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An Open Secret

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"I want." Blue's lips were about three millimeters away from the soft underside of Gansey's jaw, and she could almost taste his skin.

He breathed harshly for several moments, loud in the strange quiet of the Camaro. "What do you want, Jane?"

What didn't she want? Right then, she wanted every part of Gansey pressed up against every part of her, starting and ending with his lips. But if she couldn't have that, she wanted--

"I wish we didn't have to hide like this."

His fingers slipped through her hair, disturbing the little twists she spent so much time perfecting. It felt wonderful.

"We can't do that to him." Gansey was so certain the first time he'd said this to her, so absolute and sure. This time when he repeated the same idea, it sounded almost like a question.

"He can't still--" Blue stopped, biting her lip. She didn't finish, because she knew it was what she wanted, and not necessarily what was true.

Gansey wrapped one arm around her shoulder and pulled her into a tight hug, resting his chin on top of her now-rumpled hair. "How could he not?" he asked, and she felt warm all over. They were so close that she could feel a tiny laugh escape his chest. "I might be a little biased."

Neither of them said Adam's name.

When Blue walked into Monmouth Manufacturing the next day, and saw Adam there, something twisted uncomfortably inside her.

He was leaning on a pool cue and watching Noah shoot, a small smile on his face and an unfamiliar lightness to his posture. He gave Blue a small wave but didn't step away from the table.

Noah snapped the cue and the balls thwacked and thudded into the pockets one after another. "Ha!" Noah shouted. "Eat that, Parrish!"

From the corner, Ronan clapped loud and slow. The sarcastic half-smile on his face made his meaning clear.

Blue dropped onto the leather couch with her backpack, and pulled out her history textbook. She didn't actually open it, but she felt like she was making progress with it propped on her knee.

Noah said something mocking in response, and Ronan jabbed back, and Blue watched Adam watch the exchange.

Ronan drifted closer and closer to the table as he traded insults with Noah, until he was standing right next to Adam. He placed one hand on Adam's shoulder and leaned in, saying something into Adam's right ear. Adam frowned a little and shook his head, but somehow the movement brought him closer to Ronan. They stood like that for a minute without talking or even looking at one another.

Finally, Noah rolled his eyes. "Sometime today, maybe?"

"Because you have a pressing social engagement?" Ronan answered. "You're dead."

"Lynch," Adam said as he moved to take his shot, but it wasn't much of a warning. His voice sounded almost fond.

Suddenly, Blue felt like she was intruding on something private. She opened her history book and applied herself diligently to the assigned chapter for twelve long minutes, until Noah plopped down onto the couch next to her.

"I don't know what that boy eats," Maura said, when Adam had left after his weekly tarot lesson.

Blue shrugged, and her mother shot her a strongly-worded look. What did he eat? It's not a thought she'd ever really had about any of her friends before. "Nino's, I guess." But even as she said it, Blue realized that wasn't really true. Gansey and Ronan lived off Nino's take-out, spent three nights a week in a corner booth there, but Adam was usually at work or studying or just too poor for-- oh.

"I'm going to make him a casserole," Maura said decisively. "Blue, you can take it over there."

When Maura was done whipping up a casserole with the ingredients lurking in the fridge, which included a lot of bacon and broccoli and some curly noodles, she covered the dish with foil and handed it to Blue.

Which is how Blue ended up sitting in Calla's car in the St. Agnes parking lot at ten o'clock at night. The car was filled with the warm scent of bacon, and the windows were a little fogged up in the chill of early December.

She peered through the cloudy windshield. The parking lot was empty except for three cars: the one Blue was sitting in, Adam's tri-color Hondayota, and a familiar snub-nosed gray BMW.

What was Ronan doing at St. Agnes at this hour? Probably not delivering a casserole.

Unbidden, Blue's mind called up the image of Adam and Ronan next to the pool table, swaying toward each other like trees in the wind. For just a moment, she paused with one hand on the car door. Then she shook it off and walked up the stairs to Adam's room with the bacon-scented dish, where she found Ronan sitting on the floor feeding pretzels to Chainsaw and Adam studying.

It was a totally normal scene, she reminded herself. Adam was allowed to have friends. And that's what they were, two friends hanging out. Then Adam tried to refuse the casserole, and Blue told him she wasn't going to take it home again, and if he wanted to throw it in the trash that was fine, but Maura would want her dish back. Then she left quickly, before he could insist again.

Ronan didn't leave. He stayed right there on the floor of Adam's room as if it were a perfectly normal Thursday. Something about it itched at the edge of her mind.

She could go home. But here she was with a car and the knowledge that Gansey was at Monmouth without his only living roommate, and the car seemed to steer itself in that direction.

"Jane!" Gansey said when she pushed open the door at Monmouth Manufacturing. "To what do I owe the honor?" He was sitting in the middle of his bed surrounded by books, wearing a white t-shirt and his wire-frame glasses.

For a moment, Blue imagined crawling across the bed and kissing him breathless on top of all those books.

"I was in the neighborhood," she said instead. Monmouth Avenue was filled with warehouses, some abandoned and some occupied, none of which were in use at ten o'clock on a Thursday night. It was not on the way to any place of importance in Henrietta unless you counted Aglionby Academy, which Blue did not.

Gansey nodded solemnly. "It's a busy place."

She shifted from one foot to the other, still within reach of the door. Maybe she shouldn't have come. Gansey's bed suddenly seemed like a very dangerous place.

"I'm glad you stopped by," Gansey said expansively. He rose up on his knees and clambered over the side of the bed, leaving the heaps of books mostly undisturbed. "I wanted to show you what I found--" He crouched down and dug through a tall stack of books on the floor which looked as if it were about to fall over at any moment, then pulled out a tattered volume. "Ah, here you are."

Blue still felt like the smart decision would have been to turn around and go home, but instead she laughed softly as she picked her way across the floor. "Are you talking to your books now?" This was the scholar Gansey, big words and thoughtful pauses, research and journals and maps.

He smiled at her through his glasses, the corners of his eyes crinkling, and flipped open the book. Blue sank to the floor and peered over his shoulder.

The book in Gansey's hands was old and leather-bound, and it smelled like dust and libraries and dusty libraries. Gansey himself smelled like mint and warmth and the Camaro's vinyl seats. Blue closed her eyes and listened to the rumble of his voice without hearing the words.

Eventually, he trailed off. "...Jane?" he asked, softer now.

There was an idea growing in her mind. The edges of it were still unformed, but the center was certain. She hesitated to say it aloud, as if the truth might change when exposed to light.

Gansey turned toward her and wrapped one arm around her back, pulling her close. He rested his chin on the top of her head and waited for her to speak.

She didn't want to say the words. It wasn't her place to tell. But she was powerless to resist.

"We can't do this," she said, without any confidence. "Right?"

"I can't do that to him," Gansey replied in his Ganseyest voice, always certain and commanding and totally loyal. "We can't."

"And if--" Blue took a deep breath. "And if he found someone else?"

Gansey's arms tightened around her, faltering for once. Blue buried her head against his neck and felt his pulse racing against her brow. He let out a deep breath and it stirred her hair.

He didn't ask who Adam might find to hold like this, and that was a confirmation in itself. He knew, just as Blue did, who was at Adam's place now.

"Then," he said finally. "Then we could stop hiding, I think."

Could she sit in the front seat of the Camaro in broad daylight, walk through Henrietta holding Gansey's hand, tape a picture of him into her locker the way other girls did? The very idea of it was frightening, horrifying, and undeniably appealing. She wanted it desperately, in all its awfulness.

His heart beat crazily in his throat, and his arms held her tightly, and he smelled like moonlight on a fast car, and this was what Blue had sworn her entire life to avoid. Stay away from boys, because they're trouble. Stay away from Aglionby boys, because they're bastards.

It was too late now. Far, far too late to stay away now.

"We can," she said, lips pressed to the thin cotton of his shirt.

He didn't kiss her then, but it was a close thing.