Ronan took one last look around and shrugged his jacket off, dropping it in the grass. "We ready?" His t-shirt was faded and so thin Adam thought he could see Ronan’s chest in the sunlight.
Adam wanted to laugh. Like he had any idea. "I guess," he said. "I can't think of anything else to do." He passed his hands over his hair. "I think it'll be easier if you're on your knees to start."
Ronan bit back something--Adam wasn't sure exactly what, but he got the general tone from Ronan's scowl--and got down on his knees. "Should I--should I be naked?"
"I don't know," Adam said. "Maybe just stay the way you are for now. It’s not like we have a map or anything."
Ronan arched his eyebrows. "No."
Having sex, that was familiar at this point, even when they tried something new. But this was something different. Different enough that they’d left Chainsaw back at The Barns with Opal. They didn’t want her getting caught in the power.
Adam laid the cards out again, just in case it helped. It did, a little. The ribbon of what they needed to do was there, clear enough; it was the details that might kill them both.
The block on the corpse road was obvious, and the problem was only going to get worse. There was no way to ask the state engineers to change their plans because the new bridge—routed five hundred feet downriver thanks to soil erosion--was interfering with the natural flow of magic. Adam had started trying to figure out another way to let the magic pass again. Gansey had talked to Malory, who'd sent a few dozen pounds of old books from England. Adam had let the cards pick the ones to start with.
The options ranged from flat-out sabotage to--
Well. To what they were doing now.
Adam wondered if he should be naked.
There wasn't much on sex magic in the books, and what there was was mostly monks' hormone-addled fantasies about what women got up to when monks weren't around to be assholes to them. But there were little threads, and strong enough threads that Adam could get something from them. He'd filled notebooks with the threads, charts and images and phrases that had stuck in his head, trying to pull it together. He'd even asked Ronan if he could dream a resource book for them, but all that had come out of that was some fascinatingly detailed pornography. Useful, but not for repairing ley lines.
It all had to be done through the old-fashioned research, and Ronan didn’t have much patience for that. It had mostly fallen to Adam, though Gansey had been helpful where he could be.
Sometimes Adam got annoyed with himself for how much harder he worked during school vacations than when he was actually at college. Then he remembered the ley lines and got back to work.
The arrangement before him--trees, plants, Ronan at the center--was his best guess, but Adam knew more than anyone how much guesswork it was.
That Ronan trusted him anyway was a little moving, and more than a little terrifying.
"Well?" Ronan said, annoyed, and that made everything feel a little more normal.
"Hold out your arms, and--" Adam gestured. "Put your forearms together."
Ronan held his arms out, pressing his forearms together. There was something blocking the flow of magic. Adam winced when he realized. “You need to take the bracelets off," he muttered, to the grass.
Ronan hesitated. "Okay," he said, and slid them off. The scars still looked angry, even years later. If Adam wasn’t careful, if he ignored Ronan’s newer scars and his longer, softer hair, it could be the fall of their junior year again, not long after they found him bleeding to death at St. Agnes.
The hair on the back of Adam's arms stood up. Power? Memories? He wasn’t sure.
Ronan put his arms together again, skin to skin this time, and Adam felt the flow improve.
Adam knelt down on the grass, a few feet away from Ronan. "Hold still," he said. "I don't want to hurt you."
Ronan nodded. His arms, stretched out like that--
What were they asking for?
Adam closed his eyes and reached down, feeling his hand make contact with the earth. It was cool, soft under his fingers.
Asking. You had to ask.
We need to move the ley line. We'll give you our energy. Our power. But you have to help us.
The vines came, as they always did now when he called, curling around his fingers before reaching out to Ronan. They wrapped around Ronan's arms, pulling them together. Adam heard Ronan's gasp. He could feel Ronan's skin through the connection, at once familiar and strange.
Maybe we should have practiced this first, he thought, wildly, and then wondered how you practiced sex magic without the sex or the magic.
"I can't stay like this forever,” Ronan said.
No. He couldn't. Adam gestured, and the vines pulled Ronan down onto all fours,with his hands folded in front of him. Prayer-style, if you prayed on all fours.
It's ritual. Take it seriously.
Adam closed his eyes. He'd been half-hard when they started, and now he could feel the need building.
The magic flowed west to east here, crossing under the railroad line. The excavation for the new bridge had interrupted what had already been a workaround, breaking the line completely. Adam could feel the magic thrumming under his hands, but it was weak, starved of the connections that gave it power. There were only so many times you could divert and re-route. This would have to be something new.
That's what sex was, right? Creation. Even if you were two guys.
Something special. Holy, maybe. Maybe that was where the power was. That was where he had to reach forward, take the energy, wield it.
No one could draw energy like Ronan. Even when he was kneeling on the ground, wide awake, watching Adam, waiting for the next command.
Adam had the disconcerting sense that Ronan would agree to anything Adam wanted, right now. He wasn't sure how he felt about how much that turned him on.
He tightened the vines on Ronan's body, and felt Ronan's sharp inhalation.
Okay. Ronan was hard, he was hard, and the vines were in place. What next?
Get the power, bring it to the lines, use it to re-route. Sounded simple enough, when he'd sketched it out in his notebooks, when he'd checked it with the cards. He'd known it was going to be different when they were here, when they were working it, but feeling Ronan's skin through the magic was driving him crazy. Feeling Ronan's pulse through the vines--
He wanted to throw out the ritual, forget about the magic, but the pull on him was too strong now. Even without Cabeswater driving him, even without the needy pull of the ley lines, Ronan would be too great to resist. Ronan's breath, fast, needy. Ronan's eyelashes on his closed eyes, touching his pale cheeks. Adam was burning, and Ronan was burning, and bringing the flames together was their only hope for relief.
Underneath them, around them, Cabeswater was throbbing too, was in need of their connection, their power.
Adam unzipped his pants one-handed and tried to pull his mind together. The ritual--it was more than this. Walking over and fucking Ronan wasn't going to finish this.
Well, not without putting some thought into it, anyway.
Stick to the plan, he told himself, and then reminded himself forcibly what the plan actually was. Magiks such as these are not worked in the dark, one of the grimoires had said, but in the light maye the True Power be found.
The sun was hot on his face. In the light. It made sense. Holy things weren't meant for darkness. Ronan might have worked his magic at night, but he had never been made for the dark. Maybe neither of them were.
Adam pulled his shirt off. There hadn't been much for theories one way or another on it, but it felt better.
Shit, Ronan's mouth was pretty. Like all of him. The balance of fragility and strength in him--
But he was getting distracted again.
They were here for a reason, and what his dick wanted didn’t matter. The reason was below him, the warmth and power gathering in the soil. Channel it. Make it yours.
He walked a few steps closer to Ronan and kneeled down, putting his hands on the soil again. The vines obeyed him, pulling at Ronan's clothes, reaching into his shirt and jeans and snaking in to touch his skin.
The contact came back again through the magic. Adam could feel Ronan's heartbeat, the pulse in his wrists and thighs and cock.
Ronan moaned a little and tipped his head back, his throat pale white in the sunlight, dappled with the shadows from the leaves.
The vines pulled at Ronan's clothes, slowly, peeling them back like they were opening a candy bar. A special treat, just for you, Adam thought wryly. He stood up and took a step closer. Ronan stayed as he was, still, his chin tilted up.
Adam knelt in front of Ronan. He held his breath for a moment.
Something deep was working through him now. He felt it rippling through his skin, a current, guiding his hands and his body. It wasn't a possession, not exactly. It was something more subtle than that.
He kissed Ronan on the side of his cheek. Ronan took a deep, shuddering breath, and the presence he'd felt moved, electric, through the connection between them, circling through it. A deep warmth.
Ronan's hands were softer than Adam's had ever been. Still strong. Still capable of more than either of them had dreamed of, when they had started. He felt the lean muscles in Ronan's arms and chest. The vines found Ronan's nipples, teased them hard.
Ronan might have been moaning. It was hard to tell.
Adam might have been moaning.
Ronan couldn't move if he wanted to. The vines were everywhere, around him, pulling his wrists together and his legs apart. Leaves were teasing his nipples and cock, his mouth, his asshole.
He was so hard it hurt, and there was nothing he could do about it unless Adam wanted--
Shit, was it even up to Adam any more? Maybe it was whatever they were doing, whatever was underneath it all.
Whatever Cabeswater had been before, it was Cabeswater, the first time Ronan had dreamed it to life and the second. Something underneath it all. That gave to them, but asked in return. For form. For focus. For purpose.
Maybe he was just food for the ley lines.
His head jerked back further. He felt his spine arching. He was getting played like some kind of human violin.
Even so, he wondered if he could get Adam to try this again sometime. Later. When it wasn't for the power. Just the two of them, and the vines, and--
Sometimes he felt really, really fucked up.
Sometimes it didn't matter, though. Like now, when all that mattered was his body, the vines, and Adam. Adam, somewhere beyond his vision, but guiding all of this. Magician.
Adam's fingers brushed against his Adam's apple, and Ronan felt something thrumming against his skin. Not Adam. Power.
It was rare that Ronan felt it so strongly when he was awake. But Adam--
Adam could do this. Could channel this.
Mine, Ronan thought, and this wasn't the time to pretend he wasn't greedy.
Adam pressed his lips to Ronan's neck, and it was just as well the vines were holding him in place, because Ronan didn't know what his body would have done without the restraints. As it was, he felt the vines pressing into his skin, as thick as rope now, growing as Ronan's dick got harder and his heart pounded more strongly.
Adam kissed him again, slowly, his lips brushing down Ronan's neck and to the dip in his collarbone. Ronan moaned. Maybe he couldn't help himself. Maybe he just wanted Adam to know how much he was dying for more. It was hard to tell.
It was supposed to be what the ley line wanted. What the magic needed. But Ronan couldn't focus on that. That was Adam's problem. All Ronan wanted was to get fucked, and get fucked now.
Adam was humming something softly, so softly it took a second for Ronan to register the tune. The Glasgow Reel. Cabeswater's first incarnation had chosen the music it played to Adam very carefully. Or maybe Ronan had been careful when he dreamt the music in Cabeswater. It was hard to tell where Cabeswater ended and Ronan's own desires began, and Adam's own power only made things feel more complicated.
Adam moved away from Ronan, and Ronan opened his eyes in time to see Adam extending his arms out, spreading his fingers apart. It looked as though he was looking at Ronan through a frame made by his hands. Maybe he was.
Adam's eyes met Ronan for a second, his gaze steady but not quite present. Like he was looking through another world, not just the frame he'd created. "But hold me fast, and fear me not," he said, low, under his breath.
Different tune, Ronan thought, but he knew better than to speak. Whatever magic they were working was delicate enough without his big mouth getting involved.
Hold me fast. Fear me not.
What was coming next wasn't going to be easy.
Ronan heard Adam taking a breath.
Something had changed. Adam's eyes were lost now, seeing beyond him, into--
Into something else, not Ronan, not Cabeswater. Something older and darker.
Adam walked behind him as the vines pulled his body into place, his legs a little further apart, another tendril wrapping around the base of his dick.
Something was pressing into his ass, and it wasn't Adam, or at least it wasn't Adam yet. A little cluster of leaves was Ronan's best guess.
We should have talked about this more, Ronan thought. ‘What if I have to fuck you with a plant’ might not have come up but at least they would have talked through--
I'm getting fucked by a plant.
Maybe it wasn't a plant. Maybe it was magic. Maybe it was Adam, somehow, on some incomprehensible level--
The pressure increased, then eased a little as the leaves made it into him, curling in him as they went. It was getting harder to think. His cock throbbed. He was burning, tight heat coiling in his body.
So what did you do this weekend? asked a treacherous voice in his head.
Nothing big. Just got screwed by some plants in a mystical sex ritual with my magician boyfriend.
If they ever told Gansey the details, he would probably take notes.
"Don't get distracted," Adam said, in a voice that was not entirely his own. He’d moved closer to Ronan’s chest at some point, though Ronan didn’t have any idea when. Now he was crouched close to Ronan’s arm. He tipped Ronan's chin up so sharply it hurt his neck. "Focus."
Ronan didn't dare make a sound.
The sky was wildly, intensely blue. A breeze rippled over his skin. The vines pulled his arms apart, balancing him on hands and knees, and he felt Adam moving, Adam's hands on his back and thighs, pulling his legs further apart.
Christ, he was aching.
Just fuck me. Fuck me for real before I lose my goddamn mind.
Adam cupped his balls, gently, and Ronan moaned again, pushed back into the vines, trying for more contact. Trying to reach Adam's hands, more of Adam's skin. Fuck yes, he was greedy. All he wanted was Adam, in him, on him, something. Anything. Something human. Something more than what he had now.
The vines became warm on his skin. More than the sunlight, something was pulsing through them. Warmth. Power.
Whatever was there under Cabeswater, powering Cabeswater, throbbed through him. Even Ronan could feel it, a spark roaring into fire.
And then the vines pulled out of him and Adam's cock was in him, and the world was nothing but heat and pain and desire. Ronan gritted his teeth and wished he had something to hold on to.
The vines held fast, though, held him tightly in place, holding him as Adam pushed in deeper, harder, and it was just like the other times they'd fucked and completely not like the other times they'd fucked at all. Something else was moving in them, moving through them, the warmth filling Ronan from head to toe, deepening every sensation. It was like Ronan had become more sensitive to everything, his senses opening, the pain sharper and the pleasure sweeter.
They were part of a greater world, under what everyone else saw, dipping deeper still underneath that.
Adam shifted, pulled out a little, and Ronan yelped. Under normal circumstances, he would have tried to stop the sound from escaping him. He couldn't now. Couldn't change any of his reactions. All he had left was need and greed, and they were mixing with the warmth and the power and making something else, something greater.
Adam thrust in again, and Ronan had to close his eyes. His fingers were curled together into fists, and he was dimly aware of his nails pressing into his palms. There was pain there, too, but something lighter, less important.
Adam pulled out, pushed in, and the world started shrinking into something smaller, tighter. His cock was throbbing. Adam felt hard too, hard as iron, pushing back into him, out, in, angling finally to hit the right angle, what he needed so desperately.
Ronan wondered how much longer he could stand it.
He didn't want it to stop.
Something was winding in Ronan's hair, holding his head tight. It might have been Adam's fingers. He wasn't sure. He wasn't sure it mattered.
Every thrust sent another cascade through him, electricity, want. Please, Ronan thought. Please, please. Who knew what it was he wanted? He just fucking wanted.
He could hear Adam's hard breathing, the sound of their bodies meeting and breaking apart. Adam was sweating, the perspiration dripping onto Ronan's back.
Something happened behind Ronan; Adam shifted position, put his hands on Ronan's hips, fucked him harder, faster. Better, that was better. Ronan couldn't move anything; he could breathe, that was about it. Maybe he could have cursed, if he'd had the breath or the words.
The vines slipped from the base of his cock a minute or an hour or a day after that. For a second, Ronan could only see the white under his eyelids as his orgasm finally hit him, a wave, a slap, as he spilled onto the ground and every muscle in his body threatened to give way. The magic throbbed through him, spilled out of him, into the lines, through the lines, and he felt--
Movement, coming from outside their bodies. Something huge moving, sliding into its new place. The magic flowing again.
Adam came, silent but for his breathing. Ronan felt Adam’s cock throbbing as his hips slammed into Ronan's body. Christ, he'd worked like a dog; Ronan could feel his exhaustion as he slipped out of Ronan's body and dropped next to him.
The vines slipped slowly, slowly away, a steady, slow release.
"Can you--can you feel any of that?" Adam said, his voice hoarse.
"Yeah," Ronan said. It felt like he was returning to his skin again, even though he'd felt incredibly present during the whole ritual. Like maybe he was learning to be human all over again. "I don't--probably not like you did."
"No," Adam said, to nothing in particular. "But it worked."
"It worked," Ronan said, because it was more real when you said it out loud. "We--we moved it."
"It's rushing," Adam said. "Like--" Ronan turned his head just in time to see Adam waggling his hand in the air. "Like Niagara Falls or something. Just--" He mimicked an explosion. "It'll settle, eventually. But right now, it's going crazy."
"I can't feel it," Ronan said, "not any more."
Adam pulled him close, faster than Ronan had expected it, and he half-fell on Adam as Adam kissed him, hard, as Adam--
There it was. Back again. Roaring in his ears. Speaking to both of them, now. Almost singing, not the songs it had learned from Ronan, but something older, maybe older than humanity itself.
Ronan kissed back, and that set the magic swirling, washing against itself, pressure and release, ebb and flow. He could feel it in his dreams; there was never any question then. But here, in the waking world, he found it again only through a conduit.
And no better conduit than Adam.
"Better?" Adam said, when they let go and collapsed back into the grass. Maybe he was a little smug. Maybe that was pretty hot.
"Different," Ronan said. "I don't know if I could do it all the time. It's...maybe it's enough when I sleep."
Adam looked over at him, feigning neutrality. "Should I stop kissing you?"
Ronan pulled Adam back into his arms.
Adam was still feeling the power pulse through him. He'd never been this buzzed before. He still couldn't quite believe he'd done it. They'd done it. And he hadn't even killed Ronan in the process. He rolled off Ronan, onto his side, and looked him over. Ronan looked fine, even lying in the shredded wreckage of his clothes. Less tired than Adam. He looked--
He looked fantastic. "What?" he said, his smile the kind of smile Adam associated with Ronan before, the one he'd never really known. "What's so fucking funny?"
Adam shook his head. "Not funny. I just can't believe we did it."
Ronan caught Adam's hand in his own and kissed the back of his knuckles. "What’re we gonna do to fix things when we’re not in Cabeswater?"
Adam’s brain tried to follow Ronan’s thoughts. "What, like--fixing the lines?"
"It worked. It was fun. But we won't be able to fuck everywhere," Ronan said. "I mean, maybe in a van or something--"
"No," Adam said. "We need--we need to be out here. Touching the earth."
Ronan's mouth was on his wrist now. "We'll have to practice. Get better at it."
Adam's cock twitched at that. "Yeah," he agreed.
"We could do a lot," Ronan said. "I mean, the ley lines stretch across the whole world."
"We’re not having sex in Antarctica. The grass is one thing. I’m not getting naked on permafrost.“ He shook his head.
"Ley lines are probably pretty clear down there anyway, probably." Ronan's voice was thoughtful. "Not a lot of human activity, really." He passed his hand over his head. "I need to cut this again. It's too long."
"I kind of like it," Adam confessed.
Ronan grinned at him. "Yeah? Just the yanking, or--?"
Adam touched his hair. "It's softer," he said. Okay, he kind of liked the yanking too. "Was that okay? What I--?"
"Yeah," Ronan said. His voice grew softer when he added, "I liked it."
How was he hard again? "I mean, it's up to you. If you want to buzz it or whatever."
Ronan's hand stroked his thigh. "I know. Shit, how hard are you?"
Adam put his hand over his face. "Don't ask."
Ronan's hand moved up, stroked him through his boxers. "Wanna get naked and do it again?"
"Not the magic," he said. His exhaustion was creeping into his bones. "I--" He shook his head.
"I'll jerk you off," Ronan offered. "If you want."
Fuck. Yeah. He did. "Okay," he said, and let Ronan take the lead.