You’re a falling star, you’re the getaway car
You’re the line in the sand when I go too far
You’re the swimming pool on an August day
And you’re the perfect thing to say
As luck would have it, Monmouth Manufacturing’s air conditioning was well and truly broken. Ronan had woken up that morning to find himself practically immobile – not because he’d brought something back from a dream, but because his entire body was plastered to the mattress with ungodly amounts of sweat.
He had peeled himself from the bed, cursed his entirely black wardrobe, and then left his room with the intention of yelling at Gansey until he got the air con fixed. However, when he left his bedroom, he found Monmouth deserted. Instead of Gansey, Ronan found a note on his desk alongside a bottle of water with three rapidly melting ice cubes inside it.
Ronan picked up the note and read in Gansey’s loopy lettering: Good morning, Ronan. The air conditioning doesn’t seem to be operating so Noah and I have gone to Fox Way to try and avoid the heat. Didn’t have the heart to wake you up when you looked to be sleeping so peacefully. I’ve left you some water, let me know if you need anything else. Gansey.
Ronan chucked the note over his shoulder and picked up the water bottle, pressing it to his head. He could have sworn he almost heard the hiss as the cold bottle met his sweltering skin and he sighed with relief.
Days like this – days where the heat was so unbearable that the horizon wavered and the grass browned – were days for doing something, Ronan thought, something dangerous. They were days made for danger because everyone else was preoccupied with doing nothing, providing the perfect opportunity to go and do something without anyone objecting.
Then again, maybe nobody objecting sucked out some of the fun.
In any case, Ronan felt that day was a day made for danger and he was adept at doing all manner of dangerous things. Right now, he wanted to drive. He wanted to drive hundreds of miles from Henrietta, he wanted to drive hundreds of miles over the speed limit, he wanted to drive and drive and drive and not stop at all.
But there were other dangerous things he could do too. Other dangerous people he could see. Not conventionally dangerous, like Kavinsky, or dangerous in the way that Declan could be. Dangerous for Ronan because on a day like this he wasn’t sure he’d be able to contain himself around them.
The sort of dangerous person who could make sure that Ronan didn’t do anything too dangerous.
He got dressed, finding a loose black tank and a pair of shorts he hadn’t known he had owned, and then got in the BMW. He wound every window all the way down but still felt his skin sealing itself against the leather seats with sweat as he drove. He drove fast enough that a cool breeze tickled him, a tiny respite from the beating heat.
At St Agnes, he parked the BMW and hesitated only a moment before entering the church. He hurried up the stairs to Adam Parrish’s apartment – the one Ronan himself had paid for, something he and Adam both knew but refused to acknowledge – and knocked twice on the door.
It opened a moment later and on the other side was a remarkably dry Adam Parrish. Ronan didn’t think he could see a single drop of sweat on him which was equal parts impressive and unfair.
“Lynch,” Adam greeted, looking Ronan up and down. He smirked. “I don’t think your legs have ever seen the light of day.”
Ronan frowned down at his legs – which were indeed insultingly pale – and then looked to Adam’s gloriously tanned legs. Then he looked at the floor because looking at Adam’s body for too long felt too dangerous, even for Ronan.
“Fucking nice to see you too, Parrish,” he snarled as Adam headed back into the apartment. Ronan himself stayed put, leaning against the doorframe in a position he hoped was casual.
“What are you doing here?” Adam asked him, now sat at his desk with his back to Ronan, already working again. By the looks of all the paper and pencils and pens strewn this way and that about the apartment, he’d been working for quite some time already.
Ronan shrugged, though Adam wasn’t looking. “Going for a drive.”
“Doesn’t explain why you’re here. You need to be in a car to drive.”
“I drove here.”
“Full of fucking questions today,” Ronan grumbled, rolling his eyes. “Came to see if you’d want to come with me.”
Adam turned around at that, expression blank. “And why would I do that?”
Ronan thought his heart was pounding so loudly that Adam might have been able to hear it. This was exactly what he had needed today – the adrenaline, the liveliness, the feeling of danger that flowed from Adam Parrish directly into Ronan’s blood and sang when it met his soul.
“Because,” Ronan said, “I’m delightful company.”
Adam snorted derisively at that but he turned around and began packing up his work. Ronan allowed himself a brief smile and an even briefer moment to study the fluid way Adam moved – deliberate but careful, elegant but strong.
Together the two of them headed out to the BMW. Ronan started it up and was driving almost before Adam had even shut his door. They were silent as they drove through the familiar streets over Henrietta and quieter still as they pulled onto the highway. Even as Ronan picked up speed, sending wind rushing through their hair and jabbing at their skin almost painfully, neither said a word.
Ronan had forgotten the heat – it was as if Adam’s presence had erased all trace of it, cooled him down until he felt entirely himself and entirely comfortable again. It was odd how Adam could do that to him; he was a miracle, the product of a wish Ronan had made a thousand times, a way to escape anything and everything. Adam’s existence could, for Ronan, resolve and replicate all manner of pain simultaneously. He was good and bad, difficult and easy, real and imaginary all at the same time.
So caught up was he in his own thoughts, Ronan barely heard Adam talking to him.
“What?” he shouted over the sound of the wind rushing past them and EDM blasting from the radio.
“I said,” returned Adam, enunciating carefully, “why did you really want to bring me with you?”
Because, Ronan thought, you stop me getting carried away. If I came alone I’d drive and drive and drive and I wouldn’t stop until I was wrapped around a tree or sunk to the bottom of the ocean. You make me careful. You make me want to live. You stop me from going too far.
But he said nothing. He just kept driving.
And you play it coy, but it’s kind of cute
When you smile at me you know exactly what you do
Baby, don’t pretend that you don’t know it’s true
‘Cause you can see it when I look at you
Adam had to know exactly what he was doing. He was too smart to not have devised this plan from the very beginning, not oblivious enough to have truly no idea.
The truth was, he was killing Ronan in a very slow, measured, brutal way. And he was doing it on purpose, Ronan was certain of that. Every lingering touch from his beautiful hands, every private joke whispered wonderfully close to Ronan’s ear, every time he held eye contact for just a little longer than he needed to before turning away as if nothing had happened.
It was too masterful to be unintentional.
But the worst thing, the most unfair thing, the most blissfully breath-taking way in which he took Ronan’s life was not with his nimble, fine-boned fingers like Ronan would have expected, but with his radiant smile. Every time he smiled in Ronan’s direction it felt as if the world was going to collapse around him.
It didn’t matter how he smiled, whether it was the tiniest smirk or a mischievous grin or a bright beam paired with a truly happy glint in his sky-blue eyes; no matter what he did, Ronan was left reeling.
And he knew! He had to! He had to know what he was doing because every time Ronan’s breath stuttered the smile would widen just that little bit more – got you.
The two of them were visiting Cabeswater. Adam needed some help moving a few stones or something, Ronan wasn’t sure; he hadn’t been able to concentrate since the moment he picked Adam up from the church, as usual.
Privately, Ronan liked going to Cabeswater with only Adam. While each of their group was inextricably tied with the forest, Ronan knew that his and Adam’s connections with Cabeswater ran infinitely deeper than Gansey’s or Blue’s or Noah’s. Cabeswater was as much a part of them as the blood in their veins. It was nice to be alone, the three of them who were all so close to one another – Ronan, Adam, Cabeswater.
Ronan was trying to listen to the trees as Adam shuffled around him, digging through the soft dirt, unearthing different rocks or roots and either tossing them aside or carefully placing them elsewhere. It looked to be methodical work with madness mixed in.
The trees were quiet today. He couldn’t make out a word.
“Alright, I’m all done,” Adam said, wiping his brow with the back of his soil-covered hand and standing up. He stretched his arms above his head until his joints cracked, and Ronan turned his head as his shirt rode up, revealing an inch or so of his torso.
“Okay,” Ronan said. He sat himself down at the base of a tree, leaning against its sturdy trunk. Adam raised an eyebrow at him.
“We’re not leaving?” he asked.
“You can,” Ronan told him, trying to settle on a comfortable position, but as it happened forest floors were not the most cosy places. “I’m staying for a bit.”
“Alright,” said Adam, and that’s when he smiled.
It was the worst type of smile, which meant it was the most beautiful. It was the kind of smile that was hardly there at all, barely perceptible if you weren’t looking for it (and Ronan was always looking for it). Just the barest flicker at the corners of his mouth, the promise of a bigger and brighter smile if he was pushed just a little further. An invitation, a gift, a dare.
“Stop it,” Ronan growled.
Adam furrowed his brow. Whether he was really confused or feigning it, Ronan honestly couldn’t tell. “Stop what?”
“You know what you’re doing.”
“I’m not doing anything.”
“Don’t play dumb, Parrish,” Ronan told him. He was starting to get a little annoyed – not because Adam was refusing to admit to the game he’d been playing, but because the diffident yet convincing denial was the most endearing thing Ronan had ever seen, which was utterly stupid.
“I’m not dumb,” Adam said with a frown. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Ronan just stared at him, eyebrows raised in expectance and disbelief. It appeared they had reached a stalemate, Ronan too stubborn to carry on arguing, Adam too stubborn to admit Ronan was right.
But then Adam’s resolve broke, or maybe he just let his final walls down, because he smiled again, a giddy grin this time. Which broke Ronan’s steely expression and made him smile too because Adam’s smile was infectious and he was glad to catch it.
Adam sat next to him, reclined against the tree trunk. Ronan had no idea how long they ended up staying there, just basking in one another’s presence, smiling.
You’re a carousel, you’re a wishing well
And you light me up when you ring my bell
You’re a mystery, you’re from outer space
You’re every minute of my every day
The strange, somewhat paradoxical thing was if you could predict anything about Ronan Lynch it was that he was unpredictable.
Adam loved it. He loved how when he went somewhere with Ronan, in any sense, they would take a hundred twists and turns, make reckless decisions, double back on themselves, lose their sense of direction completely, only to find when they finished the journey that it had been a circle and they were right back where they started, ready to go again.
He adored the unpredictability of everything Ronan did. There was no telling when he’d show up at Harvard without a moment’s notice, no way for Adam to guess what he might bring back from his enchanting dreams or his plagued nightmares, no clue as to when and where he stopped and started anything he ever did.
He was an enigma. Before they had started dating, even before they had really considered each other friends at all, Adam had spent hour upon hour trying to figure Ronan out. He was a walking contradiction – a trust fund baby who didn’t even have a house, an intimidating beast of a boy with a soft spot for small animals, a glare as sharp as glass shards but as reliable as a safety net. At first it had bugged Adam how nonsensical Ronan appeared to be, but he had come to cherish him for it.
There was an easier way to say all of this, of course – Adam Parrish loved Ronan Lynch so much it hurt.
The adoration Adam felt for Ronan doubled when he came home from class one day to find Ronan lounging on his dormitory bed, reading an old Latin textbook that Adam had brought to Harvard for old times’ sake.
Ronan grinned at him, that sharp grin that was vibrant as an arcade, equal parts confident and nervous. Adam felt the light from Ronan’s happiness brighten him up inside, lighting a candle flame somewhere in his heart which warmed his body and blood. He smiled back and without a word joined Ronan on the bed, laying down alongside him as he put the Latin book down.
Adam pressed a soft kiss to Ronan’s lips. Familiar, gentle, home.
“Missed you, Parrish,” Ronan said when they pulled apart.
“Of course you did,” Adam teased.
Ronan huffed a laugh. “Fuck you.”
They fell asleep not long later, tangled in each other, both still in their clothes. Adam dreamed of Ronan, wished for him never to leave his side, had in his dreams what he knew could not be reality (at least not while Adam was still in college and Ronan still in Henrietta).
When he woke up, Ronan – his mystery, his miracle, the love of his life – was still curled around him, fast asleep, a tiny smile on his lips. It was all Adam wanted, now and forever.
And I can’t believe that I’m your man
And I get to kiss you, baby, just because I can
Whatever comes our way, oh, we’ll see it through
And you know that’s what our love can do
Since the incident at Harvard which had resulted in Ronan being banned indefinitely from the campus, Adam had made it his mission to visit Ronan as much as possible. He had started by taking his motorcycle down to Singer’s Falls every weekend, but Ronan had put a stop to that the moment he’d realised how tired it was making Adam.
“You’ll fall asleep on the road,” Ronan had said, “and you’ll crash your fucking bike.”
“But I’m doing it to see you,” Adam had countered.
Ronan’s expression had softened but his words had not. “If you crash that bike and die we’ll never see each other again, dipshit.”
So Adam had reluctantly agreed to ride down to see Ronan once a month, and in return Ronan would meet him somewhere in Cambridge once a month, so long as it wasn’t near the campus.
They had known from the moment Ronan brought back a horde of murder crabs that their relationship was going to be strained. Together and apart, they had both been through innumerable difficult things, and Adam hadn’t been certain either of them could stand another one. But they had surprised him – they had carried on fighting for the relationship they both treasured, and when they’d felt like giving up they had simply tried harder.
So Adam had a renewed confidence that the two of them could make it through anything life threw at them so long as they remained a team.
Strictly speaking, Ronan didn’t know that Adam was visiting the Barns that day. After all, Adam had been down last weekend and Ronan was supposed to come up to Cambridge the weekend after, as per their arrangement. But sitting in his dorm, feverishly trying to finish his paper, Adam had longed and yearned for Ronan. He’d given up on the paper for the night and had hopped on the motorbike, arriving at the Barns the next morning.
It was early – the sun was barely peaking over the horizon, leaking a pearly orange colour, painting the cloudless sky with muted yellows and pinks. Adam checked his watch; it was about half past five in the morning, which meant Ronan would probably be tending to his animals.
After dropping off the single bag he’d brought with him in Ronan’s room, Adam made his way into the expansive fields. It didn’t take him long to spot Ronan. He was hammering a new fence post into the ground, Chainsaw swooping low around him, iron nails held between his teeth due to lack of anywhere else to put them.
Adam debated whether he’d rather run at Ronan and launch himself into his arms or sneak up on him from behind. He decided it didn’t really matter as long as he got to hold and touch and kiss Ronan.
As Adam approached, Chainsaw squawked, “Atom!” which made Ronan turn around with the speed of a freight train. Adam kept walking towards him, joy bubbling inside his chest at Ronan’s dumbfounded expression. Ronan spat the iron nails out and they landed in the dirt by his feet.
“Parrish, what are you do–”
Adam cut him off with a kiss, because he wanted to and because he could. Ronan reacted instantly, his question forgotten. He tasted like metal and sweat and perhaps honey, Adam thought. He pulled Ronan ever closer, because he could; kissed him deeper, because he could; smiled into the kiss, because he knew that if this was what awaited him and Ronan in the future, however near or far that may have been, he was happy and he was willing to wait.
And in this crazy life, and through these crazy times
It’s you, it’s you; you make me sing
You’re every line, you’re every word