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Invisible Bruises

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The thing about abuse was it changed perception. Your world was off-kilter from everyone else’s. It didn’t stay at home. Adam could leave the shouts and the blows there, but it crept, insidious, through his whole mind. Some bruises you could see. Others were invisible.

The little things that didn’t matter did, the details and the motions. The motives. Things people took for granted, Adam had learned to scrutinize. His safety depended on it. The sound of heavy footsteps over creaking floorboards stirred unease to life in his gut, the sound of shouting voices rang in his head a little too long after. It wasn’t danger but it could be.

And he knew that, a little. It wasn’t driven home how much of it had taken hold in him, restricting twists of kudzu vines doubled back over themselves in a tangle, until this moment.

Until a fight with Ronan, the smell of alcohol, and Adam was not afraid of Ronan (afraid for him was something else entirely). He was not, and he had been arguing back, angry, irritated, Ronan’s raised voice echoing in his good ear.

And Ronan moved.

It was what he did when frustrated, unable to contain himself; and it was simple, slapping a hand down to push away from the table, scattering the odd marbles he’d been fooling with.

Adam caught motion from the corner of his eye and recoiled so hard he nearly turned his chair over, heart suddenly in his mouth, the electric rush of adrenaline flaring down his nerves.

He and Ronan both froze, staring at eachother in surprise.

Adam swallowed and pressed his hands flat on the table, to hide their shaking.

Ronan hadn’t been going to hit him. He knew that. Ronan took his swings where you could see him coming, the fight always fair in his ironclad moral code. He knew he hadn’t been in any danger. Neither Ronan nor Gansey had ever made him feel afraid for his own safety the way his father had.

Adam knew that, but he was still shaking, his heart battering against his ribs like a bird against a window.

Ronan’s dark eyes narrowed, and the thin line of his lips whitened, but he said nothing, for once. Sheathed his bladed tongue and stood there, quiet in the dimly lit kitchen, until Adam could draw a breath that didn’t rattle in his chest. Adam looked down at his hands, pressed against the grainy wood, and wondered dully what other unexpected sore spots he might find, as they went forward from here. What other bruises they might uncover, pressing forward.

He didn’t know.

“Let’s go for a drive,” Ronan said, and his voice was quiet now.

Adam drew in a deeper breath. “Yeah.”

They’d figure it out. It’d be okay.

He wasn’t afraid of Ronan.