Ronan still dreams about him, sometimes. Just another monster that haunts him, stalks the Cabeswater of his mind; dripping tar and molten fire from his fingers, from between his teeth, from his eyes, from his lungs. Sometimes Ronan can’t tell if he’s dreaming or if he accidentally brought Kavinsky back, as the horrible boy he was or maybe the monster he wanted to be.
But there Kavinsky stays, caged up in Ronan’s thoughts and dreams, clanging against his teeth, trying to goad Ronan to admit it to the others. Ronan won’t. He can’t. He refuses.
Tonight’s no different. Kavinsky waiting with reaching fingers like claws, eyes bright like the way his drugs used to make Ronan feel. His lips pulled back in a snarl—his teeth are a sharp streak of poison white in the dark. Kavinsky’s jaw opens, breath hot and too real, snapping at him like a dog. His hands paw at Ronan similarly, and he’s helpless against it. Is this just a nightmare, or a memory?
He can’t remember anymore. He hates how easily he lets it happen, telling himself its to find out which.
He doesn’t get that far.
Kavinsky’s hands turn to blocks of ice, clumsy and frozen, and Ronan shivers against the chill, feeling it slide up his spine like a tongue. Maybe that’s Kavinsky too, maybe this—
He wakes with a jolt. For an alarmed moment he can’t breathe and he’s sure he’s brought Kavinsky back finally, that the press of another body beside him, against him, is his.
But it’s too light. Too thin. Too cold.
“Shh,” Noah whispers, fingers dancing over his flushed face, down his tense shoulders. “You’re awake, you’re awake. He’s not here. He’s not real.” His cold, seven-years-dead lips brush Ronan’s ear, so many secrets wrapped up in three short sentences.
“And you are?” Ronan snaps back, voice rough like he’s been screaming. Or moaning. He doesn’t know which would make him feel worse.
Noah laughs, a breathy thing Ronan feels more than hears. “Probably not. More than him.” He presses his lips behind Ronan’s ear, again lower. He’s more solid than he’s been in a while—is always a little more solid after Ronan’s been dreaming, as if pulling energy from the dreaming, from Ronan. Or maybe Ronan’s been subconsciously trying to dream up new life for Noah, night after night.
Ronan just sighs heavy and relaxes inch by inch, unwilling almost but Noah’s touch too much to ignore. The chill of him is a perfect counterpoint to all the heat beneath his skin. That’s all Ronan is these days: heat, fire, muzzle of a gun that’s just gone off. Noah banks it, and it’s so good.
Monmouth is quiet, is still and too warm and muggy—Ronan didn’t open the window, he’d been too tired. Gansey must not have heard him, must’ve been up too late too many nights and finally crashed and couldn’t hear him. Good.
“What were you dreaming about?” Noah asks. None of the others ever ask, and it’s both infuriating and a relief. Just as it is now when Noah does. He always does. Ronan only sometimes indulges his curiosity.
“Thought you already knew?”
“I do,” Noah says, easy as anything. “I peeked. You were making awful noises.”
Ronan exhales carefully measured; relieved and decidedly not to have someone know the horrors of his brain. “And?”
Noah shrugs. His fingers keep up their teasing path, pressing in a little harder as if wanting to work out the knots in his shoulders but lacking the presence to manage it. He prods at Ronan instead, pushing until Ronan rolls over onto his back and tugs the twisted blankets higher between them. Noah stretches out, settling soft and liquid over every bit of Ronan, weighing him down. Theoretically. It doesn’t matter how much Noah pulls from him, he’s never as heavy as he should be, more the idea of a boy. But he still tries. Still crawls and drifts over Ronan until he deems them both comfortable and goes limp.
Like the world’s prettiest weighted blanket. All soft pressure and bloodless skin, fuzzy edges that pad his own at times—or give way to the jutting sharpness of his bones.
Sometimes Noah moves against Ronan slow and easy, soft little movements of trying to remember how this works, more a comfort than anything. Sometimes, like tonight, he’s more present than usual and his sprawling limbs are just the right kind of pressure between Ronan’s thighs and across his hips, his chest.
Sometimes Ronan falls back asleep like this, eased by the knowledge he’s not alone and that Noah can come with him if he’s feeling strong enough.
Tonight is not one of those times.
He strains his neck to reach Noah’s face, blinking up into Noah’s unblinking eyes, and parting his lips in a gasp as Noah leans down to meet him, pressing into the kiss.
He’s half-hard, not from Noah but what had been before, and he’d ignored it with standard self-hatred. It’s hard to ignore now, with Noah’s lips against his, mouth pliant and opening for Ronan’s tongue. Noah’s often like this when they kiss, when it’s dark and too close on dark nights. He likes the intimacy of it, how by doing this he can so easily pull energy from Ronan, can just enjoy the human experience that proves he still exists somehow (Ronan had asked, once. Noah’s a sap.)
It’s easier to arc up languid and unhurried against the slight shape of Noah’s thigh when Noah’s all he’s thinking about. A dead boy who likes to pretend he’s still alive. A dead boy who acts alive more than Ronan himself sometimes. A dead boy who cares for him still. Easier to pretend he’s not scarred and haunted, when there’s something more pressing to focus on. Noah’s good for that. Noah loves to help.
Ronan can’t admit aloud that he loves it too, when Noah does.
Noah grins into the kiss and the uptick of energy like he knows anyway. His mouth is cold, tongue colder, like sucking on ice cubes, but he’s warming up in increments against Ronan. Ronan’s more than willing to give it to him, wanting nothing to do with the angry slash of heat trembling in his muscles.
The clouds shift, break, and moonlight pours into Ronan’s room, striking up against the side of Noah and throwing him in relief as if made from silvery porcelain. Like crystal or glass, moonlight and smoke trapped inside. Suddenly Noah’s the corpse he’s always been, and looks it. Wane. Inhuman. Decaying.
It’s all Ronan can see. He gets stuck on himself reflected in Noah’s eyes, for a moment no one else in there.
“C’mere, c’mon,” Ronan urges, tugging on Noah’s arm with one hand and pulling up the blankets with the other. The stale rubber band around his lungs eases when Noah’s so visibly happy to do so, grinning and smudged cheek not so cavernous when Ronan rolls them over so Noah’s away from the moonlight.
He tugs the blankets up higher, straightens his shoulders to block the light from Noah’s face, lets Noah snuggle in closer because Noah loves the contact (loves to feel heat and heartbeats against his stagnant skin, soaks up affection like a boy starving—he is.) Ronan hisses, grimacing, but doesn’t push Noah away. Draws him closer, arms around him and leg thrown haphazard over a hip to grind into to take the edge off.
“You’re fucking cold,” he complains.
“I’m dead,” Noah says, flat and amused. Like Ronan’s forgotten—as if Ronan could forget.
“Well stop it.” It comes out too desperate, too telling, and Ronan hides it behind a kiss full of teeth and tongue, grief and fear. Pushes and pushes and pushes, until he’s trembling and Noah’s gone limp again. He has to breathe; Noah doesn’t. He never minds waiting so Ronan can.
“I can’t,” Noah whispers.
Ronan stops. Pulls back. Looks down at Noah’s tired eyes and broken cheek. A secret, he realizes. A secret for a secret.
A secret too raw for him to face, so he doesn’t. Just kisses Noah hard and tries desperately to bring him back with whatever energy he has in him. Rocks in fast and just this side of frantic until he’s gasping and Noah’s doing most of the kissing for him, exploring and stealing little pockets of heat for himself.
“You even got a dick in there anymore?” Ronan asks, hand crammed down between them to palm the front of Noah’s perpetually wrinkled slacks.
Noah only curls into the touch like he does to any other affectionate brush, laughing softly. “Theoretically. Nothing really… works, like it used to. S’okay. I can feel you.” He grips Ronan’s wrist harder than he means to and twists so Ronan’s touching himself through his boxers instead. Watches as heat pools high in Ronan’s sharp cheeks and eyes going hazy under his eyelashes. He breathes out shaky, near matching Ronan’s. Whispers, “Like that. Feels good, right? I feel good when you do.”
Ronan squeezes himself, palms rough, and watches as it makes Noah shudder and grin.
They have this conversation almost every time, Ronan asking even though the answer never changes, Noah showing Ronan how to make him feel best, because Ronan wants… wants something. For Noah to know, maybe, that he thinks about it. That he wants to touch Noah, that he would if he could. That he’d take Noah apart if he could. That he’s so fucking sorry Noah’s dead.
Noah’s too cold to even help much beyond hands like stone and static; hands wandering Ronan’s bare chest as Ronan kicks off his boxers and rearranges them. His frozen hands trying to melt and smooth out Ronan’s jagged edges and the sparks skittering across shivering muscle.
Ronan flinches under the touch, but wraps his own hand around his dick tight and pulling quick, not racing for the finish line like when he’s alone. He jacks himself steady and lazy at first, feels it drip like liquid through him and watches Noah’s eyelashes flutter and his mouth come open, breathing in little visible puffs beneath the blankets.
“Good?” Ronan asks, low. Thumbs over the head, down beneath it, tracing the sensitive vein with light fingernails and watching Noah shiver with him; a closed circuit that feeds back into itself at a maddening pace. “Like this?”
Noah nods, swallowing thick in something of a memory that Ronan can barely see flickering behind his eyes. It’s always better when they’re close like this, for Noah, when they’re touching, and Ronan has gotten used to the shock of erratic temperature changes. Only jerks when chilled hands drag down, pressing flat and firm against the smooth skin low on his stomach, feeling his abs tensing and flex with the exertion, fingers stretching over knife blade hipbones.
It’s bearable, worth it. Not too uncomfortable for long as the hotter Ronan gets, the more he works himself up, the more Noah leeches from him, warming until sometimes it’s almost like he’s close enough to living they forget. Maybe this is what Ronan needs more than anything: someone to suck the itching coals from him until he’s just a boy again, a normal boy he’s never been. Maybe this is what Noah needs more than anything: someone to cram energy in him that warms him from the soul out, his skin tingling sharp like he’s just waking up until he can pretend he is a boy again.
“How’s it feel?” Ronan asks, tongue tripping over syllables. He twists his hand, rolls up over the head and smearing beads of precome to ease the way until it’s slicker and tacky and there’s a hot pull low under his bones.
“Good,” Noah pants. He squirms closer, warm enough it’s nothing but boyish eagerness urging Ronan on. Pets his hands over Ronan’s hips and stomach and thighs, wrist brushing shyly against Ronan’s balls and whispers, “Please? Here too,” until Ronan shifts to comply and they shiver together. “It’s like… you, but me too. Can feel it in my hands, like I’m jerking you off, but I feel it deep like you’re touching me. It’s confusing.” He whines, buries into Ronan’s neck, tongue desperate to find his thundering pulse and sealing his mouth there like he could pull it into his own throat, his chest, maybe his heart beating again like it hasn’t in over seven years.
“Warm, good,” Noah mumbles. “Faster, but don’t—“ moans halting and loud in a way he isn’t most days without Blue around, “—don’t finish yet.”
“Fuck,” Ronan says, breathless and amused. “You always pull this shit. Make me wait. You’re lucky you’re cute.” He can feel something of a grin under his chin, feels Noah’s hands dragging against his skin in stinging lines that settle something within him, grounded by the burn they leave behind, grounded in Noah’s nails hooked into his tattoo.
He looses himself in it for a moment, in everything that keeps him present and awake, in every way Noah’s good and half-alive against him; focuses on working himself up slow and steady, shaking with the clean flush of arousal and attraction.
He loses himself, too many things clamoring in his head and misfiring until Noah’s panting and soft little sounds muffled enough to be something else. Like a flash there’s darkness and the wrong sort of heat. Teeth and nails biting into him, snapping, snapping, snapping. Sinking into his flesh. Leaving marks that make him shudder—shudders now under his hand and another's pair.
He gasps and flinches, blinking. Blinks until he can see the shadowed remnants of his room and Noah unblinking back at him.
“Come back,” Noah whispers. “We’re not done. You’re here, with me.”
Ronan keeps blinking, keeps his eyes open, and looks hazily at Noah, lifting his free hand to brush over Noah’s mouth. A question, curiosity. White teeth, poisoned teeth, snapping, biting, tearing.
Noah parts his lips obediently, pupils wide and dark and stripped of any humanity. Might be from sinking too far into Ronan’s thoughts before he caught them both, might be from crushing his hips into Ronan’s tugging hand, close enough that he’s lost track of where his own boundaries are, trying to bury himself into Ronan in every way he can. He rocks his hips and opens his mouth, letting Ronan prod at his teeth.
Ronan pushes, thumbs hard at Noah’s lip, the corner of his mouth; runs the calloused pads of his fingers along the smooth curves, farther in along the ridges and where molars might’ve come in eventually. He loses himself in that for a while instead, losing time without meaning to, but fascinated with the damp catch of each jagged peak.
They're just teeth, Noah's teeth. Nothing more.
Noah shivers a half-second before Ronan does.
“I ‘an heel i’,” Noah says, garbled. Grins when Ronan pulls his fingers free with a snort.
“What was that, ghost boy?”
“I could feel that,” Noah repeats. Swallows, licks his lips—flexes his fingers against the coiled muscles in Ronan’s back. “In my hands. And mouth. But… I could feel you feeling my teeth, could feel how much you liked it.”
Ronan stomps down on the instinctive recoil at being known so intimately like this. “Good?” he rasps.
Noah nods. He opens his mouth again, asking without asking.
Ronan presses his fingers in without hesitation this time, three of them. Curls them to feel the sparks against the tips, sliding along the back of Noah’s tongue, knuckles digging up into he roof of his mouth. Noah moans small and closes his eyes. A flush spreads syrupy and slow through Ronan. Like this, Noah licking his fingers occasionally, it’s like an imitation of something else, something neither of them can have.
He can feel the exact moment Noah hears the thought, and he has to grin, pressing a open kiss to the corner of Noah’s mouth he can still reach. He tightens his hand around his cock, chasing the heat and pull, shifting in small increments as it builds and whispering a warning to Noah.
Noah just nods, acquiescing, eyes squeezed shut like it’s him instead, shaking so hard Ronan’s vaguely worried Noah’s going to disappear. Noah whines something in his throat, something that sounds like a plea, like begging, and Ronan rushes to finish as fast as he can, whispering rough encouragement into Noah’s ear.
It builds and builds, fast and sharp and shuddering, and Noah bites down hard on Ronan’s fingers two seconds before he himself tenses and groans, coming hot over his own fist and against Noah’s rumpled sweater.
Ronan catches his breath stuttering and unseeing, keeping Noah close to feed off the aftershocks, keeps him close so he can’t cool off. Keeps Noah tucked in the cocoon of blankets with him so they both stay human and simple for just another few moments, keeping the nightmares at bay. Noah’s heavier than he should be, always is right after this, stealing all of Ronan’s energy right out of him three times over, through hands and mouth and spent exertion.
He pulls Noah on top of him, tangling uncoordinated and sluggish limbs, just two boys content and at peace for a precious few moments. He’s sticky and his fingers are bleeding in the shape of his name trapped in Noah's teeth, scratches stinging and feeling damp with their warmth in equal measure over his chest--down his sides--arching over his back--but he ignores it for now, too desperate not to break what they’ve created: a dreamscape outside of dreams.
Ronan drifts to sleep easier than he has in weeks, dreaming of nothing but soft laundry drying on a line in a hazy summer afternoon, fluttering in the breeze. He's pinned down in the dream in the same way Noah’s present enough to pin him to the bed. In the very back of his mind is a niggling realization that this isn't his dream, not something he's ever known.
But Noah's still there, skin warm and breath cool, and Ronan slips back into the borrowed backdrop before he's fully woken up.
Tomorrow everything will have returned to normal and Noah will probably be gone, but for this one moment he's warm and close and breathing against Ronan's neck, alive.