They were all sitting on the floor of Monmouth, a nice change from the constant exploring that Ronan thanked the merciless storm outside for instigating. He looked around from his spot, his knees drawn up in front of him so that Chainsaw could sit on one. He stroked her almost absentmindedly as he surveyed the circle around him. Gansey was shuffling a deck of cards, and Blue had just asked the circle at large if there was anything to drink in the building besides orange juice and beer.
“There’s probably still tea,” Adam responded, “From when Malory was here.”
Noah popped into existence between Blue and Adam, where a spot had been left for him. “I think someone actually bought soda on the last shopping trip,” He said, “I’m not sure.”
Ronan nodded. “There’s coke in the fridge.”
Blue looked surprised. “You bought coke, Ronan?”
Ronan raised his eyebrows coldly. “No, Gansey did. He liked the way the bottles were shaped, for some reason.”
“They were the glass bottle type,” said Gansey, looking up from his cards. “I thought they were neat.”
“Oh,” Blue said, standing up. “Cool. I’ll go grab myself one. Anyone else want a coke, while I’m up? Adam?”
“Sure,” said Adam, deciding that the expense wasn’t large enough for him to refuse. The other two boys capable of consuming liquids decided to pass, and Blue set off for the fridge.
“This setup will never cease to be really unsanitary,” She called as she got the two bottles out of the fridge. Ronan snorted.
As Blue came back to her spot, pausing to hand Adam a bottle of coke, Gansey seemed to decide that the cards had been shuffled enough. “So, what are we playing?” He asked. “Egyptian Ratscrew? Crazy Eights?”
“We could play BS,” Noah piped up, “Or Spoons.”
“Spoons might be fun,” Blue agreed.
“What are the stakes?” Ronan asked, at the same time Adam said “How do you play Spoons?”
Gansey quickly jumped in to explain the game to Adam. “We put one less spoon in the center of the circle than there are people, and everyone gets four cards to start. Then one person, the dealer, starts taking cards from the deck and pasing them down the line. You can switch out a passed card for one in your hand, and the object of the game is to end up with four of the same number in your hand, and the first person to do that dives for a spoon, at which point everyone else dives for the spoons, and then whoever ends up without a spoon loses the round.”
“Or tongues,” Noah piped up again, “We could play tongues.”
“Tongues is like spoons, except instead of picking up a spoon the person sticks out their tongue, and the last one to notice the stuck out tongues and stick out their own loses the round,” Gansey explained.
“Either way,” said Blue, at the same time that Ronan asked again, “What are the stakes?”
“What do you mean, what are the stakes?” asked Blue.
“Exactly what it sounds like,” said Ronan, “What happens if you lose?”
“Typically it means you’re out until a winner is declared,” said Gansey, “But I can see how that might get boring.”
Blue hummed. “Well, we could change it up a bit, but first I want to set a ground rule that once someone gets to their underwear, they stop. I’m not in the mood to look at anyone’s junk tonight and–”
“What are you suggesting, Jane?”
Blue grinned at Gansey in a sharp sort of way that made Gansey’s heart skip a beat. “Strip tongues.”
Ronan let out a chuckle, and Adam said “Wow, that sounds really dirty.”
“I’m in,” Ronan said, glancing at Adam.
Noah shrugged. “I don’t know if that’d work, for me? My clothes are kind of as incorporeal as I am, and –”
Blue cut him off. “It’s okay if you don’t strip, Noah. You can still play.” She looked around at Adam and Gansey. “Are you two okay with this?”
Gansey fidgeted a little with the cards, shifting his weight, and eyed the whole group. “Alright,” he said, “If Adam’s fine with it, that is.”
Adam looked at Gansey, a bit startled, then looked around the rest of the group, eyes lingering when they came to rest on Ronan. “I’m fine with it,” he decided. “Deal the cards.”
“One article comes off for every round you lose,” Blue said as Gansey dealt everyone four cards. “Until you get to your underwear,” she added hastily, “I’m really not here for you all to suddenly be totally naked.”
“What happens when someone’s down to their underwear and they lose another round?”
“We’ll figure that out if and when we get there,” Blue decided.
Ronan shifted position so that he could grab his cards, and Chainsaw took off to perch one the back of the couch instead. Blue took a swig from her coke.
Gansey began to draw the cards from the deck, and Blue immediately began snapping at him to do it faster. “It’s not fun unless you’re scrambling,” she insisted.
Adam’s eyes were constantly flickering between his cards and the faces of everyone else playing. He picked up the next card Noah had passed him, and realized it was the last one he needed. He had all the nines. He stuck out his tongue, and kept passing cards, only now he was only watching the others to see when they would notice.
Noah caught on first, sticking out his tongue and winking at Adam, then Ronan noticed, then Blue, who said “you lost, Gansey.”
Gansey looked up to see all his friends sticking out their tongues at him, and sighed. He set down his cards and set about taking off his shoes.
After a few rounds, Gansey had also lost his socks and his cardigan, Blue had lost her boots (she had also taken the opportunity to peel off her socks) and her jacket, and Adam decided to lose a round on purpose because Ronan had entered the game barefoot, leaving Adam also sock-and-shoe-less, because it was only fair that they be on equal footing (ha) before someone lost a shirt.
It was Blue’s turn to deal, and she drew the cards swiftly, shoving them at Noah almost faster than he could keep up, and he in turn threw them at Ronan, who barely looked at them before quickly dropping them in front of Adam.
Adam saw how Noah and Blue weren’t even looking up, and how Gansey and Ronan only did so once every turn, while Adam had devised a system of taking a card, glancing up, looking at the card, looking up again as he put the card in front of Gansey, and then drawing another card.
Blue stuck out her tongue first and Adam followed, then Ronan, then Gansey, and Blue nudged Noah and told him he’d lost. He shrugged.
Adam looked around, and Ronan spoke up.
“Looks like the next loser’ll lose their shirt,” he said, “unless it’s Noah again.”
Gansey had collected the cards and handed them to Blue, who shuffled them briskly and beautifully before handing them to Noah, who dealt.
The round started, and ended very quickly. Adam had won again, and Gansey had lost, again.
Ronan cackled. “Take it off, Dick!”
Gansey managed to shoot him a glare before tugging his polo up over his head. Ronan wolf-whistled, and Adam wasn’t sure if it was appreciative or mocking. Gansey’s stint as captain of the rowing team had given him a great physique, that much was certain. He tore his eyes away from Gansey’s chest to look at Blue, who was beginning to blush, and then at Ronan, who smirked back at him, and it was Adam’s turn to blush.
“Alright, enough ogling, next round,” Gansey said impatiently, collecting the cards once more and handing them to Blue, who shuffled again and handed the cards off to Ronan.
Adam noticed that Gansey seemed mush more invested this round, looking up almost constantly. He was only slightly surprised when Gansey stuck out his tongue first, having noticed that Noah had done the same before Adam did. Then Blue glanced up at Adam, looked around, and said “Ronan.”
Ronan looked up and let out a curse. He threw his cards at Gansey and yanked off his tank top. Adam sucked in a breath. Gansey whistled, and again Adam wasn’t sure if it was appreciative or mocking. He heard Blue laugh in response to Gansey’s whistle, and caught himself as his eyes drifted towards the waist of Ronan’s jeans, looking up at Ronan’s face only to see that Ronan was again smirking at him. He looked away just as quickly, and was distantly aware that the warmth he felt in his face must have been because he was blushing.
He saw Ronan stretch out of the corner of his eye, his arms behind his head, flaunting every bit of exposed skin.
“When everyone’s looked their fill,” he said, and Gansey shoved the collected cards at Blue, who shuffled.
Adam, having been sufficiently distracted, did not notice when Blue stuck out her tongue, or when Gansey and Noah noticed and did the same, and he especially didn’t notice Ronan’s tongue because he was avoiding looking at Ronan most of all.
“Adam,” Blue said, and Adam closed his eyes, biting back a curse. He looked up and around at everyone, and held out his cards to Gansey, who took them, and pulled at his shirt.
“Hot damn,” said Noah, and it must’ve broke some sort of tension because both Ronan and Gansey immediately whistled.
It wasn’t as if Ronan didn’t know Adam was hot, it wasn’t as if Ronan wasn’t prepared for seeing Adam shirtless, but when Adam looked at him and gave him the same fucking smirk he had given Adam something in Ronan’s stomach swooped pleasantly, and he looked down, gathering his cards and sliding them towards Gansey.
Adam wouldn’t have been able to explain the satisfaction he felt at seeing the tips of Ronan’s ears turn red if anyone had asked.
Another round commenced. This time, when Blue looked up she didn’t say a name, but rather sighed and divested herself of her top. She folded it neatly before setting it behind her, and pulled one of her bra straps to rest higher on her shoulder. She looked around, raising an eyebrow. “I appreciate your hesitance to objectify me,” she said, “but seeing as everyone so far has been whistled at I do feel a bit left out.”
Gansey immediately whistled, and Blue smiled at him.
The game went on until Blue had lost her leggings as well, leaving her in a skirt and underwear, and Ronan and Gansey were both stripped to nothing but their boxers.
Adam had once again taken to checking everyone’s faces twice for every card he picked up.
Gansey lost the next round. He laughed a little, and looked at Blue. “Well?” he asked. “We’re here now, you said we’d figure it out when we got here.”
Blue laughed like Gansey had. “Um? We could do truth or dare?”
Ronan glanced out the window. The storm had stopped some time ago. “It’s getting late,” he said.
“Shit,” Blue said amiably. “What time is it?”
Gansey turned to fish his phone out of the pocket of his khakis and showed her the time.
“Damn,” She sighed, grabbing her shirt, “I need to get home, I said I’d be back in time for dinner.”
“No dares, then?” Ronan sounded a little disappointed. Blue ignored him.
“Would you like a ride home?” Gansey asked, scrambling to put his clothes back on as Blue finished tying her shoes.
She looked up, grabbing her jacket. “I would.”
Gansey hastily put on his shoes and grabbed his keys from his desk. “I’ll be back,” he promised.
“You guys should keep playing,” Blue tossed over her shoulder as she walked towards the door, “truth or dare. Gansey’ll join in when he comes back.”
The door shut behind them, and Adam turned to Ronan. “Well–”
The door opened again. “Or spin the bottle!” Blue hollered back into the room. “My empty coke bottle’s right there!”
The door shut again, and there was a pause before Adam laughed nervously.
Ronan looked at Adam, a long, searching look, then turned to Noah. “Noah. Truth or dare?”
Ronan cast his eyes around the room, obviously trying to think of a dare. Adam wasn't sure what to think about Ronan not asking him. Finally, he tossed his phone at Adam. “Choose a song,” he said. “Noah, your dare is to do an interpretive dance, with lipsyncing if possible, to the song of Adam’s choosing.”
“I’m not really in the mood for anything dramatic right now, Czerny.”
Noah frowned. Adam did as well: Ronan wasn't usually one to choose something so benign. When Adam started the music, though, Noah did not disappoint. He had Adam laughing at his antics, and Ronan couldn’t keep himself from smiling.
When Noah started fading in and out of sight, Ronan waved a hand. “Alright, that’s enough.”
Noah drifted back down to the floor, and looked at Adam. “Truth or Dare?”
Adam bit his lip. “Truth?”
Noah flickered as he glanced at Ronan, and Adam swallowed in trepidation.
“Are you straight?”
Noah seemed to gain definition. “Adam Parrish. Are you heterosexual?”
Chainsaw had at some point realighted on Ronan’s knee, which was bare. Adam was still shirtless, and Ronan was wearing just his boxers. He was studiously avoiding looking at Adam.
Adam glanced at him at the moment Ronan decided to take a peek, and they both looked away from each other immediately. Adam cleared his throat.
“My Dad’s a bigot. There wasn't ever really another option.” Adam knew this wasn’t an answer to the question.
Noah knew it too. “You know it would be ok if you weren’t, right? None of us would care.”
That was wrong, Ronan decided. He would care if Adam admitted that there was any chance he could love Ronan back. He immediately berated himself for having that thought.
Adam gave a short laugh. “Why are you asking if you don’t care, Noah?”
Noah nodded. “Alright, I care, but not in a bad way. I want to see you happy. I know Blue and Gansey wouldn’t think about you any differently.”
Adam’s mouth twisted.
Noah shook his head. “You’ll have to answer,” he warned, “but I’ll give you some time to think about it. Ronan.”
Ronan looked up from petting Chainsaw. “Yeah?”
“Truth or Dare, you sack of shit?”
“Watch your mouth, Czerny.”
“Answer the question, Lynch.”
Ronan ran over the potential outcomes of both answers. One, he decided, had the potential to make the situation much more uncomfortable for Adam, considering the mood Noah was in, and the other threatened to put Ronan himself in the hot seat.
Noah gave him a look.
“Care to share your sexuality with the class, Lynch?”
“Care to share yours, since you’re so obsessed with everyone else’s, Czerny?”
“I’m a ghost.”
“Doesn’t matter, ghosts still have feelings.”
Noah let out a huff. He was translucent, and Ronan knew if he reached out to touch him his hand would go straight through.
“Girls and guys are pretty much equally attractive to me,” he said, finally, “But I’ve had a lot more experience with girls.”
Adam let out a breath, and Ronan let out a noise that sounded a bit like “ha!”
“Your turn, Lynch.”
“I am gayer than a maypole.” This line was delivered completely devoid of emotion, and both Adam and Noah couldn’t help but laugh. Ronan raised an eyebrow at them.
Adam was saved by Gansey bursting through the door, a little out of breath. “Alright, what did I miss?”
“You got back quick,” Adam said, trying to stall for time.
Gansey shrugged. “Blue reminded me that leaving you all to play truth or dare in my bedroom, alone, may not be the wisest idea.” A frown crossed his face. “Then she told me she gave me permission to join in whatever I find you all doing.”
Noah laughed. “That’s our Blue!” he said, and patted the floor beside him. “Take your clothes off and stay a while. Adam was just about to tell us whether he’s come to terms with his sexuality.”
“What?” Both Adam and Gansey said this at the same time, though Adam sounded panicked and Gansey sounded intrigued. Gansey toed off his shoes and took off his sweater, and, glancing at Adam and then at Ronan, who gave him a pointed look, he took of his shirt as well.
“Adam was asked if he was straight,” Ronan said, “A question that he still has not answered.”
Adam glared at Ronan. “These two,” he indicated Noah and Ronan, “are both decidedly not.”
Gansey didn’t have the decency to look like this came as a surprise.
“I know,” he said, nodding. “Ronan’s gayer than a bag of rainbows and Noah–” He paused. “Well, actually I didn’t know about Noah.”
“Bi,” Noah said cheerfully, and Gansey nodded.
“Well?” he asked Adam. “It’s also alright if you don’t want to answer.”
“What about you?”
Gansey shrugged. “I mean, I like girls, but I have done some things that are decidedly not straight, and I like that too.”
Adam looked at Ronan, who was grinning at Gansey’s admission. “Oh,” he said, “You two–”
“Answer the question, Adam,” Noah interrupted, the idea of him still sitting where he had been for the whole game. “Or tell us to stop badgering you.”
Ronan caught Adam’s eye. “Yes,” he said. “A couple times.”
Adam let out a breath.
“I- I don’t know,” he looked at Gansey for support. “I’m not sure.”
Gansey gave him a smile. “That’s fine.”
“These two would probably help you find out, if you wanted,” Noah’s voice breathed in Adam’s good ear. The impression of him had disappeared from where he'd been sitting. “They’d both be glad to help, and if you liked it? One of them can’t stop thinking about you.”
Adam looked at Ronan, and Ronan took in Adam’s expression. Ronan then looked at Gansey, and Adam watched as a conversation seemed to pass between them, before Gansey turned to Adam.
“If you ever want to experiment,” he began, but Adam cut him off.
“Okay,” he whispered.
Gansey seemed a bit taken aback, but also very pleased. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” Adam confirmed, trying to put the confidence he was feeling into his voice. He shifted forward.
Gansey came forward to meet him, and touched Adam’s jaw. “I’m going to kiss you, ok?”
Adam nodded, and he let his eyes flutter shut as Gansey’s lips met his. It was soft, a bit hesitant, but when Adam began kissing Gansey back it turned resolute, assured. Adam was struck by how right it felt, how simple and good it was to kiss his friend, and he decided that settled it. He was by no means straight.
Adam kissed Gansey back for a few seconds, then pulled away a little. His hand had come to rest on Gansey’s shoulder.
Gansey looked at him, a bit wary, his hand falling from Adam’s face. “It’s ok if you’re straight, you know,” Gansey said, “It’s ok if you want to stop, we won’t discuss it again and–” Adam cut him off, and this time the kiss was heavier.
When they broke apart again, it was because Ronan had cleared his throat. He had moved to Adam’s good side, and Adam reached out with his other hand to run his thumb along Ronan’s cheekbone. Ronan’s eyes seemed to burn into him, and to avoid his gaze Adam leaned in, and he was kissing Ronan.
Gansey kissed like there was time, like no matter what they’d be ok. Ronan kissed like as soon as they stopped the clock would run out and the moment would be over, and they would never have it again. He was dimly aware of his left hand still resting on Gansey’s shoulder, and of the way one of Ronan’s hands was gripping his knee.
After some unquantifiable amount of time, Ronan began to pull away, and Adam unabashedly followed him, his hand curving around from Ronan’s face to curl around the back of his neck, and Ronan stopped moving away. Adam looked down, scared of what he might see in Ronan’s eyes, but kept their foreheads pressed together as he let out a long breath.
Gansey let out something that was far too breathy to be a proper laugh, and both Adam and Ronan turned their heads to look at him, breaking the moment.
“It’s just–” he began, and he shook his head. Adam took in his flushed cheeks, the way his hair was falling over his forehead as he looked down. This Gansey wasn’t in control. He wondered if it would be different if he kissed Gansey when Gansey was like this, and so he leaned away from Ronan and towards the other boy.
Gansey’s hand came up to card through Adam’s hair, and Gansey let out a fluttering breath as they kissed. It was short and light, and something about it threatened to overwhelm Adam, and so he pulled away, Gansey’s hand slipping through his hair.
Gansey looked at him, and Adam didn’t want to think about what he saw in Gansey’s eyes, and so he looked at Ronan.
“Go on, then,” Adam said. His voice was hoarse, and he cleared his throat. “I want to see– you two–”
Ronan smirked at him, and the hand that was on Adam’s knee left to tangle itself in Gansey’s hair and pull him close. Adam’s hand slipped down Ronan’s shoulder, and Ronan’s other hand caught it and gave it a squeeze as Adam watched Gansey and Ronan, mesmerized.
Gansey’s hands were roaming Ronan’s exposed torso, skimming over his chest, and one lingered over his heart as the other ran up Ronan’s neck to grip his jaw firmly, and something in their dynamic changed. Before, Ronan had been trying to pull Gansey in, goading him. Now, Adam suppressed a groan as Gansey bit Ronan’s lip, and Ronan’s hand tightened on his.
He must’ve made some sort of noise, though, because Gansey paused to take him in, and Ronan, noticing the lack of attention, caught Adam’s gaze.
Gansey was the only one who wasn’t so out of breath that he couldn’t smirk at the others, and so he did, a sharp smile as he let out a short breath that approximated a laugh, and Adam looked at him, and looked at Ronan as Ronan’s head turned again towards Gansey, and he watched as Ronan let out a harsh breath in response to Gansey’s expression.
Gansey was looking at Adam, though, when he said “Well?”
“Well what?” The words were thick with Adam's Henrietta accent. Adam knew this counted as stalling, but he wasn’t going to share information he hadn’t been asked for.
“You like kissing boys, Adam?”
Ronan was looking at Adam, now, and Adam looked back at him, taking in the wariness hidden in his eyes.
“Yeah,” Adam admitted, “I do.”
Ronan made some sort of noise, and his hand not holding Adam’s shot forward to pull Adam into a bruising kiss. Adam's free hand fell to Ronan's chest, his palm smoothing over Ronan's sternum, Ronan's collar bone, his fingers tracing over the bit of Ronan's tattoo that twined up his neck. Ronan broke away as Adam's fingers ghosted over the sharp curving lines, coming up for air, and Adam took the freedom to drop his mouth to Ronan's neck. Ronan's hand was in Adam's hair, and he let out a soft noise he would deny making if anyone ever asked as Adam kissed his way from Ronan's collar bone to the underside of his jaw.
Just then, Gansey's phone rang. They all jumped apart, and Ronan swore.
"It's Blue," Gansey said, breathless and puzzled, and put the phone to his ear.
"What is it, Blue?"
Adam couldn't hear Blue's side of the conversation. Gansey was sitting on his bad side, and her words were indistinct to him as they came through the speaker pressed to Gansey's ear, but he saw the way Gansey colored at whatever she said.
"How did you-" he sighed. "Yes."
Blue said something else.
Gansey blushed deeply and looked embarrassed at whatever Blue said next. "Yeah," he said, softly. "I did."
Another pause, then "I wish we could-" But Blue must have cut him off, because Gansey didn't finish his thought. "Oh," he said, after a long pause, then "Alright. Goodbye."
Gansey put down the phone and turned to Ronan and Adam, who were looking at him expectantly. His blush returned.
"Noah's been to see Blue," he began, "And she, um, supports all of this wholeheartedly."
Ronan laughed scathingly. "Your girlfriend, who you can't kiss, is okay with- what, you kissing multiple people who are not her?"
Gansey gave him a look. "It sounded more like she was only okay with me kissing you two. And," he said, his eyes flickering to Adam and back, "we're not dating--"
"You realize that it's okay if you are, right?" Adam interrupted. "I won't be hurt if you are."
"Oh." Gansey couldn't hide the relief that crossed his face. "Well, I mean, we're not officially dating--"
"Anyway," Adam interrupted again, "That was nice, and I'd be open to doing it again sometime." He looked at Ronan. "You should take me home."