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A Strange, Wild Kingdom

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Adam Parrish was awake. And the thing about being awake, he was coming to realize, was that you could no longer ignore or avoid things by pretending not to notice them. When your eyes were open, really open, you couldn't help but see what was in front of them.

There were good things he noticed and there were bad things he noticed, and there were things that he could not yet tell if they were good or bad. (One to wake, one to not wake, one in between.)

Good things: he had become better at understanding Cabeswater, and maybe that was because turning outward had become easier. He was the magician, and Ronan was the dreamer; Blue was the mirror, and Gansey was the king. It was a pattern laid out as clearly as though it were in his scrying bowl, which was to say, not all that clearly, but it was there, and if he looked carefully and paid attention, he could see it. But to see it he had to look out, not in, as Persephone had instructed him, and he'd been spending too much time turned inward.

Persephone. Her death was a bad thing, maybe the worst thing. It had cracked him down the middle and left him feeling fragile and unsure at his core. When she'd started teaching him, it was as though what she was trying to teach and what he thought he was trying to learn were almost completely different things. He couldn't tell if it was because he was a terrible student or because she was a terrible teacher, but he had been sure it was one or the other, because almost nothing she had said made any sense to him. But in the past few weeks he'd started to catch glimpses of the why and the what, and that made the how easier.

Then just as he was beginning to understand what she was getting at – just when she'd woken him – she was gone. He felt that loss pulsing down the ley line like it was in his own blood. Like someone had cut off his arm. And if this was how it felt, losing Persephone, he could not bring himself to imagine what it would be to lose Gansey. Now he was left to navigate the intricacies of Cabeswater's whims on his own, and now it was even more important that he learn to do so, because the favor was going to be – it had to be – Gansey's life.

And then there was Ronan, a whirlwind of anger and emotion and intensity, all focused on Adam. He guessed this was the "in between," because he couldn't figure out yet if the way things were going with the two of them was really good, or really bad.

Probably, he thought, it was going to be both.

They all spilled out of the BMW into the gravel lot of the Barns and followed Ronan around the farmhouse to the long barn full of dream-junk. It was hard to keep up with Ronan's long strides; hands jammed in his pockets, shoulders hunched, he looked like he was going to a bar fight. Adam thought that maybe he had wanted to keep this between the two of them. Which he kind of wanted, too; having something they shared apart from the rest was like a secret jewel under the mattress, something he could take out and hold to himself when things were difficult. Gansey and Blue held hands when he wasn't looking (as if that would keep him from knowing). He should be able to have the knowledge that Ronan had chosen to share it with him alone. Except – they needed all of them, to make it happen. Like with the animals in the cave.

"We need you," Adam had said, when they'd explained what they hoped to do. "The mirror and the king."

Ronan had snorted at that, and maybe Gansey had blushed. He probably hadn't, being Gansey. He accepted these things as his birthright. Blue had frowned at Adam, and her lips clamped down hard on what she was going to say, which would have been something about how the weird things that came out of his mouth reminded her of Persephone. He couldn't help that.

"So what am I?" asked Noah.

"You're dead," said Ronan. "You don't count."

"That's cold, man." For a moment Noah looked as though he was going to vanish out of sheer pique.

"It's all right," said Blue. "You can come anyway."

"Nah. I don't like that place."

"That's all right, too," said Adam quickly, before Blue or Gansey tried to talk Noah into coming. Noah would be a drain on the ley line, and they would need all the energy they could coax from it.

And this was just going to be a test. A test before the test, because the next step would be waking Aurora. Blue, with the fresh perspective of someone who until recently had been temporarily without her own mother, had jumped to the conclusion that this was the entire purpose of the exercise. Ronan had let her assumption stand, because Matthew was something he and Adam were keeping to themselves.

Ronan scooped up the sleeping cat and stroked it gently for a moment, a tenderness Adam could not imagine him showing to something that wasn't asleep.

"Oh," said Blue softly. Her hand reached out to touch the cat's fur.

"We tried it with a cow before," said Adam. "It was just Ronan and me then, so it didn't work. But if we succeed...." He shrugged, and Blue nodded. What would they do with a cow?

"I don't see how we won't. All those skeletons in the cave. They were skeletons!"

"There was more magic there," he told her. "Closer to the ley line." And they'd had Gwenllian with them, then. Ronan had flatly refused to even consider bringing her along, and Adam didn't really want to, anyway. It was harder to control the power around her crazy magic; she was like Blue but weirder, a fun-house mirror that distorted and stretched what it reflected. Blue was solid and strong, even if she didn't believe it herself.

Anyway, they had Blue to focus the energy, and Gansey to command. They had the power of three, if you didn't count Ronan, which they couldn't, because that was the whole point of the test. If they had to wake Matthew, it would be because Ronan was gone.

"So what do we do?" asked Gansey. He poked the cat with a finger. "Wake up," he said, tentatively.

The cat slumbered on.

Ronan rolled his eyes and placed the cat into Blue's arms. "That's not how you do it." He reached into his pack and pulled out the bundle of blue fleece that held the dream-word, the mirror-thing that had something of Cabeswater in it. Adam shivered, remembering the stirring he'd felt when Ronan had tried to wake the cow. And then again, in the skeleton cave; the energy rippling in him and through him. It had been different from the way he usually sensed the power. Instead of a pulse on his skin it was deeper, in his organs, in his heart and lungs, the energy of the ley line filling the spaces inside him, pushing out the air, making it almost impossible to breathe.

"Wait." He held out his hands for the bundle. "I should do it."

Ronan frowned; then suddenly his eyes sharpened with understanding, and he gave Adam the fleece. It seemed odd and uncomfortable in his hands, hard to hold. Carefully he unwrapped the object inside. It felt like it wanted to slide out of his grip, fall to the ground, and he wondered if it felt that way to Ronan. The energy pulsed and hummed in his veins. He was suddenly not sure he wanted to do this.

Cabeswater was between his palms. He couldn't look at it. Dimly he heard Gansey say something, heard Ronan answer. Images flashed in his mind, Cabeswater trying to tell him something. Ronan. Blue-Gansey-Noah-Adam, then Ronan again. He heard a jumble of syllables, out of which he could only pick Greywaren. Ronan.

"I can't do it," he found himself saying. "I'm not the Greywaren."

Another jumble of syllables. He suddenly wished for his tarot deck. In his head he saw his face, staring back of him, and two hands he knew somehow were Ronan's. He saw a pair of majestic animals loping across a plain of grass. They stopped at a pool, and, side by side, they bent to drink. The ley line surged in him. He heard more words he couldn't identify. He heard the slow flapping of the wings of one of Ronan's scaly dream monsters.



The noises turned into his name. He opened his eyes, realizing he had not been aware of closing them. He was on the ground. Blue cradled his head, Gansey hovered anxiously above, and Ronan held the dream-word in his hands again, his face tight and thunderous.

"Adam," said Gansey again, because it had been his voice he'd heard, pulling him out of the depths. "We don't have to do this if you don't want to."

Adam looked toward Ronan, who was staring at him with an intensity that he could almost feel battering against his skin. He hauled himself out of Blue's lap, embarrassed. "No, it's – it's okay. It's just Cabeswater being weird at me again."

Blue laughed, and after a moment, Gansey did, too.

Ronan glowered at them all. "Can you do it?"

"Have a heart, Lynch," said Gansey. "Let the man recover." He knelt beside Adam, placing a warm on his shoulder, and Adam felt himself move outside his body, step back and observe what had just happened: he'd collapsed onto the ground, and Blue had let out a cry and bent down to see if he had hurt himself, to make sure he was okay. He'd been muttering, breathing hard, and she'd slid his head onto her lap and stroked his hair, and Gansey had felt jealous, then immediately guilty for his jealousy. All this he knew as though he'd been watching from the outside. It was what Ronan had seen.

Why couldn't it always be that easy to see through Ronan's eyes? It would make things so much easier. Especially Cabeswater.

"I can try again."

He braced himself against the energy, and blew across the word, the book, the mirror.

"Wake up," said Gansey. Adam heard the command in his voice and felt the ley line trembling, trying, trying to work through him. But again, it found him wanting. He was the magician, not the dreamer; his was the hand that repaired, not the hand that created. But almost...almost.

"No," said Ronan. The disappointment in his voice was a palpable thing.

Adam remembered his father coming to his apartment. He remembered crouching within the protective thicket of Cabeswater, vines and brambles all around him; and his father reaching out his hand, and pulling it back again, his palm pricked by a thorn. That had been a dreamer's thorn. That had been Ronan's thorn.

"Not yet," said Adam.

They couldn't not try to wake the cat, after all that, and it was deceptively easy when Ronan took his place with the object and Gansey gave the command. Blue complained that she didn't feel as though she was doing anything, but Adam had sensed the power reflecting from her, building to the intensity that the magic needed to act. It was an intensity that made him dizzy, as the ley line filled him, paused, poured out again. It was like taking a deep breath of something that wasn't quite air.

"Now we can wake your mother," said Blue. The cat was nosing around their legs, sniffing each of them in turn.

Ronan and Adam exchanged glances. "Might as well do it now, while we're all together," said Adam. He still felt a little light-headed, but surely he'd have recovered by the time they got to Cabeswater. "I've got to work all next week."

"Have you thought this through?" asked Gansey. "Will she be all right here?"

"She'll be all right," said Ronan, his voice low and dangerous, daring anyone to object. He pulled out his phone and jabbed at it. "Yeah, Matthew. We're coming to get you." The cat rubbed against his ankles. Clearly it liked Ronan the best. Maybe it recognized something in him, understood his relationship to the forces that Niall Lynch had used to create it.

Gansey raised an eyebrow. "Can't he see her after we've brought her out?"

"He can see her right after we bring her out, which is why he's going to be there. Fuck off," Ronan added, to the cat, which was purring madly and rubbing its face on his foot.

"I think that makes sense," said Blue unexpectedly. "She should have him there."

"It'll be a tight fit in your car," observed Gansey. "Matthew and Aurora, and all of us."

"I'll take you back to get the Pig, and I'll get Matthew. You can meet us in Cabeswater." Ronan's grim expression would clearly not take no for an answer. When Adam looked at him, it seemed to as though a bit of the dark radiance from using his dream-powers still clung to the sharp planes of his face. For a moment he was so beautiful that Adam wanted to reach out, foolishly, and stroke the line of his jaw. Then the dark angel vanished and it was just Ronan again, taut and angry, turning on his heel and striding toward the front of the farmhouse.

Different approaches, thought Adam. Gansey charmed everyone into doing what he wanted them to do, while Ronan just bullied them. Gansey was definitely an easier person to be around. From the beginning, Adam had a crush on Gansey that was every bit as strong as his feelings for Blue. So why, now, did he find himself so helplessly charmed by Ronan? The answer was obvious when he thought about it: Ronan had chosen him. Gansey chose everybody.

"What about the cat?" asked Blue. She'd picked it up to keep it from following Ronan.

"He'll bring his mother back here," Gansey assured her. "She can take care of it."

"If it works again," warned Adam, though he didn't really believe it wouldn't. He just hoped Ronan wouldn't ask him to try again. It was a gift Adam wanted to give him, and he felt ashamed that he couldn't.

"Get your asses over here," called Ronan from around the corner. Blue set the cat down, and they all followed her back to the BMW.

When they arrived at Monmouth Manufacturing and Adam had climbed out from the back seat, Ronan would not let him back into the car. "I'll get Matthew and meet you over there. Take the Pig, not the Hondayota."

"Okay," said Adam, but Ronan was already in gear and moving. "Asshole."

"It's his mother. He's entitled."

"You're too nice, Jane," said Gansey. "He is an asshole."

"An entitled asshole," muttered Adam. In both senses of the word.

"Noah?" called Blue into the air. "Do you want to come?" Adam didn't feel his chill presence, so he guessed she was just being polite, and in any case, there was no response.

He got into the front seat next to Gansey, as was required by their unspoken rule that Gansey and Blue never sit next to each other. This meant that usually it was him next to Blue in the back seat, because otherwise, Ronan, but after the first couple of times it was no longer awkward.

Ronan's BMW was already at the edge of the forest by the time they got there, with Matthew sitting in the front passenger seat, window rolled down. "Guys! Guys!" he called to them, waving. He was like a big puppy dog, earnest and friendly. Adam sometimes thought that Ronan had formed Matthew out of all his better impulses, leaving none for himself; between the two of them, they made up a single well-adjusted functioning human being.

For a change, though, Matthew looked pissed off. "I'm supposed to wait in the car. I don't even get to visit Mom this time."

Adam crouched by the open window. He had a perverse urge to pat Matthew on the head. "Did Ronan tell you what we're doing?"

"No. He just told me to wait."

"Then you'd better wait," said Gansey, behind him. "Do you know what this is about? Matthew, I mean?" he added to Adam as they and Blue went into the dark and welcoming shadow of Cabeswater.

"I'm not sure," said Adam, which was mostly the truth. Then he opened himself to Cabeswater and Gansey's voice faded from his awareness.

A soft wind. Birds, flapping over their heads, trilling notes that more ordinary birds would envy. The scent of moss, the scent of moist dirt. The echo of a voice speaking words in a foreign tongue that he could almost but not quite understand. It was a language he was still learning. Slowly, slowly.

Ronan and Aurora looked up at their approach. Aurora smiled mistily, nodded toward them. She'd met him and Blue and Gansey before, seen them many times on their repeated visits to Cabeswater, but Adam doubted she knew their names. He moved closer to Ronan. "Everything all right?"

"Fine, Parrish." He sounded annoyed and exasperated, which meant he sounded like Ronan. "Let's do it."

Gansey frowned doubtfully. "But she's already awake. I mean, here she's awake."

"No shit. We'll take her out first."

"I don't want to go out," said Aurora. Her ethereal face twisted into a frown of concern. She reached out to touch one of the trees, and it seemed to Adam that it swayed a little toward her, as though it moved under her hand in order to hold her up. "I like it here."

"Matthew's waiting for you in the car." Ronan's voice had gone abruptly soft and sweet, a sharp contrast to the way he'd spoken just moments ago.

"If you think it best," she said, sighing. But worry lines still creased her forehead, and when Ronan took her arm to urge her along the path, she walked like a prisoner going to the gallows.

Noah was there, leaning on one of the border trees like a lazy guard who didn't take his duty seriously. "Matthew's getting annoyed."

"Let him," muttered Ronan.

"You could go hang out with him," suggested Gansey.

"Nah, I like the energy here."

Aurora slumped into Ronan's arms as he urged her across the border. Gansey rushed to help keep her from falling to the ground, because that was the sort of chivalrous thing Gansey did.

"Mom!" called Matthew. The BMW's door opened. "Are you okay? Is she okay?"

"Stay there!" Ronan snarled, and Matthew halted.

"It's all right," said Blue. She started toward the BMW.

"We need you for this," said Ronan, his voice clipped and tense.

"Let her go to him," said Adam. "It's not that far. She'll still be close enough."

Ronan gave him an odd look, but subsided, and Blue moved to intercept Matthew, murmuring to him in a soft voice that pulled at Adam's heart. He remembered the first time he talked to her, on the way home from Nino's, both of them with hands on their bicycles, the instant understanding that they were both strangers in Aglionby-world. What would his life have been like, if it hadn't gone in the direction it had gone? If he and Blue had been ordinary kids from Henrietta? No Gansey, no Ronan? No Cabeswater?

But that was a question that couldn't be answered. Persephone had taught him too well; he did not even have to think about it in order to see it from outside and above, to know that there was no such choice, that it made no sense to think about it. It was like asking what his life would have been like if he'd been born in Australia and Hitler had won the Second World War.

"All right," said Gansey. He held Aurora cradled in his arms, leaning back against his chest.

Ronan unslung his pack and pulled out the dream thing, unwrapped it. "Let's do this thing." He closed his eyes and breathed out. Around Adam, the magic gathered, breathless and waiting. It should have been stronger than before, this close to the ley line, but it felt oddly attenuated, thin and tattered like an old shirt.

He opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out.

And then the world went black.

He was in Cabeswater, and not in Cabeswater. The trees whispered around him.

Magus. Greywaren. Magus. Greywaren.

"What do you want of me?" He repeated it in Latin. He remembered Ronan's puzzle-box, the thing that translated to the strange language of the trees, and wished he knew how to say it in that tongue as well.

In his mind he saw the images he'd seen when he and Blue and Noah had gone to fix the ley line under Skyline Drive. Cabeswater and all the other Cabeswaters, reaching out to one another as he and Ronan and Gansey and Blue and Noah reached out to each other. The two elks with their majestic antlers, bending to drink from the same pool. Ronan giving him that look, proud and yearning and desirous. Roots of a tree snaking underground to twine with other roots.

Persephone frowned at him. "Cabeswater is not the boss of you." She poked a finger at his chest. Her fingernail sprang out like a switchblade knife, and a sudden pain arced into his body, the blade going straight through his heart.

He looked down to his chest, expecting to see blood pouring out, but there was nothing but vines, vines twining around him, thorns shielding him from the world. They grew into a bramble, into a thicket, into a forest of thorns.

"Don't be so dramatic, Parrish." Suddenly Ronan stood there, rolling his eyes, looking amused. The bramble fell away behind him. His arms were full of red roses.

He cracked his eyes open just enough to realize that he was lying on a couch in a room he didn't recognize at first. His head ached as though he'd been in a fight, and lost miserably.

"Cabes—" he started, and then it turned into a dry cough.

"Here," said Maura. She pressed a glass of water into Adam's hand. "Are you all right?"

"I don't know," he said honestly. "Am I?"

He heard a snort from somewhere over his shoulder. "If you had been, you never would have tried a stunt like that."

"It wasn't—" He coughed again and took a drink of the water. Thankfully it didn't seem to be flavored with any of the unpleasant-tasting herbs they kept in the kitchen; you never knew, at 300 Fox Way.

"Don't tell me what it wasn't, Coca-Cola."

He busied himself drinking the rest of the glass to avoid answering. His head still felt full of thorns and roses.

"Well, I don't know," said Blue plaintively. He tilted his head around to where he could see her and Calla. "What did you do?"

"You don't go around trying to wake sleepers indiscriminately," growled Calla.

"What happened?" He felt in his head for the ley line. It was still there, a thready pulse, familiar and unfamiliar.

Blue sighed and scrunched herself smaller into the huge scarf she was wearing. "You and Ronan both fainted."

"Ronan does not faint," Adam told her, and they exchanged small smiles. "Is he okay? Where is he?"

"Gansey took him back to Monmouth."

A pang of the deepest, sharpest jealousy shot through him. Gansey took care of Ronan. Adam ended up in a house of crazy psychics.

Maura reached over and smoothed the hair on his brow. "After he dropped you off here. Your other friends were awake. You were the one who needed looking after."

Adam handed her the empty glass. "Thank you, ma'am." She smiled at him, a little warily; like she wondered whether this boy in their spare room had designs on her daughter, and whether he was only trying to be polite to score brownie points.

Your other friends were awake, she'd said. He turned toward Blue. "Ronan's okay?"

It was Calla who answered. "The snake's fine. So's his brother."

"His mom?"

Blue shook her head. "She didn't wake up, and the dream-thing exploded when you guys passed out. Noah and Gansey took Aurora back into Cabeswater. Ronan was only out for a minute or so, but he says he's got a major headache. Matthew, too."

"A surge on the ley line," he guessed. "Did you feel it?"

She bit her lip. "I felt something." Her eyes darted to her mother, then back to his. Probably Maura had already given her hell for her involvement, though she couldn't complain too hard considering that she'd become nearly as involved. She'd left Blue and spent a month in a cave. She had no business –

These were Blue's thoughts, not his. He was getting a headache, too.

"Oh, it's the little mongrel," came a voice trilling from the doorway. "Arf! Arf!"

"Shut up," said Calla, but Gwenllian came into the room anyway.

"But what's this?" She peered into Adam's face from a distance too close to be civilized, and for a moment he wondered if she was going to spit at him, or maybe kiss him. "Even more of a mongrel than you were before, little doglet. The Raven Prince is turning you into a raven, I see." She began to sing:

"Most peerless was his beauty found

His favor, and his face

A sweeter creature in this world

Could never prince embrace, oh!"

She emphasized his each time in a way that made it clear that the original song was about a woman, and he felt the blood rise to his cheeks.

"Shut up," repeated Calla. She looked thoughtfully at Adam. "So that's what happened."

"What happened?" demanded Blue again.

"This happened," said Maura, holding out the glass Adam had drunk from. Where his hand had been, a scattering of red rose petals, clinging to the condensation, covered the glass.

Blue had called Gansey, and Gansey had driven over to take Adam back to his apartment over the St. Agnes church office.

"Ronan would have come too, but he's still feeling awful," said Gansey. "He said he'll catch up with you after church tomorrow."

"I'm working," said Adam automatically. He didn't actually start until afternoon, but after that horrible evening when Ronan had dreamed the false evidence to get Greenmantle and come back with his dying double, he did not think he could deal with Ronan in the context of the church. Besides, he'd be with Declan and Matthew and the knowledge of their failure – of Adam's failure – from the day before.

"You and Ronan," said Gansey.

Adam waited, but Gansey did not continue. You and Ronan, what? You and Ronan, and what is it with all these difficult situations you've been getting us into lately? You and Ronan, and can't you quit fighting with each other for one damn minute? You and Ronan, and why don't you just kiss him already?

You and Blue, he thought, and you haven't kissed each other yet, either. But of course that wasn't going to happen, given Blue's curse. Because if Blue kissed Gansey, Gansey would die. Of course, Gansey was going to die, they knew that – at least he and Blue knew that – but Adam also knew it wouldn't be from Blue's kiss, because he was the one who would kill Gansey. He'd seen it in the dreaming tree.

(But Gansey couldn't die. Adam would not be able to bear it. That would be the favor, when they woke Glendower; that would be the gift.)

"You and Ronan, be careful," Gansey finally said, when he let Adam out in front of St. Agnes. And that could be applied to any of the possible ways Gansey could have finished his sentence.

He went up to his dingy apartment and sat on the bed. Look outward, he imagined Persephone telling him. Find the strands of energy that bind us all to each other.

He took the tarot deck from its drawer, then hesitated. Maybe he should scry into the bathroom sink again; sometimes that was clearer.

And maybe you don't need that anymore, Persephone-in-his-head told him tartly. Not for this.

"Maybe I don't, but I don't want to mess this up," he said out loud as he went into the bathroom. He pulled the foil from under the sink and smoothed it into the basin, then filled it with water. Something trembled at the edges of his vision, like a bird fluttering just out of sight. He tried to open himself to it without forcing it.

The water in the sink settled and became smooth. He saw himself reflected in the shiny foil, and he tried to focus not on his image but past it. He breathed in, then out. His features wavered in the bowl, then shattered and reformed into Ronan's handsome, smirking face. Ronan licked his lips, a deliberate motion; then his eyelids fluttered shut, dark lashes dipping, and his mouth formed the shape of a kiss.

The pulse of desire was unexpected and almost frightening. Adam found himself bending toward the water before he realized what he was doing. And then, as he seized control of himself again, he saw Ronan's face turn again to his own. His image smiled back at him for one long moment: a sweet, open, genuine smile. He couldn't remember the last time he'd smiled like that.

And then the smile and the face wavered, and it was his true reflection gazing back at him.

He left the bathroom and sat on his bed, trying to piece it all together. Ronan was into guys, they all knew that, no big deal. Ronan had a crush on him, which was gratifying and flattering and unsettling. It was not that Adam was offended by the idea; it was more that the whole concept of relationships was not something he had ever thought about much other than in an abstract way until very recently. Not until he'd seen Blue for the first time in Nino's, and wanted desperately to talk to her, and then made the mistake of saying something to Gansey. Even though they had broken up, gone through that dance of resentment and unhappiness, there was still something about her that tugged at his heart and made him want to be better than he was.

Suddenly it was obvious. It was like looking at words in his Latin textbook turning from a string of meaningless syllables into a line of poetry.

The Magician sees what is out there and finds connections, Persephone had told him.

Ronan was the Greywaren, and so Cabeswater loved him more than it loved anybody else. Cabeswater would give him anything he dreamed up, anything he wanted. A raven chick, a bloody severed hand, an orange Camaro. Anything to make him happy.

Ronan wanted someone else to have the power to wake his dreams to life. Ronan wanted Adam. And Adam belonged to Cabeswater.

His dreams that night were troubling and convoluted, but they were just ordinary dreams. In the morning, he made sure to be clear of St. Agnes long before the service began. While his hands turned wrenches and threaded wires, his mind turned over the facts as he had come to understand them. The way the ley line fought back when they asked too much of it: night horrors and wasps, death and unhappiness. The way the slate tiles had fallen in a perfect circle around him. The way he couldn't stop looking at Ronan, who couldn't stop looking at him.

On Monday morning he arrived at Borden House only a little early – enough for a short discussion, not long enough to have to admit to the consequences. Adam didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed that Ronan wasn't there yet. Maybe he should be worried. He slid into his seat and had time only to open his notebook when Ronan came in, silently cutting through the knots of other students like an Arctic icebreaker. Gansey, behind him, was his usual affable self, nodding at the others.

Ronan gave him one swift glance as he took his place. Later.

Adam nodded, then looked back to where Gansey was just making his way to his seat ahead of the substitute Latin teacher. Mrs. DuPree was actually a writer of crime novels, but her degree was in Classics, and she was married to one of the history teachers, so she came in on an as-needed basis for Latin and Greek and Ancient History.

Gansey folded himself into his chair in front of Adam and jerked his chin in Mrs. DuPree's direction. "She doesn't think they'll hire anyone permanent until next term."

"Maybe this time they'll hire someone who isn't evil," said Ronan darkly.

"I suspect Latin teachers are universally evil," sighed Gansey. Mrs. DuPree proved his point by frowning in his direction, then turning to the board and writing a sentence that even Adam, who had thought he had a pretty good grip on fourth declension dative plurals, had to agree constituted positive evidence.

But that got him wondering. Did Aglionby only hire evil Latin teachers? Or did Henrietta's proximity to the ley line turn them evil? At least he understood, somewhat, how Cabeswater was changing him. Maybe both Barrington Whelk and Colin Greenmantle would have been perfectly normal without the arcane energies that made this place what it was. Maybe Mrs. DuPree wrote crime novels because she was only a part-time Latin teacher, and was therefore only inspired to kill fictional characters rather than real people.

They walked across the school green towards their next classes, together as always. Adam and Ronan flanked Gansey like outriders, and the other students moved aside for them as though acknowledging their superior right to the pathway they had chosen.

"You're all right this morning," said Gansey. It wasn't a question, or at least, it mostly wasn't. Adam felt the unspoken words: of course you're all right this morning. It was Gansey making sure that everything was in order, as it should be. "Both of you. Right?"

This time it was a question, which Ronan answered with a snort and Adam with a shrug. "I suppose it depends on your definition of all right."

"Don't be so dramatic, Parrish."

The eerie echo of his dream was like ice water down his back; Adam turned his head toward Ronan so fast it made his neck hurt. No roses.

He caught Ronan's eye and tilted his head meaningfully toward Gansey. Later. This was between him and Ronan. In more ways than one.

When he got back to his apartment after work Adam was not surprised to see the BMW in the church parking lot and Ronan lurking in the darkness, leaning against the wall like a malevolent shadow. There were hollows under his eyes and under his cheekbones, a shadow of stubble across his chin. "It's not like you sleep anyway," Adam said as he opened the door for Ronan to enter the cramped apartment. "I'm beginning to understand why."

Ronan threw himself onto the end of Adam's bed. "Spill," he commanded.

"We overloaded the ley line. We were trying to do too much, too quickly. That's why we –" he gestured with his hands. Fainted. "Collapsed."

"We can wake a herd of skeleton zombie animals, and we can't wake one human being without Cabeswater throwing a hissy fit?"

"Waking sleepers takes energy. Like when you're pulling things from a dream. You overreach, you pay."

"When I'm pulling things from a dream and it all goes to shit, wasps come after me."

"Good thing they didn't, this time."

"Yeah." Ronan's mouth was set in a grim line; they were both thinking of Gansey. "So why not?"

Adam had a couple of theories on that. One was that since they hadn't actually been dreaming, they weren't pulling from the part of Cabeswater that made horrible dream-things with sharp claws and savage stingers. Another was that waking someone else's creation was different from creating things from scratch. But both of these reasons seemed to him to be making excuses, somehow, dancing around the edges of what was really going on.

"I think," said Adam, "that it's not you who is overreaching."

"Is it something you're doing? Because I know you don't need me to remind you, but it was not you who woke that fucking cat."

"How is that fucking cat, by the way?"

"Getting rid of mice, I hope. Either that or starving to death." He didn't sound particularly concerned. "So what is it you're doing?"

"Not me. It's Cabeswater. Cabeswater's trying to do something that's taking a lot of energy."

"And you're going to tell me what it is before I die of boredom."

Adam took a quick look at Ronan, who was lounging on the edge of his bed, head tipped back against the wall. In the harsh light of the bare bulb which lit the room his face looked like that of a statue, fine parchment stretched taut over the wire frame of his cheekbones. Too beautiful. He had to look away.

"Suppose you have a crush on someone," Adam finally said, studying the ceiling plaster. There was a spider in the corner near the window, clinging to the wall. He supposed he'd be seeing a lot of them as the weather turned colder and they scuttled in, looking for warmth. "You want them to get what they want, right? You try to make it happen." An apartment over a church office. A salve for chapped hands. A place to belong. "Cabeswater's got a crush on you."

Ronan let out a delighted hoot of laughter. "Fuck, I thought I was perverted. How does a forest do it, anyway?"

"The same way Cabeswater does anything." The words, frosted with resentment, slid out of Adam's mouth before he could stop them. I will be your hands. I will be your eyes. "It's got a pet mechanic."

Ronan's face shuttered closed. "I don't want your zombie love, Parrish."

"That was a joke," Adam said tiredly. "I didn't mean it like that. It's that you're the Greywaren, and it wants to make you happy." He leaned back against the wall. "What I feel, that's me. Cabeswater's just pushing it to the surface so I can't ignore it."

"So it's still Cabeswater."

"It's still me."

"Forgive me if I don't want to take advantage of you while you're under the influence," said Ronan, careful and polite words in a flat, ugly voice. Casually he stretched and folded his hands behind his head. He looked like a snake coiling lazily, camouflaging its intent to strike. "It's a bitch waking with a hangover next to someone you used to like."

The familiar heat rose up in him, and he found his hand had curled into a fist of its own volition. The ceiling light began to vibrate wildly. It flickered off, then on again, then dimmed. "You don't get it," he said as evenly as he could. Control, control. The bulb brightened back to normal and slowly oscillated toward a stop. "There's not going to be a hangover. It's not going away. This," he said, feeling the tension in the ley line bubble down his arm, "is what I am now."

Ronan frowned up toward the light and then looked back at him, eyebrow raised, and Adam realized what he had said: what I am, not who I am. Well, it was the truth, and he couldn't change it. He didn't want to change it. It wasn't as though Ronan, child of a dreamer and his dream, were completely human either.

He opened his hand again. The action reminded him of the thorn that had pierced his father's palm, the rose petals on the glass in the house on Fox Way. "Anyway, it's just a side effect. I've started bringing things out, like you." That got Ronan's attention. "Not like you, exactly. Not on purpose. But it's been happening."

"Why?" The word was a single bullet.

"Because you want someone to be able to wake Matthew, if you can't."

"The thing I made shattered. Nobody's waking anyone."

"You can make another one."

"You don't know what it costs."

"I'm beginning to learn," said Adam honestly. "I think maybe we need to try making it together. I mean, that's what this is all about. I think Cabeswater's trying to bring us together so it can give me some of your power. So I can wake your sleepers."

Ronan snorted. "Because you know exactly what Cabeswater wants."

"That's my job," muttered Adam, suddenly defensive. But Ronan had a point. Adam was still feeling around the edges of his connection, of his promise, of his sacrifice, still learning to speak the language.

Cabeswater was hungry. Cabeswater was unimaginably old and not remotely human. Cabeswater had its own agenda.

"Cabeswater wants," he started, and then fell silent, because that partial sentence was truer than anything he could finish it with. He had allowed himself to become transformed by that desire, and now it was a weight pressing against him from the inside, yearning to be released. He felt the power of the ley line as it buckled upward, like a pipe about to blow from the force of too much water coursing through it.

"Cabeswater," said Ronan, "is not the only one who wants." He slid to his feet, smooth and quiet, and put one burning hand on Adam's shoulder.

"Yeah," said Adam hoarsely, and took a step forward.

They slammed into each other, hands and lips, a suicide driver and a runaway train.

The pipe burst.

It was an unseasonably warm autumn day, long thin streamers of cloud streaking the blue sky. Ronan and Matthew were gently escorting their mother to Gansey's Suburban; she turned her head from one to the other, birdlike, and let Matthew's chatter and Ronan's silences wash over her. Adam followed behind them, allowing them their time together. He hoped she'd be okay at the Barns by herself, with only a cat for company.

Cradled in his arms Adam held the new dream he and Ronan had made together, created from bits of themselves and bits of Cabeswater. It had taken a lot of their strength to make, as Ronan had warned. The wasps had come a few times. But somehow, with both of them in the dream – both of them caring fiercely about each other, and about Cabeswater, pouring Adam's talent through Ronan's ability – the power had coalesced into an object both like and unlike the one Ronan had made before.

It was not just a word made solid, but an emotion, a thought. It was the way he and Ronan looked at each other crystallized into something visible, and it had responded to the power of three: his breath, Blue's amplifying presence and Gansey's command. If it ever became necessary to wake Matthew – well, Adam hoped it wouldn't come to that. He couldn't bear to lose Ronan, just as he couldn't bear to lose Gansey. Or Blue, for that matter. They were all four of them bound together, by the ley line and by something else, something he did not want to name for fear of losing it.

The Lynch brothers had helped Aurora into the backseat, and sat on either side of her, scaffolding to help keep her solidly in this reality. Gansey and Blue arrived behind Adam; he didn't have to turn around to know they had been walking with their fingers intertwined, even though they'd decorously separated before reaching the car.

Gansey slid in behind the wheel. Blue waited for Adam to get in, but he shook his head. "It's okay. You should sit next to him."

She raised an eyebrow at that, but got into the car, and he got in beside her. In front of Ronan. He slid his right hand between the seat and the car door, and felt Ronan's fingers brush his in acknowledgment and affection. When he pulled away he felt as though he could almost see Ronan's touch lingering on his hand, a warm glow that danced across his skin with the pulse of the ley line.

"To the Barns, James," said Ronan grandly. Matthew giggled, and Gansey turned the key and eased the Suburban out of the forest and onto the road.

Adam turned the dream over in his lap and carefully wrapped it in the soft towel Ronan had bought to replace the ratty fleece blanket. He had woken the ley line, and Persephone had woken him. Today they had woken Aurora.

Now, it was time to wake Glendower.