Adam didn’t speak.
There was a time when he was younger when he used his voice and was normal, but that had long since passed. He didn’t know when he stopped talking, when he stopped interacting with the outside world and retracted to his own thoughts.
It must have happened gradually, over such a long time that it became the new normal that nobody questioned. Once, his mother had taken him to the doctors to find out if it was something wrong with his vocal chords, a reason for Adam’s strangeness, but physically he was fine. He’d just chosen not to speak according to them, but he felt like that wasn’t right. He didn’t speak because he didn’t want to, Adam had not used his voice in so long he didn’t know how to start again. There was no choice, he’d lost the knowledge on how to communicate with his mouth.
Most of the time he spent lost in his thoughts, observing the world moving around him. He didn’t even give a reaction when his father had slapped him so hard he crashed into the kitchen counter. Not a sound escaped from his lips when his mother walked past him, sparing him a glance and saying “This wouldn’t happen if you weren’t behaving like this, Adam.”
But he couldn’t stop being silent, or he couldn’t start being loud, so he just kept living. It wasn’t that bad, it gave Adam a sense of peace when everything around him was loud, he could just go off during the night and lay down on the hill beside the trailer park and watch the stars, nothing but him and the sound of wind blowing above. Everything about himself he kept inside, there was no one who knew anything about him. He was unknowable to people, a quiet specter to life that didn’t want to be a part of it. It was just hard communicating with people who only wanted him to use words, if they’d only tried to understand him, then maybe he wouldn’t be so isolated.
He was the only one who wanted him to be known. If nobody bothered to look below the surface to know his thoughts and his views and his life, ho silent it may be, then they would know him. Then they would realize that Adam was so much more than the space he took up. He might as well be a ghost, pale like the sheets swaying next to the trailer, not taking up more space in his parents life than white bedding. If his mother could fold him and stuff him away in the back of a closet he was sure she would do it, if only to keep one element of disarray away from herself.
They day Adam decided to leave home was nothing special. It was summer, the grass on the hill dry under his hands as he stared out over the filed in front of him, eyes following the rusted train that was making its way across the scenery. It would pass right by him in a few minutes, wheels rolling over a rusted track and the sun reflecting from the windows. It wasn’t the first thought that Adam had had of getting away, but it would be the definitive one.
Why should he stay? What was it that made him feel like he had a reason to stay, when the only solace he found was in his own head where nobody else wanted him to be? And for once, Adam couldn’t come up with an answer to his own thoughts.
So when the train passed by him Adam wondered where it would take him if he jumped on it, if it that was his ticket out of the town that only could offer him dirt and dust. He stayed on the hill until twilight, when the crickets surrounded him and his arms felt cold.
He packed his backpack that night, the moonlight shining down on him through the window and a few stars visible. He didn’t want to bring more than what could fit on his back, but he didn’t own much more than that either. Most of his clothes were left behind, there was always places selling shirts, but there wasn’t places that sold worn out copies of The Spiderwick Chronicles that had his name written on the first page, or a box filled with letters from his grandfather that had passed away. He fumbled under the bed to find the shoebox where he had stashed away all the money he’d been able to hide from his father. He’d been saving up for years toward some goal he never got around to specify before that day.
That night he fell asleep, dreaming about distant places with pale blue skies and forests where birds flew from the ground.
In the morning he got up and sat down on the steps to the trailer looking at the white clouds floating across the sky slowly, the field stretching out in front of him and towards where the tracks that would take him away from the life he lived there. Adam couldn’t find it in himself to be sad, maybe a bit wishful for what his life may have been like if it wasn’t only him and his thoughts, but he wasn’t sure that life was better. He decided to leave the trailer around midday, going back inside to get his bearings and one last look before departure.
“So you’re leaving now.” His mother said when Adam walked out from his room, backpack over his shoulder. He said nothing, only meeting her eyes briefly before looking away. She sighed, and she looked so much older than he’d ever seen her, like she had lived her life two times over. “I always knew this day would come. Well, I hope they treat you good wherever you end up.”
Adam nodded at her and she stepped closer, purring one hand on her cold, thin hands against his cheek for a moment. She stepped back and opened her worn leather purse sitting on the living room table and grabbing something in it. “It’s not much, but it should cover the cost of a ticket to the next town at least.”
She handed him a crumpled 20 dollar bill, and then walked away. Adam understood a goodbye when he saw one, so he breathed deeply and pocketed the money and walked away from the place that had been his home for 17 years.
Adam’s final destination destination turned out to be the bleak town of Henrietta many train tracks away, where dust covered the roads and houses and everything seemed to be in shades of red, orange or beige. It didn’t look like anything special, it’s wasn’t even that different from the place he grew up in, but Henrietta had Richard Gansey III and that made it a more extraordinary place than any other.
He didn’t know what it was about him that had caught Gansey’s curious gaze, but whatever it was he was thankful for it. There had been a moment, where he’d locked eyes with the other boy across the street from the train station, and Gansey had smiled like he’d seen an old friend or a missing puzzle piece.
Gansey had introduced himself, and hadn’t even been discouraged when Adam hadn’t given his name back. He’d only smiled and asked if Adam needed a place to stay and then lead him down one of the side streets and many turns later they had stopped in front of Monmouth Manufacturing. It was a big red brick building with windows tinted yellow by time and old rusted debrish laying in a pile next to the parked cars. Gansey had stopped in front of it and smiled at Adam, “Welcome to our home Adam.”
How Gansey knew his name with Adam not even introducing himself was a mystery. He lead him up to the second floor, opening a door to the living room that also was Gansey’s bedroom. Sunlight filtered in through the window, casting more light than it had trough Adam’s small window in the trailer and he decided that if this was how the start of his new life looked, it was a worthy start.
“It’s not much and uh, you haven’t met Ronan yet - he lives here too- but if you’d like you’re welcome to stay.” There was a fire behind Gansey’s eyes, a challenge to Adam to say no, to find something better than what this extraordinary boy could offer. He reached forward with his hand, and Adam took it.
It felt as if something in him woke up, cam alive after laying dormant for so long. A sense of belonging, that he could fit in Henrietta who might not look like much but contained something that was so much more than it’s dust colored nature. Adam felt like staying.
Ronan was aggressive, harsh words and glaring eyes. Lava ran through his veins and he was restless, cursing up a storm one second only to trace his fingers light as a feather over the scars on his body. He was loud and spoke more words than he needed and he was everything Adam wasn’t and couldn’t be.
Adam would observe him sometimes, when the sun disappeared behind the horizon and the night’s darkness making Ronan a bit softer, his shadows blending out with everything else. He didn’t know what made him so fascinated with the other, but he didn’t stop himself from looking, from trying to figure Ronan out. Maybe it was stupid, but there were times where Adam was sure Ronan was talking to the air, standing in the apartment and murmuring to a person that wasn’t there.
Secretly, Adam had hoped that getting away from his former home would give him his voice back. That he would learn how to talk and exist outside of the silence, but it had been weeks and there was no change. Maybe he was cursed with it, a voice that was dead and buried in a deep grave left behind. Despite that, Ronan seemed to have no problem communicating with him.
He’d sit down by Adam on the two steps leading up to the front door of Monmouth, the only light in the night coming from the moon above and he’d talk. Giving answers to questions and statements that Adam never said out loud, having a two sided conversation that was supposed to be impossible. Ronan would say something and Adam would grin back at him, getting Ronan to laugh and that was how they spent their nights.
“Hey Parrish, wanna go somewhere?” Ronan asked one night, when the night sky was clear of any clouds. Adam raised an eyebrow in response and got an eye roll back. “Relax we’re not going to vandalize cars or some shit.” And how was Adam going to say no to that?
They got into Ronan’s BMW, shiny and more expensive than anything Adam had ever touched and took off into the quiet night streets. Ronan humming along to some song Adam never had heard as he went above the speed limit without so much of a care in the world. It was a freedom that Adam never had himself but now got a taste of.
“Yeah I thought you might like this. Gansey isn’t that on board with breaking laws, shocking I know.” Ronan smirked at him, taking his eyes of the road for a moment and Adam felt a rush of warmth fill him. This was the life he’d been looking for, this was what he’d missed in the past.
Ronan took them out of the town, driving off the highway and skidding in on a dirt road leading up to a big open field near the woods. The clock on the dashboard glowed neon red and showed 00:32 and the world was still around them. Adam didn’t know why they were there, he knew it was for some important reason, he felt it in his bones, he saw it in the way Ronan’s hands squeezed the wheel tightly before turning the engine off.
“Are you getting out or what?” One thing that Adam had noticed about Ronan from countless times staring at him was the way he always seemed to turn more heated if he was nervous or pressed, it was fairly easy to see. But Adam had no idea what was causing Ronan to be that way, but it was the reason they were out in the middle of the night. He go out of the car, closing the door behind him gently.
Summer was holding on to it’s last warm days, but the autumn soon to come chilled down the slow winds that rustled the leaves and the long wheat surrounding the car. There was small purple flowers growing on the ground and the low buzz of insects came from the grass, it was not the hill Adam used to lay on back before, but nostalgia seemed to grow and weave around his chest. Was this what missing home felt like? Adam had walked away from his parents and never looked back in regret, but they hadn’t been his home.
The other car door slammed shut and Adam spun around, looking at Ronan who only stared back at him. The cold light from the moon above them made Ronan look different than he did in the sunlight or in the dark rooms of Monmouth Manufacturing. He was as extraordinary as Gansey, it had only taken a change in scenery for Adam to realize it.
“You see those trees over there?” Ronan asked, gesturing to the tree line beyond the field. Adam nodded. “My family home is there, like ten yards in. It’s a big barn and shit but there’s a fucking stupid contract that says we’re not allowed to go back there.”
Adam had no idea why he was hearing this, what inside Ronan’s mind made him think that this was something Adam should know. He kept quiet as always, and listened.
“Nobody is living there anymore. My dad, he died two years ago was the one who wrote in his will that none of us had access to the place. I didn’t understand at first, I still think it’s all bullshit but now…” He trailed off, tilting his head back and closing his eyes. “I can hear him, it’s like he’s right besides me singing some weird fucking song that never changes.”
What? Adam stared at Ronan’s silhouette, still visible in the summer night and standing like he carried half of the world on his shoulders. There was so sound besides the low hum that came from nature, no song from a dead father who still was alive to Ronan. He might have gone crazy Adam supposed, losing a family member and then his home surely left scars in a normal person.
“It’s not only him.” Ronan continued, voice raspy. “I can hear all of them, they can’t shut up and I didn’t fucking ask for this. There’s a dead dude in our apartment as well, his name is Noah. I can stand listening to him, but everyone here is so loud.” Again, the night around of them was dead quiet, and Adam tried to understand what Ronan meant, but he’d never believed in things he couldn’t experience for himself.
“Yes Parrish we know you’re all about proving that things exists and evidence, but you can’t really prove that the dead is talking of you’re the only one hearing them now can you? I don’t fucking lie so what reason could I have for making shit like this up?”
I don’t know, Adam wanted to say. I don’t know and I don’t know how to prove to myself you’re telling the truth. But he only stared into the trees, hoping to find what he wanted between the dark branches. It didn’t make sense, it was too strange and bizarre to be real, but it was Ronan, and he was as strange as anything Adam had been told tonight.
Sighing, Ronan dragged one elegant hand down his face. “Just ask Gansey about it dude, he knows everything.”
Adam glanced at him from the corner of his eye and raised his eyebrows.
“Okay yeah bad choice of words whatever. I’ll tell him to explain this whole thing tomorrow, he’s more… articulate about it.” He grinned at Adam, a bit weaker than his usual raisor sharp smile, but that was fine. They were okay, or at least they both would be.
“Ronan’s blood is cursed, to put it simply.” Gansey said two mornings later, not looking up from where he was writing in his journal. Adam hadn’t expected it, he thought Ronan had ignored the night and went on pretending that it never happened but apparently not.
He had spent a lot of times thinking back to that hour at most they spent standing in the field, trying to come up with an explanation other than yes, Ronan heard the voices of dead people, but they all seemed so weak compared to what he’d been told. It was a mad thought, that something so fictional could be reality but it seemed to be the only thing that seemed to fit . It was like he was looking at a more complete picture of Ronan than before, where something hadn’t exactly been missing but had been hidden. Now it was in the light and Adam didn’t know how to handle it.
“He explained it to me once, right after we met. It started with his grandfather who got a blood donation after a car accident I think, but it was something wrong with the blood. I’m not too sure on the details of when Niall Lynch started hearing his father's voice through the house, but he did. And it got passed down to his sons.” Ganseys eyes flickered up. “It sounds very, out there I know. I can’t give you any tangible proof for Ronan’s crooked family thing, but I can give you proof of mine.”
Adam’s head snapped to the side to look Gansey in the eyes. He felt more surprised than he should be, Gansey had to had a reason to be as extraordinary as he was, nothing about him spoke against him being different. But he was a better different than Adam, who couldn’t even make himself heard. He wondered if Ronan would have been able to hear him if he’d been dead, or if he’d be quiet in his grave as well.
Gansey got up from the chair and went to retrieve one of the glass boxes he used to collect butterflies in. None of them had been pierced by needles to stay in place, instead they had small hooks under the wings that were faded with age. Placing it down on the table Gansey said “Pick one.”
Adam looked over them, and his eyes stopped over a small blue winged one in the bottom left corner. The edges of the wings were lines with brown and two white spots sat at the opposite corners of the lower wings. It was beautiful and it was fragile. He opened the lid and carefully lifted it up, handing it to gansey who let it softly fall into the palm of his hand.
Placing the other hand over the butterfly he clasped them together and brought them close to his mouth, blowing gently into an opening made between his thumbs.
“Look.” He whispered, and removed the upper hand. On his palm the butterfly was laying still. Until the wings twitched, and flapped once. Adam looked, and he marveled over the living creature that had been dead a second before. It was impossible, too remarcable to be real. But it was just like Gansey, and that was what made it believable.
He wanted to ask how Gansey had done it, but he only stared at the butterfly as it slowly walked across Gansey’s smooth palm and all the way to the tip of his ring finger. It stood still, then took of from the tip of his finger and flew up into the air.
Gansey seemed to understand what he wanted though, because he turned to Adam, hand still open. “It’s a gift. If gift is the appropriate word. I died once you see, but I woke up again with more life than necessary. Ronan was the first person who didn’t judge me for it, he only wanted me to bring his bird back.”
He meant Chainsaw, Adam realized, and everything he knew about Gansey rearranged itself in his head. It didn’t feel like he was looking at a new person, Gansey was still Gansey, but he made more sense. There was no one else who’d be so alive that they could share it, who’d collect butterflies and set up miniature cities during sleepless nights. It was incredible just like the rest of Gansey, just like Ronan. They were different sides of the same coin, bound together by death in the most facianting way.
Adam wished he could explain it all to Gansey, tell him that it all was fantastic, to ask him more questions and thank him for being his friend. It felt like the first time he wanted to do other things with his voice than to apologize or explain himself. It was freeing.
Smiling, Gansey looked up and followed the butterfly. “It’s not without its faults. Some things are easy, like birds, but I only tried waking up a human once.” He paused for a moment. “It didn’t work, not fully.”
The butterfly came closer and Gansey reached his hand up and it landed in his palm again. “When I first moved in here I planned on renovating the whole place. I think I was tired of everything reminding me of the past, even if it wasn’t mine, so I tore out everything on the bottom floor and I found this metal box. It wasn’t much, but I opened it. Inside was Noah Czerny’s diary.”
It must have been the same Noah that Ronan was talking about, the only ghost that wasn’t annoying for him to listen to. Adam had never seen him, but there couldn’t be a coincidence that both Gansey and Ronan talked about him. Everything about them seemed connected somehow, like radio masts they seemed far away from each other but working on the same wavelength.
“He had died five years earlier, murdered by his best friend it turned out. I didn’t know that back then of course... Anyhow, I obsessed over that book for days, figuring out his life and reading about a dead man’s secrets. But I wanted to know more. I found his corpse, buried deep in the woods and I tried bringing him back and it- I didn’t bring him back completely.” There was a troubled look on Gansey’s face and he clenched his empty hand on the table. “I don’t know if it was because he was human or if it had gone too long. But I only brought back his ghost.”
Logically, Adam knew that it was impossible. It felt like a lot of things about Gansey should be impossible but this most of all. Still, to Gansey it was real and it was a weight he carried around weighing his shoulders down and making him take shaky breaths.
“I don’t know if I did him a favor or if he’s cursed to live forever like this. I just wanted to know who he was so badly that I didn’t think about what it would mean to bring him back. Ah, you don’t have to believe this Adam, I know it’s a lot to take in and a lot that sounds like nonsense. It’s quite unbelievable.”
He should agree with Gansey, it was all too much, too unchained from reality to be real. Even so Adam found himself believing every word; from Ronan’s cursed blood to Gansey’s alive butterfly to Noah’s half resurrection. He was unable to say it, so instead he placed his hand over Gansey’s wrist and met his eyes, hoping that he would be understood.
From the soft sigh and quiet “Thank you Adam.” He assumed he was.
Meeting Noah took longer than Adam expected, but maybe that was for the best. Adam had needed time to adjust to his new normal, the normal that was Monmouth Manufacturing, Gansey, Ronan and their connection to death that was so casual yet so far out of Adam’s reach. Death had never been a part of his life before this, not so close as it as to his friends.
He’d written a question to Gansey once, a late night when there was no stars out and everything amazing about the town seemed centered around their red brick building. It was a simple question ‘ what’s death like?’ that nobody expect Gansey knew the answer to first hand. It had felt rude to ask it, but he’d gotten an answer.
“It hurt.” Was all Gansey said, before turning back to working on his miniature town. For once Adam was thankful for his dead vocal chords, he wouldn’t have known what to say back even if he had had the option.
Nothing was ever a coincidence, so when Adam met Noah, sitting curled up on the sofa in the middle of the room, looking like he’d always been there, he was ready. Noah was non specific, he wore a graphic t-shirt though Adam could never remember what was printed on it, jeans of some brand and his face was so ordinary that Adam had a hard time recalling the shape of his nose or if his eyes were gray or blue. Once, Adam saw maggots crawling out from his eye sockets and his cheekbone caved in and his skin rotting off, but it was gone in a second.
Noah didn’t mind Adam, so Adam didn’t mind him. They existed besides each other and Noah would talk about whatever caught his interest that day while Adam listened or let his voice become a pleasant background noise, and Noah didn’t seem to mind. He didn’t expect Adam to answer him back, and took his drawn back nature in stride.
In some ways Noah was the easiest change to get used to, he was so alive that it was easy to ignore the fact that he wasn’t.
Ronan took Adam back to the field again, a chilly evening that promised rain at any moment. It was the same, nothing about the location had changed but this time the tale of dead fathers and singing voices was more real.
Adam listened to Ronan explaining the way his father voice sounded, pulling words out from the melody he was singing from beyond the grave and pronouncing them with more flow and less edge than he usually would. It might not have been the tangible proof that Ronan knew he wanted, but it was something, more than what Ronan had to give him. It felt like a secret he was asked to keep.
“My brothers can hear them as well, but Declan have always been a coward. He’s never even gone near home. Fucker.” Ronan was behind him, sitting on the hood of his car while Adam was laying in the grass, ignoring the cold. Chainsaw cawed from her place on Ronan’s shoulder, most likely in agreement with Ronan.
Staring up to the clouds, Adam let his mind wander. Would Ronan go back to his childhood home if he’d been given the chance? He’d never given the impression that he disliked living with Gansey, not really. He might act like it sometimes, cursing at Noah when he appeared in front of him, or when Gansey left his books on the floor in front of Ronan’s door. But there was never any real heat behind the words, and to Adam Monmouth was the closest thing to a home he’d ever had. He wondered what life had been like for Ronan before, to still call the house he was no longer allowed back into home.
Imagining a world where Ronan would simply walk out the front door, taking his car and bird and leaving his room filled with stuff waiting to collect dust in his vacancy was sobering. It wouldn’t be the same, Adam realized, because Monmouth was only his home if it contained Ronan, Gansey and Noah. To cut one of them off just wasn’t right, and selfishly he wanted them to always stay that way.
He’d found his home, he wasn’t ready to let it go.
“Oh don’t look so worried Adam.” Ronan scoffed, “Do you really think that Gansey would let any of us leave? He has a habit of collecting things, I don’t know if you’ve noticed that from all the fucking butterflies he keeps.”
He hadn’t even noticed his furrowed brows and tense shoulders. Dark clouds rolled across the sky above them and the first raindrop hit him square in the forehead, making him sigh soundlessly and get up. He played with the idea of staying on the field with Ronan, to just sit and let everything get drenched, but his fear of hypothermia won so he got up just as the second and third drop hit him.
Ronan was scowling at the sky, like the rain had come to personally annoy him. Chainsaw took off from his shoulder and was flying back towards the city, she never liked going in the car if she didn’t have to.
In the car on the way back Adam listened to the screeching that was music playing from the stero and the rain hitting the car with his eyes closed, feeling more than knowing that Ronan spent half the ride glancing at him. He found that he didn’t mind in the least.
Blue came into their life one rainy afternoon, when the dust washed off the houses and coloured the water brown as it ran down the streets. Henrietta looked duller, colored gray with dark clouds overhead and a chill that crept trough the windows. Adam was sitting in the sofa in the living room Gansey’s bed room, book in one hand and tea in the other with a blanket draped over his shoulder. Monmouth Manufacturing was made to keep heat out, not to isolate it. The heaters were turned up to the highest setting and Ronan had muttered some curse words when he walked into the kitchen to get coffee, dressed in two shirts and with Chainsaw sitting on his shoulder. She had a miniature scarf wrapped around her neck and seemed content to burrow further down in it.
Gansey was out and Adam had no idea when he’d left, it had been before he woke up and there was no note explaining why. That wasn’t very unusual, Gansey’s insomnia had lead to many mornings when he’d get back home from a nightly walk just as Adam was about to leave for work. But never when it rained. It probably didn’t mean anything.
There was no trace of Noah, and the apartment felt empty and cold in a way it hadn’t before.
Adam turned a page in his book. He wasn’t focused on the reading, but it was something to do, he didn’t want to bother Ronan just to be near company. Everything inside was gray and boring like everything outside. He could hear the hard tapping against the glass and roof where the raindrops hit and the low sound of music coming from Ronan’s room.
The front door slammed shut. Adam jumped in his seat, biting his tongue when he spilled hot tea on his hand. Steps sounded from the stairs and Gansey emerged, soaking wet with water dripping from his jacket and forming puddles on the ground. He didn’t look like he’d been out in rain- he looked like he decided to swim in a river right before getting inside. More steps came from the stairs and. Oh.
Adam raised his eyebrows at Gansey. Stopping beside him was a girl dressed in a giant yellow rain coat with matching hat and rain boots with flowers printed on them. He had never seen her before, he hadn’t even considered the possibility of Gansey having other friends than the residents of Monmouth.
“Good morning Adam!” Gansey waved before brushing his dripping hair out of his face. “This is Jane.”
“Jane can speak for herself and her name is Blue thank you very much.” Blue was a great deal shorter than Gansey and her elbow shot out to hit him in the side of his stomach.
Adam closed the book and gave a small wave back, more so to Blue than to Gansey. He wasn’t sure what to make of her, or the reason why she was there, but there had to be a reason. He looked to Gansey again, hoping for an explanation.
“I found her,” He said, shrugging and taking of his coat to hang it over a chair. “She was by the stream that runs in the forest, and it didn’t feel right to leave her there.” Adam didn’t know what stream he was talking about, but he nodded anyways. There was more to the story but if that was all he was willing to give Adam would take it, for now.
“Do you know where Ronan is?” Gansey continued, taking of his shoes and Adam could see that his socks were drenched too. He nodded and jerked his head towards the closed door to Ronan’s bedroom. Gansey gave him a thumb up and made his way over, wet footsteps following him.
Blue stood in the doorway, water still dripping from her coat and looking so out of place in her colourful clothes against everything dull around them. She didn’t seem bothered by his silence, instead she hung up her coat and stepped out of her boots and walked over to him on the sofa.
They sat in silence for a few moments. Adam was used to it, the awkwardness that came from not being able to hold a conversation out loud. He hadn’t forgotten how it was, but living with Gansey and Ronan, where talking didn’t always involve sound, had made him feel understood. It was jarring to be back to where he was before her came to Henrietta.
“I sleepwalk.” Blue stated, looking around in the apartment. She didn’t seem particularly caring about the fact that Adam didn’t respond. “Gansey found me, which is weird to say but anyways- yeah apparently I walked into the river tonight.” She didn’t seem particularly bothered by it.
He nodded. Gansey was keen on collecting objects as well as people just like Ronan had said. But Adam knew he also liked puzzling them together into something else. If Gansey owned the night sky he’d make new constellations because he could.
“At least I wore right clothes for the weather, it didn’t help much in the river but I can’t plan everything in advance.” She continued and Adam noticed that her socks were in the same state as Gansey’s.
When Gansey came back into the room, followed by both Noah and Ronan, he was holding a necklace. It was made out of a black ribbon and decorated with a simple bell. He presented it to Blue, like one might present the solution to one of maths hardest unsolved problems.
“Wear this when you go to sleep and the bell should alert your family to when you’re moving. It’s the best solution I could come up with.” Gansey smiled and behind him Adam could see Ronan wearing an amused expression, like he was watching a disaster about to go down. He wasn’t really smiling, it was more of a smirk paired with raised eyebrows and crossed arms.
“Do you think,” Blue was speaking very slowly. “That I am a cat?”
Adam had never seen Gansey turn red so quickly. Ronan barked out a laugh smirk widening to show off his teeth, and Adam felt himself mirroring his expression and there was something more in Ronan’s eyes when they looked at each other. He laughed silently, more than what required for the retort really, but it was worth seeing the way Ronan smiled.
At the end of the morning, after some more embarrassing moments for Gansey, Blue agreed to the bell but only as a precaution and she’d wear it around her ankle because she was not into collars thank you very much.
It didn’t take long for Blue to become a part of Adam’s new home. She came and went as she wanted, always with the bell around her ankle. After the fourth night she’d forgotten to tie the bell around her ankle and wandered back into the river her mother had decided that it was best that she wore it all the time. She didn’t seem to object that much.
She’d been unfazed by Gansey’s gift, when he’d brought out the butterflies and let her choose one (pale yellow with green edges) she hadn’t treated him differently. Adam hadn’t noticed it but the tense in his shoulders melted away when the butterfly landed on Blue’s hand, she wasn’t looking at it though, her whole focus was one Gansey.
Ronan drove them to the field beyond his family house, towards the dark clouds on the horizon moving with the evening sky. There was something differently with Ronan, there was a new sort of determination in his eyes. Adam had seen glances of it before, during long nights rides in the passenger side when Ronan decided to test out how much over the speed limit he could go.
This determination was more focused, more righteous. This night would mean something to Ronan and he wouldn’t let anything change it. Adam wondered when he got to know Ronan so well, that he didn’t need to hear his words to know what he was feeling.
They arrived at the field faster than before but the speeding hardly bothered Adam. It felt so abysmal to everything else Ronan did, like normal speeding laws wasn’t meant for someone who was so much more than any normal human. Because Adam had watched Ronan pass by churchyards and turn to Gansey to tell him that some old woman liked his hair, and that she thought Blue should learn to sow better before rolling his eyes and replying something to thin air with the sort of confidence that couldn’t be faked. Being able to talk to the dead wasn’t something that excused you from following laws but in Ronan’s case it felt justifiable. Or maybe it was just who he was.
It was cold outside of the car, fall had come and brought with it harsh winds and dead flowers. The trees looked darker than they had done in the summer, and the stems were covered by a light fog spreading across the ends of the field, it was beautiful.
“Come on.” Ronan started walking across the grass, pulling his jacket closer around his body. Adam followed, hair whipping around his face and wind tugging at his jacket. With dusk setting around them all the colors seemed to blend together into the same gray and only Ronan stood out, clad completely in black and steadily moving forward towards the forest edge.
In the forest he had to give up looking at Ronan and instead focusing on the ground to not trip over any roots or rocks. He could hear the sounds of steps and Ronan’s breathing clear as ever in the forest, there was nothing else disturbing the nature around them.
“You good Parrish?” Ronan called back, “Walking isn’t too hard?”
Rolling his eyes Adam stepped over a moss covered root. He was fine, it wasn’t like it was the first time he was in the woods.
“Just wanted to make sure.” He could hear the teasing in Ronan’s voice and he smiled a bit. He kept on looking at the ground and it wasn’t until that the moss and dirt gave way to grass that he realized they’d passed through the trees.
It didn’t look like the house he had imagined Ronan growing up in. It was bigger, with large windows and a porch along the front. It looked sad with paint peeling off from the wood and not a single light on inside. The grass was overgrown and what had once been a gravel road leading out from the property was now covered in low green plants on the cusp of dying. It was still more of a home than what Adam had grown up in, even after standing empty for so many years.
The first thing that hits him when they enter the house is the smell of dust and lavender. Ronan doesn’t bother taking of his shoes or try turning on the lights so Adam follow him, down the hall and into a dining room with a table in the middle and photo frames hanging on the walls. Ronan had started to hum something, a low melody that Adam didn’t recognize.
A bouquet of dried roses stood in the middle of the table next to a few half burnt down candles, their silhouette barely visible in the dark room. It felt like someone had just locked the door to the house one day and then never returned.
“Parrish if you ever tell anyone that we’ve been here you’re dead to me.” Ronan said, stepping by Adam with one lit match in his hand. He had no idea where Ronan had gotten it from or how he’d been able to find it in the house. Ronan walked around the room lighting up the candles on the table and then a few more that was on the windowsills. The room filled with a low warm light, making the shadows flicker around them.
Outside thunder sounded. Ronan was still humming, louder now with words barely forming and a slight tap to his steps. In his home with only candles lit he was softer, less guarded than Adam had ever seen him. This was a side of Ronan that was kept away from daylight and Henrietta, it would only exist in this house surrounded by the voices of his family. And for one night Adam got to take part of it all.
He didn’t notice when he stepped closer to Ronan but he felt his heart beating in his chest like a drum, hard and heavy against his rib cage. Ronan’s eyes were beautiful, reflecting the flames’ light and warmth. Adam wanted to say something, to explain how he felt right in that moment, how much Ronan mattered to him like no one had before.
Ronan kissed him anyways.
Ronan drove them back home just as the sun rises above the horizon, bleeding red and orange over the sky and reflecting on the gleam of the car. The nights storm had passed, leaving only damp grass and the smell of rain.
Things felt different, even if everything was the same. Ronan had driven them back from the field before, the motions weren’t anything new but there was something the air now. Ronan didn’t need his dead voice or words written on paper to know what Adam was saying, he could hear Adam clear as day. Adam felt known for the first time.
This time when Ronan looked at him from the driver’s seat Adam didn’t pretend to not notice, instead he looked back and met Ronan’s eyes. It wasn’t love, not yet, but it could be.
Gansey was still up when they arrived back, dressed in pyjamas and a blanket draped around his shoulders like a cape. Noah and Blue was sitting on the sofa, half asleep and each leaning against one of the armrests. Gansey looked up from his notebook, red pen in his right hand and a spark in his eyes that was new.
“Oh good you’re back!” There was dark circles under his eyes from more than one nights lost sleep. “I didn’t want to show you this before I was sure, but I think I’ve got enough evidence for it.”
He slammed his journal down on the coffee table, opening it to a page with a printed out picture of a portrait. Under it written in Gansey’s handwriting was the name Glendower. “I’m going to find him, and I’m going to wake him up.”
Adam looked at Ronan and it was like looking into a mirror, the same curiosity and willingness to follow Gansey to the end of the world because he was Gansey, collector of humans and constellations. And there was fear there too, because there’s would always be fear with the prospect of change, but Adam had left a house once before and found something better. He had more to lose and more to gain this time, but he wasn’t alone now.
“Do you want to help me?” Gansey asked, and everything in Adam screamed yes.