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sailed my ship of safety 'til I sank it

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"I found this in your refrigerator." Adam has a stack of old receipts in his hand and a pained expression on his face. "Do I want to ask?"

"It used to be on the fridge," Ronan says, because you can ask me anything, anytime would be a weird thing to say to your neighbor that you're secretly in love with. For starters, it would sort of give away the whole secretly in love thing. "But Sargent's cheap-ass magnet broke."

"It didn't break because it was cheap, it broke because you chucked it at the fridge from across the room to see if it would stick." Blue barely even glares at him. Lazy. "See, Ronan goes on these weird sprees where he throws out everything he gets his hands on. But he never throws away anything in the fridge -- "

"'Cause the fridge is fucking nasty."

"It's nasty because you never throw anything away!" She turns back to Adam, the volume and heat dropping from her voice as fast as they'd appeared. "So that's really the safest place to keep something important."

"You know, the fact that you keep....documents," and he says it like it isn't anywhere close to the word he wants but it's the closest he could think of, "inside your fridge, that's not actually the part I have a problem with."

"What," Blue asks, "you don't have rules for your apartment?"

"We do. Ours are written on actual paper."

Ronan shakes his head in disappointment. He's pretty good at that. He's had a lot of examples to draw from. "Recycle, reduce, reuse, Parrish."

Blue gives him a smile and a nod, which, whatever the fuck, he doesn't need her approval. The fact that he smiles is just because he got to make fun of someone.

"And," Adam continues, "the rules in my apartment are for things like chore division and quiet hours."

"Oh, quiet hours, we have that." Blue taps a finger on the top receipt.

"Yes, you have quiet hours." Adam rests his elbows on the kitchen island, really settling in to take his time going over their apartment contract. Fucking nerd. "You also have 'no fires indoors between midnight and eight am'."

"That's basic shit," Ronan says. "Fuck, dude, you want us to die in our sleep?"

"You don't have a fireplace," Adam points out. "Why are you having fires inside at all?"

They both shrug.

Adam says "you, I expect better of" to Blue, which just shows what he knows.

"Look, sometimes you gotta cleanse some stuff," she responds.

"Fine, so you and your roommate never set anything on fire." Ronan really plays up the derision, to make it clear how absurd that sounds. "That's one 'weird' rule, big deal."

"Oh, I have complete confidence that this is not the only weird rule." He flips to the next receipt in the stack. "'No Indigo Girls unless Ronan deserves it.' I can't tell if that's is supposed to be a punishment or a reward."

"It started as a punishment, but Ronan is made out of dysfunction and he likes stuff just to spite people." Blue makes a face. Ronan blows her a kiss. "So now it's a reward."

"You could just listen to your own music," but they're both shaking their heads before Adam's even finished.

"Mostly if we're both in our own rooms we don't hear each other, but if one of us is in the living room? Forget it." Blue flips through the next few receipts. "That's why we have this."

"'The common areas -- '" Adam lifts up the receipt to peer at the back of it. " -- 'are not private.' I feel like if you guys had tried a little harder, you could have fit six words on the same side."

"But the all caps are how you know it's important."

"He's right," Blue agrees. "This is pretty much rule number one."

"Then why is it halfway down the stack, after a post-it note that just says BUY YOGURT?" Adam turns the receipts around, like he's got an ace up his sleeve and wants to show it off.

"When you live with Sargent stocking up on yogurt is pretty fucking fundamental."

"True," Blue says. "But after that, living together got a lot easier when we established some boundaries. Hook ups, emotional phone calls, and guilty pleasure TV in our own rooms only, or we forfeit the right to not be mocked about them."

"I want to say 'I'm proud of you two for having healthy boundaries,' but I got distracted," Adam says. "Also I'm not proud of you."

Ronan peers at the list. He doesn't let himself stand pressed up against Adam to read over his shoulder, the way Blue is; he always feels like he'll give himself away if he gets too close. But he can make out some of the words, enough to tell which rule it is.

"Sargent doesn't respect my property so she needs to ask before she borrows it. What's so confusing about that?"

"Why would you want to borrow his boots?" Adam asks Blue. "Your shoe sizes could not be more different."

"I didn't wear them," Blue says. "I took a pair thrift store diving with me one time for inspiration. It's not my fault you have good taste in boots," she shoots at Ronan.

"It's your fault you lost them."

"If you didn't let them get so beat up maybe people wouldn't think they belonged in a thrift store."

"Did someone buy Ronan's boots?" Adam asks.

"No," Blue says, "threw them away."

Adam moves on to a new receipt instead of addressing that. "Okay, this one looks contentious."

"Is it the one about identity theft?" Blue asks.

"Nah, it's probably the one about piggy back rides."

"You're both wrong and I should stop asking questions."

"But you're not going to, are you," Ronan says.

Blue hums in agreement. "Yeah, no, Adam's one of those guys in a horror movie that goes to check out the noises in the basement and gets horribly murdered."

"This used to read," Adam says, a little louder than before, like he wants to put an end to conversations about his horrible murder, for some reason, "'Maggot is not allowed to check out guys Ronan brings home.' But it's been scratched out to read 'no one is allowed to check out guys anyone brings home.'"

Blue wrinkles her nose at Ronan. "We could've worded that better. It sounds like we're not allowed to check out our own guys."

"You're the one who wrote it."

"You're the one who was ogling my booty call."

"Liar."

"You walked in on us eating breakfast and stared so hard you crashed into a wall and spilled beer on yourself."

"Excuse the fuck out me for being clumsy, I had the flu."

"Hi, so sorry to interrupt this productive conversation." Adam does not sound sorry at all. "Why were you drinking beer for breakfast if you had the flu?"

"Because there was a hot guy in my kitchen and I was trying to put myself to sleep."

Blue points emphatically in his direction. "See! You said he was hot."

"I never said he wasn't hot, I said I wasn't checking him out."

"Boo, no splitting hairs. That should be a rule."

Adam pulls the receipts a little further away from Blue before she can start enacting legislation left and right. "And you check out the guys he brings over?"

"She's a fucking perv."

Blue sighs, blowing air up her face to mess with her bangs. "Okay, look. Through nothing but weird coincidence, we sometimes -- "

"Occasionally," Ronan butts in.

"Very occasionally, are maybe attracted to the same guys," Blue continues. "That's why we don't -- "

To Ronan's confusion, she stops in the middle of her thought, looking horrified.

Adam doesn't notice the cutoff. He's already on the next receipt. "I guess that explains 'no dibs on guys,' more of those all-important all caps, 'except that...'"

Ronan's heart crashes into his gut.

Now he remembers, now that it's too fucking late he remembers -- a night, a few months ago, drinking and sitting on the ground with his head on Blue's knee and spilling out all of his hurt. It wasn't even about the stupid apartment rules at that point, just about knowing that he wasn't good enough, and when Blue couldn't convince him that he was good enough she found a different way of showing support, one that was stupid enough to make Ronan feel better: she pulled the rules out of the butter compartment and updated them.

Except that Lynch has Sargent's permission to date Adam.

"I just remembered," Blue says, "I need to not be here," and she ducks out of the room.

Adam doesn't respond to her leaving. He stares down at the receipt for far longer than he'd need to read it.

"Is this a joke?"

"No." The rules were always serious; they were only treated like a joke because important things between Ronan and Blue were always treated like a joke.

Adam's mouth is a hard, thin line. "So the two of you, what, flipped a coin over who got to date me?"

"No. We were both interested so we both stepped off."

"Interested," he repeats flatly. "Since when? You've never even looked at me like that."

"I've always looked at you like that," Ronan says. "Even when I tried not to."

Adam looks, if anything, more pissed off. His voice is still freezing. "So every time I invited you over to my place and you brought Blue along, that was the two of you chaperoning each other?"

"It's not like we took a blood oath," Ronan snaps. "Usually when we're both interested in someone, we give up and then we stop being interested. Sorry to crush your ego, Blue's not into you anymore. She hangs out at your place because she likes hanging out with you."

"And what about you?"

"What about me?"

"Blue's not into me anymore," he says. "Are you?"

Ronan breathes out. Lets go.

"Damn, Parrish, yeah." That gets no reaction. "Are you mad?"

"No. Yes. I gave up on you, Ronan." His control breaks, emotion spilling into his words. He doesn't sound mad. He sounds bewildered, and hurt, a very familiar kind of hurt. "You never responded when I tried to get closer, you never reacted when I flirted with you, you never gave me anything, so I made myself stop wanting anything. And now I find out that it was just because of this -- bro code bullshit."

"Fuck you, I'm not a bro."

"That just makes it weirder!" Adam stares back down at the rules, which is not a place anyone should ever turn to for guidance. "God, I think I should be happy right now, but I'm stressed, and confused, and still kind of worried this is a love triangle."

"It's not a love triangle," Blue yells from her room, barely muffled by the wall. "You are way too much work, no thanks!"

"We're having a moment!" Ronan yells back at her. "Fuck off!"

"Common areas ARE NOT PRIVATE," she reminds him, like that wasn't his fucking rule in the first place.

Adam puts his face in his hands. He can't hide the fact that his shoulders are shaking. Ronan figures that's laughter. At least he hopes so. He isn't such a disaster that he made Adam cry, right?

"So this went about as shitty as possible," Ronan says.

"Just about, yeah." Adam looks up from his hands. Not crying, but his grin is more than a little self-conscious.

"Let me make it up to you?" he asks. Adam hesitates before he nods, but he does nod. Ronan risks stepping close enough to put a hand on his side. "What do you want?"

"I want to kiss you," Adam says, "somewhere that is not this apartment."

"Good idea. We've probably got a minute before Sargent starts blasting her Lilith Fair playlist."

Adam breathes out a laugh, casting his eyes down between them. When he looks back up his smile softens, doesn't go away but shifts into something Ronan's never seen on him before.

His breath catches.

Adam drops one feather-light kiss on his cheek.

Ronan's heart goes apeshit. It takes him a dozen tries before he can form any words, but that's okay, because Adam doesn't go anywhere, just stays perfectly in reach.

"I thought you said not here."

"I did," Adam says. "But it wasn't written in stone, or on old receipts inside of a refrigerator -- "

Ronan kisses him silent, until Adam laughs, until Adam kisses him back, until Sargent chases out of the apartment with punishingly loud folk rock.