Adam wakes up on Saturday morning in his own bed, which is the first disturbing thing.
He definitely fell asleep in Blue’s bed at 300 Fox Way. “Fell asleep” is wrong. Passed out. Collapsed. Held his breath and tried to expire.
Remembering that reminds him of the rest of it, and he has to stumble to the bathroom to vomit. He makes himself focus on the burn of the bile in the back of his throat, the heat when it passes his lips, the sour taste of it, the horrible contraction of his stomach. He revels in it, every sensation that isn’t the overwhelming throbbing of Gansey, Gansey, GanseyGanseyGanseyGansey
A knock at the door. Adam stays clutching the toilet. Someone must have brought him here, brought him home. He has a sudden, searing image of Ronan and Blue wrapped around each other in Blue’s bed, Adam sent away, sent home. It’s the least he deserves.
He throws up again.
“Yeah, I’m just going to— Jesus, Adam!”
Ronan drops his phone and rushes over to Adam’s side. He hasn’t changed clothes since yesterday. He puts a hand to the back of Adam’s neck, softly, and the only part of Adam that isn’t puking or throbbing sings at the knowledge that Ronan is still willing to touch him.
“Hey, are you sick? What’s wrong?”
Adam wipes his mouth with some wadded up paper towel and rises to brush his teeth. He can’t meet Ronan’s eye, unable to face the disgust that must be in there somewhere.
“Adam. Hey, talk to me.” Ronan’s talking like he would have yesterday, soft in the way that he only gets when no one else is around. Out of habit, he rests one hand on Adam’s back and Adam hates how much he loves it.
“I’m fine,” he says after he spits. Ronan’s keeping it together far better than Adam ever expected. Of course, it’s hard to tell sometimes, with Ronan. All it takes is a stray spark and he’ll self-immolate. But if Ronan’s playing the everything’s-fine card, Adam won’t be outdone.
“Still up for it today?”
“Gansey. You know.”
Adam winces at the name. “Jesus, already?” He hadn’t expected it to be so soon, but he supposes there’s cops to talk to, maybe some Aglionby administration. Jesus, Gansey’s parents. Helen. He takes a deep breath. “All right. Let’s go.”
“Gonna go in your pajamas, or …”
Adam pulls away from him to change. Without looking at him, Ronan’s contemptuous voice almost sounds amused. Fond. Adam hates himself for thinking it.
And then they get down to the parking lot. And there’s the Pig. And there’s Noah, sitting on the hood, and Blue standing in front of him trying to get a piece of his hair to stay flat against his head. And there’s Gansey, leaning against the driver’s side door, exactly as he was yesterday. Adam’s heart stops, and then he stops, and then Ronan runs into him from behind.
“Took you long enough!” The ghost of Gansey laughs.
“Yeah, well, Parrish has a delicate constitution this morning,” Ronan calls back, tucking an arm around Adam and pulling him along. “You’re fucking weird today, man. This better not be an omen.”
Gansey grins up at him as they approach from his artfully slouched arrangement against the car. “I’ve got a good feeling, gentlemen,” he announces. “And Jane. Yes. Something momentous happens today.”
With a little “oh” sound, Noah vanishes. Blue sighs and takes his place on the hood.
Adam unfreezes and crosses the distance between them in a flash. He reaches for Gansey’s shoulders first, finds them broad and solid as always. He grabs his wrists next, sliding his fingers around to find the pulse. When he finds it, he reaches up for Gansey’s face and feels warmth in his cheeks, sweat on his brow, mint on his breath.
“ Gansey,” he breathes. “Oh my God.”
Gansey’s eyes are wide and he’s very, very still. “Adam,” he says slowly. “Are you feeling alright?”
From the corner of his eye, Adam sees movement. Noah, reflected in the window of the Pig. Adam looks over his shoulder but sees only a confused Ronan. Reflection-Noah waves to him and then points to his wrist.
“Gansey,” Adam says. “What day is it?”
“Friday,” Gansey says carefully. “The eighteenth.” He reaches up to feel Adam’s forehead. “Are you feeling okay?”
They must make and odd picture, Adam thinks suddenly, two boys—one pristine and regal, one unkempt and smelling like sleep and bile—holding on to each other’s faces in a church parking lot at nine in the morning.
A whisper in his deaf ear. He closes his eyes and cocks his head to the side.
You asked for a different ending , the whisper comes in Latin. You begged and you pleaded and you suffered.
Yes, he thinks back, wildly hopeful. Please, please, I’ll do anything.
You asked for a different ending , Cabeswater whispers again. So make one.
“I’m feeling sick,” Adam says suddenly, pulling away from Gansey. Gansey’s brow furrows and he reaches for him again.
I’m taking this chance , Adam thinks fervently. I’m not going to let it happen. Not this time.
“I did ask if you were okay.” Ronan sounds put out, like he’d wasted his daily ounce of compassion on someone who didn’t appreciate it properly.
“What’s the matter?” Gansey asks, and Adam dodges his hands.
“I’ll be fine, I’m just sick. Nauseous.”
“He was puking when I went up to get him. Morning sickness.”
“Shut up, Lynch,” Blue kicks out at him from the hood of the car. “If you’re sick, Adam, you need to rest. You have the day off anyway. We can do this another time.”
Gansey looks pained. “You should rest, absolutely. I’m not so sure that we actually can do this another time, though. Given what Artemus said about—”
“It’s fine,” Adam jumps in, too quickly. “Go without me. I’ll be fine.”
Blue hops off the car. “No way. We do this together or not at all. Artemus is full of—”
“Seriously,” Adam says, begging her with his eyes. “You guys should go. You shouldn’t miss your shot. Our shot.” Please, please, please, Blue. Figure it out. It’s my fault that it happens; if I’m not there then it won’t happen.
“What about the favor?” Gansey asks. It breaks Adam’s heart to see him so serious, to know once and for all that Gansey’s always been saving the favor for him. Everything about Gansey is breaking his heart this morning.
“Blue can—Blue knows what to say.” He looks at her meaningfully, and she nods at him, still looking reluctant. Save him, save him, save him.
Gansey rubs his bottom lip. “I don’t like it. This doesn’t feel right.”
Adam’s mind races. “I suppose I can—” he flinches, trying to make it look unconscious, gags a little.
“No. No, no, sorry. No, go lay down. Here let me—” Gansey actually makes to usher him back inside, arm around his back. It’s like Adam greeting him with an overabundance of touch has erased all of Gansey’s carefully kept distance, like he’s making up for every time he held himself back. He leans in, closer than ever, to press the back of his fingers to Adam’s cheek. That isn’t how you check someone’s temperature , Adam thinks, fondly exasperated, but he’d never complain. Gansey’s living fingers, Gansey’s shoulder brushing his. Gansey’s arm.
“I’ve got it, Gansey. Here, Ronan.” He holds out a hand. “Give me your phone. Let me know if you need me. I’ll see what I can get out of Cabeswater from bed.”
Ronan’s all too eager to give up his cell phone, and Adam slips it into his pocket carefully, like a ritual. Everything feels like a ritual. The next time I touch this phone, he thinks—prays, almost , I’ll hear Gansey, triumphant. The next time I see Gansey, he’ll be alive and he’ll be glowing and he’ll be standing at Glendower’s right hand.
Blue surprises him by squeezing him tightly in a quick hug.
“Feel better soon,” she whispers. She looks up at him with her serious, dark eyes, and Adam knows she’s the only one who understands the stakes. Thunder rumbles, a few miles off yet, and Adam tries not to see it as an omen. “Victory pizza at Nino’s later. On the house.”
“Donny’s going to let you do that?” He grins down at her.
“If I can successfully find and wake a dead Welsh king, I can get my dumbass manager to comp a couple of pizzas.”
He pats her hair like Noah does and lets her go. He hopes that Noah finds them in Cabeswater and keeps an eye on them all.
“Good luck,” he calls to them all as he heads back to the doorway of St. Agnes. “Excelsior.”
“Excelsior!” they call back to him, Blue and Ronan giggling, but Gansey looking deadly serious. He raises a hand in that oddly classic way he has—it’s not a wave and not quite a salute. Solemn recognition, one man to another. Adam’s heart breaks and breaks.
And then they’re gone.
Adam sits on his floor and flips tarot cards in his hands. He’s got long fingers, strong hands, and for a moment he wonders if he should learn to shuffle and deal them hand to hand, the way Blue does. He remembers how impressed he was, back at the first reading. How other-wordly she had seemed, his future fluttering back and forth between his fingers.
Cabeswater , he whispers in his mind. Please take care of him. Take care of them.
Cabeswater is silent. He refuses to let it bother him. He’s done what he needed to. Without Adam there to distract, to make the wrong move, to push when he should have retreated, Gansey will live.
He dozes, fitfully, woken up by flashes of the day before. The day that wasn’t. Gansey, bloody and broken. Gansey’s empty eyes. Gansey’s blood on the ground.
When Ronan’s phone finally rings, he’s bleary and hazy and too out of it to be concerned by hearing Ronan’s voice over the line.
“Adam,” is all he says.
“Adam,” he says again, and it’s almost a whisper. “Adam. Adam.”
“Ronan, what’s going on?”
“Come here. Come to Cabeswater. You have to— You have to talk to Cabeswater. You have to get him back.”
Adam’s heart starts on fire and freezes, simultaneously. No , he thinks. I did what you said, I did what you promised. No.
“I’m coming,” he says shortly, then shoves his feet into his shoes and sprints for his car. No, no, you can’t do this. You can’t do this again.
Time stops while he drives and restarts as he stumbles into a clearing in Cabeswater. He’s never been there before, not in reality, but memory from the other version of today guides his feet.
Blue catches his eye first. She’s on her knees, and her whole front is spattered with blood. She has her hands held out in front of her, hovering in the air, fingers pointing up, blood dripping into the dirt. There’s a bloody smear on the ground in front of her ( Gansey’s blood, Gansey’s blood ), but no body. Ronan is standing a few feet away, curled in on himself and stock still, phone still in his hand.
“What happened? What happened?” Adam demands, running over to him. Ronan’s mouth opens and shuts uselessly, silent.
“His body’s gone,” Blue says flatly. “It took his body. We don’t even—They won’t even let us—”
She shakes and shuts her eyes.
“You have to get him back,” Ronan says suddenly, harshly, grabbing Adam’s wrist. “Tell Cabeswater to bring him back. Goddamn it, you’re the Magician. Bring him back .”
Adam closes his eyes and reaches out with his mind.
I don’t understand, he says to the trees , I don’t understand what you want. What do you want from me?
The trees say nothing.
“What do you want from me?” he shouts in Latin. “What do you need me to do?”
Change , the trees whisper back to him.
“I did! I did it, just as you said. I changed the day, I changed everything.”
Change the choice .
“Goddamn it, I did as you asked. Bring him back. Bring him back .”
“ Too late ,” the leaves rustle, and this time it’s loud enough for everyone to hear.
“What did it say?” Blue asks. “Adam, what did it say?”
“Too late,” Ronan whispers. He crumples to his knees and presses his head down, almost to the dirt, gasping. “Oh God, oh God.”
Adam gapes at the sky. “What do you mean, ‘too late’? What do you want from me?”
The trees are silent. Adam covers his face and curses every inch of himself, every fiber, every cell, every synapse responsible for every decision that’s brought him to this point. There’s no molecule of himself that’s uncorrupted, unpoisoned, unspoiled. He is, as a body, a study in failure.
Suddenly, and without warning, Blue launches herself at him, barreling into his chest. He barely catches her and stays upright.
“How dare you,” she screams at him, bloody fingers twisted in his shirt. “How dare you leave us alone. How dare you leave him alone.”
She’s slamming her fists into his chest, his stomach, anything she can reach, but her head is down and her eyes are closed and it’s easy to minimize the damage.
“Blue, Blue, Blue,” he murmurs. “I’m so sorry.”
It’s hard to conceptualize death without a body. Gansey’s death without Gansey’s body. It’s not that he’s lacking evidence. One look at Blue or Ronan is plenty of evidence that the death is reral. But he’s too swamped with memory—not old enough for memory, surely. Knowledge, then. Physical knowledge. Gansey’s fingers on his face. Gansey’s hands. Gansey’s shoulders. Gansey’s arm across his back. Gansey’s arm.
And there they there. There come the tears.
“How dare you,” Blue’s sobbing too, now, still striking him but her blows are weaker. “You left him to die alone. He asked for you, Adam, he asked for you but you weren’t there .”
Adam whimpers, and pulls her tighter to him and tries to bury himself in her neck. Ronan’s come up behind her and is holding her arms, stopping her from hitting him anymore, but he wants her to keep going. He wants her to punish him properly.
And now I wake up , he thinks. Now. Now. Now. I wake up and it’s this morning. Please, please, please. Now I wake up.
But he doesn’t.
He holds onto Blue as he dials 300 Fox Way. As Calla bundles them all into her Ford and tosses Adam’s keys to Orla to bring his car back. No one touches the Pig.
When Maura takes Blue upstairs with gentle hands to wash the blood off of her, Adam fills his empty arms with anything he can find. Ronan, a pillow from the sofa, his own knees. One of Blue’s tiny cousins comes wandering in and clambers up onto his lap. Adam says nothing, just holds onto her as tightly as he dares and lets her play with his hair, hardly in his body at all. He should go to Ronan. He should find him and hold him and kiss his forehead and promise him that things will be all right. He should learn what happened, exactly; he should know where it went wrong. But he doesn’t. He sits on the edge of the sofa and allows himself to turn to stone.
At midnight, he falls asleep hard and fast, like stepping into traffic.
And then he opens his eyes and he’s back in his room. Friday. He rolls onto his stomach, hides his face in the pillow, and sobs.