“Did you know,” Adam starts in his typical, annoyingly charming, matter-of-fact tone. Ronan is about to interrupt by saying no, he doesn’t know, just to get a rise out of him but he holds back. For now. “The Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetles,” he continues and Ronan thinks, okay, this is new. “Are, relatively, ten times faster than the best human sprinter?”
“What?” Ronan blinks and stops, mid-step, to look over at Adam.
Next to him, Adam glances off at the horizon with a muted, far-off expression across his delicate features. He looks bored or, no, that isn’t it. What Ronan sees is Adam, unguarded, with no need to pretend to be something he’s not. Adam Parrish, unfiltered. Adam Parrish, in his comfort zone.
“They move so quickly, they go temporarily blind while chasing their prey,” Adam continues, his head tilting towards Ronan with the faintest hint of a smile across his mouth. “Neat, right?”
Ronan, unsure of how to respond, stares at Adam for a long moment before he finally says, “Yeah, neat.”
Something flicks across Adam’s face, his light brows furrow, lips twitch, there and then gone in a second. His blue eyes look back off in the distance, appearing consternated as he waves a hand in front of his face to scare away a horde of gnats. They start walking again, quiet, barefoot in the muddy pasture. Ronan concentrates on the wet, plush feeling creeping between his toes with each step, hoping to stave off the thought that he’s, somehow, disappointed Adam.
Eventually, Ronan can’t take it anymore. Not like silence between them is unusual, or uneasy, just that he feels like he might have said something wrong. Also not atypical. “Got any more?” He asks, the question punctuated by the sound of Ronan slapping a mosquito off his own arm.
“Weird bug facts. Now I’m all curious.”
“Oh,” Adam tries not to perk up, fails, the smile coming back but wider, more unreserved this time. “You’re actually interested?”
“Shit, yeah. Tell me more about this crazy beetle that hunts blind. Sounds kinda badass.”
“Okay, okay, so —”
The details of Adam’s bug rant don’t really matter to Ronan, although he does listen intently. What matters is how it’s said, the excitement as Adam explains why they can’t see at the speeds in which they hunt, which loops into other, often stranger facts about different, indigenous Virginian bugs. This is Adam Parrish, happy, understood, untempered.
It becomes somewhat of a ritual on their walks, for Adam to give interesting facts about bugs. Sometimes, albeit rarely, they’ll find one and he’ll catch it. Holding the bug up for Ronan to see, Adam explains markings, diet, breeding habits, with the sort of carefree excitement of someone younger, less burdened. He’s a kid again, glad to have someone listening, to not be considered strange for his interest.
In the process, Ronan learns this all started way back, before Adam was even school age. He’d go around the trailer park in search of any sort of bug he could find, snatching them whenever he was able to show the other kids. More often than not, they would cringe, run away, call him gross and weird and creepy. After a while, Adam began keeping this to himself, studying them instead of capturing. Though he doesn’t say it out loud, the rejection of his peers clearly hurt, and Ronan realizes what it means for Adam to have opened up about this.
Ronan aches whenever he thinks of little Adam, spurned and turning his curiosity inward, and he aches in an entirely different way when he thinks of how Adam had trusted him not to do the same.
This feeling follows Ronan into his dreams, reflected in the multitude of jewel-toned dots covering the trees of his still-forming forest. Thousands upon thousands, some sparkle, some glow, others are translucent, striped, shimmery, opalescent, color-changing, with the only thing shared between them being this — they radiate the same elation Adam does when he really gets going about a fact he finds particularly interesting.
In the dream, Ronan closes his eyes and he thinks, hard, about how they might fit into the undreamt world. He thinks about Adam’s smile, how it’s probably the most beautiful thing in the world, and he puts those feelings together with careful consideration before forcing himself awake.
Paralyzed, as per usual, Ronan waits impatiently. There is no sign of his dream bugs in the room, which is probably for the best, although a part of him does worry it means his dreaming failed. Upon coming back into himself minutes later, Ronan nudges a grumpy Adam awake, ignoring the way he moans and cusses in protest, to drag him outside.
There’s nothing, at first, just the backyard with long grass that needs to be mowed sooner rather than later. Ronan takes a step, his fingers curled tight around Adam’s wrist, the ache in his chest growing, growing, growing until it bursts inside of him and into sudden, unexpected excitement. A flurry of dream bugs, every color imaginable, flies into the air a short ways off, scattering into a wondrous display filled with the exact same, cheerful feeling Ronan has whenever he thinks of Adam.
“Oh,” Adam laughs, a beautiful, airy sound. “Oh.”
Ronan grins, hand sliding down to twine their fingers together. “Want to go on a bug hunt, Parrish?”
The smile Adam gives Ronan in return is everything he could have wanted and more. He takes their joined hands, tugging Ronan along in a merry search for dream bugs.
“Did you know,” Ronan says one day, on their usual evening walk behind the Barns. Adam looks at him, smiling and thinking, oh, this should be good. “The Golden Tortoise Beetle, also known as Charidotella Sexpunctata,” he holds back a laugh. “Can change their color depending on the season, or even their mood? Something about the liquid beneath their shells, or whatever.”
Adam watches Ronan, who has this cocky, know-it-all grin on his face. He doesn’t know what to make of this, so with a laugh, he asks, “What?”
“It’s a bug, Parrish, a pretty fucking cool one, too, if you ask me.”
“Oh, I know, but…” Adam’s voice trails off and, though something about Ronan telling him random bug facts for once fills him with a certain joy, he can’t help but be confused. “Why?”
Ronan makes a face, his grip on Adam’s hand tightening for the briefest of moments. “You’re always telling me about this shit, thought I’d do my own research. How do I know you’re not feeding me a bunch of fake bug facts?”
The way Ronan deflects because he doesn’t want to admit the truth makes Adam laugh, again, this time longer and louder and a little wild. “You’d have to trust me, I guess,” he says after calming down a bit. “You don’t trust me?”
“I trust you about as far as I can throw you.”
“So...not very much?”
“Dunno, why don’t we find out?”
“No way, Lynch. Not letting you pick me up again, last time was a total disaster.”
It’s Ronan’s turn to laugh and, despite Adam’s protests, he snatches him up to sling over his shoulder. All the while, Adam twists, making half-assed attempts to escape, punching Ronan’s back and legs kicking but not actually trying. “So, Charidotella Sexpunctata,” Ronan continues as he struggles.
“God, you’re pretentious.”
“You love it.”
“Whatever, just give me your bug facts. We’ll swap.”
Sometimes, on his walks across campus, Adam spots a bug he’s discussed with Ronan before. More often than not, he leaves it be because he’s in a hurry, but the memory still sticks and makes him ache with want. If Ronan were here, Adam thinks, he’d probably ask about it. Not because he cares, but because he knows Adam cares.
It’s somewhat early, light gleaming off droplets of dew spread across flowers and grass alike, when Adam finds himself stopping in front of a patch of morning glories. He stares at the vibrant blue flowers, feeling no magical pull like he once would have but, instead, the color and shape of them reminds him of Ronan. Adam is just about to force the thought down, since now is not the time to be homesick, when he spots something vaguely gold in tint, translucent, and his chest sparks with excitement.
After looking around to make sure no one is watching, Adam cautiously eases the beetle off of it's petal, allowing the bug to set on his palm. He studies it, a lot longer than wholly necessary, his heart picking up just the smallest amount as his thoughts fill with nothing but Ronan, Ronan, Ronan. Maybe it’s silly to take a picture with his somewhat new phone, Adam doesn’t really care, because he wants to have one so he can look at it and feel this way again. To remind himself of the person who has become his home.
After setting the beetle back on the patch of flowers, Adam shoots the picture off with a quick text.
--> Made me think of you :) [8:42 AM]
Minutes later, just as Adam is settling in for his 9 AM class, his phone buzzes. There, on the screen, a dazzling beetle in an impossible shade of shimmering blue and a message below it.
<-- Dreamt about you [8:53 AM]