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This Peace of Mind

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Ronan’s knock, when it came, was not the knock that Adam was expecting. Instead of the early morning pounding or sharp midnight rap that he had been accustomed to hearing on his St. Agnes door, the three thumps were muted, almost polite. 

In the seconds between hearing the knock and coming to his dorm room door Adam thought about how he had rarely seen Ronan in a place that didn’t seem like his domain. Even if he hated Aglionby, he’d always had a disdainful lordship over its hallways. He remembered how uncomfortable Ronan had been the first time they’d visited 300 Fox Way and wondered if he would meet the same hostile, pointed version of him behind the door.

The Ronan he saw when he opened the door, though, was almost exactly the Ronan he remembered. His hair was freshly shorn. There were a few new creases in his leather jacket. From his shoulder Chainsaw cocked her head at Adam.

They didn’t say anything at first, just hugged. Ronan’s fingers came hesitantly to the back of Adam’s head as he leaned in, pressing into Ronan’s neck and breathing in the scent of home. As his arms fell from around Ronan he kept one hand on his waist. “You brought the bird.”

Ronan snorted. “No hello? No how have you been? No thank you for driving four hours to haul my sorry ass to Virginia for the weekend?”

Adam laughed. All of the stress and anxiety of his first month of college seemed suddenly insignificant.

“This bougie ass place looks good on you, Parrish,” Ronan said as they crossed the sweeping lawn in front of Adam’s hall.

“If you ever use the term bougie again,” Adam replied, “I’m breaking up with you.”

“I was trying to be nice,” Ronan said, indignant. Adam side checked him affectionately and Ronan swung the arm that wasn’t carrying Adam’s bag over his shoulders. 

Ronan chattered for the first hour of the car ride. It wasn’t as though they hadn’t spoken over the past month, but Ronan’s scorn for his cell phone hampered his communication abilities. He also had a deeply engrained distrust of webcams. Any hopes that Adam had harbored to fool around on Skype had been dashed when he’d heard Ronan’s CIA webcam surveillance conspiracy rant for the first time. 

“So this guy tries to tell me pea gravel is gonna work for the hens,” Ronan sneered. His hands were loose at the bottom of the steering wheel. “They need grit, you know, to help them digest. This fucker was talking out his ass, though - pea gravel.” He had been describing his misadventures with the woefully ignorant staff of the Henrietta farm supply for the past fifteen minutes. He glanced sharply over at Adam.  

“Mm,” Adam said. He was too tired to do much more than stare. He wondered if he looked as fond as he felt. “Hey, you want me to drive?” he asked, stifling a yawn.

“Parrish.” Ronan pronounced it as a swear word. “You look dead on your feet. On your ass. Whatever. If I let you drive I’d be signing my own death warrant.”

“Okay,” Adam replied. Fatigue dulled his proclivity to respond with anything approaching wit.

 “How much sleep are you running on, anyway?”

Adam halfway shrugged. “I had a two hour nap before my exam this morning.”

Ronan shook his head. “Go to sleep.”

Adam did. When he woke, it was to the soft, buzzing glow of the streetlights on Fox Way. 

“Sorry,” Ronan muttered as he undid his seatbelt. “Gotta pick up the monster.”

Adam stretched in the seat, rubbing at his eyes. He thought of following Ronan but he doubted he had the energy to greet everyone in the house and field the inevitable volley of questions about his first month of college. Blue wouldn’t be there anyway. He allowed himself a brief moment’s imagining of where she, Gansey, and Henry might be at that moment.

He heard the smack of Opal’s shoes on the pavement before he saw her. She wore a long dress and mismatched rain boots and nearly passed for a normal child. That was, until she shrieked Adam’s name in a manner far more animal than girl, flung the passenger door open, and clambered into his lap.

“Hey!” Ronan yelled from behind the car. “Back seat!”

“It’s okay,” Adam called. Opal was looking at him in the same way that Chainsaw had looked at him when Ronan arrived to his dorm. She put a tiny hand on his cheek like she was trying to remember his face.  

“Hi,” Adam said. “Have you been behaving?”

 Opal gave him a secretive grin and slid off of his lap and into the backseat.

 “Don’t sit in bird shit,” Ronan told her. “She’s been a menace now that she’s worked out how to get the car door open on her own,” he grumbled. Adam watched in the rearview mirror as he leaned over Opal to fasten her seatbelt, tugging it to make sure it was tight enough. A wave of affection for both of them surged through him.

He slept again as they drove to Singer’s Falls under misting rain, the steady whir of the wet road beneath the wheels of the BMW lulling him back to sleep. 

“You want a shower?” Ronan asked after he carried Adam’s bag into the foyer. “While I put this one to bed.” Opal was attached to his leg and she stared up at Adam with her large black eyes.

 “Yeah,” Adam agreed as he rubbed the back of his neck. He hoped it might wake him up. But the water that ran from the shower head in Ronan’s bathroom was steaming hot and smelled of lavender and only succeeded in relaxing him further.

When he had finished showering and half-assedly brushing his teeth, he went into Ronan’s room. Halfway through the summer Ronan had replaced his childhood twin bed with a king sized one so that Adam didn’t have to sleep in Declan’s old room when he spent the night.

The new bed was a sea of blankets and pillows, the depths of which only seemed to have grown while Adam had been away. He suspected that some of the blankets must have been dreamt, because they were softer than anything he had ever felt in his life. The only thing he could compare them to was the pale green moss that had grown along some of Cabeswater’s riverbanks.  

Adam sat down heavily on the edge of the bed, reveling in how much more comfortable it was than his lumpy dorm mattress at school. He couldn’t resist leaning back to feel the soft blankets on his bare skin. A pillow nestled under the slight arch of his lower back and his entire body sang with gratitude at finally being put to bed. Adam tried to focus on the ceiling, but his eyes pricked and itched until he let them slide shut. Just for a few moments.

 


 

“Hey,” Ronan murmured as Adam blinked awake. For a moment he didn’t know where he was, and then he took in the close shadows and tall windows of the bedroom. Ronan stood on the threshold with his hand on the doorframe. Adam was reminded surreally of the first time he had sat in Ronan’s room. Then he realized he was still in a towel and groaned. “Sorry. I was just lying down for a minute.” 

Ronan snorted and handed him a soft old pair of sweatpants. As Adam stood to put them on he saw Ronan avert his gaze out of the corner of his eye. He wanted to grab him and tell him that he could look if he wanted - better yet, he wanted to get rid of the sweatpants and tell Ronan to touch him, but he was so tired.  

“M’sorry,” Adam mumbled.

“For what?” Ronan said sharply.

“I know you probably wanted to…” Adam waved his hand in a vaguely masturbatory gesture.

Ronan scoffed. “Yeah, I’m thirsty as hell after eight hours of driving. I’m tired too. Come here.” He lay at the head of the bed, shifting innumerable blankets to clear a spot next to him.

 Adam dragged himself slowly across the mattress to join him. Even three months ago he would have been embarrassed to let Ronan see him in such a pathetic state, but now he felt so much like home that the thought didn’t cross his mind. He let Ronan pull the covers over them both and shuffled close to him. Now he smelled of hay and grain and old leather.

 “Feed the cows?”

“Mhm. And the goats, and the hens, and the donkey.” Adam fell silent. “Didn’t I tell you about the donkey? Oops. You’ll like her. Her name’s Jackass.”

 Adam sighed. “You’re something else.”

 “I know.” He took Adam's hand from where it lay folded into his chest and brought it to his face to rest against his loose grin.

"What're you doing?" Adam murmured, un-self-conscious of the sleepy drawl of his voice.

Ronan's lips skimmed over the top part of his palm, where his fingers met the rest of his hand. "You went all soft." His breath was impossibly warm on Adam's skin.

"Nope," Adam replied, turning his hand a little. "Calluses are just in different places now." He rubbed the rough patch on the side of his middle finger where his pen rested when he took notes against Ronan's cheek.

"Nerd," Ronan declared.

 Adam looped his other hand around Ronan’s back, feeling over the impressions of his tattoo. It had been a long month of sleeping alone in rapidly cooling weather and he found himself wanting to absorb as much of the warmth Ronan projected as possible. He felt Ronan exhale a long breath, stirring Adam’s near-dry hair a little. As he drifted to sleep Adam thought about all of the miserable things that had happened to him over the past year with a kind of detached objectivity. Running himself ragged doing Cabeswater’s bidding, losing the only real mentor he had ever had, watching his best friend die. Slowly he had realized that none of it could touch him any more because now everything was okay.

 Adam Parrish was warm, clean, happy, and very in love. But the best feeling of all was knowing that everything had been worth it.