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He brings it up by accident, the first time.

It’s summer and they’re lounging around on the forest floor in Lindenmere, talking and kissing and teasing each other in between. Adam’s head is resting against Ronan’s chest. Ronan’s got one hand running through Adam’s hair and the other clasped in Adam’s own. A slight breeze blows through the trees, and Ronan grins, utterly at peace in this wild, magical kingdom. He lifts their joint hands to his lips and presses a gentle kiss to the vein at Adam’s wrist, then again to each of his knuckles.

“Your thing with my hands is never going away, is it?”

“What thing?” Ronan tries for nonchalant and misses by a long shot. “It’s called fucking appreciation.”

“Yeah, I think we both know it’s more than that.” Adam lifts his head from Ronan’s chest. The look on his face is withering. “Bordering on a fetish, frankly.”

“Do you know what a fetish is, Parrish? They’re meant to be weird as shit.”

“Are you saying your hand thing isn’t?”

“Well, damn. I didn’t realize liking my boyfriend’s hands was such a crime. Do you want me to pretend they’re ugly? Does that get you going?”

“Don’t be stupid. I never said I minded,” Adam says. “I mean, it’s weird, but it’s an acceptable amount of weird. Not, like, foot fetish weird.”

Ronan didn’t think it was weird. It’s not as if he’s out here Googling images of disembodied hands for his jerk off material, or paying money for famous dude’s hand pics. He likes Adam’s hands because they’re Adam’s, specifically. Because they’re beautiful and Adam knows just how to use them. Because they look good against Ronan’s skin, stroking his cock—

Okay, fine, maybe Adam has a point.

But two can play at this game.

“Hey, don’t act like you’re some vanilla boy scout,” Ronan says. “You’re the one with the fucking teacher kink.”

Adam scoffs. “Where did you pull that one from?”

“We went to school together for years. I’ve got eyes.”

“Your definition of ‘going to school’ must be very different from mine.”

“Well, when I did go to school, it was to look at you, and I saw you every time you eyed up one of those strait-laced fuckers.”

The tips of Adam’s ears turn red. Ronan can’t tell if it’s due to Ronan stating his feelings so bluntly or Ronan catching him out, or some mix of the two, but he enjoys the sight of it regardless.

“Can we not talk about this?” Adam says.

“Hey, judgement free zone here. No need to get embarrassed just ‘cause you get hot for teacher—”

“Lynch.”

“What’s the appeal, anyway? Is it the suits? Is that why you’re always trying to jump my bones at Sunday lunch?”

“Jump your bones? That sounds more like one of your fantasies,” Adam says dismissively.

“Yeah, no. I’m not a goddamn exhibitionist.” Another thought occurs to Ronan, and he grins savagely. “Wait, is that the appeal? You wanna fuck in some musty classroom where you might get caught? Parrish, you freak—”

“Knock it off, will you?” He sounds irritated now, terse, so Ronan stops and holds his hands up in surrender.

“Alright, alright. Defensive much?”

“I told you. I don’t wanna talk about this.”

Ronan raises an eyebrow, but Adam merely glowers. Ronan supposes this was inevitable. Adam’s no prude, but when it comes to discussing what he’s into he always clams up. You already know, he always says, which is a roundabout way of avoiding the question, but not exactly a lie. They’ve always been more adept at communicating through touch than through talk, and Ronan’s spent months memorizing Adam’s reactions in bed, how best to get him off. Ronan knows Adam, and he knows what Adam likes, and he knows that if he ever suggested something Adam wasn’t into, Adam would be quick to tell him.

But he also knows that there are some things Adam’s not forthcoming about. Ronan’s been making good headway at bringing down Adam’s walls, but he’s not all the way there yet. There are pieces of Adam he’s still not privy to, that Adam won’t share, and sexual fantasies clearly factor into that mess somewhere.

Ronan gets it: compartmentalizing has always been Adam’s survival mechanism, and old habits die hard.

Adam posed the topic, though, even if it was by accident. He’s given Ronan an opening, however slim. Ronan sees his chance and takes it.

“I mean it, you know,” he says, and Adam meets his gaze. “Whatever weird shit you’re secretly all about, I’m not gonna judge.”

“Why, because you know you don’t have a leg to stand on?”

Ronan shrugs. Because nothing’s too weird if it’s coming from you, he thinks, but he’s not about to admit anything so sappy.

Also, that might be hyperbole — he’s been exposed to enough traumatizing internet porn to know some lines exist for a reason.

“Who knows, maybe I’ll be into it too,” Ronan says. Adam looks at him for a long while, assessing, before giving a slight hum of consideration. Then he flops his head back down on Ronan’s chest, no more said.

      ***

Adam doesn’t bring it up again, at least not within those first few weeks.

As their record-hot summer continues, Ronan forgets the conversation happened at all. He’s busy with dreaming, with the farm, with his new-found resolve to make an effort with Declan and to spend more time with Matthew. Then June segues into July, and Adam’s birthday looms.

Ronan wakes Adam up to breakfast and blowjobs in bed, then passes his phone over for Blue and Gansey and Henry’s video call. They head to Lindenmere to see Opal and to chill beneath the trees, then to a local diner that make these stacked pancakes Adam secretly loves but refuses to say so because the ones at Nino’s are cheaper. Then lastly they go for a long evening drive, pulling over at Adam’s favourite lookout spot to watch the sunset.

It’s here that Ronan gives Adam his actual present — a coat that’s temperature sensitive, with inside material that adjusts to the weather accordingly, so Adam can wear it all year round at Cambridge or at home. It isn’t much — Adam hates fuss — but it is both practical and unfathomable, just like Adam himself.

When Ronan explains the coat’s dream properties, Adam gets weirdly silent. There’s a pensive look on his face that Ronan can’t quite read.

“Is it all right?” he asks, doubt creeping in.

But then Adam looks up and smiles, one of those rare true smiles that lights up his entire face. “It’s perfect.”

All in all, it’s a good day. The best birthday Adam claims he’s ever had, which would’ve made Ronan angry enough to burn something down before, but now only makes him pull Adam close and kiss his deaf ear and sway them both side to side in the silence.

They have sex again, obviously. Nothing complicated — they’re both too impatient for anything that requires forethought and prep. It’s clumsy, hot hands against skin, cocks sliding together at awkward angles, and Ronan feels wondrously happy and full of light. He loves this. He fucking loves Adam.

Ronan may bring dreams to life, but none are quite as miraculous as reality with Adam Parrish.

After, when they’re both lying together on top of the blankets — because it’s too damn hot to sleep underneath them — Adam leans in close and whispers, “It’s unfair just how good at this you are.”

It’s not unusual for Adam to start a conversation like this after sex. Late at night, lights off, both of them tangled up together in the afterglow is when they say the things that usually can’t be said, I love yous and I’ll come back for yous and I’ll wait for yous whispered between kisses, stories from a childhood that’s fiercely missed and a childhood that’s only dreamt about in nightmares exchanged in the dark.

But Ronan, in his one-track mind, is slow to click on tonight. He says, “We’ve been doing this long enough. If I couldn’t get you to come in five minutes flat, I’d be fucking worried by now.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“What did you mean, then?”

Adam leans up on one elbow. He is strikingly beautiful this close. Ronan will never get tired of staring. “You always know exactly what to do to make me happy,” he says, and it sounds more like an accusation than it does a compliment.

“That’s what this is,” Ronan says. “I’m supposed to make you happy.”

Adam smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Right,” he says, effectively ending the conversation, defenses curling around him like Cabeswater’s thorns. Ronan wants to say, Hey, wait, or Take me with you. He wants Adam to trust him wholeheartedly and leave nothing unsaid. He wants to cut his way through to those dark corners in Adam’s head, burrowing himself deep inside Adam’s skin till they’re both fully merged, Adam ending where Ronan begins.

It scares Ronan, sometimes, how much he wants that. It’s wrong to think that way. Adam is his own person first and foremost, not Ronan’s. Ronan knows that, and he would never have it any other way. He would never ask Adam to stay.

But still this side of Ronan flares up, hungry and possessive. It’s not about tethering Adam to this place; he just wants to know every part of him, that’s all, even the most shameful parts. Especially the most shameful parts. He wants Adam to know that he never has to hide, that he’s safe here, that Ronan would give him the world if he asked.

“It’s not a one-way street,” Ronan says, his best guess at where Adam’s head’s at. “You make me happy, too.”

“I know.” He drops his head back down on the pillow and burrows up against Ronan’s side. Ronan wraps his arm around him, wanting him close even if it means sweating balls during the night.

“I love you,” Adam whispers. “That’s all I meant.”

And those words are enough to undo Ronan, to erase all worries and bad feeling, even though he’s heard them many times before. He drops a kiss to Adam’s forehead and shuts his eyes.

      ***

Except, that’s not all.

Days pass with Adam acting funny. It’s not obvious, at least not to outsiders, but Ronan knows him too well. He can practically see the gears turning in Adam’s head, can tell that he’s thinking himself into pretzels over something. Ronan talks him into messing around in the fields, soaking up the sun in their makeshift pool, reading Latin poetry on the porch, fine-tuning dream ideas to incorporate into Lindenmere, anything that gets him the hell out his head. And it works, somewhat, but then Ronan will look up and see Adam watching him again with that inscrutable expression on his face.

“The hell’s got into you, Parrish?” he tries asking, but then Adam snaps back to himself with a wry comment, and all is forgotten.

Ronan’s going to get him talking. He’s giving it a week, tops.

But in the end it doesn’t take a week.

Ronan leaves for mass early Sunday morning and then grabs lunch with his brothers afterwards. Adam had made excuses not to come with them this time, which isn’t unusual — he only joins them every once in a while, never wishing to intrude in “family business.” What is unusual is Ronan pulling up to the driveway in the late afternoon and finding no sign of Adam outside or downstairs.

“Parrish?” he calls out, and gets a muffled response from upstairs.

Ronan shrugs his shoes off and takes the stairs two at a time. He opens the bedroom door and finds Adam propped up on the bed with a copy of Middlemarch in hand.

“I thought you said that book was dull as shit,” Ronan says.

“It is, but I need to finish it.”

“You really don’t. This isn’t Milo’s English Lit class.”

“I’ve committed to it. It’s the principle of the thing,” Adam says, and Ronan rolls his eyes and doesn’t bother pointing out that masochism is one dumb fucking principle. “Besides,” Adam continues, “I was waiting for you and I got bored.”

Waiting for him? “Do we have plans I don’t know about?”

Adam dog ears the page he’s on and sets the book down on the nightstand. He climbs to feet and stalks closer, until he’s face to face with Ronan, watching Ronan with a look of measured intent, and Ronan thinks, oh. He’s about to get laid.

Kissing Adam is the easiest thing, instinctual as breathing. It’s that first drop of rain after a summer-long drought. It’s a cool breeze breaking up those dreary, humid days. It’s coming home.

He basks in that heady sensation of power as Adam’s mouth opens up for him, as Adam’s back arches in his hands. He gets those hands underneath Adam’s t-shirt, skimming them up, up, up Adam’s spine, till Adam’s making that gasping sound against Ronan’s lips and Ronan’s cock’s throbbing in his pants and the whole room’s blazing, desire sharpening Ronan’s senses.

He steps forwards, guiding Adam back to the bed.

Adam breaks the kiss.

“Not yet,” he says, stopping them mid-motion. “There’s something…I want to try something different, if you’re up for it.”

Ronan forgot about this, but all at once the conversation from Lindenmere rushes back to him, and that greedy side of him relishes at being offered another piece of the Adam Parrish puzzle. “You know I’m up for it.”

“You don’t even know it is yet.”

“Then tell me,” he says. He slides his hand from Adam’s waist down to his lower back, worrying at that spot that Adam loves. Adam breathes out sharply. His grip on Ronan’s forearm tightens. He leans in again and sucks at a point just below Ronan’s jaw.

“Control,” Adam breathes against Ronan’s skin, and the heat of it makes Ronan’s blood rush south. “That’s the appeal. I like the suits too, but…”

Ronan’s mind works to fill in the blanks. He grins wildly. “That’s what you’ve been hiding?” he asks. “You wanna pin me down and fuck me?”

“Not exactly.”

He thinks about Adam’s hesitance around the subject, the way he’d cut Ronan off when Ronan called him a freak—

“Shit. Is this some kind of, like, BDSM thing?”

He doesn’t know how that works. Handcuffs? Rope? A ridiculous amount of leather? How does Adam know how it works? Not from porn — Adam told him he’s never watched it, never had internet access outside of the Henrietta Public Library and school computers. Has he been researching this while Ronan’s not around the house?

He must have. Adam wouldn’t commit to trying something he didn’t understand.

It’s not something Ronan would’ve considered — he likes being able to touch Adam during sex, likes making Adam feel good, because fuck knows Adam deserves all that and more — but if this is Adam’s fantasy, well, Ronan’s at least willing to try it out. What’s the worst that’ll happen? Some bad sex they can laugh about later?

But Adam’s still shaking his head. That hungry look in his eyes is fading and in its place is familiar hesitation. But that won’t do. Ronan’s got him so close, he doesn’t want to— “Maybe this is a bad idea.”

“It’s not,” Ronan says. “I told you, I’m up for whatever.”

“You’re not getting it. It’s clearly a bad idea.”

“I’m not getting it because you’re not—” It hits him, then, what this is really about, why Adam is so reluctant to spell it out, so ashamed to want this. Not a desire for control, but the need to give it away.

Shit.

“You want me to…” He can’t finish that sentence. He’s stunned.

“Let’s just forget it,” Adam says, pulling away, walls rising up quicker than Ronan can comprehend. “I don’t know why I brought it up.”

“It’s fine.” But Adam’s already untangled himself from Ronan’s arms and is turning around. “I just didn’t think you’d be into — Adam, wait.”

Adam stills. He turns back. The look in his eyes is some contradictory mix of caution and lust and determination. Because he’s unsure of this, but he wants it. He wants Ronan telling him what to do.

Holy shit.

Ronan’s never put much thought into this either, because he never imagined it’d be a possibility. So much of Adam is tightly-gripped independence, autonomy, the need to act on his own terms. He doesn’t bend under the thumb of anyone. He’s his own person first and foremost, and Ronan gets that. He loves that. He—

Thinks of Adam underneath him, unresistant. Adam doing what Ronan says, letting Ronan take care of him, trusting Ronan with every piece of him.

Just like that, Ronan’s hard.

Adam’s gaze travels down the length of Ronan’s body, lingering on the bulge in Ronan’s trousers. When he looks back up, his eyes are all hunger and hot desire.

But Ronan can’t get distracted, not yet. He needs to know where the line is first.

“How do you want this to work?” he asks.

“It’s sex. Do you really need me to draw a diagram?”

“I’m serious, shithead.”

“So am I,” Adam says, and then he’s up in Ronan’s space, shoving Ronan’s suit blazer off and feeling up the biceps underneath. His gaze is awed as he looks his fill, as his fingers trace down the buttons of Ronan’s black shirt. “Look, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can fuck me, or I’ll suck you off, or whatever you can think of. I just want you in control.”

“What about holding you down? Being rougher than usual?”

“You can do whatever you want to me.”

Jesus.” That’s more power than Ronan knows how to handle, but the idea of it is intoxicating — laying claim to every part of Adam, reverent, possessive thing that he is.

“You can’t say that, damn it,” Ronan adds, working to get a hold of himself. “We need some — some ground rules, or something.”

“Since when do you cares about rules?”

“Since when do you not?”

Adam shrugs. “I trust you,” he says, and Ronan sucks in a sharp breath. That’s what he wanted, all this time. All of Adam’s hard-won trust, these final precious pieces of his heart. But now that Adam’s offering them so freely, Ronan’s torn. There are so many ways this could go wrong, so many ways he could hurt Adam.

And Adam, knowing those risks, wants to go ahead with it. Because he trusts Ronan more than Ronan trusts himself.

“Just tell me you’re not doing this because you think it’ll make me happy,” Ronan says. He won’t be able to live with himself if that’s what this is, if Adam’s response to his own baseless insecurities about not giving enough, or not making Ronan happy enough, is to turn around and give up his boundaries instead.

“We’re dating,” Adam says. “I’m supposed to make you happy.”

“Adam.”

“Look, it’s not like that,” he insists. “I want you to be happy, and I want to give you something that’ll make you happy, but it’s not — Ronan, I want this. It scared me at first, but it’s you. I trust you.”

That’s all Ronan needs to hear. That’s everything he needs to hear.

Adam trusts Ronan with everything — Ronan can trust Adam to know his damn limits.

Ronan looks Adam up and down, takes in the way Adam’s gaze keeps drifting to his crotch. He kisses Adam softly, needing this, I love you, I love you, before they do anything else. Then he pulls back, steadies himself, and says, “Get on your knees.”

Adam gets on his knees.

Ronan fights back a groan at the heady rush of power that gives him, whatever you want running through his head on repeat.

“You wanna stop, tell me and this stops,” he says.

Adam nods.

“Say it.”

“I’ll tell you if I want to stop,” Adam says.

Ronan backs the extra few inches up so he’s leaning against the door. He runs one hand over the front of his trousers, feeling the hard bulge beneath, watching Adam as Adam watches him. He can feel himself beginning to sweat underneath his shirt, but Adam likes the suit and Ronan wants Adam to have whatever he wants.

And right now, Adam’s got his eyes on one thing.

Ronan unzips his fly, fumbling to get his cock out. He strokes himself slowly, once, twice, more for Adam’s benefit than for his, and then he says, “C’mere.”

Adam’s moving closer the second Ronan’s done giving the order. He looks at Ronan with a question in his eyes, as if Ronan could deny him anything right now. Ronan nods his head slightly. Then Adam’s long, boyish fingers curl around the base of Ronan’s cock and he leans in.

He takes his time at first, kissing his way down the underside, licking up Ronan’s precum, careful and attentive, before opening his mouth and swallowing around Ronan properly. Ronan swears and knocks his head back against the door. He’s had Adam’s mouth on him plenty of times in the past, and he’s still not used to how good it feels. He’s even less used to it like this, with Adam giving himself over so shamelessly, sinking all the way down like he’s been wanting it all day.

And fuck. The sight of him on his knees, Ronan’s cock filling his mouth, all that tanned skin laid out for Ronan to touch — it’s so much. Adam is brilliant and beautiful and more miraculous than any dream that Ronan can even fathom creating. And no one else gets to have this. No one else will ever see this. This is all Ronan’s.

Ronan reaches down for something to hold, some piece of Adam to steady himself with while Adam takes him apart. His hands find Adam’s hair and he latches on—

Adam whimpers. The sound goes straight to Ronan’s cock.

Ronan tugs at his hair again experimentally and is rewarded by that perfect sound.

“Fuck,” Ronan gasps. “You like that?”

Normally this would get Adam rolling his eyes, giving Ronan one of his patented withering looks. This time Adam groans around his cock and strains to take him deeper, sucking back and forth, and fuck, shit, damn. Ronan’s breathing gets heavier, heart-rate spiking out as he loses himself to mindless pleasure.

He can feel his control slipping, orgasm creeping up on him embarrassingly fast. He pulls back, freeing himself from Adam’s lips, shutting his eyes as he fights to slow down. Drag it out. Get a hold of himself.

When he looks back down, Adam is waiting for him, face earnest and open. There’s sweat beading his hairline, a flush in his cheeks, mouth wet from a mix of spit and precum, but he doesn’t look fazed at all. He looks used. He looks ready for more, ready for whatever Ronan wants to give him.

You can do whatever you want to me.

If that’s what Adam asked for, why shouldn’t Ronan give it to him?

“I’m gonna fuck your mouth,” the words are out of his mouth and stunning him before he has time to reconsider, “and you’re gonna be good and take it for me.”

He looks for a show of reluctance, any sign that Adam doesn’t want this, but Adam is completely unresistant, quiet eagerness apparent in his eyes. He opens his mouth up wide and waits for it.

“Hands behind your back,” he adds, and Adam doesn’t question it, just follows.

Ronan slowly feeds him his cock this time, watching the way Adam’s lips wrap around the head, feeling it as a bead of precum drips onto Adam’s tongue. It’s too much, too good. Adam’s too good. He gets both his hands in Adam’s hair, gripping tightly as he thrusts.

It’s so easy to lose himself to the feeling, the hot, wet sensation of Adam’s clever mouth around him, those desperate sounds Adam’s making, fuck, the sounds. It drives Ronan past the point of coherency, gets him rambling nonsense out loud, Fuck, shit, just like that, you’re so good like that, Adam, so good.

He needs this to be good for Adam too, though. He needs—

But then he looks down and he sees the thick curve of Adam’s erection, precum leaking through his shorts. He’s into this. He’s really into this, and Ronan hasn’t even touched him yet.

“You’re so fucking good, Adam,” Ronan says breathlessly. “Jesus fuck, I love you.”

And Adam whines around his cock, honest to God whines, this perfect sound that Ronan’s never heard from him before and thrills at getting him to make again. He’s perfect like this, so, so perfect, open and trusting and Ronan’s, all Ronan’s, and what did Ronan ever do to deserve that? How is he ever going to show Adam that he’s better than every dream combined?

Ronan fucks Adam’s face until it’s too much, until he can’t hold on anymore. “I’m gonna—”

But Adam doesn’t try to pull back, just sits there and raises his teary eyes to meet Ronan’s gaze.

Ronan swears, hips arching, and spills down Adam’s throat.

He takes a minute to enjoy it, to come down from that glorious high, and then his thoughts shift to Adam. Adam, who’s still rock hard in his pants and waiting for Ronan to tell him what to do. Adam, who’s given everything over to Ronan with the unspoken understanding that Ronan will take care of him.

There’s nothing Ronan wants more.

Adam is breathing heavily, still on the floor. His chin is dirty with spit and some of Ronan’s cum, and his eyes are glazed over, almost. But he still looks up when Ronan comes closer, waiting for that next instruction.

“Fuck, you’re brilliant.” Ronan doesn’t mean to say it this time — it just slips out, this thought of his he’d never dare to say in another context. “Get on the bed for me, okay?”

Adam stumbles to his feet in slow motion. Ronan helps, steadying hand on his shoulder. He gets Adam all the way over to the bed, strips him out of his basketball shorts and t-shirt, and pushes him onto his back. Ronan follows suit, quickly ridding himself of his church clothes, before settling next to Adam.

Adam. Beautiful and brilliant, body spread out on the bed, Ronan’s most sinful object of worship. Ronan trails his gaze all the way down from those beautiful hands, stretched out above him on the pillow, to his lips still messy with Ronan’s seed, to his leaking cock curved against taut stomach muscles. Ronan’s.

He grabs the lube out of the drawer, considers pushing Adam over onto his stomach, but no. He needs to see Adam’s face. Instead he hitches Adam’s legs up, spreading them apart. Adam’s breath hitches in a way that betrays anticipation and Ronan leans forward to kiss him, his neck, his jaw, his lips. His mouth tastes like Ronan.

“Okay?” he says, just to be sure.

Adam nods, glassy-eyed. Whispers, “Ronan,” with all the desperation of a prayer and enough devotion to suggest he’s calling on God himself. Ronan can’t imagine what he’s done to deserve that, but he’s going to try his damn best to keep at it.

He fucks Adam slowly with one finger, then two, savoring every moan and open-mouthed pant and the way Adam’s body rocks up against him, and all the while Ronan’s babbling senselessly about how good he looks, how perfect he is, all these words Ronan’s been keeping locked up till now, so sure that Adam would never allow himself to hear them.

He drags it out for as long as he can before guilt kicks in, and then he gets his hand around Adam’s cock. Traces his finger along the slit, strokes him, then says, “That’s it, fuck, Adam, come for me,” and Adam comes with a choked-off cry.

He gets real quiet after that. He sinks against the bed like nothing else matters, like nothing else exists. Ronan considers what to do. Shower? Get Adam in the shower? Adam’s usually the one that insists on post-sex cleaning rituals, but Adam is checked the fuck out. But it’s fine. He definitely enjoyed himself.

Didn’t he?

“Adam?”

No response.

“Want me to run a bath?”

More silence at first. And then, seconds later, delayed, “Don’t wanna move.”

It’s fine. He’s just tired. That’s normal.

Ronan wishes he’d talk, though.

Ronan kisses Adam’s head and runs a gentle hand through his hair. He lies there for as long as he can, until the stickiness starts to feel uncomfortable. Then, seeing nothing else for it, he gets up and dedicates himself to the annoying task of cleaning them both up.

      ***

At some point, Ronan falls asleep. When he comes to, Adam’s not beside him.

Ronan pulls his discarded boxers back on and then pads through the house in search of him. He feels weird, all groggy and off-kilter. He can’t tell if it’s down to the midday nap or the sex or some combination of the two.

He finds Adam outside on the back porch, resting in the rocking chair with a mug of coffee in his hands. Could be worse — at least this time there’s no Middlemarch.

Ronan makes sure to step on the creaky piece of wood so Adam will hear him approach. Then he drapes himself over the top of the chair and cards a hand through Adam’s hair.

“Hey.” Adam looks up and smiles wryly; it does wonders at calming Ronan’s heart. “Nice dreams?”

Ronan flips him off.

The smile becomes a dirty grin, and Ronan settles completely. He slouches down on the floor beside the chair, resting his head against the arm. Adam leans down with his free hand and runs it over the back of Ronan’s shorn scalp.

“So, that was…”

“Fucking intense?”

Adam’s brows furrow. “In what way?”

“Jesus, Parrish. Do you really need to ask?”

“You weren’t sure about doing this, at first. I want to know that you’re sure now.”

“I was surprised,” Ronan corrects. “I wasn’t unsure.”

“That’s my point. You never would’ve suggested this if I hadn’t first.”

Ronan shrugs. It’s true, but he doesn’t see why it matters. He tried it out, he liked it, end of story.

Adam doesn’t seem convinced. There’s that hesitance again, like he’s waiting to be judged — or judging himself, more accurately.

“Hey, you liked it, right?” Because that’s what matters. Ronan can’t live with the thought of pushing Adam too far, even if Adam technically asked for it.

Adam nods. He looks exceedingly vulnerable here, eyes glinting in the fading sun, and Ronan loves him all the more for it. This doesn’t come easily to Adam, this stripping of his defenses, but for Ronan he’s trying. He’s given so much, and still he’s trying for more.

“I know it’s weird—”

“Why is it weird?”

“You know why,” Adam says. “Being dependent on someone, under their control — I’ve never wanted that. I don’t want that. But then it comes to sex and, I don’t know, it’s different. But that doesn’t make any sense.”

“Nothing about sex makes sense. It’s all disgusting as shit, when you think about it.”

“There’s something wrong, in my head, to want that,” Adam carries on, like he hasn’t heard Ronan at all. “But it felt good.”

Ronan doesn’t see the issue, but he knows it’s going to plague Adam and lead to months of over-analyzing and shame if he doesn’t puzzle it out right here and now. He thinks it over, although really the answer is obvious, at least to him.

“Look,” Ronan says. “You go hard at everything you do. You never catch a break. So if dropping all that shit and letting someone else take charge gets you off, who the fuck cares? It makes plenty of sense to me.”

“Not someone else. You,” Adam says. “I couldn’t do that with just anyone.”

He wouldn’t trust anyone else with this side of him, but he trusts Ronan. The truth of it, solid and steady between them, is enough to knock him flat. What he has with Adam is more than love or home or belonging — it’s an understanding so complete, shattered edges aligning to make a whole, Ronan ending where Adam begins.

And he felt that earlier, with Adam’s heart and trust and devotion in his hands. With Adam so close, it almost felt like he was Ronan’s second self.

“I damn well hope you’re not doing it with just anyone,” Ronan says to be a dick, and Adam scoffs and calls him a shithead, and all is right with the world.