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Hope Smiles

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Adam tries to quell shame as he watches a listless Ronan appraise his tiny, Spartan room above St. Agnes. It’s not hard, actually. Shame is second nature to him now, shame and dread and anger and fear, and so is keeping such beasts at bay.

Still, no one can blame him if his tone is a little clipped when he asks, “What are you doing here, Lynch? I don’t even have a TV.”

Ronan cants him a casual glance over his shoulder, eyes half-lidded. The same shoulder rises and falls in an equally casual shrug. Chainsaw bristles on its twin, and then nestles back into dreamland with a creaky squawk.

“Just hanging,” Ronan says, quiet enough that she isn’t disturbed.

Adam tries not to scowl. Instead, he goes back to studying. Open textbooks sprawl across his wilting mattress, taking up every inch of space. He’s been looking at them for so long that the words are beginning to blur, but it’s either that or look at Ronan, so he briskly turns another page.

Ronan seems not to care. He wanders corner to corner of the infinitesimal room, shrewd eyes assessing Adam’s neat but small desk, his secondhand lamp, the little cactus that Blue had given him for Christmas. There’s a picture, too, of all the boys and Blue, sans frame, simply taped to the wall.

This, Ronan strokes with the tip of his pointer finger, with the same gentleness he sometimes proffered to tiny creatures, like the raven sleeping in the crook of his neck. He says, “So, I guess Gansey’s making a thing of it, huh?”

Adam sighs. He doesn’t have to ask what. It doesn’t hurt as much anymore, but wounds like that could never heal all the way. There would forever be a Blue-shaped scar, near-invisible in the already battered flesh of his heart, but he bandages over that the way does everything else, stubbornly wishing them well.

He knows Gansey will be disappointed that he can’t kiss Blue at midnight, but he’s sure he has a special and exorbitantly expensive backup plan – something Blue would hate, but for the thought that went into it. Maybe he’ll fill the sky with a bouquet of fireworks, or spell her name out with them. Or maybe he’ll just let her drag him to Fox Way, and keep to her traditions, masking any discomfort with his mega-watt smile. That’s love, isn’t it?

“Yeah,” Adam mutters at last. “I guess he is.”

And then, blessedly, Ronan falls silent. Adam returns to the bleary words in his textbooks, reading and rereading them to make sense where there is none, until his stinging eyes shut for just a minute, and then a minute more, and then an hour.

A dip in the bed startles him awake. Softly, Ronan asks, “What time is it?”

Adam’s too tired to snap that he’s not the one with the Rolex. Groggily, he looks at the fogged glass face of his own watch, and says without thinking, “Exactly twelve.”

Then, Ronan’s fingers are underneath his chin, tender again, so tender, and Adam allows them to guide his face up to Ronan’s own, as if enchanted, till Ronan’s lips are on his, thin and chapped but sweet. It lasts a minute, or maybe a year, until Chainsaw makes her annoyance known from Adam’s desk.

Ronan pulls away at the sound. He smirks. “Happy New Year, Parrish.”

“Happy New Year, Lynch,” murmurs Adam, and lets his sullen mouth shape a genuine smile.                                                                         

Ronan stares for a moment, then says, grinning devilishly, “And if Gansey is jealous that we got to share a New Year’s kiss when he didn't, well, that’s just a bonus, isn’t it?”

For Blue’s sake, Adam tosses a pillow at his head, but he’s still smiling.

Maybe 2015 will be a better year, after all.