if he actually had hair they would have disappeared underneath it. That had obviously been a stupid thing to say, but like, he’d never done this before, and Ronan could have at least tried not to be so intimidating. Maybe he’d forgotten that Adam was coming? 

 

“You want to fuck?” Ronan asked. 

 

Now Adam raised his eyebrows. “Obviously,” he said. “Are we gonna, or what?” 

 

Maybe switching straight from meek to aggressive wasn’t the best move but it didn’t seem like the worst move either. Ronan stepped aside to let Adam in. 

 

He wondered if Ronan even remembered who he was. If he’d even taken notice of Adam the few times they’d seen each other with a Gansey buffer. Adam had noticed him. Had noticed him a lot. Obviously hadn’t noticed him enough to be able to pair him and his grindr photos up. 

 

Ronan shut the door behind them, and Adam remembered he actually had no idea what to do next. 

 

Not about the sex thing. He’d actually done a stupid amount of research (yes, he was aware that doing theoretical research was not the same thing as practical research) before even downloading the app, and he’d prepped before he came over, and he felt reasonably confident that him being a virgin was not going to be an issue. It was something the majority of humans did. He could do it too. It would be fine. 

 

“You wanna just get straight to it?” Ronan asked, sounding oddly nervous. 

 

Maybe Adam was misreading him. Maybe he was frustrated. Maybe Adam was supposed to have already moved to begin by now.  He nodded quickly, stepped towards Ronan. Hesitated a bit. 

 

God. 

 

Fuck. 

 

He had made up his mind already that he was just going to do this. He wanted to be touched, he wanted to touch, so he was going to fucking get touched and touch as well. He was going to do this. 

 

He stepped forwards again, wished Ronan would make this easier on him by meeting him half way. Pressed his chest against Ronan’s, caught Ronan’s jaw with his hands, pulled him down into a kiss. 

 

Adam’s first kiss. 

 

Kissing, he realised, like a fucking shock of electricity straight to the heart, was fucking fun. It was… 



It was easier than he’d anticipated, and harder as well. The mechanics of it - getting their mouths aligned right, their heads tipped right - that bit was a bit difficult, a bit clumsy and awkward to get right at first. 

 

The heat and breath and need of it? That felt like it had been built into his DNA. It was his instinct. 

 

Ronan wasn’t as confident in the kissing as Adam had expected, wasn’t leading the kiss like the name ‘uwannacumbro’ lead him to believe he would. He was responding with enthusiasm, yes, but he seemed just as clumsy about it as Adam was. 

 

“Do you have condoms?” Adam breathed once they pulled apart, a movie worthy string of saliva connecting their mouths for a bare millisecond. “Lube?” 

 

Ronan shook his head. Adam wondered how someone who asked another guy to come the fuck around to fuck could be so woefully unprepared. 

 

“I have a couple of condoms in my pocket,” Adam mumbled, “but I only have the lube they come with.” 

 

Ronan appeared unphased. Or. He simply swallowed and shrugged, apparently not into the whole talking while hooking up thing. That was okay. That was fine. 

 

“Do you wanna go to your bedroom?” Adam suggested. He ran his hands down from Ronan’s jaw, to his neck, to his shoulders, felt out the lines of Ronan’s clavicle through his thin shirt. 

 

Ronan nodded again, then finally took the lead, which was good because otherwise Adam would have had to guess which room was his. He took Adam by the hand, his palm sweaty, lead him into a hallway, and then into the first room on the left, the door wide open and revealing his dark room. 

 

His light was off, curtains pulled. There was a lot of clothing on the floor, clothing, and random pieces of who knows what, a couple of canvases, heavy looking books. All difficult to make out in the gloom. Maybe people always hooked up with the lights off. Adam didn’t mind. He didn’t particularly want anyone to get a good look at how rough his body was, anyway. Didn’t need anyone asking questions. 

 

The bed looked clear and clean, and that was the biggest thing, really, so. 

 

Ronan was still just standing in the door way, so Adam walked them forwards towards the bed, released Ronan’s hand as they got to it, turned to kiss Ronan again, to press himself bodily against Ronan until Ronan was pressing himself back. 

 

After they’d kissed for a while - long enough that Adam’s heart was burning - Ronan pushed against him until Adam was sitting down on the bed, until he was lying down on the bed, until Ronan was crawling up over him on the bed and leaning down and in to keep kissing him and kissing him and kissing him and -

 

Adam felt like he could get lost in the kissing. Would get lost in the kissing if he didn’t focus. Ronan was heavy on top of him, but in a comfortable way. Like, he wasn’t squashing Adam down onto the bed, just covering him like a heated blanket, his legs bracketing Adam’s, his elbows on either side of Adam’s head, his mouth on him, and on him, and on him. 

 

He broke free of the kiss, reveled for a hot second in the sound of Ronan’s vaguely confused definitely accidental huff of complaint, tipped his head up so he could mouth at Ronan’s jaw, to nudge his head up so Adam could kiss his neck. 

 

He’d watched… a reasonable amount of porn since moving, since he was in a place with Wi-Fi and some privacy. It hadn’t really been as an assist for jerking off - he wasn’t - he didn’t - he had never really got into the habit of jerking off in any sort of luxurious way. It had always been in the quick quiet moments he could grab in the shower, rough and too fast, a release rather than a relief. But. He had watched the porn so he could have some idea of what to do in bed that he hadn’t gathered from just reading about it. He’d seen the actors kiss and bite, suck and lick, and it looked good. Had made him feel good to watch. 

 

He was determined, that even if this whole hook up thing was a selfish desire of his to get to be touched without having to commit to being known, that he was going to give as good as he got. He wouldn’t be selfish in bed. If he couldn’t give himself, he was definitely going to give as much pleasure as he could. 

 

Ronan let out a breathless noise that sounded punched out of him, and Adam felt it all the way in his gut. He wanted Ronan to make more noise, dragged his hands down Ronan’s front until he got to the bottom of his shirt, hooked his fingers under the hem, pressed his knuckles against Ronan’s stomach. 

 

God. 

 

He felt like he was going to explode. He’d never been - never been so close to a single other person. Had definitely never touched anyone like this. His hands were under Ronan’s shirt, smoothing across his stomach and hooking around his hips. Fuck. 

 

Ronan made another noise, higher pitched, and his stomach caved upwards away from the trail of Adam’s thumb by his navel - ticklish. 

 

Adam huffed out a laugh of surprise against Ronan’s shoulder, tucked his thumb safely away. 

 

“What do you want?” Adam asked, needed, needed Ronan to speak to him more, to tell him what he wanted, what to do, if he liked it as much as Adam did. 

 

“You’re in charge,” Ronan said, as if this was a fact and not a sudden shift of power, “I don’t - what do you want, Adam?” 

 

Adam hadn’t been entirely certain that Ronan had even bothered to remember his name, so it was kind of nice to hear him say it.

 

Maybe kind of nice was an understatement. 

 

Maybe it made his stomach literally feel like it was buzzing, like hearing his name said to him so soft and so close in this scenario was the best fucking thing he had ever heard. 

 

What did he want. What did he want. What did he want. 

 

“Can we take our jeans off,” Adam tried, “I want to - I want to touch you.” 

 

Ronan nodded, his forehead pressing against Adam’s as he pushed himself up a little to kiss Adam again on his way to sitting up and then sliding off onto the bed next to him. 

 

Adam fumbled with his own jeans, undid the button with shaking fingers, pulled them off and dropped them on the floor. Heard his phone thunk onto the floor, still in his jeans pockets. Shitty phones were still a little brick like, even in this day and age. He left his boxers on, wasn’t really sure how this worked. Did you take them both off at once? Did you get straight to it? Or was there - was there like, grinding first? 

 

His porn research hadn’t given him a very solid answer about this.

 

Ronan had taken his jeans off now, his shirt too, was sitting there mostly naked, his chest heaving in the dim light. There was a dark mess of ink on his shoulders - a tattoo crawling from his back and slipping over the edges. 

 

“I didn’t see that before,” Adam breathed, moving almost unconsciously back towards Ronan, like a magnet, climbing onto his lap with a confidence he hadn’t realised he possessed. 

 

Maybe it wasn’t confidence, maybe it was just adrenaline. You could do a lot on adrenaline. He reached out, trailed his fingertips across the tattoo, exhaled want heavily when Ronan twitched underneath him, reached out to grab onto Adam’s waist, to dig his hands up under Adam’s shirt. 

 

“When would you have?” Ronan grunted, bit at Adam’s chest through his shirt. “It’s not like we’ve done this before.” 

 

Maybe Ronan’s selfies had been before the tattoo. Or maybe Adam had just overlooked them. Either way, it wasn’t something he was about to focus on, not with Ronan’s teeth and tongue at his neck, Ronan’s hands slowly dragging Adam’s shirt off of him. 

 

It was almost unbearable - the tightness in his stomach, the growing hardness of his cock trapped in his boxers, the heat of Ronan underneath him and around him, Ronan’s mouth on him. Every second was like its own little torture of sensation . It was nothing like he had imagined this kind of thing would be like. It was gentler than he had supposed. Hungrier. 

 

He reached down, between his own legs, pressed the heel of his hand against Ronan’s fabric covered dick, already a little damp like he as just as overwhelmed with all the sensation and touch as Adam was. 

 

Ronan had been ravaging Adam’s neck, but he broke off at this simple touch, made a noise which Adam was pretty sure could be classified as a groan, pushed his hips up against Adam’s hands, against Adam, his whole body rocking with the movement. 

 

Adam was clumsy with his own dick, his own jerking off, so he concentrated extra hard as he slipped his hand into Ronan’s underwear and pulled it up and out. Ronan had given up on Adam’s neck, was sitting slumped back, his shoulders and head against the wall the bed was pushed against, his gaze on Adam’s hand at his crotch.

 

When Adam stroked him, a little awkward, Ronan’s whole body tensed. 

 

“You too,” he said, his voice all ragged around the edges, sounding as crazily close already as Adam. “Touch yourself too.” 

 

Fueled by adrenaline, Adam tipped himself forwards, smashed his mouth against Ronan’s, kissed him hard, managed to say; “You touch me,” in a moment of gasped air before the kiss continued. 

 

Ronan was maybe a little hindered by not being able to see around their kissing, but that didn’t stop him. And anyway, Ronan’s hands pressing between Adam’s legs and feeling their way around the edge of his boxers and into them was probably far better than if he had been able to just go straight for Adam’s cock. This involved so much more touch. So much more feeling. Once Adam’s cock was out too, Ronan seemed to have gotten his own burst of adrenaline, because he batted Adam’s hand out of the way, used the both of his hands to circle around both dicks, stroked them clumsily, but clumsily together, pressed into each other, touching, and touching, and touching, and - 

 

Adam was rocking on Ronan’s lap without even meaning to, was kissing him very much meaning to, was dragging his hands up Ronan’s ribs, his fingers pressing into every crevice he could find, feeling out the shape of him, ending on Ronan’s shoulders and curling around to hold on tight, tighter, tighter. Ronan moving under him too, their mouths barely moving against each other’s, breath being panted out in a humid mesh of lips and teeth. 

 

Ronan bit him when he came. Not hard enough to break skin, just hard enough to surprised Adam into cumming harder than he had ever cum in his entire fucking life, and he was pretty sure his vision whited out, and his hearing dropped away in his one hearing ear, and then zapped back into both for just a second, and that he was warmer than he could ever remember being, even in the hot Virginia sun. 

 

They were collapsed against one another, Ronan against the bed and the wall, Adam against him, face on Ronan’s shoulder, hands at Ronan’s waist. Ronan’s hands were still against Adam, there , his fingers warm and cold at the same time on Adam’s still trembling thighs. 

 

This was definitely over shadowing every single other carefully framed and treasured memory of touch in his lonesome life. It was overlapping him entirely, sensations still running through him, sunning his body in the warmth of human contact, human intimacy, sex, sex, sex - 

 

“I don’t think,” Ronan breathed, “I don’t think I can do - I don’t wanna - this was my first time.” 

 

Adam exhaled, hard, peeled his sweaty face from Ronan’s shoulder, squinted at Ronan’s face which was crumpled into a hard to read expression. 

 

“What?” He asked. Ronan’s face shifted further into incomprehensible, and Adam added on quickly; “That was my first time too.” 

 

“Okay,” Ronan said, his tone saying that he either didn’t think Adam was telling the truth, or that he didn’t care. “I don’t wanna do anything more right now.” 

 

“Oh,” Adam said, though honestly, neither did he. “Was that not - that wasn’t good for you?” 

 

“Fucks sake, man,” Ronan snorted, shifted under Adam, recalling his hands from Adam’s pubes and thighs and wrapping his arms around Adam’s waist instead, suddenly clinching him in a tight hug. “It was fucking great, but I - Jesus, Mary . Fucking out of the shitting blue.” 

 

Ronan was apparently a lot more talkative after cumming. 

 

“I just meant,” Ronan continued, voice basically a grunt right now, “that I’m fucking - fucking tired man. I don’t think I have the energy right now for you to fuck me.” 

 

“Oh,” Adam said again, had thought that he was probably going to be the one getting fucked, anyway, but, also - “No, same. I - yeah. That’s fine. Obviously.” 

 

“Obviously,” Ronan said, mouthed at Adam’s shoulder, bit it, and then released him. “I need a fucking shower. You do too. We’re covered in spunk. It’s disgusting.” 

 

Adam snorted, rocked back and forth a little, his thighs squelching unappetizing (or, though he wouldn’t admit this out loud, very appetizingly), and sticking to Ronan’s somewhat unpleasantly. 

 

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Um. Do you mind if I - may I -?” 

 

“Yeah, fuck, dude,” Ronan snorted, tipped Adam off of him and onto the bed. “You can fucking shower here. Come get in with me, if you want. I’ll help you, uh, clean up?” 

 

“Smooth,” Adam laughed, smiled as Ronan stood up and held his hand out to Adam, took Ronan’s hand, let himself be pulled up and off of the bed. “You do this a lot, huh?” 

 

“Uh,” Ronan frowned at him, but didn’t release his hand. “No? I literally just told you this was my first time.” 

 

“Right,” Adam said, nodded quickly, remembered to tuck his dick back into his boxers before Ronan opened the door. “Uh, do you have flatmates?” 

 

“Oh yeah,” Ronan snorted, “Don’t you know Gansey’s my flatmate? Chill though, he’s out.” 

 

“Oh,” Adam said, because he hadn’t known, and also thank god Gansey wasn’t here to get to witness Adam’s fucking first time and his awkwardness surrounding this whole thing. “Cool.” 

 

“Bathroom’s through here,” Ronan said, sounding awkward himself again as well. 

 

They did shower together, the shower miraculously big enough for two bodies, the stream wide enough to keep them warm. Adam hadn’t even thought about the after of sex, which was stupid because he ought to have, but - 

 

But it was almost as good as the before , almost as good as the during , because it was also so - so gentle. It was Ronan’s hands on his lower back while they kissed in the water. It was Adam soaping Ronan’s front, feeling suddenly all together too shy to rub the soap down past his waist, and Ronan laughing at him. It was Adam realising how quickly he could get hard again when presented with something so visually appealing, so physically stimulating, so - 

 

It was Adam being the one to jerk them off this time, getting to watch Ronan’s face in the light, only blurred by the water in Adam’s eyelashes. 

 

It was Ronan not commenting on Adam’s scars, on his dents. 

 

It was Ronan kissing him again once they were dried off, a softer kiss, a deeper kiss, a more… quizzical kiss. 

 

-

 

Back in Ronan’s room, the light now on,  they both dressed again, and Adam pulled his phone out of pocket to check the time, made an audible noise of confusion at the amount of grindr notifications he had. Was there a little light that went off on his profile that he was no longer a virgin? Was he about to be inundated on terribly angled pictures of dicks? 

 

He clicked into the notifications while Ronan pulled his shirt on. All the messages were from ‘uwannacumbro’. The last one from ten minutes ago. 

 

-ok i’ll c u soon, pretty boy. 

-oh wow, shit, just realised I put the wrong floor in! Im 4th floor

-dude did u get murdered?

-hello?

-hey, i’m waiting.

-u seriously ignoring me?

-fuck you

-fuck u

-i wouldve made u cum so good, man.

-loser.

 

-

 

“Um,” Adam said, was suddenly very aware of the fact that he was standing in a near stranger’s room with his jeans on but undone, his shirt only pulled over one arm. “Are you not - uh - are you not ‘uwannacumbro’” 

 

“What?” Ronan snorted, “The fuck did you just say to me?” 

 

“Um,” Adam said, thought about how he could rephrase that question, and then just handed Ronan his phone, the string of messages still open. 

 

“What?” Ronan said, frowned at the phone, then took it and scrolled through the messages slowly, his face sliding from confused, to pissed, to confused, to pissed realisation. “What the fuck .” 

 

“Oh my god,” Adam said, tugged his shirt down, shoved his arm through the sleeve. “Oh my god , I just - shit - I just -” 

 

“You thought I was this fucking wanker?” Ronan demanded. 

 

Adam sat down on the edge of the bed, a very different type of adrenaline running through his veins, stinging him. 

 

“Oh my god,” Adam repeated. “I just - just turned up and asked if you wanted to fuck. You didn’t - I’m so sorry, oh my god, I’m so sorry.” 

 

This was why he shouldn’t have gotten grindr. This was why he wasn’t suited to having friends. This was why he should have never left Henrietta. He fucked up. He was a fuck up. This was so stupid. All the warmth in his stomach and his chest had dissipated, cold flooding in to fill him with hollow cavities instead. He was vaguely aware that he was still speaking, just repeating his ‘sorry’s’ like he was on a loop. 

 

Ronan sat down next to him, his hand coming up to grip Adam by the shoulder, and by instinct, always by fucking instinct in moments like these, Adam ducked away from him, pulling away and bunching up to make himself small. 

 

“Jesus,” Ronan said, his hands up in front of his chests in imitation of surender. “God, Parrish, chill out. Stop apologising, for fuck’s sake!” 

 

Adam closed his mouth tightly, his eyes tighter. He wished Ronan would just hit him and get it over with. 

 

“You didn’t do anything shitty,” Ronan said, his voice sounding like he was speaking through gritted teeth. “I didn’t fucking turn you down, did I? Sounds like your other hook up buddy was a fucking shit head, so really, I think this is what people with no brains call a fucking happy mistake.” 

 

Maybe Ronan wasn’t going to hit him. Maybe his body was being a fool for flooding with fear and certainty that that was what was going to happen. 

 

“C’mon, Parrish,” Ronan sighed, didn’t reach out to touch him. “Fuck. This is fucked up, but, God man. It’s not on you. It’s on that fucking loser, and me.” 

 

“It’s not on you,” Adam mumbled, lips slowly regaining the feeling that fear sucked out of them. “This wasn’t your fault, Ronan.” 

 

“Uh,” Ronan snorted, rubbed his hand down his face, bit out a quick laugh. “Shit man, I thought you had just - I thought you’d noticed how I’d been looking at you the last few times we hung out, I thought you were just real straight up about it all.” 

 

Adam frowned. “The way you were -?” 

 

Jesus ,” Ronan groaned. “Fuck me. And here I was thinking I was - God. Never mind. Listen. I made a fucking stupid assumption that you had come here for me because it was me. I should have questioned it. I didn’t because I didn’t wanna fucking push my luck. I should’ve pushed my fucking luck.” 

 

“Oh,” Adam said, his stupidity hitting him like a brick. “You think I’m hot?” 

 

Ronan groaned again. 

 

The realisation that Ronan knew his last name also hit him like a brick. Oh

 

“Fuck,” Adam said, “shit, I’m sorry, Ronan - I didn’t - I honestly didn’t think you’d even noticed me.” 

 

“For a fucking crazy smart guy,” Ronan said, “you’re a fucking idiot.” 

 

Ronan thought he was smart

 

“I’ve never done this before,” Adam said, his words slipping and tripping over each other in his haste to speak them. “I only got grindr the other day. This was the first - first guy I talked to.” 

 

“Okay?” 

 

“Just,” Adam shrugged. “If you - I liked… hooking up with you. And seeing as you - shit. Seeing as you liked it to, and uh, well, look. I thought you were hot too. When we saw each other the last few times. I didn’t see you looking at me, but I was looking at you.” 

 

“What the fuck are you saying, man?” Ronan grunted. He sounded tired. 

 

“I could delete grindr,” Adam said quickly. “If you’re looking for like… a hook up buddy, then we could be. For each other. Uh. Yeah.” 

 

Ronan looked at him somewhat blankly. “A hook up buddy.” 

 

Adam shrugged. 

 

Ronan sighed, heavy, ran his palm, flat handed, over his scalp, scratched at his nape. 

 

“Okay,” Ronan said eventually. “Let’s do this again, Parrish.” 

 

“Okay,” Adam repeated, warmth coursing through his chest, flooding up into his cheeks. 

 

“You’re gonna fucking delete grindr?” 

 

“Yeah,” Adam  nodded hard, “if I - I kind of hated the idea of - of being with … strangers. I like this idea much better.” 

 

“Shit man,” Ronan said, snorted a little, tipped his head back so his face was to the ceiling. “You’d better give me your number then, huh?” 

 

“Mm,” Adam said. 

 

-

 

They had swapped numbers, joked a little more, still awkward, about the miscommunication. Adam had deleted grindr. Ronan had kissed him again. Adam had gone home, the press and warmth of touch and touch and touch, repeating over and over in his mind. 





Chapter Text

Adam learned a lot of key things about Ronan in just the first week of their… arrangement, more than he had learned about anyone else in his social circle so far. 



The first thing he learned was that Ronan drove a mud-spattered BMW, like a hoon , and was perfectly happy to all but run Adam over to try and get his attention. 



Adam had been leaving campus to go home and change quickly before going to work, had his earphones in (both of them because he didn’t like the uneven feeling of having just one (and also he didn’t want people to think he was more likely to hear them with one out and he definitely didn’t want to have to explain that he was half deaf)). 

He had looked both ways before crossing the road - obviously - but hadn’t heard the revving of Ronan around the corner before Ronan was suddenly not around the corner and was instead parked right in front of Adam, a mere inch away from taking off Adam’s toes. Ronan hadn’t offered an apology, only a ride. 

 

Adam had accepted the ride because he thought it was probably code for making out in the backseat, and he was already craving touch again. He was a little worried that maybe Ronan was hoping to come up to Adam’s for the making out, but, well, he was more needy for the touching than he was anxious about the not letting Ronan come up. 

 

It turned out that he hadn’t need to worry, and also that he was definitely the neediest out of the two of them, because, they did kiss, but only the once. Ronan parked in front of the campus flats blocks, had stared through the windshield. They had been talking about the car - Ronan having interest in making cars go fast, Adam having an interest in keeping them working wel enough to go fast, but they both paused when Ronan put the hand break on.  Adam had turned towards Ronan, ready to suggest they just... climb over the seats. He leaned forwards a little to say this, the words on his tongue. Ronan had leaned in too, before Adam could say anything, kissed him, quick, stubbly, gentle. Had said goodbye. 

 

-

 

The next thing he learned was something he already mostly knew; that Ronan and Gansey were found more often than not, together. Everytime Adam had seen Ronan before , it had been with Gansey. Walking down the university hallways with Gansey, eating lunch with Gansey, in a car with Gansey, at the study group with Gansey -

 

He had been jealous of them both, though admitting this even to himself made him feel bitterly guilty, like he was swallowing bile. Jealous of Ronan for obviously being such good friends with Gansey that the two of them were comfortable in each others pockets. Jealous of Gansey for having such an - such an interesting friend. 


The Wednesday after their accidental hook up, he and Ronan had seen each other just the once, had texted a little (Adam also learning that Ronan did not like texting, and would text any and all relevant information in the one text rather than hold a text conversation), and Adam had been quietly looking forward to seeing Ronan at the study lunch group that Adam and Gansey both attended. Ronan had said he would be there. Adam had never seen Ronan actually study, but he’d been to all of these meet ups so far. 

 

It wasn’t like he was planning on - on kissing Ronan during the meet up. This wasn’t a relationship after all, and besides. Ronan had texted on Saturday and asked that they keep this between them. Adam was fine with that. He didn’t need people to know this about him. 

 

But. 

 

He had maybe thought that Ronan would come to sit next to him. Would be as happy to see Adam, even in public, as he was to see Ronan. 

 

-

 

Gansey had arrived five minutes after Adam was already sitting at one end of the table, books spread in front of him, sandwich in his hand, and had come to sit to the left of Adam with his own books and fancy looking packed lunch. 

 

“Adam,” Gansey had said warmly as he sat down, “How are you today?” 

 

“Fine thanks,” Adam said. He wondered if Ronan had told Gansey about them seeing as the two of them were so close. He didn’t know if he wanted Ronan to have, or not to have. “How’re you?” 

 

“Rather splendid, honestly,” Gansey said, sounding like he was a robot who had his vocabulary chip stuck in pretentious mode. “The better for catching you, though!” 

 

“Oh?” Adam said, felt his nerves tense up and down his body, ready to roll himself up into himself and leave quickly if need be. 

 

“Yes.” Gansey was rustling about in his leather satchel, “I’m afraid I’m feeling a little behind in our sociology class, but I know you always have such a good grasp on what’s going on. Do you think you could explain what it is we’re really supposed to be doing for the essay? I understand the basics of it, but I think the full concept just slipped out of my mind.” 

 

“Oh,” Adam said again, shook his head as if to shake his nerves out of their hiding places. “Sure.” 

 

-

 

Ronan arrived at some point during Adam’s explanation, somehow sneaking in and sitting down on the other side of Gansey without Adam noticing until after Gansey had thanked him for the help and then turned to Ronan to tell him to stop stealing his lasagne. 

 

Ronan hadn’t even said hello

 

This was fine, though. It was fine. He knew they weren’t going to like, advertise the fact that they were hook up buddies or whatever. They weren’t really friends, so. So Ronan didn’t owe him anything. That was it. It was fine. 

 

Gansey was still talking to Ronan, his tone just low enough that Adam couldn’t make out what he was saying over the bustle of the room. His phone buzzed in his pocket, a welcome distraction. 

 

He was expecting it to be a reminder or an email from one of his classes, but it was a text. From Ronan. He frowned, glanced sideways at Gansey, at the parts of Ronan he could see past Gansey without looking like he was trying to look. 

 

R - u done nerding it up? 

 

Adam may or may not have gaped. What a … stupid question. Ronan was sitting right there. He could just look up and ask. 

 

Yes he typed back, could feel some sort of bad mood drifting out of the corners of his mind to sit over him heavily. You can have gansey back dont worry.

 

He started to put away his books, quickly, shutting them and stacking them so he could shove them as one stack into his shoulder bag. He heard Ronan grunt loudly from behind Gansey, and then Gansey was leaning backwards, looking a little affronted as Ronan leaned in between him and the table. 

 

“Oi, Parrish,” Ronan said, no hello. “I was gonna say you should come fucking ditch with me and my mate Noah. We’re gonna go to the skate park.” 

 

“Ronan,” Gansey said, sounding exasperated, “you could of at least have said ‘excuse me’.” 

 

“Oh excuse me , Dicky,” Ronan drawled, leaned closer in against Gansey’s chest and actually just knocked their foreheads together. “I noticed Parrish was skedaddling so I had to get in quick.” 

 

“Well I-” Gansey began, and then seemed to realise that Ronan had actually spoken to someone else during this kerfuffle, and the someone else hadn’t replied yet. “Oh. Sorry, sorry Adam, I didn’t mean to interrupt you answering.” 

 

“Um,” Adam said. Swallowed. Gansey didn’t seem to find it weird that Ronan was asking Adam to hang out with him, not even so suddenly like this. “I don’t have a skateboard.” 

 

“Neither,” Ronan replied easily, still casually leaning against Gansey like it wasn’t anything to blink at, this simple intimacy. “I’m taking photos of Noah.” 

 

“Um,” Adam said again. He really needed to get out of the habit of sounding so stupid. “I don’t have a camera either…” 

 

“Jesus,” Ronan said, eyebrows raised. “If you wanna say no, say no, man.” 

 

“No,” Adam said, then quickly shook his head as Ronan’s expression dropped. “I mean - I don’t - I do want to come, yes. I just wasn’t - Never mind. Okay. How far are we walking?” 

 

“I’m driving,” Ronan said, “five minute drive, no worries. C’mon, then.” 

 

He pushed off of and away from Gansey just as easily as he’d draped him self around him. Let Gansey recall him as well, with just a simple hand to his arm. 

 

“I’ll be home a bit late,” Gansey said to Ronan, then looked to Adam. “Will I see you tonight?” 

 

Adam didn’t know why he would see Gansey tonight. 

 

“I,” he said, awkward and trying not to appear it. “I don’t think so.” 

 

“Oh,” Gansey sounded oddly surprised. “Alright! Well, I’ll see you next time, Adam, thank you for your help!” 



-



“You’re really fucking weird, man,” Ronan said conversationally, once they’d left the building and were crossing one of the little park areas on campus towards the carpark. 

 

Adam knew this. Didn’t mean he appreciate someone saying it to him. 

 

“No one’s forcing you to spend time with me,” he said stiffly, regretted cutting his study time short. Regretted letting himself feel upset about any of this. 

 

Ronan snorted, elbowed Adam in the side. “Didn’t say it was a bad thing,” he said, glanced around, then ducked in closer to Adam, brushed his lips against Adam’s cheek. “Chill out a bit.” 

 

Adam had no idea how he was supposed to just chill out, even just a bit. He kept his gaze on the path at his feet, gripped the strap of his book bag to stop himself from reaching out for Ronan’s hands. 

 

“If you don’t want to come with,” Ronan said, “you don’t have to come with.” 

 

“I want to come,” Adam mumbled.

 

Ronan’s good mood seemed to be fading fast, his footsteps were heavier, his tone darker. “Could’ve fucking fooled me.” 

 

Adam huffed, kept walking. Ronan followed. This was harder than the other day in the car. Too much time to anticipate and worry. 

 

He waited until they’d reached Ronan’s car, gotten in, buckled up. He reached over to touch Ronan’s hand where it was resting against the gear stick while he put the key in the ignition. Ronan looked down at their hands, then up at Adam, eyebrows raised. 

 

“How are we supposed to act in public?” Adam asked, cleared his throat. “I thought you were ignoring me before, and then you were just - complete opposite. Like. Like we were friends.” 

 

Ronan scowled. 

 

“I wasn’t ignoring you,” he said, “I was just giving you some space.” 

 

Adam did like space. He always had. Right? 

 

“Right,” Adam mumbled, pulled his hand back to himself. “People are going to think it’s weird?” 

 

“People like who?” Ronan snorted back, rolled his eyes, then turned the ignition, car rumbling to life underneath them. “Look. Fuck them. Who cares what people think?” 

 

“I care,” Adam snapped, gripped his upper arms. “I just - I’m not good at this.” 

 

“At what?” Ronan snapped back, released the hand brake. “Hook ups?” 

 

People ,” Adam said, far too close to all of the truth. “Being - this. Friends.” 

 

“Do I look like I care?” Ronan said, steered them out of the parking lot. “Neither am I.” 

 

“You act like you are.” 

 

“You only see me around Gans,” Ronan shot back with a shrug. “He doesn’t count.” 

 

Adam huffed a little, glanced out the window. Didn’t know what to say. 

 

“We’ll just tell people we’re friends,” Ronan said roughly to the windshield, “if they ask. Not that they’ll ask.” 

 

“And lie?” 

 

“Oh fuck you,” Ronan said, sounding more amused than offended. “It doesn’t have to be a lie.” 

 

“Oh,” Adam nodded. He really was bad at this, wasn’t he? This was - this had been easier when he and Ronan were touching, it put him more at ease, made him feel like his words were linked to something, not just floating in mid air. “Um. Are we really going to the skate park?” 

 

“Yeah,” Ronan scoffed, “I have a fucking assignment due tomorrow, I need’a finally take the photos for it. Where else would we be going?” 

 

“Um,” Adam. “I dunno. Thought it might be. An excuse.” 

 

Ronan darted a sideways look at him as he navigated traffic, the hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. 

 

“I don’t lie,” he said. “But, uh. Well. Gansey’s gonna be out late?” 

 

-

 

It was fun meeting Noah, who it turned out was a friend of Gansey and Ronan’s both from their high school, and who was covered in grazes and plasters, and wore a fucking huge grin. Noah hugged Ronan hello, bumped knuckles with Adam, traded friendly insults with Ronan for a while, and then hopped onto his board and began doing a crazy array of tricks which Ronan was apparently keeping up with on his camera. Every so often Ronan would chuck Adam a bag or his jumper, request a lens from a particular pocket. Really, Adam was just here as second photographer or whatever. He didn’t think he minded. 

 

It was fun, and it was nice, doing something that required so little brain space, doing something that put him on a front seat view to both very cool skateboard tricks and Ronan’s butt in his tight jeans. But. He was still very relieved once they’d said goodbye to Noah and climbed back into Ronan’s BMW. 

 

“So,” Adam tried, mouth full of a muesli bar Ronan had broken in half and divided between the two of them. “You’re doing photography, then?” 

 

“Nah,” Ronan said, chewing loudly on his own half of the bar. “This is just a filler paper. I’m doing painting. I like photography too, though. You’re doing bio med.” 

 

That wasn’t a question, so Adam just nodded. 

 

“Crazy bastard,” Ronan said, “how d’you even have time for shit outside of uni?” 

 

“Uh,” Adam said, swallowed. “I don’t?” 

 

“Uh,” Ronan shot back, waved one hand between the two of them. 

 

“I mean,” Adam attempted to clarify. “I mean - God. Obviously I don’t have time. Why would I be going for a hook up buddy and not like a - a girlfriend if -” 

 

He was saying the wrong things, and he knew it as he said it. It wasn’t even just the wrong things for this particular situation, it was just all wrong, like his mouth had attached itself to someone’s else’s thoughts for a second. 

 

“A girlfriend ?” Ronan snapped back. “Right, no time for a girlfriend, but definitely time to-” 

 

“Wait!” Adam pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes, swallowed down on the growl in his throat of just… frustration . “I didn’t - Shit. I told you I’m bad at this.  I’m not pretending I’m straight outside of hooking up. I’m - I’m bi , I meant to say partner , and I actually didn’t even mean to say that, I’m just - God I’m just -” 

 

“Okay,” Ronan said, said it so calmly that Adam peeled his hands away from his face to peer suspiciously over at him. “Okay. Yeah. You really suck at talking to humans, man, who raised you? Baboons? Parrots?” 

 

Adam sighed, donked his head against the window. Ronan laughed at him. 

 

Maybe this should be explained more. Maybe both of them were too weird for this. Maybe Adam was too fucked up for this. Maybe he always jumped to stupid conclusions. Maybe - 

 

-

 

It was a very different experience walking into Ronan’s flat with him. Different in that he was pretty sure he knew what to expect this time, different in the fact that he was about three hundred percent more comfortable than last time. The same in the fact that his stomach was twisting about and his armpits were sweating, and he just really, really, wanted

 

Ronan called out for Gansey when they entered the flat, but when no one replied, they headed straight to Ronan’s room, shut the door behind them. 

 

Ronan had tidied up. Not massively, but the floor was basically clear, the curtains open, bed made. It was nice. Like Ronan had been thinking about bringing Adam back here. Probably it had just been a coincidence. 

 

He didn’t want there to be time for him to get awkward, or to say something stupid again, or for his throat to completely dry up, so as soon as Ronan shut the door, Adam stepped forwards to press him against it and kissed him. 

 

He had worried a little that Ronan was going to change his mind. Not right at this moment, but, after Adam had left the first time. During the few days they’d been apart. He’d realise that he could so so much better than Adam , even just as a hook up. Or that he’d hook up with someone else and realise how bad Adam had been at it. Or that he’d see how awkward Adam was in real life, almost being run over, saying stupid stuff, fumbling lenses in camera bags, and decide he just didn’t want to deal with it. So. Having gotten this far again, his mouth on Ronan’s, Ronan kissing him back, it was a success

 

Ronan grunted against his mouth, his hands fumbling against Adam’s front, and then sliding to grip Adam’s hips to push him backwards, their chests and mouths still glued together even as he steered Adam back against the bed, bore him down on it. 

 

Once on the bed they disengaged just a little to wriggle into a more comfortable position, ending up on their sides, legs pressed between thighs, hands on chests. Adam’s shoulder was definitely going to get a little squashed, he’d need to roll soonish, but it was nice

 

It was Ronan kissing him, still a little clumsy, but confidently, like he knew how much Adam already loved it, how it was already flooding Adam’s stomach with warmth. He’d pressed his thigh in between Adam’s, the marked difference in their physique really standing out to Adam at just the sheer size of Ronan’s fucking thigh hot against his crotch. 

 

He was already feeling so - 

 

They were only kissing - 

 

Only kissing and fumbling at shirts - 

 

Already feeling so - 

 

“I wanna blow you,” Adam mumbled, words getting muffled against Ronan’s lips and then chin as he spoke while Ronan was still trying to kiss him. “Can I blow you?” 

 

Ronan looked a little dazed, but that might just have been the sudden question, not that questin topic. His mouth was open, lips wet with Adam’s saliva, cheeks pink. 

 

“Why?” 

 

Adam screwed his face up, tightened his thighs around Ronan’s, “Uh,” he said eloquently. “Because I thought - I want to.” 

 

“Okay,” Ronan said, “only if I get to blow you too.” 

 

“Not gonna argue with that,” Adam said, pressed against Ronan’s thigh again because - because fuck he was already so - 

 

He kissed Ronan again, because he was really truly enjoying that, and then pushed himself up and shuffled backwards down the bed, his fingers hooking on Ronan’s jeans as he did, fumbling to undo the fly, and then tugging them down while Ronan shifted first onto his back and then lifted his hips for ease of access. 

 

Adam fought the jeans down Ronan’s legs, let Ronan kick them fully off and onto the floor, then positioned himself between Ronan’s knees and tried to decide if it was better to take Ronan out through the front of his boxers or if he ought to pull the boxers down. 

 

Ronan made this decision for him, shoved the boxers down just enough that he could tug his dick out himself, kept his hand around the base of it. 

 

“D’you,” Adam said, shut his mouth and swallowed to wet his mouth. “D’you have any preference on how I do this?” 

 

Ronan made the barest of eye contact with him, then tipped his head up towards the ceiling, kept his hand around himself. 

 

“You know I have no experience,” Ronan reminded the ceiling. “How’m I s’posed to know how I want it?” 

 

Adam shrugged, reached to wrap his hand around Ronan’s. “Okay,” he said, “just like. Lemme know if I’m doing it okay.” 

 

“Yeah I’ll fucking stop you if you suck,” Ronan said. 

 

“Thought I was supposed to suck?”

 

Ronan snorted, his hand loosening under Adam’s, his stomach muscles relaxing. “Dipshit,” he said, withdrew his hand. 

 

He was already hard, he was obviously turned on, but - 

 

“Just because I wanna do this doesn’t mean we have to do it,” Adam said, his hand feeling dirty on Ronan’s dick even as he felt like it would be rude to let go of it right now. “We don’t gotta - we can just kiss if you wanna.” 

 

“Shit, man,” Ronan said, “I wouldn’t have my dick out if I didn’t want it sucked.” 

 

“Okay,” Adam said, nodded, nodded again. He smoothed his other hand against Ronan’s inner thigh, felt the muscles twitch at the touch. Leaned forwards so he could kiss Ronan’s stomach. “You gotta tell me,” he mumbled into Ronan’s skin. “If you want something different.” 

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Ronan said, his voice casual like two dollar shop jewellery is silver. “I got it, Adam.”  

 

Today was so much different than last time they’d been in this position. Different because the circumstance was upside down. Different because Ronan wasn’t a cropped photo of abs. Different because Adam not only wanted Ronan to feel good, but for Ronan to feel so good he wanted to keep seeing Adam, to not forget him, to - 

 

Ronan heaved out a shaky breath when Adam closed his lips around him, his thighs tensing and shivering around Adam’s head. 

 

Adam had done his best on researching how to give blowjobs, but there was only so much theoretical research one could do, and only so much free time Adam had, and only so much porn he could bear to watch without feeling weird about it. 

 

Ronan’s dick didn’t fit perfectly in his mouth like a stupid article he’d read said it would, but neither did it make him feel all at once like crying/vomiting like another article said it would, so. 

 

He figured it out slowly while Ronan breathed heavily above him, until he’d figured out how to bob his head so that he could move up and down on Ronan without having to move his entire body, or gagging himself. 

 

“Shit,” Ronan groaned, around about the same time that Adam’s jaw began to hurt, “shit, stop. Stop.” 

 

Adam pulled his mouth off with a pop that he had only heard in porn, backed off quickly, looking up to check that Ronan wasn’t mad, Ronan wasn’t upset, Ronan wasn’t - 

 

Ronan was panting, had his arms over his face. His cock bobbed a little in the wake of Adam moving back, and in its own arousal. Adam could taste Ronan properly now, now that his mouth was empty of everything but the taste. Bitter. 

 

“Didn’t wanna come in your mouth,” Ronan said, voice stretched taut like it was taking a lot of effort for him to say anything. “Feels too -” 

 

Intimate. Quick? Gross? Ronan didn’t finish his sentence, just dropped his hand down his body towards Adam instead, gesturing until Adam took it and let Ronan pull him back up. 

 

Ronan groaned again As Adam pressed up against him, his jeans probably coarse and uncomfortable against Ronan’s bare and sensitive skin, but he still tugged Adam closer against him. 

 

“I wanna blow you,” Ronan said, kissed Adam, “and then I want you to jerk me off.” 

 

Adam did ask him to use his words. 

 

“Okay,” Adam said. 

 

Ronan wasn’t good at blow jobs, but he definitely wasn’t bad at them either, and honestly? At this point Adam was pretty sure that even if Ronan literally blew on him he would still get off. Just the few short lengths of exposure to Ronan and such intimate touch hadn’t cured him of his starvation for it, hadn’t taught him not to need and need and need more like he was dying of thirst. 

 

He ran his fingers through the stubble of Ronan’s hair while Ronan kissed at his inner thigh, smoothed his thumbs into the slight dents of temples, tipped his head back as far as he could go as if stretching his throat out this bare would make the touch easier to bear. 

 

“Okay?” Ronan mumbled, withdrawing his mouth from Adam after Adam bit down on a particularly hoarse whine.

 

It was embarrassing. He’d been trying to be quiet, to stay chill . Didn’t want to sound desperate for it, but he couldn’t keep everything in when this was so much. It was like he fucking needed to - needed to fucking sneeze, he couldn’t stop it, could only delay it. 

 

“Fine,” Adam bit out, screwed his eyes shut tight, jerked in stupid shock as Ronan’s hand covered Adam’s. “ Oh .” 

 

“Want me to jerk you the rest of the way?” Ronan asked, dragging Adam’s hand down from Ronan’s head to his lips, kissed Adam’s knuckles. 

 

Adam nodded, all his feeling focused in the dry skin of his knuckles, in the pit of his stomach, in the quivering heat of his thighs where Ronan’s palm was hot against it. 

 

“You too,” he managed to get out, once Ronan had shifted up a little, his hand coming to wrap around Adam’s cock. “Jerk us both -” 

 

Ronan got them off much quicker than Adam had been expecting. Though it shouldn’t have been anything like a surprise, really, he already knew how close he was. All it took was Ronan lifting Adam’s leg so it was hooked a little over Ronan’s hips, Ronan pressing them together, Ronan stroking them together once, twice. 

 

-

 

After they’d showered, Ronan showed Adam the photos he’d taken that afternoon, uploading them onto his laptop while they sat cross legged on the bedraggled bed and ate cheetos. 

 

Adam felt like he’d spent the day working at the shop, hauling shit around, tinkering problems into answers. His whole body was exhausted, his brain blank like his cords weren’t connected properly and it was only showing static. He wondered if last time he’d just been too wound up and anxious about everything that had happened for this… sleepiness to hit him properly. Maybe this was why people had sex, really, to sleep better afterwards. 

 

Ronan was showing him photos of wild colours, flushed sweaty grins, gravel in skin. 

 

Oh ,” Adam said, couldn’t help it but lean forwards to lean against Ronan’s shoulder to get a better look at the screen. “You’re good.” 

 

“No need to sound so goddamned surprised,” Ronan snorted, but he sounded pleased. “Noah’s a good model, huh.” 

 

“Yeah,” Adam agreed, decided he was too tired to lift his head from Ronan’s shoulder now he was here. “Hey.” 

 

Ronan grunted in acknowledgement, kept scrolling through the photos, highlighting some, clicking random buttons on others. Adam wasn’t following the process. 

 

When Adam didn’t follow up his ‘hey’ with anything else even after Ronan had clicked through a good couple dozen photos, Ronan looked down at him, jostled his shoulder. 

 

“Mm,” Adam mumbled. He was sleepy. 

 

“What?” Ronan prodded, softened his shoulder under Adam’s head again. 

 

“Thought I was gonna fuckin’ die back then,” Adam mumbled. “Didn’ know I could cum so hard.” 

 

Ronan laughed, kept clicking through his photos. “Fucking same,” he said. “Jesus, you really did like, black out a moment there though, huh?” 

 

“Fuck off.” 

 

Ronan laughed again, quieter. “You wanna crash here?” 

 

Oh. 

 

“Mm,” Adam forced himself to sit up properly. “No. I gotta get back home. I’ve got stuff to do.” 

 

“Wanna ride?” 

 

“Nah,” Adam cleared his throat, yawned, “I think I need the walk.” 

 

“Whatever,” Ronan said. 

 

“Do this again soon, though?” Adam asked, shifting closer to the edge of the bed, easing his body into full awakeness. 

 

“Yeah, sure,” Ronan said, didn’t look up from his laptop. “Oh, but hey.” 

 

“Hm?”

 

Ronan peered over the edge of his laptop while Adam grabbed his shoes. 

 

“We’re going out for burgers tomorrow night,” Ronan said, looking back down at his screen. “You should join.” 

 

“Um,” he was going to need to check his schedule, his study, his bank account. “Maybe?” 

 

Ronan shrugged. “See you at uni, then.” 

 

Chapter Text

He didn’t end up going to get burgers with Ronan and Ronan’s friends the following night. Partially because he was a little (maybe a lot) low on cash this week, but mostly because the anxiety of having to spend time where he could be studying, or, god forbid, relaxing, on trying not to fuck up social interactions was too much. Plus, Ronan may have decided that they were friends (and Adam might agree with him), but that didn’t mean he knew how to act around Ronan in front of other people. Adam didn’t know how to act around other people, full stop. 

 

He could do subservient, had done that for most of his life. He was great in a service role, behind a counter, under a car, standing by a conveyor belt. He was good at being a student; not buddying up to the teachers, no, but showing he respected them, always handing his work in on time, being known by them. But - 

 

Social interactions in which he didn’t have a set role were hellish. As soon as he was around large groups of people without a plan of what he was doing, it was like he had no personality at all. What did he do in his free time? Uh, sleep? What did he want to be in the future? Not starving? Had he read any good books lately? Does the text book count? He couldn’t (or wouldn’t) talk about his hometown, his childhood, his old school, his old jobs, his old (non-existent) friends, his family - so - 

 

It was too much. 

 

He told Ronan he was staying in to work on an essay, Ronan had shrugged like he hadn’t cared if Adam was coming either way. 

 

-

 

They almost got caught by Gansey the fifth time they hooked up. 

 

Adam had gotten almost used to feeling comfortable at Ronan’s (so long as it was the two of them only and Ronan kept his skin against him at all times), almost used to the way that as soon as they walked into Ronan’s flat Ronan would reach for him. 

 

Over the last two weeks Adam had come over to Ronan’s three times, twice after study group while Gansey went on to another meeting, once after Adam had texted Ronan after a very irritating shift. They hadn’t gotten much further than their second time, or really, further at all. 

 

Not that that was an issue though, in fact, Adam quite liked the knowledge that things could just be a comfortable steady pace, that he wasn’t going to have to rush anything just to get touched. And. Ronan was great at touching him. Adam imagined it was something that a lot of people just didn’t really think about, growing up with touch as part of their daily life. Handing it out to others like it meant nothing. Ronan touched Adam as often as Adam wanted him to touch him (almost). He’d be lying if he said he didn’t touch Ronan back as much; he touched Ronan a lot . Like he’d been given permission to get to have this excitement of touching and he was hyper fixated on it. That was fine, because it didn’t bleed out into the rest of his life - he wasn’t going around with the devastating need to press himself bodily up against his coworkers, or to run his hand down his classmates arms. It was just Ronan. 

 

So, on the fifth time Adam went over to Ronan’s, it was after he’d been studying alone in his dorm room the entire day - class had been canceled that morning, and he didn’t have work at all - and he felt like he was going insane with the lack of human contact. His roomate had left early that morning after class had been canceled, said he was going to a party. 

 

Back in Henrietta, he could go days without speaking to another human being, and it didn’t really bother him, but - 

 

But he was used to talking to people now, his classmates, his workmates, his roomate, his study group, Gansey (who had been finding more and more reasons to come sit with Adam in between classes, or to just hang with him while they did readings), and Ronan. He’d texted Ronan immediately after he’d finished all the work he’d set himself to do, had expected to be waiting a while for Ronan to reply, so had gone to have a shower. Got out of the shower to a text from Ronan saying he was outside, and the BMW honking down on the street. 

 

Ronan had said he was on his way back from the skatepark with Noah who had been attempting to teach him how to skate, and he was very pleased for  the excuse to leave because he could only take so much humiliation over his lack of balance for one day. Adam had eyed up Ronan’s grazed hands, the smudge of dirt near his chin, the rip in the sleeve of his shirt, and had realised that he was far too attracted to Ronan like this. 

 

All his life he’d furtively admired images of men in clean pressed suits, expensive materials, sharp lines, wealth and intelligence radiating smugly off of them. He hadn’t bothered to examine whether or not he might have more than one type, which was stupid really. He wasn’t even sure sleek was his type, the whole being bi thing occasionally made it difficult for him to figure out whether or not he wanted the person or wanted to be the person. 

 

Anyway. They’d arrived at Ronan’s, and Adam had kissed him in the lift on the way up to the flat because Ronan was all freshly sweaty and warm and it was annoyingly hot, and they’d broken apart as the lift doors opened, the both of them dashing for the flat like they were searching for cover from gunfire. 

 

Once inside, Ronan had hooked Adam by the hook, and shut the door by pressing Adam bodily against it, pressed his mouth to Adam’s neck and his thigh between Adam’s. 

 

Adam was very much on the verge of suggesting they just fucking - just fucking rock against each other here and get off without having to move again, when Gansey called out. 

 

“Ronan?” He called, thankfully in another room, “That had better be you and not some ghost slamming the door!” 

 

Ronan jumped away from Adam like they’d both just realised Adam was actually three poisonous toads in a jumper, stumbled a little over his own bag that he’d dropped by their feet, and whirled around just as Gansey walked in to the room, a book in hand. 

 

“Oh,” Gansey said, “Adam! Hello.” 

 

Adam could feel that he was hard, but he had no clue if it was visibly obvious. He wasn’t going to risk giving it all away by looking down to check either. 

 

“Hey,” he said, cleared his throat, tried to clear the blush spreading over his cheeks and down his chest as well. “How are you?” 

 

“Good, thank you!” Gansey said, beamed a little, looked between Ronan and Adam with little to no surprised. “Has Ronan finally asked you?” 

 

Ronan made a choking noise from where he was standing like a gargoyle, hunched over between the other two, shoulders up like he was attempting to show that he was so unlikely to have ever been kissing anyone at all because he didn’t even like people, so there. 

 

Adam glanced from Ronan, to Gansey, bemused. 

 

“Asked me what?” he asked, unsure who he was directing the question to, really. 

 

What the fuck would Ronan have to ask Adam that Gansey would know about. Maybe Gansey did know about them hooking up, maybe Ronan had told him immediately. Maybe Ronan hadn’t leapt off of him because he didn’t want Gansey finding out, but just because it would have been embarrassing to be caught like that. With Adam of all people. 

 

“To, uh,” Gansey raised his eyebrows at Ronan who didn’t seem to respond in the slightest. “To model?” 

 

If Adam hadn’t been holding himself so firmly together to try and keep the anxiety over what the fuck Ronan had been going to ask from spilling out over his shoulders, he would have laughed. Instead he swallowed, stared at Ronan. 

 

“You’ve gotta be kiddin’,” he said to Ronan’s very grouchy looking profile. “You don’ want me to model for you.” 

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Ronan said, shrugged, glared heavily at Gansey. “It was all an elaborate ruse. So elaborate I told Gansey about it, but not you.” 

 

“Maybe I should leave you two to it,” Gansey suggested. 

 

“Damage is already done,” Ronan grunted at him. “Can we order takeout tonight?” 

 

“Um,” Gansey said, recollected his calm persona and shrugged carefully. “Malaysian?” 

 

“Sure,” Ronan said, “Parrish. Let’s go to my room.” 

 

“Will you be here for dinner, Adam?” Gansey interjected while Ronan took Adam by the wrist, unfreezing him from his confused stupor. “What should I order you?” 

 

“Just order a fucking feast,” Ronan said, “and if Parrish isn’t yucked out by my artistic lustiness, than maybe you’ll get to fucking ogle him eat.” 

 

“Lynch,” Gansey said, though he didn’t sound pissed off. 

 

Adam probably should have said something here, but he just let Ronan drag him off to his bedroom instead. Waited until Ronan shut the door behind them. 

 

“Does Gansey know?” he asked as soon as Ronan released his wrist. “About the - about how we - the hooking up.” 

 

“No,” Ronan said, snorted a little, turned around and dropped himself backwards onto his bed. “I’m not looking to get a fucking lecture from a wannabe father figure.” 

 

“Hm,” Adam said. Sat down on the edge of the bed as well, relaxed a little when Ronan’s fingers prodded at his lower back, slid under his t-shirt. 

 

“He caught me staring at you,” Ronan said, his fingers etching out the bumps of Adam’s spine. “Like, over a fucking month ago. I told him I wanted to use you as my model for my painting project.” 

 

“Oh,” Adam said. 

 

“Which was true, by the way,” Ronan added, pressed his thumb in between vertebrae until something somehow clicked. “I kinda do want you to be my project model.” 

 

Adam didn’t know how he was really supposed to answer this. He wasn’t a model. He wasn’t - parts of him were objectively good looking, he supposed. He knew his arms looked good, maybe his chest. He had nice legs, though they were a bit skinny. He’d always been told his face was weird, off, odd, strange, and he was inclined to agree with that. Unless Ronan’s painting project was on the aliens that walk among us , he didn’t think he was going to be a good model. 

 

“That was me asking,” Ronan said to Adam’s silence. “To be my fucking model.” 

 

“Do I have to be naked?” Adam asked, only mostly joking. 

 

“I mean,” Ronan said, his voice betraying the leer on his face, “I wouldn’t say no to that.” 

 

“Um,” Adam said. “I don’t wanna - tell me what I’d have to do.” 

 

“Uh,” Ronan said, grunted a little as he sat up, hooking his legs over the edge of the bed and pulling himself upright and even with Adam. “They’re just portrait studies. I mean. They’re not - uh. I was kinda thinking I could just paint you while you study. You usually stay pretty still, and then I’m not wasting your time, either, yeah?” 

 

Adam’s stomach tingled. He cleared his throat. 

 

“I guess,” he said. “You couldn’t find anyone more attractive to paint? Noah gone on holiday?” 

 

“I’m going to tell him you think he’s hot,” Ronan said, poked Adam in the stomach. “And don’t be a fucking idiot. I already told you I think you’re good looking, you weirdo.” 

 

Adam shrugged. 

 

“Do you have a lock on your door?” He asked, glancing at it now. “I want you to prove it to me.” 

 

“Yeah,” Ronan said, standing up and crossing over to the door to lock it. “Prove what to you? That I’d tell Noah?” 

 

“That you think I’m hot,” Adam said, well aware that this was definitely in the realm of fishing for compliments, definitely wasn’t smooth, definitely something he craved with an intensity that was making his throat ache. 

 

Ronan laughed, somewhat bark like from surprise. Then he yanked his shirt off in one loose movement, chucked it over at the mostly empty hamper (clothes surrounded it, a couple of lucky socks hanging over the edge, but nearly nothing actually inside it), and then re-joined Adam on the bed. 

 

He yanked Adam’s shirt off as well, not quite as smoothly as he had with his own shirt seeing as Adam was always just awkward limbs, then pushed Adam down onto the bed with his legs still hanging over the edge, kissed him hard. 

 

“I think you’re really fucking hot,” Ronan said, sliding his kisses off of Adam’s mouth and across Adam’s cheek. “So fucking hot that when you knocked on my fucking door and suggested we fuck I was certain for a half second that I was fucking having a wet dream.” 

 

Adam kind of loved it when Ronan let his mouth run away without his brain attached to it. Both verbally and physically; his words filling Adam’s chest with warmth, his lips tracing a searing trail across Adam’s cheek, down his jawline, onto his neck, kissing his throat just hard enough for it to hurt momentarily like a pin prick of heat. He kept the groan building in his chest in, it would ruin shit if Gansey heard him.

 

“Don’t leave hickeys,” he gasped out instead, hands scrabbling uselessly at Ronan’s back. 

 

“I fucking remember,” Ronan mumbled, words pressed into Adam’s clavicle, “want me to suck you off?” 

 

Yes. Yes he fucking did. 

 

-

 

He did stay for dinner with Gansey and Ronan afterwards. After Ronan had finished messing him up, Adam had messed him up and then they’d both tidied themselves back down. Ronan had told Adam a little bit more about the painting project, Adam suggested he could come here to study and for Ronan to paint him, Ronan had waggled his eyebrows suggestively, Adam had bitten back his suggestion that that they could have their first session right now. Gansey had called from the other room that the takeout had arrived. 

 

They talked about their classes over dinner, until Ronan had kicked both Adam’s and Gansey’s feet enough that they gave in and talked about more interesting topics (which, according to Ronan, was the vlogger he’d just followed on youtube who was in the middle of calving season right now and posted daily videos of the calves in various stages of calf cuteness). 

 

Gansey didn’t ask Adam anything about his past. They talked solely about the present, about the future, about how Ronan was probably going to be a crazy calf guy. It was… nice. 

 

He’d liked Gansey well enough before, had always liked Gansey even if he hadn’t wanted to be friends with him because he didn’t want to have to deal with the whole being known part of friendship, but now? 

 

Now knowing that he could just sit and chat with Gansey and Ronan both and not just constantly feel the deep pit inside him, could have a good time, could not worry about every word coming out of his mouth, now - 

 

He was pretty sure that if he asked Gansey, Gansey would say they were friends. Not that he was going to ask. That would be awkward. 

 

Ronan offered to drive Adam home, which Adam turned down, and then regretted because being driven home meant that (a). He would have more time for sleeping, and (b). There would be more kissing. Ronan followed him out of the flat anyway though, which meant that Adam got to have (b) at least, got to be kissed in the hallway, got to have one last piece of touch to take home with him for the night; Ronan’s hand, calloused but gentle, tracing the line of his jaw, tugging at his earlobe. 



-



He didn’t have any time that week to model for Ronan - he was doing all of his studying in between classes and during his fifteen minute breaks at work - but the idea of it followed him around the whole week. 

 

Ronan was going to paint him. Was going to draw him in what he had teased Adam was his natural habitat - deep thought and books. Was going to watch him for hours on end. Adam hated feeling watched, but, it didn’t catch so hard on his skin when it was Ronan, when he knew that the touch corresponding to the gaze was soft. 

 

He swapped numbers with Gansey, adding his contact details to the very short list in his phone (his work places, uni admin, his roomate (Ravi), one Henrietta number which he had blocked, Ronan, and now, Gansey). Gansey had cited that having each others’ numbers would make it easier to swap uni help, but Adam was under the hopeful impression that it was actually just because they were the beginnings of friends, and friends had each others numbers. 

 

He and Ronan made out in the BMW under the guise of Ronan giving Adam a lift to work. Adam tried not to itch so despairingly over the need for more touch, over how little he could really have while leaning over a gear stick in a few snatched moments of time. 

 

He had thought he’d get used to it. The neediness for touch. Like, he had assumed that once he’d had a good few doses of real touch, his body would adjust to normal human conditions, and he wouldn’t be so severely lacking in it at all times. Like it was a supplement that he just needed to take to give his body the boost to get back on a healthy track. 

 

So far he hadn’t gotten used to it at all. The neediness hadn’t dissipated even slightly. He still wanted. Yearned like a fucking idiot. It was a little different than it had been before, though. Before he had just ached for touch as a vague amorphous thing; the warmth of an embrace, the comfort of skin against his without violence, the comfort of another human being seeing him - Adam - as a human being too, as worthy of love , or - 

 

Now when his stomach hurt with his want for it, everything had a face, a name, a voice. He wanted Ronan to run his hands down his back while they were pressed chest to chest. He wanted Ronan to interlace their fingers while he kissed his way down Adam’s stomach. He wanted Ronan’s warmth to heat him all the way through, Ronan’s touch to smooth his goosebumps, Ronan’s - 

 

He felt a little creepy about it, to be honest. Like he was a duckling who’d imprinted on the first thing he’d seen upon hatching, only it was him imprinting on the first thing that gave him affection. It wasn’t fair to Ronan if Adam got too attached, got too needy. Ronan wasn’t a giving machine, wasn’t made just for Adam’s needs, had his own friends, and life, and wants. 

 

Hopefully, hopefully soon Adam would have touched more people, properly touched - not necessarily as intimately as with Ronan - but - but enough that Ronan wasn’t the only thought that popped into his head when he felt lonely. 



-



“Stop looking up at me,” Ronan directed, the following Tuesday once Adam’s work schedule had calmed down again, and they had time to do the modeling/painting. “I can’t get this sketch right if you keep changing the fucking angle of your head.” 

 

“Oh I’m so sorry,” Adam sniped happily back, tipped his head back down towards the book he was taking notes from. “It’s not like you gave me any instructions before we started this.” 

 

“I was under the impression you’d know, at the very least, not to fucking wiggle around like a toddler on sugar,” Ronan retorted. 

 

“Can you please assure me,” Gansey said from the couch, “that this is playful fighting?” 

 

They were all in the main room of Ronan and Gansey’s flat, because the lighting was better in here, and there was more room for both Ronan and Adam to spread out with their various tools. Adam was spread out over their table, his books open in front of him, the sun coming through the window behind him and warming his back. Ronan was set up opposite him, an easel blocking most of Ronan from Adam’s view, his shit spread out precariously on a bench beside him. Gansey was across the room on the couch, phone in one hand, book in the other. 

 

“No,” Ronan replied, “I fucking hate Parrish, and the only reason I’m really painting him is so that I can curse the painting.” 

 

Gansey rolled his eyes, but craned his neck so that he could make eye contact with Adam. Adam pulled his face into a quick reassuring smile, tried to keep his head in the right position. 

 

“Well either way,” Gansey said, sounding a little appeased. “You can’t be rude to your model, Ronan, he’s the one doing you a favour.” 

 

Ronan copied Gansey, adding flavour to the sentence with a whiny tone. Gansey threw a tea towel at Ronan. Ronan draped it over his shoulder and thanked Gansey for the paint cloth. 

 

-

 

Adam felt a little bit bad for dawdling after they’d finished the painting session, taking his time in packing up his books, but - 

 

But Gansey was going out in a few minutes, and he was heading more or less in the same direction that Adam would be going in to go home, and if Adam looked ready to leave now , Gansey would suggest they walk together, and - 

 

Well obviously he wanted to stay behind longer and kiss Ronan, but he couldn’t exactly say that to Gansey, so he asked Ronan for a cup of tea instead. 

 

“Do you even like tea?” Ronan asked, once Gansey had said goodbye, gave both him and Ronan a fist bump, had left. 

 

“It’s fine,” Adam replied, “though you make it a little bit disgusting.” 

 

“Not my fault,” Ronan shrugged, “Gansey did the shopping.” 

 

“Gansey didn’t make you mangle the tea bag, though,” Adam pointed out, poking his finger into his ‘tea’ to try and fish out some loose pieces of tea. “That was all you.” 

 

“All our spoons are dirty,” Ronan shrugged, “I had to use a fork to stir it. I might have been too enthusiastic.” 

 

Adam put the tea aside. “Be enthusiastic about something else.” 

 

“Fine with me,” Ronan grinned back, reached out to grab Adam’s hand, yanked at him until Adam conceded to sit in his lap. “Any suggestions as to what I should turn my enthusiasm to?” 

 

Adam shifted his weight in Ronan’s lap, a few ideas were definitely popping up. He kissed Ronan in reply, done with words and looks, and sitting with a table between them. 

 

Ronan kissed him back, biting down on Adam’s lower lip, hands sliding from Adam’s thighs to his hips, holding him down against him as he lifted his own hips up. 

 

If Adam of a year ago could see him now, he would have been very embarrassed at his future self for how quickly he broke down into touch. 

 

Adam of a year ago, Adam of multiple years ago, Adam of the past had always assumed that his experience in being held apart from others would keep him level headed and cool later on in life. That he would be able to get into relationships and situations with other people without feeling it so intensely. He had made a point of it, back then, to hold all his emotions as deep down as he could so he only felt them diffusely, so he wouldn’t have to let them cut him to shreds. It was weak to show emotion, it was gay to express emotion, it was childish to cry, to moan, to shake, to duck, to hide, to whimper, to - 

 

Adam of right now couldn’t help himself from pressing harder against Ronan, from wanting every single part of him to be touching another person and being touched. Couldn’t stop himself exhaling heavy and loud with every heartbeat getting harder. Couldn’t keep down the want bubbling in his throat and releasing with a moan as quiet as he could keep it when Ronan got his hands into his underwear. 

 

Maybe Adam of before would be relieved to see this. Or maybe he’d see that it was still so tied up in fear and anxiety and wouldn’t count it as a step forward. Just weakness. 

 

Chapter Text

 

Adam hadn’t seen any of Ronan’s drawn art until after Ronan had finished the first portrait (half an hour into their second sitting). He hadn’t really known what to expect. Definitely hadn’t expected what he saw. 

 

It was… him. Washed in light, sun caught in his hair like a physical thing. Hands somehow painted to appear both delicate and strong. Face a little in shadow, but his eyes up - staring straight back at him as he stared.

 

“Well?” Ronan grunted, after Adam had been staring at the canvas for nearly a full minute. “If you fucking hate it just say it.” 

 

“I don’t hate it,” Adam replied quickly, glanced from the paint up to Ronan, back down. He could feel that he was blushing. “It’s nice.” 

 

“Whatever,” Ronan grunted, his cheeks also a little pink. “I don’t feel like starting a new painting right now. Wanna play some video games?” 

 

-

 

Ronan had to hand in five portraits in total, so by the end of the month Adam had sat for seven and a half paintings, had gotten used to the feeling of Ronan’s eyes on him while he studied. Hadn’t gotten used to the way Ronan would paint him, soft in the dim evening light, smudgy in the shadow of the tree on a bright day, light and relaxed while he napped in a sun beam on the couch. 

 

Some days they didn’t fit kissing into these sessions, either because Gansey was there all day, or because time was limited, or because they were just… tired, but. But Adam was fine with that, because he was enjoying just spending time with other people, because it meant that Ronan would invite him around the next day just for kissing an touching, because it meant that - 

 

It made him happy. Though it took him a while to figure it out. It made him happy to be at Ronan and Gansey’s place, studying and talking, eating and resting. Noah came around a few times during the modeling, and he got to know him a little bit better. He met a couple others of their friends too, played video games with them even. Went out with a whole group of them after Ronan had finished half his pieces, had pizza in a park. 

 

Somehow, through fucking grindr , he’d stumbled upon friends. Mainly Ronan and Gansey, though he did like their other friends, did end up swapping numbers with them. He was starting to feel like a real human, like he was learning how to interact and speak to people just as he was learning how to touch and be touched. It was easier now, a few full months in to uni, to be able to talk about himself without having to include any information about the before part. It was enough to talk about classes, to talk about how shitty the dorms were, to talk about the latest on campus scandal, to talk about where he bought his clothes from - he was barely having to deflect and dodge questions. 

 

Which wasn’t to say this his past life didn’t come up from behind him to punch him in the gut sometimes, because, it did. Much more often he would like. 

 

Be it from his phone notifying him that he’d missed a call from a blocked number, or, seeing someone from behind at the mechanics who wore his hair the same way as Robert, or smelling a certain scent as he walked to uni and being reminded strongly and suddenly of Henrietta. 

 

He dreamed about it sometimes, and now he had a roomate, he was more thankful than ever that he was well trained in the art of staying quiet. He’d still wake breathless, though, still wake feeling hollowed out and anxious. He could keep the grossness from dripping onto other people, but he couldn’t keep himself clean of it. 



-



It wasn’t like anything had really happened today for it to be so much worse than any other day. It was just - 

 

It was just that he’d woken from one of those stupid dreams, and he hadn’t been able to wash down the rancid feeling in his throat, and he’d stumbled on the stairs and hit his hip, and the bruise had already shown up on his skin, and he’d had an angry customer yell at him at his shift at the coffee shop, and he was tired, and his eyes hurt, and, and - 

 

He’d seen Ronan the day before, the two of them taking advantage of Gansey going on a day trip to visit his sister, to spend a full afternoon on the couch together just… necking. He’d been too tired from a hand in that morning to want to do much more, and Ronan had seemed content to just kiss him and kiss him and keep hands above the waist. 

 

It was just. 

 

Near the end of the afternoon, Ronan had said something about how much time he spent with Adam when he really ought to be making art, or doing shit. He hadn’t said it in a malicious tone, but Adam knew the rebuke that sort of remark held. He was wasting Ronan’s time when they weren’t doing anything. It was okay on days that they were painting, they both got something out of that (Ronan; a painting, Adam; study time (and the feeling of Ronan paying him attention)), but when it was just Adam coming over and monopolising Ronan’s time only to kiss him and not even get him off? 

 

Well. They were fuck buddies, right? Adam may be okay not getting off every time they met up, but he wasn’t usual. He didn’t think it was fair on Ronan not to - to - 

 

So. 

 

He shouldn’t call Ronan just because he was sad and wanted human touch. He could be a fucking adult and suck it up and do his homework and be fine. 

 

And maybe he would’ve stuck to his guns about it all if that blocked Henrietta number hadn’t called him, and if he had looked at the screen properly, and if he hadn’t automatically just answered the phone, and if he hadn’t had to hear his mother’s voice, and if - 

 

-

 

He texted Ronan. Can you come over? 

 

Ronan didn’t text back, which either meant that his phone was off or forgotten, or, that he was on his way. 

 

He tried to tell himself that it would be good if it were the former, then he wouldn’t waste Ronan’s time, then Ronan wouldn’t have to see him for how pathetic he really was - how bare his room was, how tired he was, how much a single sentence could dig into his spine and paralyse him. 

 

He hoped more that Ronan was on his way. 

 

Ronan knocked fifteen minutes later. It was a good thing Ravi was out, because Adam didn’t want to have to introduce them. He opened the door for Ronan, tried not to watch Ronan’s face as he looked around. 

 

Ravi’s side of the room was decorated with posters, shelves, his clothes strewn about, a guitar against the wall, parts of him scattered for all to see. Adam’s side was - 

 

Well. 

 

He had a small pot plant on his window sill. His books were on his desk. 

 

Ronan nodded at Adam’s bed. “This your bed?” He asked, and at Adam’s nod, crossed the room to flop down on it. 

 

Adam followed him, stood by the edge of the bed, willed Ronan not to comment on his lack of decor. 

 

“So,” Ronan said, grinned widely up at him, “to what do I owe this honour?” 

 

“Huh?” 

 

Ronan grinned bigger still, lifted his foot up to nudge Adam’s calf. “Coming to your place, man? I’ve never been here before. Is this a special occasion? Should I have brought lube?” 

 

“Oh shut up,” Adam said, snorted, sat down heavily beside Ronan. “No. I just - I didn’t want to go out, but I -” 

 

He left the unspoken but I wanted to see you , heavy in the air between them, closed his eyes, leaned back against the wall. 

 

“Fair enough,” Ronan said, Adam could hear him shrugging, leather jacket squeaking with the movement. “Time for me to do the work in coming to you, huh?” 

 

“Mm.” 

 

“Ravi out?” 

 

Adam nodded. 

 

“You out too?” 

 

Adam cracked one eye open, squinted at Ronan. “What?” 

 

“You look zoned out,” Ronan said, not harshly, rubbed his knuckles against Adam’s arm. “You high?” 

 

“No,” Adam said. He was too tired to even be annoyed about the question. He shut his eye again. 

 

Ronan’s hand rubbed up Adam’s arm, paused to squeeze at his shoulder, lifted to cup his cheek. 

 

“You tired?” 

 

He was wasting Ronan’s time. The least he could do was stop being so - so - so boring. He should kiss Ronan. Should - maybe he should give him a handjob. 

 

“Have a nap,” Ronan said, not giving Adam enough time to force his mouth open, his body to move. “You look dead on your fucking ass, dude, go to sleep.” 

 

Adam opened his eyes to glare half heartedly at Ronan when Ronan shoved his shoulder, but allowed himself to be manhandled across his bed until he was lying down, head near the pillow. 

 

Adam did kind of want to sleep, because he always kind of wanted to sleep. It was a constant state of being, the pull of his eyelids. But. He’d texted Ronan because he needed - he wanted - 

 

He didn’t know why he’d texted Ronan. 

 

What was he going to do? 

 

Spill out everything about his fucking past? Cry? Let Ronan see exactly how shitty Adam was really?

 

No. He had only thought far enough to know that he wanted to be held. That was it. 

 

Ronan scooted himself up behind Adam, rested his chin on Adam’s head, his arm across Adam’s stomach. 

 

“You don’t have to stay if you don’t want,” Adam mumbled, lifted his hand from the duvet to brush his fingers across Ronan’s. “I shouldn’t have asked you to come over if - when I’m - it’s -” 

 

Ronan snorted, squeezed Adam’s waist, pressed a kiss to the side of Adam’s head. 

 

“Big head,” he said, “I’m saying you need a nap because I want a nap. Hurry up and sleep so we can snuggle.” 

 

Sometimes Adam wondered if Ronan could just see right through him. If he were omniscient. Because, sometimes Ronan was far too kind. 

 

“Psch,” Adam grumbled, grabbed on to Ronan’s hand to tug his arm further around him. “Fine. don’t snore.” 

 

Ronan didn’t snore, but he did press himself up against Adam’s back so they were touching as much as possible, and he did nuzzle his face down against Adams shoulder so his breath was warm against Adam’s nape, and he did hold on tightly. 

 

It was such a stupid thing. To feel so… known over being forced to nap. Over being held simply for the sake of being held. 

 

He didn’t mean to start crying, and he certainly didn’t mean to alert Ronan to the fact that he was crying. 

 

Like all things quiet and hidden, he was good at keeping his tears a secret, but apparently not good enough. 

 

Ronan’s voice was soft in his ear. 

 

“Shit, man,” he said as Adam pressed his face against the bottom of his pillow, trying to stem his tears that way. “Hey.” 

 

Adam swallowed hard. He may have been found out, but that didn’t mean he had to face Ronan with tears still in his eyes, with the lump still in his throat. He shook his head. 

 

“Do you,” Ronan said slowly, his grip on Adam loosening a little. “Do you want me to leave?” 

 

Maybe Ronan wanted to leave. 

 

Maybe Adam was too selfish to let him. 

 

He shook his head again. Ronan’s grip re-solidified around his waist. 

 

“Do you wanna talk about it?” 

 

Adam shook his head, gasped into his mattress. 

 

Ronan kissed his nape. “Want me to just hold you and shut up?” 

 

Adam nodded, tried to make his crying switch back to silent. 

 

Ronan kissed his nape again, rearranged his arms around Adam so he could pull Adam tighter against him. He didn’t say anything, but he did start humming, just lowly, a calming sort of tune that sounded like it might be a lullabye. 

 

This was stupid, and Adam was stupid, and why the hell had he asked Ronan to come over when he knew he was feeling so ripped up and weak right now? He didn’t want Ronan to see him like this, to hear him like this. He didn’t want to feel so comforted by Ronan kissing his neck and holding him while he cried. 

 

He rolled over once he’d finally managed to stop anymore tears from creeping out, pressed his face against Ronan’s neck, slid his hands around Ronan’s waist - under the leather jacket but over the t-shirt. 

 

“Sorry,” he mumbled. 

 

“Fuck off,” Ronan replied, not unkindly. He kissed Adam’s forehead. “What do you need?” 

 

Adam shook his head. How was he supposed to know what he needed in this moment? None of this was something that he should have done, so there was nothing he ought to need. 

 

“What do you want?” Ronan adjusted, brushed his thumb over the shell of Adam’s ear, down the side of his neck. “What can I do, Adam?” 

 

“It’d be nice,” Adam mumbled, “if you could just forget this happened.” 

 

Ronan didn’t reply to that, just rubbed his thumb against the tendon in Adam’s neck. 

 

“I don’t want you to think I’m like this,” Adam offered.

 

“Like what?” 

 

“Weak,” Adam said, forced a short, humourless laugh. 

 

“Don’t be stupid,” Ronan said, brushed a curl behind Adam’s ear. “As if I could.” 

 

He sounded too serious, too sweet, too kind. 

 

Ronan dropped his hand to Adam’s bicep, squeezed it. “See?” he said, easing over the open wound of being too earnest with a quick joke. “I see these guns far too often.” 

 

“Dork,” Adam said, tried a smile. 

 

Ronan wiggled down on the bed so they were more or less face to face, their knees knocking, and then interlocking. Ronan kissed his forehead again, and then his cheek. 

 

“You don’t gotta tell me what’s wrong,” he said, voice suddenly weirdly rough, “but if there’s someone who deserves to be fucking decked, just point me at them.” 

 

Adam closed his eyes. Ronan pressed a kiss to each eyelid, didn’t seem to mind the tears slipping out again. 

 

“Hm,” Ronan said, “salty.” 

 

“Kiss me?” Adam mumbled, kept his eyes shut, hoped Ronan wasn’t going to be put off by his red face, salty cheeks, stupid emotions. 

 

Ronan kissed him immediately, let Adam deepen it, slow it down, drag it out. Let Adam cling to him while they kissed. 

 

“Sorry,” Adam tried again, covered Ronan’s mouth with his own for a quick kiss when Ronan tried to brush it off again. “No. I am sorry. I - I know this isn’t - I don’t wanna do anything right now. Just kissing.” 

 

“Uh,” Ronan said. “Okay, Parrish?” 

 

“And I know,” Adam struggled on, “that that’s no much payout for - for letting me cry on you. So. Yeah. That’s the sorry.” 

 

Ronan was quiet for a moment, his fingers drumming against Adam’s hip, and then he pulled a little away. 

 

“What the fuck?”

 

Adam swallowed, shrugged. “I’m just saying,” he defended, “so you’re not hanging around here thinking I’m leading you on.” 

 

“Leading me on?” 

 

Ronan was starting to sound a little pissed off now. 

 

“I should’ve said it in my text,” Adam whispered, “I didn’t mean to bring you here on… false pretenses -” 

 

“What the fuck ,” Ronan repeated, this time a little more volatile. He sat up, dislodging Adam’s arms around him, and stared down at him, eyebrows raised, mouth downturned. “Seriously? You think I came here only because I thought we were gonna fuck?” 

 

Adam shrugged. 

 

“We don’t even get off every time we hang out normally,” Ronan pointed out, his voice very raised. “So why the fuck would you assume I’m gonna be fucking pissed off that you don’t wanna get handsy when you’re fucking upset ?” 

 

Adam didn’t answer. Ronan stood up. 

 

Jesus ,” he spat at the floor, ran his hand over his scalp. “I’m not - fuck, Parrish. You never had a friend before? Not everything has to be a God damned transaction!” 

 

This was like a spike through the lungs. Ronan had to know Adam hadn’t had friends before. Didn’t have friends before. Doesn’t have friends? He wanted to get up and rage back at Ronan. About what, he wasn’t entirely sure, he just wanted to hold his own. But. He couldn’t do it. Not today. Today was a frozen day, a lie as still as you can on your bed and hope you disappear day, a wish you were never born day. 

 

He closed his eyes, turned his face in increments until it was hidden by the pillow. Remembered to breathe. 

 

Ronan didn’t give him any warning before he sat back down on the bed. Further down, near the foot of it. He exhaled heavily, the bed creaking underneath him. 

 

“You’re not just my fuckbuddy,” Ronan said, his every word heavy sounding, like it was dropped out of his mouth. “I thought you knew that.” 

 

Adam couldn’t reply. If he moved or spoke he was going to crumble. 

 

“Adam,” Ronan said. “Tell me you know that.” 

 

Adam’s didn’t. He didn’t know if he knew that. He couldn’t think back to five minutes ago. Couldn’t force his mind to do anything apart from throw static at his ears, his tongue, horrible images at his eyes. 

 

Ronan reached out, rested his hand on Adam’s leg, and Adam hadn’t been expecting that. His body was too fuzzed up and taut, and terrified for that. He jerked his leg away. Always a bad move. You get hurt more if you pull away, if you flinch, if you make it harder. He shouldn’t have done that, he shouldn’t have done that. 

 

“Fuck,” Ronan said, his voice sounding faraway. 

 

“Please,” Adam managed to say to his mattress, shame eating him up from inside out. “Just go.” 

 

“Adam,” Ronan said again, the word burrowing deep and painful into Adam’s stomach. 

 

“Please.” 

 

Ronan went. 

Chapter Text

Ronan was never going to want to see him again. 

 

It would have been okay if Adam hadn’t been a fucking idiot and tried to explain himself to Ronan, that was the tipping point, he knew it. Maybe up ‘til then Ronan would have just been only a little put off, only think of Adam as a little weird and weak (he probably already thought Adam was weird (he did think Adam was weird, he told Adam that a lot )), but now he knew that Adam was just…

 

Adam was friendless, and badly formed, and broken in all the ways it counted. He wasn’t worth it just for a fuck, especially when they didn’t even fuck .

 

He knew in like, a far off way, that Ronan didn’t care that they weren’t technically fucking, that Ronan enjoyed what they had been doing, that maybe Ronan even liked that they were taking it slow. They didn’t talk about the sex, or even the kissing, when they weren’t doing it, though, so he couldn’t be sure. He could never be sure. People could get angry at nothing, could hate out of nowhere, you could never take the calm for granted. 

 

-

 

He didn’t text Ronan. He didn’t reply to the few texts Ronan had sent, saying things like; u wanna talk? And we dont have to do anything more if you dont want

 

He didn’t know how to text Ronan back, how to bridge a new conversation from the smoldering shit heap of the other day. He couldn’t just ignore it and act like it didn’t happen, because it did happen, and he couldn’t bear to be the type of person to get up the next day and pretend that bruise has nothing to do with you. It was better to just be quiet. 

 

-

 

He didn’t share any classes with Ronan, and he hadn’t been going to the study sessions all week so he wouldn’t be forcing Ronan to spend time with him in a mutual space, and they didn’t have any other shared activities, so. So that was good. 

 

He did share a class with Gansey though. 

 

Gansey who usually sat in the row in front of Adam with his friend Henry, and who would always turn around in his seat to talk with Adam. 

 

Gansey who slid into the row Adam was sitting in, and excused me his way down the aisle to sit right next to Adam. 

 

“Hey,” Adam said, because he hadn’t had a massive blow up with Gansey so there was nothing to bridge (except there was, because he knew from spending almost all of his free time with Ronan, or Ronan&Gansey that a blow up with Ronan was a blow up with Gansey too). 

 

“Hey,” Gansey said, his tone betraying nothing about whether or not he was here to formally tell him that they couldn’t be friends anymore because his loyalty lay with Ronan, and if Ronan hated Adam, so did Gansey. “How are you?” 

 

“Fine,” Adam said, because that was mostly the truth. 

 

He didn’t feel so out of his body and ripped to pieces anymore, that full body horror tended to only last a day. But. He was tired, and he felt behind because he hadn’t been going to study group, and he was lonely because all his friends were Ronan and Ronan’s friends, and because he missed Ronan even though it had only been a week (barely a week), and his stomach ached in a nauseas kind of way that made him want to skip meals even though he felt like it was a black hole that needed to be filled, and - 

 

“Been missing you at study,” Gansey said, every corner of his words kind. “No one else there has quite the knack you do for figuring out exactly what we’re meant to be doing in the assignments.” 

 

“Sorry,” Adam mumbled, fiddled with the end of his pen. “I’ve been slammed.” 

 

“Yeah?” Gansey pressed, “Work?” 

 

“Mm,” Adam nodded, scratched the back of his hand, pinched at the skin between thumb and finger. 

 

“You do take on a lot,” Gansey said, “I would be so overwhelmed if I did even half as much as you did.” 

 

Adam shrugged. He was so overwhelmed. 

 

“I do hope you get enough time to give yourself breaks, though,” Gansey continued. His hand was edging its way across the bench as if it was coming to touch Adam’s hand resting there. 

 

Adam pulled his hand to his lap. Couldn’t bear touching today. 

 

“I do when I can,” he said to his hand in his lap, frowning down at it. “Can’t always afford time off, though.” 

 

“I understand,” Gansey said, though Adam doubted he really did understand. “We miss you though. You should come around soon, next time you have some free time.” 

 

Adam may never have free time. He nodded. 

 

Gansey offered him a smile. The lecture began. 



-



Ronan was waiting outside of Adam’s mechanic job (Oily Josh’s Auto-mechanics), nine days after they’d last seen each other. 

 

He was leaning against Adam’s bike, which in turn was leaning against the garage wall. He had his earphones in. He saw Adam as soon as Adam stepped out, didn’t take the earphones out until Adam gave in to the inevitable and stepped over to him and the bike. 

 

It was probably about time they talked about how Ronan didn’t want to do shit with Adam anymore. 

 

“So,” Ronan said, arms crossed, “are you avoiding me, or not?” 

 

Adam shrugged. 

 

“Sure feels like you’ve been avoiding me,” Ronan pointed out. 

 

If they both knew Adam had been avoiding Ronan, why the hell did they have to talk about it? 

 

“I wanted to say sorry,” Ronan mumbled, kicked a little at the gravel at their feet, dust on his boots. “I think I handled last week pretty badly.” 

 

Adam stared at their feet. Ronan’s big black Docs, his peeling canvas shoes, both of them dusty in the heavily used car park. Just the ground here reminded Adam of Henrietta. The dust always clinging to him, no matter how far away he tried to go. 

 

“It wasn’t you,” Adam said to the dirt. “It wasn’t your fault.” 

 

“I shouldn’t’ve gotten angry at you,” Ronan retorted firmly, “because I wasn’t angry at you.” 

 

Adam shrugged. He didn’t want to say anything that might make Ronan actually angry. 

 

“Listen,” Ronan grunted, sighed heavily, shuffled a little. Adam kept his eyes still downwards. “If you wanna cut out all the - all the… physical stuff, I’m not gonna stop being your friend. We’re friends , Parrish. I like you.” 

 

“I don’t wanna stop the physical stuff,” Adam mumbled. 

 

Ronan exhaled loudly, folded and then unfolded his arms, stuffed his hands into his jean’s pockets. “Well, fuck, man,” he said. “Neither do I. But I don’t wanna fucking just not see you either. Do you wanna stop seeing me? Are you friend breaking up with me? Do you need us to be fucking fuck buddies only?” 

 

“I don’t want that,” Adam said, cleared his throat, blinked hard. “I like being… I wanna be your friend.” 

 

“Well,” Ronan said snorted, kicked at gravel again. “You’ve got fucking great luck, man! ‘Cos we’re already fucking friends.” 

 

Adam snorted a little bit as well. This was all going a little weird. A little wrong. Shouldn’t he be apologising? Shouldn’t Ronan be demanding an answer to his horrible behaviour? Shouldn’t Ronan be putting an ultimatum down? 

 

“Can I fucking hug you?” Ronan grunted, “You look like you need a hug.” 

 

Adam finally looked up at him. Couldn’t quite make eye contact, stared at Ronan’s taut jaw, the shadow of his past nine PM stubble. 

 

“I fucking need a hug,” Ronan adjusted, “I’m not doing you a fucking favour, here.” 

 

Adam shuddered, nodded, stepped forwards just a little, just enough for Ronan to wrap his arms tightly around Adam’s shoulders, to pull Adam close to him, to press Adam’s face to Ronan’s shoulder. 

 

They hugged for an inordinately long time - longer than Adam had ever had any type of human contact in public before (not that they were really in public, behind the back of the garage. Really the only people who might see them were his co-workers (which might be bad)). 

 

He pulled away from Ronan, just in time to stop himself from completely cracking into a million pieces and sobbing a little bit out of relief. He didn’t let go of Ronan’s shirt though, his hand clenched tightly int he fabric. 

 

“Come to mine?” 

 

Ronan raised his eyebrows at him. 

 

“Yours?” He repeated, “What about Ravi?” 

 

“Ravi’s brought people home before. But I - I don’t mean come to mine for - for muckin’ about. I don’t wanna muck about in front of Ravi.” 

 

“Okay,” Ronan said, easy as that. “Can I sleep over?” 

 

That was probably a bad idea? But Adam had been lonely all week. Cold and lonely, and the idea of Ronan sleeping next to him, body curved around him like he had that stupid day nine days ago, filling him with warmth, holding onto him, being - 

 

“Okay,” Adam nodded. “Yeah.” 

 

-

 

Introductions between Ronan and Ravi went pretty smoothly, names were repeated, Ravi and Ronan nodded at each other, Ravi put his earphones back on and went back to his TV show. 

 

Ronan ditched his jacket and boots while Adam put his shit away. 

 

“I’ve gotta shower,” Adam mumbled, wiping at a smudge of grease on his wrist. “I just washed my sheets the other day.” 

 

“Can I come with?” Ronan murmured, eyes flicking over to Ravi on his bed. “I could do with a wash, too.” 

 

“Shower’s pretty small,” Adam said, but nodded anyway and led the way into his and Ravi’s tiny bathroom. 

 

He stripped off while Ronan stood beside the toilet, apparently checking out the toilet paper brand. When he turned the shower on and stepped in, Ronan left his guard post by the toilet and came to stand by the shower curtain. 

 

“You gonna get in?” Adam asked, lathering quickly, ducking his head down as he did so he could fit it under the water. “Hot water’ll only last ten minutes at most.” 

 

“Jesus,” Ronan said, then dropped his jeans. 

 

Adam wondered how loud Ravi’s show was, if he’d be able to hear them in the shower if they… got a bit handsy maybe. 

 

Apparently Ronan was thinking along the same tracks, because as soon as he got into the shower, he placed his hands on Adam’s hips and drew them together until their stomachs were flush. 

 

The hug back at the mechanics had been great; had filled a lot of the gaping chasm of Adam’s innards, had quickly patched up the crack of fear about him and Ronan.

This was so much fucking better though, skin to skin, nothing beat that. 

 

He gasped a little at the contact, feeling stupid for his gasp even as he did, but not stupid enough that he didn’t press in closer, tip his head up. 

 

“Is it too soon after our fight to kiss?” He asked. 

 

Ronan frowned down at him, confusion written in the line between his brows. 

 

“We didn’t really fight,” he said, “and even if we did, it’s been nine fucking days, man. If you wanna kiss me, know that I fucking wanna kiss the hell outta you.” 

 

“Jesus,” Adam offered, grinned, opened his mouth to receive Ronan’s kiss.

 

It was a bit wet - shower water getting in between their mouths - a little soapy because Adam was only halfway through rinsing the shampoo out of his hair, and a lot - a lot - a - 

 

Adam felt this kiss in his lungs, in his stomach, in his knees. 

 

He really did need touch, really did need this sort of intimacy. He felt like he’d been parched for the nine days he hadn’t had this, that this kiss was rehydrating him. He felt - he felt - 

 

He made an involuntary noise deep from his stomach, clutched Ronan closer to him, closer, closer, felt like he’d literally crumble to pieces if Ronan let him go right now. 

 

He didn’t want to think about how good this felt, he didn’t, because then he might start thinking about how goddamned hard he’d worked to be independent, and this went against all his independence, didn’t it? He didn’t want to have to rely on anyone else to fill in his gaps, to heal his hurting lungs, to - 

 

He wasn’t going to think about it. 

 

He was just going to stand here in the shower, still sudsy, and soak Ronan in while Ronan ran his hands up and down Adam’s back, kissed him gently, held him tightly. 

 

-

 

They left the shower once it became too cold to kiss comfortably in anymore, dried off hurriedly, Adam’s teeth chattering a little, and went back into the bedroom. 

 

Ravi didn’t even look up, apparently completely sucked into what he was watching. 

 

Adam leant Ronan a pair of sweatpants, got changed quickly himself, and then hopped into his bed, silently rejoiced as Ronan got in next to him. 

 

Usually he would be doing some homework right now, working out schedules, making lists, but - 

 

If he stopped and did something that didn’t involve his skin touching Ronan’s skin, he was pretty sure his body was going to revolt and just stop working, so, really, he had no choice but to curl up next to Ronan and try to figure out how they were both going to comfortably sleep on this bed. 

 

Ronan wrapped his arms around Adam’s waist, tugged him closer, wound his legs around Adam’s, dragging his thigh in between Adam’s, wiggled until he was face to face with Adam, noses brushing. 

 

“Is Gansey upset with me?” Adam whispered, once they’d both settled in their positions. 

 

Ronan laughed a little, his breath warm against Adam’s cheek. “Don’t be an idiot,” he murmured back, “He was just - he loves to solve things. I told him I said something stupid to you.” 

 

“You didn’t,” Adam tried. 

 

Ronan closed his eyes. 

 

“I shouldn’t have - I shouldn’t have yelled at you,” Ronan said through gritted teeth, like he wanted to say this, but it was difficult. “And I should’ve let you fucking say what you needed to say. It was wrong don’t get me wrong, man. You can always fucking cry on my shoulder if you wanna without paying me the fuck back, but I - God. Yeah.” 

 

Adam swallowed. Inched forwards a little until he could press a quick kiss to the corner of Ronan’s mouth. 

 

“Lynch,” he said, “I’m going to tell you something stupid, and you’re not allowed to pity me for it.” 

 

Ronan opened his eyes, squinted. 

 

“You’re my first friend,” Adam whispered, lifted his head a little so he could look over Ronan’s head to check that Ravi was still occupied and plugged in. “You’re my first ever friend. I’m eighteen, and you’re the first person I’ve ever called my friend.” 

 

Ronan’s face was blank, which Adam appreciated, because it meant that Ronan knew Adam didn’t want him to be at all expressively emotional about it. 

 

“I don’t,” Adam said, sighed, started again. “I can’t - I’m - I’m not a good person. For other people. I don’t - I’m selfish. I don’t give back. So I’ve been - I never wanted this to be uneven at all. I don’t want it to be. I know this isn’t… isn’t a transaction, but it’s - it’s gotta be give and take.” 

 

Ronan let all of this sink in for a few long moments, his arms never loosening from Adam’s waist, his touch never slipping away. Then he ducked in to press a kiss to Adam’s lips, quick and dry. Appreciated. 

 

“Dunno who the fuck told you that you’re not a good person,” Ronan mumbled, “or that you’re fucking selfish, but like, they were wrong.” 

 

“Ronan,” Adam sighed, shivered a little as Ronan kissed him again. “You only say that because I’ve been trying to act like I’m not. Because I didn’t want you to know.” 

 

“Right,” Ronan nodded, kissed Adam again, this time on the cheek. “You’re so selfish that you  didn’t want me to know that you’re selfish, so you made sure you were always giving back as much to me as I give to you, because you’re selfish.” 

 

“Well,” Adam’s face was burning. “It sounds stupid when you say it.” 

 

“Sounded more stupid when you said it,” Ronan shot back, but his voice was kind. “I just want it on the record that I don’t think you’re fucking selfish. And I think you’re a fucking good person. Okay?” 

 

Adam kind of wanted to argue a little bit more about this, but. But he was tired, and Ronan was so… Ronan was making him feel so warm and… and appreciated ? Liked? He didn’t want to get out of this warm bath. He sniffed. Nod. 

 

“Also on the record,” Ronan said, pinched Adam’s side just hard enough that Adam yelped and then glared at him. “I definitely think you’re a weirdo. But you’re hot enough and clever enough that I don’t care that you’re a weirdo.” 

 

“Gee,” Adam said, “thanks.” 

 

He meant it. He meant it. 

 

“Go to sleep, weirdo,” Ronan whispered, “your eye bags make you look like you do night shifts with the devil.” 

 

“Fuck you,” Adam said, pleased they were somehow straight back into being able to banter stupidly. “Goodnight, asshole.” 

 

“Oh,” Ronan teased, “I didn’t know you were on such close terms with my asshole!” 

 

Chapter Text

Adam was thankful that Ronan let them just act now as if neither of them had tripped up in the wrinkles of the threadbare carpet that was Adam’s idiocy, that Ronan wasn’t holding it against him that Adam hadn’t texted back, or that Adam had ignored him. He was glad he had told Ronan the thing about him being his first friend, it was just. 

 

Adam knew Ronan didn’t like to be very sociable either, knew that Ronan had only a few friends he considered near and dear, and everyone else in his social circle were barely even begrudgingly accepted. He knew that Ronan preferred it when it was just the two of them, or at most, the four of them (him, Adam, Gansey, and Noah), so. 

 

The fact of it was, was that Ronan had dragged Adam along with him - every single day that Adam had free time - to some kind of group hang, or group event, for the last two weeks. 

 

This didn’t mean that they stopped spending as much time together alone, it just meant that Adam was doing about 890% more socialising than he had ever done in his life, and it was exhausting, and -

 

And he was 99.9% sure that Ronan was doing it out of the goodness of his heart in an effort to provide Adam with more friends

 

He appreciated this, he did. He liked quite a lot of the people they were spending time with, enjoyed himself even, found himself sitting with new friends in classes, walking to lectures together, it was just - 

 

It was just that… it wasn’t that he had liked being lonely, or alone, no. It was - it was that he had liked it when it was just the few of them. When he and Ronan would go for a drive, or to grab coffee, and it wasn’t a set up to meet new people. 

 

-

 

“So, Adam,” Gansey said cheerfully, on one of the (now) rare occasions of it just being the three of them at Ronan and Gansey’s flat during the weekend. 

 

He and Adam had been editing each others essays, but had just wrapped up, and Adam had closed his eyes for a mini nap. 

 

He opened just the one eye, squinted over at Gansey on the other end of the couch. He could just see Ronan out of his periphery, hunched on the floor with a sketchbook, still working on some drawing. 

 

“Hm?” 

 

“You’re single, aren’t you?” Gansey asked, couch creaking comfortably as he lifted one leg up to slide under himself. “No romance in your life currently?” 

 

“Um,” Adam said, forbade himself from glancing at Ronan, because, well. He wouldn’t want Ronan to be annoyed. “Yeah. I’m single. Why?” 

 

He could sense how stiff Ronan’s back was without even looking at him. 

 

“Well,” Gansey said, “you know Amika? We went rockclimbing with her last Friday? And she’s in our study group? Long dark hair-” 

 

“I know Amika,” Adam said, had finally opened both eyes and allowed himself a single solitary glance at Ronan who appeared unphased by this conversation. “What about her?” 

 

“She told me that her friend, Blue, the one who was with her at rockclimbing - do you remember her? Yes, good. Alright, well, Amika told me that Blue told her that she was interested in you, and Amika suggested to me that we ought to set the two of you up on a date.” 

 

Adam stared at Gansey, a little taken aback at how much Gansey appeared to think this was a good idea. He really liked Gansey, he did, he’d grown to really know him over the last few weeks, to appreciate the little things about him. The thing about knowing people was that as well as learning things you liked about them, your learned things about them that annoyed you. 

 

For one, Gansey seemed to forget that he was rich, like, disgustingly rich, like, wait how many jobs are you working to pay for your dorms? Rich. 

 

For another, Gansey always had the best intentions, he always wanted to lend a hand, he wasn’t always aware when he might be crossing a line. 

 

“Well?” Gansey prompted, “What do you think?” 

 

Adam did remember Blue, did remember thinking she was nice to look at, fun to talk to, good at rockclimbing. He’d honestly thought Gansey was more into her than he was, though maybe the whole, her yelling at Gansey for asking if she was a prostitute because he misconstrued something she said, thing had put an end to that. That mistake was another example of Gansey doing his best but accidentally putting his foot, and his whole leg, into it. 

 

“Uh,” Adam said, but was promptly interrupted by Ronan. 

 

“You should go for it,” Ronan said sharply from the floor. “You said she was pretty. Maybe having a girlfriend would do you good, Parrish. Get that stick out of your ass.” 

 

This teasing wasn’t unusual, he and Ronan teased each other all the time, so, there was no good reason for Adam to feel as punched in the guts and sour as he did right now as he whipped his head around to stare outright at Ronan. 

 

“What?” He snapped. 

 

Ronan didn’t look up from his drawing - something dark and convoluted looking. “I said you should go on the fucking date, man,” he drawled. “It’d do you good.” 

 

Maybe he thought Ronan would be jealous, maybe that was why he felt so gross right now. Maybe he was just being selfish. Maybe it would be good for him. He glanced from Ronan - nonchalant - to Gansey - eager. 

 

“Okay,” he mumbled, “um. When?” 

 

-

 

The date had been set for five days time, and Gansey, in some sort of romantic pique, had refused to give Blue’s phone number to Adam because it was apparently more ‘lovely’ if they went in fresh. Adam didn’t pretend to understand. 

 

He also didn’t pretend to understand what was going through Ronan’s brain. Ronan had been the one to say he should go for it, but, Ronan was also acting odd. He was refusing to kiss Adam, or to do anything except for hug Adam, because he felt weird about it with Adam going on a date

 

Adam kind of agreed. He wasn’t going to keep a side piece while he was dating anyone, not even just a fuck buddy side piece, but - 

 

But he wasn’t dating anyone. He was going on one date with a girl he’d met just the once, who was attractive, sure, but wasn’t - wasn’t - 

 

It was fine. 

 

Would be fine if Ronan wasn’t so mulish and grumpy as well. 

 

Was only bearable because Adam still got contact with him, still got to talk to him. It was just annoying, not the no ‘mucking about’ bit, but rather the whole ‘Ronan encouraged this date to happen, but he doesn’t even want to advise me on what fucking shirt to wear’ thing. 

 

-

 

“You’re looking good,” Ravi greeted him, closing their dorm door behind him as he came in while Adam was staring nervously at himself in the mirror. “What’s the occasion, dude?” 

 

“Um,” Adam said, brushed at his hair in an attempt to get one sticky up unruly curl to sit down. “Going on a date.” 

 

“Ooh,” Ravi said, flopping down on his bed and grabbing his phone out of his jeans backpocket. “An anniversary date? Taking him somewhere fancy?” 

 

“Um,” Adam said, blinked at Ravi through the mirror. “No. This is our first date?” 

 

“What?” Ravi sat up again, stared at Adam with his mouth open. “Fuck no, I could’ve sworn you and Ronan have been dating for ages!” 

 

“Ronan?” Adam repeated, something dark and grubby feeling clawing into his stomach. “He’s not my - we’re not - He’s a friend.” 

 

“Oh gods,” Ravi said, covered his mouth with his hand. “Shit. Did you guys break up? He was here just the other day though, wasn’t he? Oh man, but he did seem off. Shit, I’m sorry, dude!” 

 

“No,” Adam tried, wiped his suddenly sweaty hands down the front of his black jeans, cleared his throat. “We were never - we never did. We weren’t together, so we didn’t break up. I’m going out with this girl called Blue. She’s a humanities major? You might know her? Spiky hair?” 

 

Ravi took a few moments to recalibrate, his hand still on his mouth, and then he nodded. 

 

“Blue, yeah,” he said, “I know her. She’s cool.” 

 

“Yeah,” Adam mumbled, tugged at the neck of his sweater. “She’s cool.” 

 

“Uh,” Ravi said. “Sorry about the mix up? It’s just, y’know. I just thought -” 

 

“It’s all good,” Adam said, shoulders up high. 

 

“You just look at him like -” Ravi began again. 

 

“I gotta get going,” Adam sputtered out, “yeah. Uh. See you later, Rav.” 

 

“Okay,” Ravi said, “good luck, dude.” 

 

-

 

Blue Sargant was waiting when he got to the coffee shop that their so called friends had picked out for them. She was wearing what looked to be an old yellow raincoat that had been attacked with a hole punch and then threaded through with multi-colour ribbons. The sleeves had been cut off, and the ribbons dangled down her arms as well. She wore leggings underneath her… avant garde dress. Unicorn and corncob leggings, from what Adam could make out. 

 

“Hey,” he said, attempting to at least sound not awkward. 

 

She raised her eyebrows in a way which conveyed that she knew exactly how awkward he felt, and that she wasn’t going to do him the service of acting awkward as well. She did smile at him though. 

 

“Hey yourself,” she said, not hiding her own Virginian accent. “So, fuck Amika and Dicky boy, huh?” 

 

Adam shrugged. “Huh,” he said, “I hadn’t realised this was a planning meeting for our foursome with those two.” 

 

Blue eyed him up for a moment, then snorted in a decidedly horse like manner, punched him lightly on the arm, and nodded at the cafe. 

 

“Come on, then,” she said, “I’m hungry.” 

 

-

 

They sat by the window. Adam ordered just a coffee, Blue ordered a blueberry scone with yogurt. She did look very pretty in the afternoon light coming in through the window, and her outfit did suit her, despite its unavoidable oddness. 

 

They talked about the ocean, and about idiot landlords, and about the dirt, about their mutual friends, about rockclimbing, and museums, and libraries, and their favourite books, and sewing, and - 

 

And they hugged goodbye when they parted ways, two hours later, and it was a nice hug, and - 

 

And they both agreed that while sure, the initial attraction was there, they both just really wanted to be friends, and yeah, it was fun to meet one on one and get a chance to properly chat and get to know each other, but it shouldn’t have had to be a date , and wasn’t society weird? 

 

-

 

“Oh, Adam!” Gansey said when he opened the door to Adam’s second try knocking at the flat door. “Hello!”

 

“Hey Gans, Adam said, stepping in around Gansey and then away so Gansey could shut the door. He held his fist out for a bump, Gansey obliged. “How’re you doing?” 

 

“Fine, fine,” Gansey said, nodded. He appeared… distracted. “Oh! Your date was today, wasn’t it? How did it go?” 

 

“Oh yeah,” Adam nodded. “It went great.” 

 

“I’m so glad!” Gansey said, finally smiling properly. He squeezed Adam’s bicep. “When are you seeing each other again?” 

 

“Oh. I don’t know,” Adam shrugged, “we’re not gonna date. We’re just going to be friends.” 

 

“Oh,” Gansey said, his expression odd, “but it went...great?” 

 

“Yeah,” Adam nodded, “she’s cool.” 

 

“Just not your type?” 

 

“I don’t know, man,” Adam said, sighed, scratched his head. “Sometimes you just know it’s not right, y’know?” 

 

“I suppose,” Gansey nodded. “Well, would you like a coffee?” 

 

“Um,” Adam said, cricked his neck. “I was actually wondering if Ronan was in?” 

 

“Yes, well,” Gansey said, nodded once, twice. “He is, but he’s. Well. You know how he has… days.” 

 

Adam knew only a little bit what Gansey was talking about here. He knew there was something in Ronan’s life that Gansey and even Noah tiptoed around. He knew that there was something inside the deep well of Ronan that the something in Adam’s own deep well recognised and called out to in the same tone of grief. He knew that sometimes when he and Ronan were together Ronan wanted touch even more than Adam did. 

 

He didn’t know what Ronan’s… days consisted of. 

 

He nodded anyway. 

 

“I’m not sure what’s upset him,” Gansey confessed, like a scientist whose experiment has veered off his predicted path. “He won’t talk to me about it.” 

 

“Is he in his room?” Adam asked. 

 

“Yeah,” Gansey sighed. “It’d be nice if you’d go talk to him. But don’t be offended if he’s shitty to you. You know how he is.” 

 

Adam would like to know more about how he is. He nodded again. 

 

-

 

“Fuck off , Gansey,” Ronan grumbled when Adam knocked. Grumbled it again a little louder when Adam opened the door and stepped inside. 

 

The whole room smelled like cheap beer and the inside of a mouth. Adam did his best not to be a dramatic idiot and gag, and instead crossed the room to the window and shoved it all the way open. 

 

“The fuck are you doing here?” Ronan said, a sloppy lump of bedcovers on the corner of his mattress. 

 

“The fuck are you doing?” Adam said, breathing in the evening air carefully, willing the beer out of the corners of his mind. “What’s up with you?” 

 

“I’m a university student,” Ronan slurred, “this is what we do .” 

 

“I’ve never seen you drunk,” Adam shot back, “I’ve not even seen you tipsy.” 

 

“Well maybe you haven’t seen me enough!” Ronan shot back, huffed angrily, wriggled enough that he got his legs out of his blanket lump. “Why are you here?” 

 

Adam turned to lean against the windowsill, to take in the view of Ronan and his room, equally beer strewn. 

 

“I wanted to see you,” he said stiffly, “but I might have changed my mind now.” 

 

“What about Blue?” Ronan asking, seemingly not caring about Adam’s snippiness. “Aren’t you supposed to be on a date with her?” 

 

“I’ve been on it,” Adam said, shook his head. “What, I can’t do anything after a date?” 

 

Ronan shook his head too. “Just thought,” he said, “that you’d wanna. Y’know. Go back to hers.” 

 

Adam stared a little, and then grunted in irritation. “I’m not the type to even kiss on a first date.” 

 

“Just the type to give a handjob to a stranger,” Ronan agreed amicably. “Okay.” 

 

“Jesus,” Adam gritted out. “So what? Are you pissed that I’m not out fucking about with her?” 

 

“No!” Ronan snapped back. 

 

Maybe Adam should have gone home. 

 

“I wanted to see you,” Adam said, slow, dragging himself back to safer ground so he and Ronan wouldn’t get tangled up in the mess of drunken irritations. “Because I - Blue and I decided not to date. We wanna be friends. And I - fuck, Lynch. We haven’t kissed all week. I wanted to kiss you.” 

 

Ronan was silent for a few moments, and then he sniffed loudly. “So you get rejected and come to me?” 

 

Maybe Adam should just topple out the fucking window. He cleared his throat, gritted his teeth. 

 

“No, idiot,” he said, “it was a mutual decision. No rejection. I just thought - because we haven’t been because you didn’t wanna… I thought we could now. Now that I’m not even maybe going to be dating her.” 

 

Ronan swallowed audibly. 

 

“But anyway,” Adam continued, “I’m not kissing you right now, because you stink of beer, and I hate that. So. Get off your goddamned high horse, Lynch. I’m going home now.” 

 

He made it to the door before Ronan spoke. 

 

“Fuck,” Ronan grunted, a bit of a thump as he swung himself off of his bed. 

 

Adam turned around to watch him struggle his way out of his sheets, then stepped back to lean against the door as Ronan approached. Turned his head away to ward Ronan off of the idea of kissing him anyway. 

 

“I’m an asshole,” Ronan grumbled. “I’m not - I’m not pissed at you for anything. I’m just fucking pissed. I shouldn’t’ve fucking taken it out on you.” 

 

“Yeah,” Adam agreed, folded his arms. Tried not to think about how much bigger Ronan was than him, how much more volatile he might be with alcohol in his system. Didn’t want to think about Ronan like that at all. 

 

“I’ll go clean up,” Ronan said, his tone somewhere near pleading. “And then - will you stay?” 

 

“I’m still not going to kiss you,” Adam replied, kept his hands tight around his biceps as if that was an adequate shield against anything. “You’d still taste like beer, even under the toothpaste.” 

 

“Okay,” Ronan nodded, sniffed hard. “But will you stay anyway? We could get pizza?” 

 

Adam considered. Nodded. 

 

Ronan moved forwards a little, hesitated, then moved back a step. Waited for Adam to say… something? 

 

“I’ll go back out to the lounge,” Adam said. “I wanna chat with Gansey about uni anyway.” 

 

“Okay,” Ronan nodded. “I’ll be out soon.” 



-

 

“How did it go?” Ravi asked when Adam got back, ten past ten that night. “I’m guessing it went pretty damn good seeing as you’re only getting in right now!” 

 

“Um,” Adam said, tugged his jumper off by the neck and chucked it at his bed. “Yeah. It was fine.” 

 

“Just fine?” Ravi had been under his covers, headphones in, watching TV, but he appeared to pause his program now, and pulled both his ear buds out. “So what’s with the late hour?” 

 

“Blue’s real cool,” Adam mumbled, sat down on the edge of his bed to unlace his shoes. “But I just don’t - I don’t like her like that. And -” 

 

He exhaled heavily. Pulled one shoe off. 

 

Ravi sat and watched. 

 

“It’s just,” Adam mumbled. He had his hands on his other shoe’s laces, but couldn’t seem to make himself start undoing them. “How do I look at Ronan?” 

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until four weeks before his tenth birthday that Adam had really grasped the truth of how his parents treated him. It had been, up until then, an unspoken assumption that the majority of parents hit their children, locked them into small rooms, broke various bones that weren’t deemed necessary to do chores with. That children were expected to obey and respect their parents, no matter what, and to dutifully repay their existence. 

 

Well. 

 

Maybe he had known, somewhere inside him, that it was wrong , but it wasn’t something he acknowledged until they had a social worker come to his primary school to talk to his class about domestic abuse , and about what to do if you’re being domestically abused . Like he expected Adam, or someone else in the class, to just come right up to him and tell him that they were being abused at home, to lift their hand up and volunteer to spill their darkest secret, 

 

Maybe he had known before then, but maybe he had thought he had deserved it,, as well. That he at least should have to repay his parents for being such a huge disappointment. 

 

Anyway.

 

Even when he had a better understanding of what was happening to him, and how wrong it was, it wasn’t like he could do anything about it, not really. He couldn’t actually tell the social worker, he couldn’t tell his teachers, like the social worker suggested, he couldn’t go to the police. Knowing it didn’t change the facts, and the facts were that it was happening, and it wasn’t going to stop. 

 

So. 

 

This wasn’t really like this, not in any of the gritty details, or the overall horror, but it did feel like a rather massive undertaking of realisation. 

 

How he felt about Ronan. 

 

How he felt about Ronan was not how he felt about other people he was becoming friends with. Wasn’t how he felt about other people he found attractive. Wasn’t how he had thought the coiled heat in his stomach meant. 

 

But. 

 

It didn’t matter, did it? That he knew? 

 

He knew how he felt now, but that didn’t change anything except how he felt about it. So. No point it bringing it up. No point in changing how he treated Ronan, or their relationship, or anything. 

 

Just. 

 

Just an extra layer of heaviness inside him. An extra layer of want that he had to reconcile with not being met. 

 

He was good at wanting and not getting. 

 

He would be fine. 

 

-

 

“You see,” Amika said, very earnestly across the table the following Wednesday as they all sat around studying. “Gansey and I felt rather badly about forcing you two into a romantic interaction when neither of you really wanted it, and so we thought we could all go out for lunch together, our treat, as an apology.” 

 

Ronan was sitting to Adam’s left, his chin on his hand, his face unimpressed. Gansey was on Adam’s right, nodding along enthusiastically. 

 

“Uh,” Adam said, added a very careful fullstop to the end of the sentence he’d just been writing. “This sounds, um, a lot like an attempt to get us on a double date? If you and Gansey wanna go on a date, you can go without us?” 

 

“Oh, no!” Gansey said, as Amika faked gagging. 

 

Ronan laughed. 

 

“I’m with Lucera,” Amika said, “she’s in one of your chem classes? The hard one?” 

 

“Oh,” Adam said, “right.” 

 

“So?” Gansey tried. “How about it?” 

 

“Um,” Adam said, glancing sideways as Ronan started tapping his foot against the side of Adam’s shoe. “How about we make it more a group thing? So it doesn’t feel like a double date, You bring Lucera? We bring Ronan?” 

 

“Huh,” Amika said, “yeah, that could be nice. Now we just have to coordinate all of our schedules to find a time we’re all free.” 

 

-

 

The closest they could get was in a week and a half, which was ridiculous, but. It was fine. Adam was happy to go, yeah, but it wasn’t on the top of the list of things he wanted right now, so he wasn’t disappointed that it was so far away. He put it in his schedule, and moved on to the next thing. Which was. 

 

“Can I stay the night tonight?” Adam asked as Ronan parked them outside Adam’s barista job. 

 

Ronan wrenched the handbrake a little too hard, looked at Adam oddly. 

 

“Stay the night?” 

 

“Uh,” Adam backpedaled, “I mean. I don’t have to, obviously.” 

 

“Nah, nah,” Ronan said, rolled his eyes extravagantly so Adam could witness just how stupid Ronan thought Adam was right now. “You just. Haven’t. You’re fucking welcome to, dipshit.” 

 

“Okay then,” Adam shrugged, unbuckled himself. “I’ll come over after work?” 

 

“Okay,” Ronan said, then, “is this a - do you wanna - uh -” 

 

Adam waited. 

 

“We gonna fuck?” Ronan asked ungracefully. 

 

Adam paused, bit his lip. “That wasn’t why I was asking,” he said slowly. 

 

“But,” Ronan guessed, “you wouldn’t be against it?” 

 

“I wouldn’t be against it,” Adam agreed. “Do you want to? Fuck?” 

 

“Yeah,” Ronan said, cleared his throat. “I mean. Yeah.” 

 

“Let’s talk about it more tonight,” Adam said with a quick glance at his watch, “but we don’t gotta fuck, Lynch.” 

 

“Idiot,” Ronan retorted, “I know that.” 

 

“Okay,” Adam said, leaned in to kiss Ronan. “Bye.” 

 

-

 

He wondered, while he worked making coffees somewhat mindlessly, if fuckbuddies usually kissed each other as casually as he and Ronan did. If they were doing it all wrong. Neither of them had had any experience before this, so. They probably were doing something wrong. Adam was probably doing something wrong. 

 

Adam was definitely doing something wrong. 

 

Maybe he shouldn’t go to stay the night tonight. 

 

-



“Adam!” Gansey said, opening the door, his face far too surprised for someone who ought to have had at least three hours of prior warning. “Hello! I wasn’t expecting you.” 

 

“Hi man,” Adam said, steering as far away from awkward as possible. “Ronan didn’t tell you I was coming over?” 

 

“No,” Gansey said, moving to close the door behind Adam, “He didn’t, Ronan .” 

 

Ronan grunted from out of sight. 

 

“Um,” Adam said, nodded at Ronan as he walked in from the hall. “I’m staying the night.” 

 

“Huh,” Gansey said, “cool. To what do we owe the pleasure? And do you want to watch this nature documentary with me?” 

 

Ronan looked like he was going to jump in here, so Adam spoke quickly. 

 

“Ravi has someone over,” he said, shrugged, “um, and I’d like to watch with you, yeah, but I’m kinda tired.” 

 

“He’s crashing in my room,” Ronan said, as if he thought Gansey was about to hop in here and offer his own bed. “Don’t look so sad, dicky man, you’ll get to see him again in the morning.” 

 

“Well,” Gansey said, “you’re a good roommate, Adam.” 

 

“I don’t think not wanting to overhear Ravi having sex makes me the good roommate,” Adam said with a laugh, but knocked shoulders with Gansey in an imitation of a hug. “But thanks. G’night.” 

 

“Good night,” Gansey said. “Ronan? Are you going to be now too? You’re not going to keep Adam up, I hope?” 

 

“I can be quiet,” Ronan shot back. “Night, man.” 

 

-

 

Adam had expected to be pushed against the door as soon as they’d shut it behind them in the safety of Ronan’s bedroom, but instead Ronan crossed the room and shut the curtains slowly instead. 

 

Adam kicked his shoes off, waited for Ronan to turn around because he could only gather so much from the line of Ronan’s back. 

 

Ronan didn’t turn around before he spoke. 

 

“So,” he said, “you could’ve just said that Ravi was having someone over. Like. I don’t care if that’s why you’re here, but you could’ve said.” 

 

Oh. 

 

“No,” Adam said, pushed away from the door and crossed the floor between them quickly so he could press his palms to Ronan’s hips to turn him. “That’s not - Ravi isn’t having anyone over. Or. He might be now that he knows I’m gonna be out tonight, but he wasn’t before.” 

 

Ronan turned, but turned frowning. Adam expanded. 

 

“I wasn’t sure if Gansey would like, think it was weird for me to have a - a sleepover here. Without a reason. That’s why I told him the thing about Ravi. I didn’t tell it to you, because you know why I’m here.” 

 

Ronan scowled a little bit, but his shoulders softened, and he let Adam pull them together into a tight embrace. 

 

“I don’t like being out of the loop on the misinformation we’re spreading,” he grumbled, tilted his head to the side to allow Adam to kiss his neck. “But it was a good excuse. You’re good at lying, huh?” 

 

Adam did kind of think that he was pretty fucking great at lying, but… he didn’t want Ronan to think that. He pretended like he was ignoring what Ronan said about it. 

 

“What do you wanna do?” He asked instead, shifted his kissing slowly up Ronan’s neck and to just under his ear. 

 

“Ngh,” Ronan said, twisted his head back around so he could kiss Adam back. “I want you to take me to bed.” 

 

“Okay,” Adam said. 

 

He considered for a moment actually picking Ronan up and carrying him the few steps to the bed, however, his arms might be strong, but Ronan was still a mountain of muscle and bone, and he didn’t want to risk dropping him. He steered Ronan by the hips instead, his hands pushing at the top of Ronan’s sweatpants so he could get his hands onto skin. Crowded him over to the bed, pushed him down onto it, tugged Ronan’s sweatpants off in one (slightly jerky) movement. 

 

Ronan’s face was pink, and his neck was pink, and what Adam could see of chest around the rumpled line of his shirt was pink. He didn’t move, just lay there on the bed, knees up, watching Adam. 

 

“We gonna play this by ear?” Adam asked, unbuckled his belt, and then his slacks button. 

 

Ronan nodded. Adam pulled his pants off, chucked them in the direction of Ronan’s desk chair. He pulled his shirt and jersey as one off as well, and threw them after his pants before leaning forwards again to divest Ronan of the rest of his clothes. 

 

“Boxers,” Ronan grunted, when Adam crawled onto the bed between Ronan’s raised thighs. “Take ‘em off.” 

 

“In a minute,” Adam said, sparing a glance at his boxers before reaching for Ronan’s entirely bare hips. “I wanna - I wanna focus on you first.” 

 

“Jesus,” Ronan hissed. “Fuck, Adam.” 

 

“Is that what you want?” Adam asked, leaned over so their chests pressed together as they kissed. Drew back enough that he could see both of Ronan’s eyes, dark, flicking over his face. “Did you -” 

 

“I prepped for it,” Ronan muttered quickly, his face somehow pinkening even more. “Just in case. But. I don’t know.” 

 

“Okay,” Adam said, kissed Ronan again. 

 

He was perfectly happy to just stay like this; pressed against Ronan, feeling Ronan’s breath move them both, kissing him. But. He did want to do more, and he knew Ronan did too, and - 

 

Adam ,” Ronan whined, immeasurable moments later, the both of them panting in between kissed, Ronan wiggling a little under him. “Fucking touch me.” 

 

For no apparent reason, Adam felt a lot like this was the first night he’d pressed Ronan down on his bed. Like his hands were still clumsy over how to touch Ronan right, how to move. 

 

“How?” He asked, pressed a kiss to Ronan’s jaw, then to his cheek, then to his forehead. “How do you want me to touch you?” 

 

Shit ,” Ronan said, inhaled harshly. “I want - would you - can you -” 

 

Maybe it felt like beginning again for Ronan too. 

 

Though. Why would it. 

 

Adam pressed their cheeks together, breathed slowly, waited for Ronan to figure out how to say what he wanted without combusting with embarrassment or something. 

 

“I want you to finger me,” Ronan said, words all a rush, “I want it so bad - your hands are so - please.” 

 

The lube was still in the bedside table drawer, which was irritating, because that meant he had to get off of Ronan for a moment. He kissed Ronan’s cheek, peeled them apart, grabbed the lube, waited while Ronan shuffled further onto the bed, waited until Ronan’s breathing was a little steadier, and then got back into between Ronan’s knees. 

 

The pop of the lube lid was far too loud in the heavy silence between them, and so was the resulting slick noise of Adam squeezing probably a little bit too much onto his fingers. 

 

Adam had done this to himself. Once. He’d read about how to do it. He’d watched actors do it. 

 

“Have you done this before?” Adam asked, rubbed his thumb against Ronan’s perineum as he dipped his hand down. 

 

Ronan twitched against him, a full body twitch. Nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “A bit. I like it.” 

 

“Okay,” Adam said, glad that this wasn’t such foreign ground to the both of them at once. “Do you know how you like it?” 

 

“Fuck,” Ronan said, “God, Adam. Just - I don’t know - however you do it. I’ll like it. Okay?” 

 

Adam wasn’t sure if it was more or less embarrassing for Ronan if Adam was like, looking at him or looking at his asshole, but - but he kind of needed to be looking at what his hands were doing because he was somehow nervous about just… he didn’t know. Missing the hole altogether?? 

 

He pressed forwards first to kiss Ronan again, then settled back down, rubbed his non-lubey hand firmly against Ronan’s inner thigh. Then he thought to quickly grab a pillow to put under Ronan’s hips, so he did that, and he and Ronan worked together with minimum grunting to get it placed properly, and maybe Adam was dawdling, but only because he wanted this to be good for Ronan, and if it wasn’t, what was the point? 

 

Ronan’s knee knocked at his shoulder. 

 

“Get on with it,” Ronan said, soft, “you’re not gonna fucking disappoint me.” 

 

Adam didn’t want to know what his face had been doing for Ronan to know he needed encouragement. He leaned down, pressed a light kiss to Ronan’s hip, rubbed his thumb slowly down, just pressing gently against Ronan’s hole, which immediately tightened up like Ronan had tensed his entire body. 

 

“Sorry,” Ronan mumbled. “Lube’s colder on my asshole.” 

 

“Sorry,” Adam whispered back, bit down on a laugh. 

 

He moved very slowly, just stroking around for a while until Ronan’s body was lax under him, and his fingers felt like they had caught up on surface locations. Even with just this - just Adam doing the bare minimum of what Ronan had asked for - Ronan was still making bitten off, hushed noises. 

 

Emboldened by this, Adam sat back a little more so he could get a better view of what he was doing, turned his hand around, brushed his knuckles over Ronan, and then, curling the rest of his fingers towards his palm, pressed just the tip of his pointer finger in. 

 

Nothing happened, of course, except for Ronan exhaling loudly, so Adam pushed in further, letting the lube glide the way, but keeping his movement slow. Ronan might be confident in Adam’s abilities, but Adam had a whole basement full of stupid worries like, what if his finger suddenly had a spasm and he scratched Ronan? What if his fingernails suddenly grew? What if he hadn’t put enough lube on and his stupidly knobbly knuckles couldn’t get in? Or out?  

 

Adam exhaled slowly. He knew this particular basement of worries were stupid and unfounded, and he was doing just fine, even with the one finger, if Ronan’s sweaty and shaking thighs were anything to go from. 

 

He had read about how to find the prostate, because, of course. He had also read that it was a good idea to warm up to finding the prostate, so he spent nearly a full minute just moving his finger in and out of Ronan slowly until he felt certain Ronan felt comfortable with the finger inside him (or at least, not uncomfortable), and then he began his search. 

 

It turned out not to be a search at all, because apparently if you do tonnes of research on where to find a well known body part, it was very easy to pinpoint within a few seconds. He knew it wasn’t supposed to be, like, immediate oh my god amazing , like, you had to rub it for a bit first, so he was a little surprised when Ronan full body jerked as he pressed his fingertip against Ronan’s prostate. 

 

“Oh God ,” Ronan said, loud

 

“Shh, shh,” Adam hushed, rocking forwards so he could press a kiss to Ronan’s mouth as a means of quieting him. “Is that okay? Are you okay?”  

 

“This is fucking unfair,” Ronan moaned against Adam’s lips. “I’ve been fingering myself for fucking years and you do it for like two fucking minutes with one goddamned finger and I already wanna fucking just cum.” 

 

“Oh,” Adam said, emboldened much further than before. He moved his finger, trying to achieve the somewhat circular motion he’d read was best. “Oh, babe.” 

 

“Fuck,” Ronan replied. He had been lying with his arms behind his head, but now he brought them down so he could grip onto Adam, his fingers digging into Adam’s biceps. “Oh fuck, yeah, yeah.” 

 

“Yeah?” Adam repeated. He could feel sweat beading on his forehead, though not from exertion. “I’m not gonna judge you if you wanna cum right now.” 

 

“Fuck,” Ronan repeated. “Nah, nah. Shit, Adam. Put another finger in? I don’t wanna - shit man, don’t make me cum so quick.” 

 

“Sorry,” Adam said, the word caught in a huff of a repressed laugh. 

 

He pulled his finger out halfway, fumbled around for the lube bottle, added more to his curled up fingers, despite the fact that he was pretty sure he had enough. It was stupidly easy to put a second finger in, and his brain flashed several constructed images of Ronan fingering himself at his minds eye. 

 

“Okay?” Adam checked, two fingers in, but afraid to move them before Ronan had time to adjust. 

 

“Uh,” Ronan said, “fuck yes. Hurry up. Hurry up.” 

 

“Jeez,” Adam snorted, “didn’t you just tell me to slow down? C’mon man.” He began moving his fingers as he spoke, just testing movement first, and then curving up and aiming carefully. 

 

Ronan’s body felt electric, like Adam had plugged himself in and immediately hit a live wire and sparks were flying, and Ronan was vibrating, and - 

 

Adam really wanted to get a hand on himself, but honestly? Keeping both his hands on (and in) Ronan was just the better option by far, especially as Ronan’s own hands were grasping at him so tightly. 

 

Ronan was just saying his name, soft and quiet, on repeat, almost to the rhythm of Adam’s fingers in him. 



-

 

“Sorry,” Ronan mumbled, a good few minutes later, once Adam’s hand was wiped clean on a towel Ronan had half over his laundry basket, and had re-joined Ronan back on the bed. “I didn’t think I was gonna - I wasn’t expecting -” 

 

“It’s fine,” Adam snorted, shuffling himself up against Ronan’s side so he could kiss him, “it’s a pretty great compliment, honestly.” 

 

“That can’t have been your first time doing this,” Ronan mumbled back, “you were way too good.” 

 

“Beginners luck?” 

 

“Fuck me,” Ronan groaned, then, “actually, don’t, I think - I came so hard I think I split a fucking rib.” 

 

“Ouch.” 

 

“I’ll blow you?” 

 

“With a broken rip?” 

 

Ronan snorted, elbowed Adam, then flipped them over. 

 

“I’d blow you with a broken rib,” he said, finally pulled Adam’s boxers off. 

 

Chapter Text

This wasn’t the first time he’d woken up in Ronan’s arms, but it was the first time he’d woken up in Ronan’s arms at Ronan’s place, in a fucking nice bed, naked, with the security of a closed door. 

 

He liked how it didn’t matter how they went to sleep - backs together, Adam spooning Ronan, sprawled - they always woke up the same way. 

 

Ronan on his back, his arm outstretched, under Adam’s neck. Adam on his side, head on Ronan’s shoulder, arm holding tightly around Ronan’s waist. Ronan’s other arm looped over Adam’s back. 

 

It was just so - 

 

So secure. 

 

Also, Adam tended to hook his leg up to slot between Ronan’s thighs, which made it not only secure, but somewhat, uh, sexy. It probably had nothing to do with Adam being there, Ronan probably always woke up hard, but it was nice to wake up and think that at least some part of Ronan wanted him. 

 

When he opened his eyes that morning, Ronan was already looking at him through half open lashes. 

 

“Thought you were awake,” Ronan mumbled, grunted a little as Adam used Ronan’s stomach as leverage to push himself up more to Ronan’s level. “Hey.” 

 

“Hey,” Adam replied, kissed Ronan lightly, not wanting to share too much morning breath. “Sleep okay?” 

 

“Yeah,” Ronan said, followed Adam’s lips as Adam pulled his head back to lie it on the pillow. “Mm - you?” 

 

“Yeah,” Adam said, “I like your bed.” 

 

Ronan snorted, kissed him again. “Gee thanks, Parrish,” he said. 

 

Adam laughed, kissed him back. He felt suddenly very awake, and well rested, and needy. He fidgeted out of the sheets until he got his arms properly free, and then wrapped them around Ronan’s shoulders and rolled them until Ronan was on top of him, kissing all the while. 

 

He loved the weight of Ronan on him, heavy and solid, but not suffocating, just warm . Loved the feel of Ronan’s stubble brushing against his own lighter stubble as they deepened the kiss, throwing out any pretence of caring about gross breath. He loved the way Ronan didn’t treat him delicately, even despite all the evidence on Adam’s body showing he hadn’t been treated carefully so far. 

This wasn’t to say that Ronan was rough in the way he touched Adam, it was more that he was - he was gentle, but he was firm, too. He touched Adam like he meant it, like he knew him. 

 

According to the fact that Adam’s watch alarm hadn’t gone off yet, it was still some time before seven, and therefore, they had time to be indulging in Adam’s desire to be covered in each other. Ronan certainly didn’t appear to have any qualms about it, judging by the way he was rolling his hips against Adam’s, the way he was mouthing wetly and Adam’s jawline, his neck. 

 

Adam was the type of person (or at least he hoped he was), to considered that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing right, and therefore one ought to practice whenever one was given the opportunity.

 

This morning’s practice opportunity was Ronan’s ass, and the fact that they were disgusting and hadn’t showered the previous night, only wiped up with shoddy precision, and Adam, with his thigh pressed up between Ronan’s, could tell that Ronan was still… lubey. 

 

His hands abandoned their posts (one toying at Ronan’s nipple piercing, the other gripping him tight by the hip to help guide the rocking), grabbed a handful of Ronan’s ass each, and Ronan bit at Adam’s clavicle in response. 

 

“Can I finger you again?” Adam asked, tipping his head down awkwardly so he could peer at Ronan’s face. “Or are you sore?” 

 

“You can fucking finger me whenever you fucking want,” Ronan replied, lifting his head up just enough so that Adam could see his eyebrows were raised. “Fucking go for it .” 

 

Adam laughed, motioned with a quick nod of his head for Ronan to lean up a bit, and kissed him hard. 

 

“Okay,” he said. 

 

Ronan kissed him again, kept kissing him while Adam squeezed his ass cheeks, took a break from kissing to just press their foreheads together and breathe while Adam used one hand to hook Ronan’s leg up a bit higher, and his other to rub slowly down Ronan’s ass crack. 

 

“You’re so sensitive,” Adam mumbled, then hastened to add on to this because he knew if Ronan said this to him, he would probably hear it as a negative. “I like that.” 

 

“Shit yeah I know you like it, man,” Ronan groaned, rocking his hips hard against Adam’s. “I can fucking feel just how much you like it.” 

 

“Mm,” Adam acknowledged. 

 

He began rubbing three fingers up and over Ronan’s asshole, not pushing in, just - just teasing, almost, according to the way Ronan kept pushing his ass up against the fingers and grumbling a little against Adam’s cheek. 

 

“Shh,” Adam said, tipped his head sideways so he could kiss Ronan - things were just better when he could kiss Ronan. “I’m getting there.” 

 

“God damn ,” Ronan replied, “you’re always wanting me to be patient, but you know how hard it is to be patient when you touch me like that?” 

 

Everything Ronan was saying to him this morning was just turning Adam on way too much. He pushed two fingers into Ronan at once - not deep - just testing, and Ronan bit out a gasp, muffled himself by kissing Adam wetly. 

 

It was easier today to just start fucking Ronan just like that, without having to overthink every element of the process. Whether it was because he’d done it once so he knew he could do it, or because he had just woken up and hadn’t put on his anxiety hat yet, he didn’t know. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that it was so easy to pump his fingers into Ronan, to make Ronan let out a strangled noise, for Ronan to start thrusting himself back against Adam’s fingers like he was desperate for it. 

 

Maybe it was mean, but he kind of wanted Ronan to get exactly what he was given, right now, to let Adam decide the angle and the depth of it. He hooked his other hand around Ronan’s hip, held him tight enough to get the message through. 

 

Ronan stopped thrusting backwards, groaned loudly instead. 

 

“Let me?” Adam breathed. 

 

He knew he couldn’t hold Ronan down if Ronan didn’t want to. He knew if Ronan didn’t want to be held down and said so that Adam would let him go immediately. He knew Ronan wouldn’t let Adam make this bad for him. 

 

“Yeah,” Ronan huffed back, breathless. 

 

His eyes were so dark, pupils blown out like he’d been drugged, eyelids heavy. He leaned in to kiss Adam again, letting Adam be the one to rock his hips up against Ronan, to fuck his fingers down inside of Ronan, to hand out the sensation how he wanted it. 

 

Ronan wasn’t really kissing him anymore, just breathing against Adam’s lips, his every breath halting, his hips twitching constantly under Adam’s hand like it was just so hard to keep them still, but he wanted to anyway, because Adam had asked him to. 

 

Adam couldn’t figure out, at this exact moment, what he liked better. Ronan falling apart so easily under his hands, or Ronan obeying him so easily. Either way, he felt warm from the inside out, in love from the inside out, in control. 

 

“Jesus,” Ronan hissed, “oh God , oh - fuck - fuck - Adam,” his whole body was shaking. “ Please , shit!” 

 

“Shh,” Adam hushed again, tried to keep his rhythm up to get Ronan where he wanted to be. “I’ve got you darlin’.” 

 

Ronan came with a full body shudder, his hands gripping to Adam’s shoulders so tight Adam wouldn’t be surprised if they bit through flesh. 

 

Patience spent almost entirely, Adam rolled them over again until he was straddling Ronan, and took his own dick in hand, finally - finally - and started to jerk himself off. It wasn’t going to take long, the whole finger fucking Ronan thing really, really turned him on apparently, and that with the grinding was just - 

 

Ronan rocked his hips up against Adam’s, like a very tired attempt at helping out, and then reached out to take Adam’s left hand in his. For a moment Adam though he was about to be very sweet, and just hold Adam’s hand through his orgasm, and then Ronan instead began sucking on Adam’s fingers and Adam dick just almost fucking left town. 

 

“Fuck, Ro,” Adam got out, loosened his hand a little so Ronan could suck them further into his mouth. “Ah - Oh - fuck -” 

 

-

 

Youve ruined me 4 my own fuckn fngrs prsh Ronan texted him that evening, after Adam had finished work and gone home to his single bed and shared bedroom. Im nvr gnna b able 2 jrk off w/out thnkn abt u

 

Adam would be lying if he tried to say that that didn’t make him pleased, didn’t make him selfishly happy. 

 

I’ll just have to come over and give u a hand again soon he texted Ronan back. I’m free tomorrow evening

 

-

 

Tomorrow afternoon was when Adam saw Ronan next, and Ronan wasn’t in as good a mood as their planned evening seemed to suggest he ought to be. In fact. He was in a horrendous mood. 

 

“Uh,” Adam said, sliding onto the picnic table next to Gansey just outside the uni cafe. “He good?” 

 

“Hm,” Gansey said, also surveying Ronan. 

 

Ronan was sprawled out across the entire other side of the table, taking up the whole bench with his gloom. His hoodie was on, hood up. Headphones on. Music audible even from across the table and through the general clamour of the area. 

 

“Should I poke him?” Adam suggested, putting his still wrapped sandwich down on the table along with his bottle of juice. “Or is he stewing?” 

 

“His brother’s visiting tonight,” Gansey said, a little mournful, “so poking may be met by having your finger being bitten off, I’m afraid.” 

 

“Oh,” Adam said, because maybe he knew more than Gansey now why Ronan was so annoyed. If Ronan’s brother was coming over tonight, then Ronan wasn’t going to get poked tonight. 

 

“You know how tenuous his and Declan’s relationship is,” Gansey sighed. “He just always feels like Declan comes to see him only to provoke him, and sometimes I think he might be right.” 

 

Maybe Adam didn’t know more than Gansey. Ronan hadn’t told him anything about Declan. He’d only ever heard about Matthew, Ronan’s younger brother who could apparently do no wrong unless it was calling Ronan at three AM to ask for advice on hair gel. 

 

“Hm,” he said, trying not to give away how little he actually knew about Ronan. 

 

Trying not to feel, maybe, hurt that he didn’t know this about Ronan. What did he know about Ronan? How to make him laugh? How to make him cum? Nothing about his past that Gansey often alluded to with solemn tones. 

 

Ronan sat up suddenly, yanked his headphone off roughly. Glared across the table at the two of them. 

 

“What the fuck,” he said. “Why didn’t you fucking tell me you’d arrived, Parrish?” 

 

“Sorry,” Adam snorted, “didn’t think you wanted to be disturbed.” 

 

“I’m already disturbed,” Ronan retorted, then, “hey. Come with me to my studio for a bit? I wanna show you some shit.” 

 

“Oh, Lynch,” Gansey said, “Adam’s just got here! Let him eat lunch first.” 

 

“No, it’s fine,” Adam said quickly, snatched his sandwich back up. “Okay. Let’s go.” 

 

“What shit do you need to show him?” Gansey asked while Ronan stood up, grabbing his bag from the ground as he did. 

 

“Y’know,” Ronan grunted, “shit.” 

 

Gansey frowned, but then the moment was saved by the Cheng. 

 

“These two leaving?” Henry asked, suddenly appearing from behind Ronan, “Mind if I sit here and chat with you Gansey my man? I want your take on this student poll I’m sending out.” 

 

“Sure,” Gansey said, “I’d love to help.” 

 

-

 

“So,” Ronan grunted as they walked in the direction of the art department. “Can’t do tonight.” 

 

“Yeah,” Adam said, elbowed Ronan. “Gansey told me your brother is coming over. Declan?” 

 

“Uh-huh,” Ronan said, huffed out discontent. “He’s a shithead.” 

 

“I haven’t heard of him before,” Adam replied, doing his best not to sound blamey. 

 

“We’re not on the best terms at the moment,” Ronan muttered. “He’s all fucking - fucking smug about me being at uni.” 

 

“Okay?” 

 

Ronan stopped suddenly, quick enough that Adam had to backtrack a little to come back to him. 

 

“What?” Adam asked, brushed his hand against Ronan’s, hanging by his side. “You good?” 

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Ronan mumbled, as if he hadn’t just come to a full halt in the middle of a heavy stride, his face downturned. “Just. I know I’ve not told you a lot about my family.” 

 

“You’ve told me a lot about Matthew,” Adam offered, “and the cookies your mum makes.” 

 

“Made,” Ronan mumbled, shrugged one shoulder, dropped it low. “But I - shit, man. You’re one of my best friends. I feel like a shithole you not knowing this stuff about me.” 

 

Adam paused for a moment, tried to even out his thoughts. 

 

“You don’t have to tell me anything you’re not ready to,” he said eventually, threw caution to the wind and took Ronan’s hand in his. “Sometimes things are hard to say, even to best friends.” 

 

Ronan mimicked his words back at him half heartedly, like he was attempting to use sarcasm as a coping mechanism, but couldn’t quite put his soul into it. Adam rolled his eyes, squeezed Ronan’s hand. 

 

“Let’s keep going,” Ronan mumbled to the ground. “To my studio. I do wanna tell you some shit.” 

 

“Okay,” Adam said. Ronan hadn’t let go of his hand yet, so neither did Adam. “Lead the way.” 

 

-

 

Ronan’s studio was shared by one of his classmates, someone Adam had met a handful of times, and each time she had had different coloured hair. She wasn’t in the studio, which was good, because the little couch in their shared space belonged to her, and as she wasn’t here, he and Ronan got to sit in it. 

 

“I know Gansey runs his mouth sometimes. About it.” Ronan said to their joined hands between them. “So I know you know something happened, but you don’t know what.” 

 

Adam shrugged. 

 

“Gansey thinks you know,” Ronan said, not a question. 

 

Adam nodded anyway. 

 

“Because he knows I trust you,” Ronan mumbled, “so he assumes I would have told you this already.” 

 

This wasn’t something Ronan wanted a reply to really, so Adam didn’t offer one, just tightened his grip on Ronan’s hand. 

 

“It’s a long story,” Ronan mumbled, “and it involves me being a fuck up, like, so much.” 

 

“Okay,” Adam said. 

 

“And I just,” Ronan swallowed hard, cleared his throat, finally looked up at Adam. “I just want you to still - to see me as me first, and not my past.” 

 

“Hey,” Adam said. “Shit, Lynch, hey.” He lifted his other hand to cup Ronan’s cheek, wiped the single errant tear off of Ronan’s face with his thumb. “I see you , okay? I promise.” 

 

Ronan cleared his throat again, reached up and took Adam’s hand from his cheek, lowered it to his lap so they were holding both of each others hands, like they were about to start an odd sitting down dance. 

 

“Okay,” Ronan said, slow. “Um. I guess it starts when - uh. When I was sixteen, I found my dad’s murdered corpse in our driveway.” 

Chapter Text

Adam had no idea how he had gotten into this situation. This situation being at dinner in a far too expensive restaurant, sitting opposite Ronan’s older brother. 

 

Well. No. He knew exactly how he had gotten here, Ronan had asked him to come, and Adam had kissed Ronan’s cheeks which were still pink from crying , and Adam had said yes, of course. 

 

He didn’t know how he had come to be someone who would be asked to provide comfort with just his presence. 

 

“So,” Declan said, after they’d been seated and had greeted each other, and then sat in very uncomfortable silence for a full minute. “Gansey couldn’t come?” 

 

“You didn’t invite Gansey,” Ronan pointed out, his eyes very firmly on the menu he was holding right in front of his face with white knuckles. “But no. He had a family phone call.” 

 

“I suppose his mother is wanting him to help her out with her campaign?” Declan asked, tapped the top of Ronan’s menu. 

 

Ronan didn’t lower it. Grunted. Declan turned his attention to Adam. 

 

“Adam,” he said, “what did you say you last name was?” 

 

Adam hadn’t said what his last name was. He bit down the comment wanting to come out of him about how his last name wouldn’t help Declan place him because he wasn’t actually from a rich family. 

 

“Parrish,” he said firmly, smiled tightly. He still didn’t know that much about Declan, even after hearing so much of Ronan’s backstory just his afternoon, but he knew enough that he was cautious. “I’m studying bio med. I met Ronan through Gansey because he and I share a sociology paper.” 

 

“Hm,” Declan said, “you’re friends with Richard too, then?” 

 

Friends enough that he knew Gansey hated to be called Richard. He nodded. 

 

“Stop trying to vet him,” Ronan grunted from behind his menu still. “You don’t have to fucking try and dig up dirt on all my fucking friends.” 

 

“I don’t,” Declan agreed. “Just the boyfriends.” 

 

Adam looked sharply at Ronan, Ronan glared harder at his menu, the tips of his ears red like he was angry. 

 

“And yes,” Declan continued, as casual as he was remarking on the weather, “I know you’re gay, so we don’t need to get into that.” 

 

“Get into that?” Ronan spat, finally lowered his menu so he could glare at Declan instead. “Oh, would it be just so uncomfortable for you to have to talk about gay things?” 

 

“No,” Declan said stiffly, “I had thought it would be difficult for you to. All I’m saying is that you don’t need to try and hide that part of yourself.” 

 

“I never tried,” Ronan hissed.

 

Adam shifted his hand from his own knee under the table to Ronan’s, squeezed gently. 

 

“You’re gay?” he said, his best obviously faux shock voice on, “Oh my god , Ronan, why didn’ you say anythin’?”

 

Both the Lynch brothers turned slowly to look at him, their faces wearing matching surprise, and then Ronan snorted loudly and started to cackle. 

 

“Fuck, Parrish,” Ronan said in between laughs, “you’re such a fucker.” 

 

Declan had allowed a smirk, but resumed to a rather bland expression quickly. 

 

“How long have you two been dating?” Declan asked, once Ronan had regained a little bit of sobriety, his laughter more heavy breathing. 

 

“Um,” Ronan said, then threw a glance at Adam that Adam could only read as pleading. 

 

“Just over three months,” Adam told Declan, letting Ronan take his hand from his knee and hold tightly onto it. “So, not very long, but.” 

 

“Longer than Declan ever stays with anyone,” Ronan chipped in. 

 

Declan appeared to ignore this comment above the table, but Adam was pretty sure from Ronan’s slight jerk, that Declan had kicked him under the table. 

 

“That’s quite a while for a university relationship,” Declan said to Adam, “especially when you’re in different majors. Ronan doing art doesn’t bother you, then?” 

 

“No,” Adam said with a frown. “He makes beautiful work, and he doesn’t try and talk to me about formulas and equations in bed.” 

 

Now Declan actually laughed. So did Ronan. 

 

“Alright,” Declan said, “well. Shall we look at the menus properly so we can order?” 

 

“I want the burger,” Ronan said, because apparently during his glaring at his menu and ignoring Declan time he had actually been reading the menu. “With the beetroot salad. And a b- uh - a ginger beer.” 

 

Adam wasn’t sure if - if Ronan opting for not a ‘beer’ was because he had gathered from the last time he’d drunk that Adam didn’t like the taste of it, or if it was because he didn’t think Declan would approve. He doubted Ronan was trying to get Declan’s approval over this, though. 

 

They all ordered, Ronan adding a double order of fries as well for no apparent reason, Declan also opting for the non-alcoholic route. Adam got the chicken salad and an orange juice. 

 

While they waited for their food to arrive, Declan dug further into Adam, asking him about his major, and what got him into it, and what he thought of his lecturers, etc. This was fine because Adam was and always had been good at talking about his academic life, and especially when it was about university because then he didn’t even have to mention that he went to a craphole high school. Ronan seemed happy enough to not join in much of the conversation, just slouching there in his chair, clinging to Adam’s hand like it was the only thing keeping him at the table, doodling on his napkin with a pen he’d produced from his pocket. 



It wasn’t until after their food had arrived and Adam had realised Ronan had bought the double fries so he could give them to Adam, that Declan asked a question that hit a tender spot for Adam. 

 

“And what about your parents?” Declan asked, happily oblivious as he persuaded his forkful of lettuce to go into his mouth without smearing balsamic on his face. “What do they do? Are they in the area?” 

 

Adam didn’t want to talk about his parents, but more so, he didn’t want to say anything about his parents to Ronan’s brother when he hadn’t said anything about them to Ronan

 

“They’re still in Virginia,” Adam said, tried to say it with as much finality as he could without coming off rude. “How’s your quinoa?” 

 

Ronan was still holding his hand, which was a little unhelpful for eating, but good because it meant that Ronan could squeeze his hand now, immediately, and Adam appreciated that. 

 

The conversation then slunk into the territory of, and how’s uni going for Ronan

 

“Fucking fine,” Ronan said through a mouthful of burger, “I’m fucking acing it.” 

 

“Well good,” Declan said, leaning back a little to avoid a piece of flying tomato from Ronan’s mouth. “Have you given anymore thought to switching your major? I suggested architecture earlier, surely -” 

 

“Oh fuck off,” Ronan groaned, finally swallowed instead of spraying Declan with more mostly chewed burger. “I’m not fucking changing what I’m studying. The fucking deal was that I get a degree, not that I get a degree that you want.” 

 

“I’m just trying to think about your future,” Declan replied sternly, “like you ought to be doing. Finding work as an artist is hard enough without having you dislike of social situations.” 

 

“Good thing our parents died and left us with a hefty inheritance, then, huh?” Ronan grunted back. 

 

Adam squeezed Ronan’s hand this time. Declan exhaled loudly through his mouth. 

 

“You weren’t left the money to just spend ,” he gritted out, “you ought to make use of it by letting it build you up further.” 

 

“Money’s for spending,” Ronan said, stuck a fry in his mouth, “and I have enough to spend what I like.” 

 

“Oh?” Declan raised his eyebrows, stole a fry from Ronan. “And what happens if you over spend and run out? You’ll fall back on your ass? Gansey will support you?” 

 

“I plan on getting a well paying job,” Adam cut in here, lightly. “By the time he’s spent all his money, I ought to have enough to support him.” 

 

Again, both the Lynchs looked at him with some sort of surprise. This time Ronan just leaned right in and kissed Adam right on the mouth, right in the middle of a restaurant. 



-



“Thanks,” Ronan said, an hour and a half later when they were finally free from the inquisition, and Ronan was driving Adam back to his. “And - uh - sorry about the - I wasn’t expecting him to think we were dating, and I know I ought to have just said we weren’t, but it felt -” 

 

“Like it’d be awkward to say we weren’t?” Adam suggested. “Yeah. I know. It’s all good.” 

 

“Hm,” Ronan hummed in agreement, glanced at Adam as he paused at an intersection, and cleared his throat. “I’ve been thinking,” he said. 

 

“Dangerous,” Adam commented. 

 

“Shut up,” Ronan snorted. “Just. Fuck - actually nevermind.” 

 

“What?” Adam said, frowned, reached over to flick Ronan’s cheek. “You can’t just nevermind me.” 

 

“I can,” Ronan shot back, did a stupid little wiggle dance in his seat. “And I did.” 

 

“Rude,” Adam said. “But also, I’ve been thinking too.” 

 

“Dangerous,” Ronan mocked him. 

 

Adam flipped him off, continued. “Is Declan going to mention any of this to Gansey? Or Matthew? Will other people think we’re dating?” 

 

“Oh,” Ronan said, “uh. I don’t think he’ll tell Gansey. He might tell Matthew, but I doubt Matthew would tell anyone else. Do you want me to… to text him and tell him not to tell anyone?” 

 

“No,” Adam shook his head, “that would be suspicious, wouldn’t it. I don’t mind people - I don’t - I just don’t want you to be in a sticky spot.” 

 

“I quite like being in this sticky spot,” Ronan replied immediately. Pulled up outside Adam’s building. “And I revoke my nevermind.” 

 

“What?” Adam snorted, undid his seatbelt. “Jesus, Lynch, you’re really all over the place tonight.” 

 

Now Ronan flipped him off, undid his seatbelt as well. Took some time in continuing. Didn’t speak at all until Adam softened and reached over to take Ronan’s hand in his, to run his thumb over Ronan’s knuckles gently. 

 

“When you said,” Ronan said, voice surprisingly hoarse all of a sudden. “That you’d be able to - that you’d support me. Um. Was that you just building our relationship thing for Declan, or was that - was it the truth?” 

 

Adam took a moment, because he didn’t normally just say the kind of things he’d said tonight, especially no so casually, but. He had. 

 

“Yeah,” he said. “Not that I think you will spend all your money and need support, but -” 

 

Ronan shook his head, cleared his throat. “I meant,” he said. “I meant - did you mean it about being there, still, with me?” 

 

Adam had to take another moment, because, yes, obviously he meant that, but - 

 

Yes. He meant that. But - 

 

He meant that. 

 

“Yeah,” he said. 

 

Ronan swallowed, his adam’s apple bobbing drastically. “Adam,” he said, low, “I need - I feel like every day I spend with you I peel my fucking - my fucking heart open more for you to see, and I - fuck.” 

 

Adam waited. His hand was sweaty, or Ronan’s hand was sweaty. 

 

“I really liked it when you told Declan we were together,” Ronan mumbled. “I liked it a lot.” 

 

It would be so much - so much - easier, if Ronan would just say it. So that Adam could have that security. So he wouldn’t have to jump, but - 

 

But he was good at jumping, always had been. 

 

“Okay,” he said, squeezed Ronan’s hand. “So. Why aren’t we, then?” 

 

“What?” Ronan asked, lifting his head to stare at Adam. “Why aren’t we what?” 

 

Adam rolled his eyes, fought the self defense/destruct part of his brain that was trying to pull his hand back. “Why aren’t you my boyfriend?” Adam asked, voice too loud to compensate for his nerves. “Why aren’t we dating? I don’t wanna date anyone else.” 

 

“Thank God ,” Ronan groaned, suddenly pitched forwards like he’d been pushed and pressed his face against Adam’s shoulder. “I fucking thought I was - shit - I thought I was doomed to be in - fuck - thank God.” 

 

“Jesus, Ro,” Adam mumbled, wrapping his arms around Ronan’s waist and attempting to keep them from toppling backwards and painfully into the car door. “Why didn’t you say something earlier?” 

 

Ronan snorted loudly in Adam’s ear. “Fuck,” he said, “and face losing you?” 

 

“You just faced it now,” Adam reminded him, turning his head so he was speaking practically into Ronan’s scalp. 

 

“Yeah,” Ronan grunted, apparently perfectly happy to keep leaning over the gear stick for this hug. “Because I realised that I wanted this too much. After you said those things to Dec? I couldn’t keep doing this and now having you.” 

 

Adam wished he had this bravery. 

 

“Anyway,” Ronan continued, pushed himself up and away a little bit to grin at Adam. “You wanna fucking date me? So why didn’t you say anything?” 

 

Adam swallowed, looked away from Ronan’s face. 

 

“Hey,” Ronan said, then softer, “hey?” He reached for Adam’s face, didn’t tilt it back up to look at him, just cupped his cheek. “What?” 

 

“I didn’t say anything,” Adam mumbled, “because - because - you know me so well, Ronan. And if you - if you got any closer I’d have to show you who I am. And I was scared of that.” 

 

“Show me who you are?” Ronan repeated, confused. “Why? Are you secretly a witch? A god?” 

 

Adam snorted, shook his head, let Ronan’s warm hand persuade him to lift his head and look at him again. 

 

“Show you my roots,” Adam clarified. “My DNA. The reasons you’re gonna wanna break up with me.” 

 

Ronan scowled. 

 

“Fuck, man,” he said, “you think science is gonna trick me into breaking up with the fucking hottest guy I’ve seen?” 

 

Adam shrugged, was slightly pleased at how light Ronan’s tone was, like he knew this was a heavy topic for Adam, but he was willing to keep it up a little so Adam wouldn’t get squashed under it. 

 

“I’ve told you about my shit,” Ronan said, voice gentle, “and you stuck to me. What makes you think I won’t do the same?” 

 

“It’s not like that,” Adam protested. “It’s not - I’m not saying I have a bigger sob story than you, I don’t, I’m just - it’s different. I’m… I’m damaged.” 

 

“I know you’re half deaf,” Ronan pointed out, “and that you like coffee way too much for any sane person.” 

 

“Can you drive me to yours?” Adam asked, “I don’t wanna talk about this in front of Ravi.” 

 

Ronan looked at him for a long moment, and then; “Okay, so. We’re dating?” 

 

“Mm,” Adam said. 

 

“And we’re going to my house so you can tell me something about you that you think will mean I’m gonna wanna break up with you.” 

 

Adam nodded. 

 

“I don’t think I’m gonna wanna do that, so, you’ve gotta promise me that you won’t do it on my behalf.” 

 

“What?” 

 

“I mean,” Ronan gritted out. “I mean you can’t tell me whatever shitty thing it you’ve been carrying around hurting yourself with, and then break up with me because you think you’re bad for me.” 

 

“I’m not gonna do that,” Adam said. “If I was gonna, I wouldn’t have said yes to the dating.” 

 

“But,” Ronan countered, “you said yes even though you thought it wouldn’t last because I would dump you!” 

 

“I know!” Adam threw his hands up in the air, and then wrapped his arms around himself quickly, squeezed his biceps. “I just - I wanted it so much I didn’t care if it was only for a moment.” 

 

“Idiot,” Ronan said, not cruelly. “Look. If this scares you so much? You don’t have to tell me shit.” 

 

“I do,” Adam said. “You’ve told me - you told me shit that scared you to tell me. I wanna tell yout his too. And I wanna be with you… clean.” 

 

“Clean?” 

 

“Stop repeating shit I say,” Adam mumbled, but nodded. “Can we please go to yours?” 

 

“Okay,” Ronan said. “Can we kiss a bit first?” 

Chapter Text

“You can’t tell Gansey yet,” Adam mumbled as they stood in the lift going up to Ronan’s flat. “In case.” 

 

“Damn, Parrish,” Ronan sighed, not letting go of Adam’s hand. “You really think I’m just gonna dump you like that, huh?” 

 

Adam shrugged. 

 

“There’s like, maybe three things you could say that would be dealbreakers for me right now,” Ronan said, “and I really don’t think you’re going to say any of them.” 

 

Adam shrugged again. “Just,” he said. “Can we not tell Gansey until after we know for sure?” 

 

Ronan sighed again, nodded. The lift beeped, and they got out. 



Gansey was on the phone still when they got in, and he waved mournfully at them from on the couch. 

 

“Sucker,” Ronan said, just loud enough for Gansey to hear and glare at him for, and then lead the way to his room. 

 

Adam locked the door behind them. Just in case. Shrugged off his jacket, folded it over the back of Ronan’s desk chair. Perched on the edge of the chair and stared at his feet. 

 

“Adam,” Ronan said, “c’mon. Whatever it is you’ve gotta tell me isn’t gonna be as shitty and life changing as you think it is.” 

 

 

 

The thing was, really, was that despite the fact that Ronan had gone through so much grief and hardship, he had a defence to keep him mostly protected that Adam never had. Ronan had been born into a family who loved him and wanted him, and let him know that. He’d grown up loved, and fed, and warm, and hugged. He had never had to fight to be educated, or to be sated, or comforted. Even now, with both his parents dead and with the feud he and Declan were constantly fanning, even now, he was surrounded by love. Gansey loved him, Noah loved him. Matthew loved him, Declan certainly loved him as well even if it was in that annoying older sibling sort of way. 

 

 

 

“I’m scared,” Adam mumbled, “that I might not be capable of… of love.” 

 

It had sounded stupid in his head, and it sounded even more stupid out loud and sitting in Ronan’s bedroom carving out a heavy silence. 

 

Ronan sat down on his bed, didn’t speak, just looked at Adam. 

 

Adam supposed he really did need to follow this up with some - some facts. Some supporting evidence. So it didn’t just sound like he was stringing Ronan along. 

 

“I know you’ve seen all my - my - uh - scars,” Adam said, did his very best to look at Ronan, but could only raise his gaze as high as Ronan’s chest. “And like, I think it’s pretty obvious from the way I look that I wasn’t… nurtured very well as a child.” 

 

Ronan still didn’t say anything. Adam wasn’t sure if he was pleased Ronan was just letting him talk, or if he wished Ronan would chip in here and say that Adam was attractive, or he hadn’t noticed the scars, or, whatever. He would accept what he got. 

 

“I lost my hearing when my father hit me and knocked me down our front stairs,” Adam said in a rush to Ronan’s left shoulder. “That was the last straw for me. I didn’t think I’d survive to leave them if I didn’t leave right then. I got - I got emancipated a few months before my seventeenth birthday. They weren’t happy about it, but I - it was the only option.” 

 

He heard Ronan inhale like he was about to say something now, and suddenly couldn’t bear for Ronan to interrupt. If Ronan spoke right now Adam wasn’t sure he could keep going, could keep himself stable to keep speaking. He hurried on. 

 

“It was always like that. It was just sometimes I got lucky, and didn’t injure something important. He was always - whenever he was angry, or sad, or frustrated, it was my fault, and he’d take it out on me, and -” 

 

He breathed out hard. Dropped his gaze back down to his feet. 

 

“So,” he said, firm. “I never - I’m sorry this is so fragmented - I just - shit.” 

 

Another heavy exhale. 

 

“They - my parents - discouraged me from making friends. From being around people when I wasn’t at work or school. I’ve always - always believed what they said. That I make people angry, or uncomfortable. I don’t - ugh. I’ve told you that you’re my first friend, and you are, but you’re my first - shit, Ronan. The last person I actually hugged before you was my primary school teacher.” 

 

Ronan stood up suddenly, and then, just as suddenly, was down on his knees by Adam’s feet, appearing in Adam’s line of vision. Taking Adam’s hand carefully in his. 

 

“Adam,” he said, voice rough. “Adam, I’m so sorry” 

 

Adam closed his eyes. He was pretty sure he still had a lot to say, and if he kept looking at Ronan looking at him the way he was, he was just going to cry, and cry, and cry and not stop, ever. 

 

“I didn’t know I could feel so much for another person,” Adam continued on, stumbling, hands shaking a little in Ronan’s grip. “I didn’t know I could have so many friends. I didn’t - I don’t know how far my brain will let me go. If I never had love as a child, what if it’s just not in my - not in my code? What if I have no instinct for it?” 

 

“Love can be taught,” Ronan said, as quickly as if the words had been on the tip of his tongue all this time. “You’re great at learning. Love can be studied and understood, and learned. But you don’t need to go fucking find a class on love, because I already know you can love.” 

 

Adam sniffed, stared at his and Ronan’s hands. 

 

“There’s no way you’d hang out with me and Gansey if you didn’t love Gansey,” Ronan said, tone excessively solemn. “You’ve got to love someone to put up with 24/7 nerd-assery.” 

 

Adam snorted despite himself, accidentally turned the breath after the snort into a sob. 

 

“You don’t get it ,” he sobbed, let Ronan - shifting up on his knees - pull him so they were chest to chest, so Adam could rest his face against Ronan’s neck. “It’s not just - fuck Ro, it’s not just that.” 

 

“Tell me,” Ronan suggested, his arms firm around Adam’s waist, one hand gentle against his nape. 

 

“They made me,” Adam managed to get out in between difficult breaths, “I’m their child. They didn’t teach me love, but they taught me - they taught me how to be angry. How to hurt people. How to only care about myself. I don’t want - I don’t want to hurt you!” 

 

Ronan was quiet again for a short while, just rubbing gently at the small of Adam’s back, the knot under his nape. 

 

“Then don’t,” he said, as if it were that simple. “If you don’t want to hurt me, then you don’t have to hurt me.” 

 

“I’d never intentionally,” Adam gasped, the mere thought - the quick slapdash imagination of himself hitting Ronan punched him straight in the brain - made him almost nauseas. “But I - what if I’m too selfish? What if I can’t give you enough? What if I only focus on my studies and you feel neglected? What if we got married and you ended up resenting me? If we had a child and I was too scared to give them affection? What if -” 

 

“Adam,” Ronan said firmly, very carefully stemming Adam’s flood of words. “Hey. One step at a time, okay? Shit. Listen. You’re independent as fuck, and you’re focused, and you’re ambitious. None of that means you’re selfish. Sure, you’re doing your best to look the fuck after yourself, which you really should be because God damn it sounds like you deserve to be looked after, but -. You look after me. You always bring me those cookies I like, you remember how I like my mocha, you listen to me when I ramble on about art shit, and actually hear what I say. Shit, babe. You’re just - you came and met my brother , and held my hand, and looked after me. You don’t gotta worry about not giving me enough, because just having you in the same room as me fills me up.” 

 

It took a while for all of this to seep in and then be processed, during which Adam kept his face pressed against Ronan’s now wet neck, evened out his breathing, held tight. 

 

“What if it’s in my blood?” Adam whispered. “And I can’t avoid ending up like them?” 

 

“Then you bio med some cure,” Ronan replied. “You’re the one studying to be a mad scientist, you can figure that part out. But - listen, dipshit; I’ve met selfish assholes, and abusive shitheads, and you’re not one of them. You’re definitely not charming enough to be one pretending not to be either. You’re awkward, and you’re weird, and you’re real, and I love every part of you for that.” 

 

Adam stopped breathing for a moment, then exhaled everything in his body and pushed himself back so he could sit up and look at Ronan. 

 

“What?” he asked. 

 

“You’re weird?” Ronan replied, eyebrows up, cheeks bright pink. 

 

“Ronan,” Adam said, “please.” 

 

Ronan’s whole face was pink now. 

 

“I love you,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s too soon, I don’t care that we literally just started dating today . I love you, and I want you to know. I want you to know that you fucking deserve love. And not just mine, but Gansey’s, and all the other nerd friends you’re gonna make, and any children you might have in the future. You fucking deserve love, and you’ve got love.” 

 

Adam didn’t even really care that he was still crying. He felt like he had been stuck in a greenhouse and was suddenly blooming in the heat of it. 

 

“Adam,” Ronan said when Adam didn’t respond. He leaned forwards so he could press their foreheads together, so he could cup Adam’s cheeks. “Adam. You gotta know by now that I don’t like people easy. I certainly don’t love people easy. I fucking liked you from the moment I fucking saw you the first day you came to study group. You’re the only reason I kept going with Gansey.” 

 

This was insane. 

 

“You’re kidding,” he mumbled, the two of them so close that his words made the air between their faces humid. “You didn’t come to study just for me.” 

 

“Uh,” Ronan replied, “fuck yeah I did. Every single fucking session? I was just waiting for you to - to start accepting friend requests. I didn’t want to get rebuffed and feel heartbroken until I thought you were - until you seemed ready to be friends with people. But then - then you turned up here and I - I definitely thought I was dreaming.” 

 

“God,” Adam said. “I don’t know what to say about that.” 

 

“Well,” Ronan said, “that’s fine. You’ll probably tease me about it later, so it’s fine that you don’t want to tease me for it now.” 

 

“I don’t want to tease you about it later,” Adam protested, closed his eyes. “If spoken words were a physical thing I would be catching those ones and putting them in a goddamned scrapbook to look back on.” 

 

“Oh my God,” Ronan giggled. 

 

Adam giggled a little bit as well. Let Ronan hug him, kiss his cheek. Sobered up again. 

 

“If I ever hit you,” he said, the words clunky and gross feeling in his throat. “You’ve gotta leave me right away. I can’t - I know that’s a shitty thing to say, but I - please promise me that you won’t forgive me.” 

 

Ronan exhaled loudly, sat back so they could see each other. 

 

Adam shut his eyes. He knew this was probably inappropriate, and pushing boundaries, and not something someone trying to start a relationship for the first time ever should say, but - but he felt like he would burn alive if he didn’t have some sort of reassurance. Because he liked (loved ( loved ) ) Ronan so much that he couldn’t bear to not show him as much of his own vileness as possible before anything started . So Ronan would know. So Ronan could decide. So Adam would know he hadn’t just tricked Ronan into being with him. Or maybe this was the trick? Maybe him making Ronan promise was a trick? Maybe he ought to take the question back? 

 

“As far as I can see right now,” Ronan said, “I can promise you that I won’t stay with someone who hits me. Is that enough?” 

 

Adam wasn’t sure if anything would have really been enough. People stay in situations they swore they wouldn’t for multitudes of reasons. He appreciated that Ronan seemed to know that. Wished he could have worded his own anxieties about this better. 

 

He nodded. 

 

“I’m not breaking up with you,” Ronan said, far too soft. “I wanna be with you.” 

 

“Okay,” Adam said. 

 

“But I want you to be okay too,” Ronan continued, “I want you to feel - fuck - do you want this? Is this, if it’s too much right now, I’ll wait until it isn’t.” 

 

“No,” Adam said quickly. “Nope. No. I want it. I really fucking want it, Ronan.” 

 

“Okay,” Ronan said. 

 

None of this was really - it was all making him feel warm and sugar coated, and somewhere near deliriously happy, but it wasn't proof that he could love. That was okay. He was pretty sure it was okay. Ronan seemed convinced that he could, or that he could at least learn, and - and Adam was more than happy to learn. He would prove it to himself. He could prove it to himself. 

 

“Um,” Adam said, scratched the back of his head. “I’m not - I’m not going to be okay right away. I’m - I know I’m… I know I have a lot I need to work on. That I’m still - still broken. But I’m working on fixing it. And I don’t think being with you will hinder that. I think it’ll help.” 

 

“I wanna help,” Ronan said. 

 

Adam smiled at him. Ronan’s bedroom door handle twisted, the door thudded. 

 

“Oh,” Gansey said from outside. “I ought to have knocked. Um? Can I come in?” 

 

Adam snorted loudly, wiped haphazardly at his face to try and rub any remaining tears off, discovered he was still crying a little bit. 

 

“Should I let him in?” Ronan asked, voice low enough that Gansey wouldn’t be able to hear the question. “Or should I tell him to fuck off?” 

 

“Let him in,” Adam said, pulled his sleeve over his hand for better tear wiping. “We may as well finally let him now that usually when the door is locked it’s because we’re naked.” 

 

Ronan laughed out loud, stood up, opened the door for Gansey. 

 

“Oh,” Gansey said, hand up like he’d just been about to knock. “Hello, I thought maybe you two had your earphones in.” 

 

“Nope,” Ronan said, stepped away from Gansey, leaving the door open. “Just having some very deep and intimate conversations about emotions and all that.” 

 

Gansey frowned, glanced from Ronan, to Adam, who was still wiping at his face. 

 

“Is everything okay?” he asked. 

 

“Yup,” Adam offered, dropped his hands to his lap. “Yup. Sorry, we were just -” 

 

“You weren’t fighting?” Gansey asked, eyes still darting back and forth. “I didn’t hear anything -” 

 

“Adam’s my boyfriend,” Ronan said, very quickly, “and no, we weren’t fighting, if I ever make Adam cry while we fight I’ll throw my Goddamned self out the fucking window.” 

 

Gansey blinked at Ronan, and then turned to Adam. 

 

“Um,” Adam said, entirely given up on the fact that tears will still leaking out of his eyes for no good fucking reason. “Is this a surprise?” 

 

Gansey blinked again, glanced over his shoulder, almost as if he expected Noah to be standing there with his phone videoing the whole thing for a prank. 

 

“I’m not sure surprised is the right term,” Gansey said, “possibly flabbergasted. I’m just - I didn’t realise! How long - why are you only telling me now?” 

 

“Oh, nah, hey,” Ronan said, stepped back towards Gansey and reached out to grip his shoulder. “Gans. We just made it official right now. Like, right now.” 

 

“Oh,” Gansey said, looked somewhat appeased. “But... you’ve been dating?” 

 

“No,” Adam said, cleared his throat. “Um.” 

 

“What?” Gansey said. 

 

“Are we really gonna tell him?” Ronan asked, pulled a fake pained face in Adam’s direction. 

 

“What??” Gansey repeated. 

 

“Will it ruin your life?” Adam asked Ronan back. 

 

Gansey looked like he might pop. 

 

“Okay, Gansey,” Ronan said, pulled Gansey closer to him. “Don’t let this ruin your pure virgin mind, but Adam and I have been fucking about for a few months now. Like. Sexually, man. With our dicks .” 

 

Gansey made a noise that also probably fell into the ‘flabbergasted’ category. 

 

“Shit, Lynch,” Adam laughed, “you could’ve put it a little more elegantly!” 

 

“We’ve been intimate,” Ronan tried, “we know each other. We’ve both slept together and slept together.” 

 

“Alright, alright, thank you!” Gansey said, “I get the picture! I see. Alright. Well!” 

 

“We’re not available for lectures, by the way,” Ronan said quickly. “The only one who’s allowed to try and give me the whole essay on purity is my ma, and she didn’t, so you can’t.” 

 

“I wasn’t planning any lectures,” Gansey said, rolled his eyes, wrapped his arm around Ronan’s waist and hugged him. “But I am - I am happy for you two. I ought to have noticed, really. What with you two being so close. I just didn’t think.” 

 

“No worries, Gans,” Adam said, “we were taking a while to figure it out ourselves.” 

 

“Well,” Gansey said, “this might be quite fortuitous, then.” 

 

Ronan rolled his eyes. 

 

“Oh?” Adam prompted. 

 

“You see,” Gansey said, cleared his throat. “I was coming in to ask you, Adam, if you’d be… well, miffed if I were to ask Blue on a date.” 

 

Adam laughed without even meaning to. 

 

Gansey grinned. “And as I see you are not miffed,” he carried on, pleased sounding, “I think this means that our planned lunch is going to be a triple date!” 

 

“Ew,” Ronan said, then, “that’s if she says yes, Dicky!” 




-




Adam hadn’t intended to be the type of person who fell in love at university. His careful little plan for himself had been to make it through all of his studies focusing solely on getting through, and then only when he had his life properly on track, looking for affection. He definitely hadn’t intended to be the type of person who fell in love hard



But here he was. He had spent the first eighteen years of his life convinced, and convincing himself, that he would never love, never be loved, never be deserving of love, never - 

 

-



“Ronan,” Adam called from the bathroom, accidentally spitting toothpaste on the mirror as he spoke. “Are you eating my fucking toast?” 

 

“Um,” Ronan replied, sounding quite suspiciously crumby. “I put some more in the toaster for you.” 

 

Adam harrumphed, spat his toothpaste out, rinsed his mouth. Washed his face, and walked out of their bathroom into their slightly tiny kitchenette where Ronan very much was eating Adam’s toast, standing next to the toaster which wasn’t even halfway through toasting. 

 

“See,” Ronan said around his mouthful of buttery toast, “it’s because you brush your teeth before you eat breakfast, and that’s so weird to me that my brain just automatically assumed that you must have eaten breakfast already.” 

 

“We’ve lived together for over a year,” Adam pointed out, peered into the toaster, and then came to tuck himself in under Ronan’s arm. “And that excuse has never once convinced me.” 

 

“Maybe the toast you make tastes better,” Ronan said, shrugged, wrapped his arm around Adam’s shoulders and pressed a crumby kiss to Adam’s head. “Sorry.” 

 

“If you want me to make you toast,” Adam said, “you can just ask me.” 

 

“Hmm,” Ronan said, stuffed the rest of the slice into his mouth. “Baby, I would so love it if you’d make me toast in the morning, because it makes me feel all loved and toasty.” 

 

“Hm,” Adam said, elbowed Ronan in the side. “You trying to butter me up?” 

 

“Could be,” Ronan replied crunchily. “Are you buttered now?” 

 

“Could be,” Adam grinned, reached around Ronan so he could hook his hand around Ronan’s hip, could hug him. “What d’you need me slippery for?” 

 

“Uh,” Ronan said, “gross.” 

 

“You’re gross,” Adam retorted, kissed Ronan on the cheek anyway. 

 

Ronan swallowed his mouthful quickly, then turned his head so he could kiss Adam back properly. “Mm,” he said, “minty.” 

 

The kiss lingered long enough for the pop of the toast to surprise the both of them, and Adam bit Ronan’s tongue only slightly

 

Ronan, because he was Ronan and therefore didn’t deign to put any kind of dignity on, insisted Adam kiss his tongue better , and Adam, because this was Ronan and Adam was happy to shed any and all of his dignity for Ronan, kissed his tongue better. 

 

“Sit down,” Ronan said, once his tongue was back in his mouth. “D’you want peanut butter on your toast?”