Ronan wipes his hand across the bathroom mirror, clearing the condensation off a small strip of glass. He glares at his reflection, searching it for some indication that he’s the same as he’s always been. Ice blue eyes peer disdainfully back at him from beneath angry dark eyebrows. He’s felt tetherless lately, caught adrift between sleep and wakefulness, never fully either. He thinks it has to do with the realization skulking somewhere near the back of his thoughts that he might actually have a future. In high school he’d rarely spared any thought for the next week, let alone the next year.
He stopped doing things that might kill him—mostly for Gansey’s sake—but that doesn’t mean he really thought he’d survive either. Something about his upcoming finals and the discussions his classmates are having about internships makes the future seem inevitable and heavy. Less like a distant possibility, more like a dream of its own.
Sometimes the only way he knows he’s not dreaming is that he’s bored. The monotony of the real world is very rarely broken up by monsters with claws. It used to be that it was rarely broken up by monsters with claws and small girls in skull caps, but since leaving his all boys boarding school for a state university, girls with skull caps have become a regular fixture in the setting. Especially now that they’re so close to winter. Some of them even look at him curiously from behind trees. It’s a strange sort of deja vu when it happens.
The waking world is weird. The sleeping world is weird. Ronan feels like he doesn’t fully belong in either anymore.
He angrily brushes his teeth while staring himself down. The older he gets the more he looks like his father and he’s not sure he can really trust his reflection not to hurt him anymore. He decides it’s bullshit, just like everything else, and spits into the sink. Then he throws open the door and strides into the living room in a puff of steam wearing nothing but a towel tied low around his hips.
Gansey is sitting on the floor between the couch and the coffee table and using the student paper as a plate for a slice of cold pizza.
“And people assume I’m the gross one,” Ronan says. “You’re going to get ink poisoning.”
He saunters to the kitchen and pulls the orange juice out of the fridge. He takes a swig of it from the bottle and grimaces at how it tastes on his just-brushed tongue. Then he notices Gansey’s pained look of disgust, so he shrugs and takes another gulp before screwing the cap on and placing it back on the shelf. He nudges the door closed with his hip.
“You didn’t even enjoy that,” Gansey accuses. “You just did it to upset me.”
“Worked, didn’t it?”
Gansey rolls his eyes. “They’ve done studies on using newspaper for bedding on farms and the ink was not found to be toxic either through absorption or ingestion. I doubt this pizza will kill me.” He picks it up and looks at it. An olive topples off onto the paper. “Well, any more than it was going to.”
“You’re no horse,” Ronan says.
“You, on the other hand, are definitely pig headed.”
Ronan walks around the couch on his way back to his room and reaches down to cuff Gansey on the back of his head as he goes by. “You going to campus early to moon over your barista today?”
“I don’t moon,” Gansey insists. Ronan throws a skeptical look over his shoulder and Gansey dips his head. “Fine, I might moon. She’s just so...so...”
“Small?” Ronan offers. “Angry? Volatile? Yippy like an excitable terrier?”
“Pretty,” Gansey says with a half sigh.
“Gross.” Ronan scowls and turns back to his room. He makes it most of the way to his door before something bounces off his shoulder. He turns around to find a piece of Gansey’s newsprint plate balled up at his feet. “What the fuck?”
“Someone took out a personal ad looking for you. Why don’t you answer it and stop giving me shit for my love life?”
“You don’t have a love life,” Ronan says. He bends down to pick up the bit of paper and has to catch his towel before it slips. Gansey’s threatened to change the locks and not give Ronan a key if he has to see Ronan’s bare ass again before spring semester. Ronan figures he just might do it. “What you have is a self-righteous coffee slinger who continually writes creative almost-swears on your little paper cups.”
“Sometimes there are hearts next to them.”
“Don’t you have an honest to god hard copy of the Oxford English Dictionary around here? I’m pretty sure the word sarcasm is in it. You should look it up.”
He smooths the paper as best as he can with one hand. It is a personal ad, separated from the rest of the rambling text by a box of thick black lines. It says:
WANTED—male model to pose for 3D sculpture of Satan after the fall. If you think you look like Satan, come by VAB 415 between 2 and 3:30 Wednesday.
“Ha. Ha,” Ronan says. He balls the paper back up and tosses it at Gansey. It pings him right on the forehead and bounces off onto the floor.
“You keep trying to talk me into things by referring to yourself as the devil I know.” He brackets the last bit in air quotes which are entirely unnecessary, seeing as how Gansey has perfected the art of vocal air quotes. Oftentimes things he’s said are also vocally italicized and underlined for good measure. “Thought you might get an expert opinion.”
“Right, because some goth chick working on her end of semester project in between shifts at the Hot Topic could be considered an expert on anything but pop punk bands.”
“Maybe she’ll be cute,” Gansey says, grinning up at him smugly.
Ronan, who knows Gansey knows he has absolutely no use for girls or their possible cuteness, turns on his heel and heads back to his room without dignifying that with a response.