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Room to Grow

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"Is the school broke?" Ronan asked. "You can tell me."

Gansey didn't dignify the question with a real answer. He had his thumb pressed to his bottom lip and his gaze was faraway. Specifically, his gaze was across the courtyard where Henry Cheng and Cheng Two were stooped over Gansey's egg progeny, conferring in hushed voices.

"I think Mr. Williams is having a nesting crisis," he said, eyes narrowing when Henry made a particularly excited noise and held out his hand for a complicated handshake. "He and his wife are expecting. I hope he's not naming it something horrendous."

"Mr. and Mrs. Williams?" Adam asked, looking up from the reading. Ronan chanced a look at his elbow, as finely boned and strangely elegant as the rest of him, and found their own egg resting there. The egg was strange but nowhere near as elegant as Adam.

"No," Gansey said mournfully. "Henry."

"Why say they're expecting?" Ronan said. He bit at the leather straps around his wrist. "It's not like they're both fucking pregnant."

"Says the man who gave dream birth to a bird," Adam said, sounding a little bored and a little amused and mostly sleepy. He smelled like cars and Cabeswater. Tired, his Henrietta accent came out, and with it a shiver down Ronan's back.

Ronan had had shivers up his back since Adam had kissed him in the car that morning. Adam had been kissing him in the morning for almost two weeks now and it was possible Ronan's back was made of nothing but shivers anymore.

"That's not how that happened," Ronan said, smiling with teeth. He plucked the egg up, rolling it in his palm.

Their egg looked different from the Gansey-Cheng egg, or the Carruthers-Van Agteren egg or any of the other eggs. It looked to Ronan a little larger, the shell a little rougher. It was the same soft dirt brown as Adam's hair.

"Our baby is the best looking baby," he said to Adam.

Adam looked at the egg and nodded, his fair eyebrows quirked.

"It takes after you, dear," he said, sarcasm and Henrietta turning his voice slow like honey. The smile on his face was one just for Ronan.

For the briefest fraction of a second, Ronan thought the egg felt warm.

Then Henry Cheng was absconding with Gansey's egg and Adam was sliding his textbook back into his bag and Gansey, eyes burning a hole in Henry's back, was saying, "so, this weekend, I think we should," and the egg was just an egg again.

~

Blue was sitting on the steps of Monmouth, crocheting something the same color as the Pig.

"Why do you have eggs?" she said when she saw them. She squinted. "Why do you only have two eggs?"

Gansey told her as they piled into Monmouth.

"I thought Cheng was supposed to have your egg Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays," Adam said.

Gansey suppressed a shudder at the memory of his egg-parenting schedule. Ronan couldn't blame him, but he also couldn't not laugh at him, either. He traded a look with Adam; their egg-parenting schedule was simple, in part because they were both familiar with each other's lives. Adam had school, work, more work and yet more fucking work, and then work for Cabeswater. Ronan had school, the Barns and his father's dreams.

Whenever neither of them had those things, and increasingly when they did, they were together anyway. Easy. Something terrifying and satisfied curled warm in Ronan's veins, like the first swallow of cheap liquor. He had to look away before he did something terrible or wonderful or both.

"Henry had lacrosse this weekend," Gansey said wearily.

Blue made a derisive noise.

"We agreed it wasn't a good environment for our son, with the projectiles and everything."

Ronan opened the door to his room and came back with Chainsaw. She hopped from his shoulder down onto the desk where the egg rested, her head cocked curiously. She glanced up at Ronan and uttered a questioning sound.

"That's your new baby sibling," he told her. "Try not to roll it behind the fridge."

She hopped from side to side, examining it from all angles, then looked back up at Ronan, deeply unimpressed.

"Do you have to give them names? I'm calling this one Eggington," Blue decided, poking at the Gansey-Cheng egg where it sat in the middle of a miniature Henrietta street. Sometime during last period Henry had sharpied a lot of spiky black hair and a smile that belonged to no Gansey onto their egg child. Gansey was taking it badly. "Benedict Eggington Gansey the First."

"The last of his name," Adam said.

"Here's hoping," Gansey told him, bumping their knuckles together.

Chainsaw echoed her agreement, rolling the egg a little closer to the edge of the desk.

"I don't think Chainsaw's a fit babysitter," Adam said, reaching out to halt the egg's spin. Ronan whistled at her, holding out his arm.

"Drop it," he said. She quirked her head to the side, calling, kerah? "C'mon, you heard daddy."

"I thought I was daddy," Gansey said. He looked as put upon as a man fixing a tiny cardboard roof could be, his chin propped up on his free palm.

"Shouldn't have left me in the lurch for Cheng, then," Ronan said, stroking the side of Chainsaw's head.

"He was having my baby," Gansey said loftily, leaning back. "Have pity, Lynch."

Noah appeared next to Blue, who was furiously knotting a shoelace and some colorful twisty-ties together. His eyes found the eggs.

"Are we throwing eggs at stuff?" he asked, settling his chin up on top of Blue's head to get a better look.

"They're not eggs, they're babies," Blue told Noah. She finished her last knot and revealed a tiny shoelace-twisty-tie cap that she placed gingerly on little Eggington Gansey-Cheng's head, pushing it down over his sharpie hair. Gansey looked immeasurably grateful.

"Jane," he said, "I would divorce Henry for you in a second."

"Oh, pshaw," she said, the tips of her ears gone pink.

"It's for class," Adam told Noah, plucking the Lynch-Parrish egg off the table and into the safety of his callused palm. Ronan felt a deeply ridiculous stab of envy, considering where Adam's hands had been two nights before. He kicked Adam in the knee. Adam shoved his foot away with his free hand. His long, strange, strong fingers were five points of heat on Ronan's ankle.

"Is the school broke?" Noah asked, reaching out to poke at Adam and Ronan's egg. Adam pulled his hand away and Noah pouted.

"My school had flour sacks," Blue said. Then, both sadly, fondly, "Persephone made 1 1/2 cups of my baby into a pie."

The easy smile Adam had been wearing tightened around the edges, though he kept playing egg baby keep-away with Noah like it was nothing. Ronan still had 23 missed calls on his phone from that day that proved it wasn't nothing.

Maybe that was why Adam rolled the egg into Noah's waiting hands, his own palm hovering beneath in case Noah picked a grade-destroying moment to fade out.

"Oh, it's warm," Noah said, surprised and delighted.

"It's not warm, you're just dead," Ronan told him. Noah glowered at him, fierce as a kitten. He gave the egg back to Adam and sullenly returned to his previous task: putting twist-ties in Blue's hair.

After that the conversation turned to the weekend, roughly 90% plans regarding Glendower and 10% plans regarding food, until Adam glanced at the time on Ronan's phone.

"I've got work," he said, climbing to his feet. Blue made a grab for the phone and then a face.

"Me too, in a little while," she said, slumping down further.

"Lynch," Adam said, waving the egg, "can we talk about the assignment for a second?"

Noah waggled his eyebrows at Ronan, then ducked behind Blue's back before Ronan could throw him over the couch or out the window again.

Adam was waiting by the landing, idly studying their egg.

"I'll take it," Ronan said, holding out his hand. Adam hesitated a second and Ronan rolled his eyes. "Quit it, would you? I'm not going to throw it at Mr. Williams' car."

Adam snorted, but he tossed him the egg. Ronan caught it easily, trapping it between his palms. It was warm from the heat of Adam's hands, so he kept it bracketed between his fingers for a moment before slipping it into his jacket pocket.

"You could do Gansey a favor and toss his instead," he said. "Blue had a point about names. What are we gonna call it?"

Ronan studied in the egg in his hand.

"Hellspawn?" he said. "It? Chuckie?"

"Declan," Adam suggested.

"Too fucking far," Ronan told him. The corner of Adam's mouth curled like he was biting down on a smile, a soft, hidden thing just for Ronan in the shadows of Gansey's kingdom. Ronan's fingers itched to reach out and hook themselves in the collar of Adam's shirt.

Adam, standing in the golden afternoon light with dust motes floating around his head like a halo, leaned towards Ronan. Ronan let his fingers have their way.

"Name it after me!" Blue's voice floated down the stairs and they broke apart.

"Maggot's a fuck awful name for a boy!" Ronan shouted back. Adam mouthed 'don't' belatedly, a half a second before Blue made her outrage known.

"Why are all your egg children boys?!" she demanded. "Is it the not-so-internalized misogyny? None of you can imagine an egg daughter?"

"I'm going to be late," Adam said. Ronan listened as Gansey tried to defend himself by insisting Henry had told him he’d always wanted a son - Noah was making 'ooooo' noises like he was a one ghost talk show audience.

He rolled the egg between his palms and bit back something dangerously close to a smile. "See you later, then."

~

Ronan drove to the Barns with the egg resting safe in the BMW's cup holder. It rattled from time to time despite the smooth road, and Ronan didn't reach for the stereo even though there was a whisper that might have been a memory but was probably just Noah telling him to turn it down.

Inside the barn the cows still slept. Ronan pressed his hands against warm noses and still sides. Restlessness crawled under his skin like ants.

Or hornets.

He saw it in fast-forward, jolted like slamming on the brakes: Gansey on the ground. Gansey dying, Gansey dead, hornets crawling over him, real or dream it didn't matter, none of Ronan's dream cures mattered -

He wouldn't be able to sleep at Monmouth that night.

Ronan set the egg down on his father's desk. He picked up a blanket that smelled, impossibly, like the sound of Niall Lynch's laugh, curled up in the chair by the wall and closed his eyes.

He woke to a spill of dream flowers over his knees, petals dripping through his fingers, and the sound of Chainsaw screaming bloody murder from the rafters. For a moment he was outside himself, and then he settled back into his own skin, petals crushed bruise purple in his palm.

The egg was in pieces on the desk.

"Shit," Ronan said, even though, if he was being realistic, keeping the egg intact for twelve hours was a record where he and school projects were concerned. Still. It had been delicate, and it had been half Adam's, and Ronan hadn't wanted it to break. He pressed the dream-smeared heels of his palms against his forehead, screwing up his eyes.

Something on the desk chirped.

He froze.

The chirping sound came again, more insistent, and with it a brush against his elbow. Ronan pulled his hands away from his face.

Sitting on his father's desk with a fleck of eggshell stuck to its head was a dragon. Its head and back were iridescent red, its belly burnt orange. Delicate wings were still curled and wet; it flapped them miserably, staring up at Ronan with baby animal blue eyes. She was tiny.

Then the dragon sneezed, smoke curling up from her delicate nostrils. Chainsaw made a distressed noise, claws digging into Ronan's shoulder.

"Shit," Ronan breathed.

~

Ronan banged on the door of Adam's apartment with one hand. He would have used both if he could've, but he had a tiny baby dragon in one hand with her tiny baby dragon tail wrapped whiplike around his wrist and her tiny baby dragon teeth in Ronan's index finger. They were sharp as fuck.

She felt impossibly delicate, hollow-boned with a hot little belly pressed into Ronan's palm and hot little heart beating hummingbird quick, tricking Ronan's own heart into crashing against his own ribs.

"C'mon, c'mon," he said. "Parrish! Get your ass out here!"

The door swung open, and there stood Adam. He was shirtless, his sleep pants faded and slipping down his narrow hips, like something out of a dream. Like something out of Ronan's dreams. His shoulders were bony and broad and smooth. He had that just-scryed look on his face, damp from the front of his hair down to his collarbones, like he'd splashed water on his face. Ronan's heart doubletimed for a completely new reason.

"Ronan, what?" he demanded, so close that Ronan could smell his toothpaste breath. He took a second look at Ronan's face and worry seeped into his expression. Ronan could see him thinking it: Gansey Blue Noah Cabeswater Gansey Blue Gansey Gansey. "What? Is it -"

"The egg hatched," Ronan said, cutting him off.

"What?" Adam said for a third time, this time with a disbelieving bark of laughter. "Don't be -"

Stupid died on his lips. He was looking at Ronan's hand.

Adam stared down at the dragon. The dragon stared up at Adam.

"Mrrp?" the baby dragon said, sounding just like a kitten. Ronan hoisted the hand it was attached to higher, daring Adam to say anything.

"Get in the car," Adam said after a long moment. "I'm getting dressed."

"Get me a fucking bandaid," Ronan said, thundering back down the steps.

~

It was nearly sunrise when the Gray Man opened the door at 300 Fox Way. He had on a gray shirt stretched tight across his broad shoulders and a pair of soft-looking gray pants and on his feet, bizarrely, a pair of teal slippers with fuzzy accents Ronan belatedly realized must've been Maura's. He was holding a mug filled with noxious smelling tea. The mug read I GET A PSYCHIC OUT OF YOU in bubbly letters.

Ronan's spine still felt coiled tight as a spring whenever he saw him.

"Morning, Mr. Gray," Adam said, all politeness like he was asking a neighbor if he could borrow a cup of sugar instead of talking to a hit man while he had a tiny living dragon trying to gnaw on his earlobe.

"I'll get Maura," the Gray Man said. Even a dragon could not apparently put a damper on the Gray Man's manners; he held the door open for them so they could shuffle into the narrow hallway.

Maura met them a moment later, rubbing sleep from her eyes and absently yelling up the stairs - "Blue, it's half of your boys!" It took her few seconds of blinking before her eyes focused on the dragon.

"Oh," she said. Then she whirled on her toes, said, "Jimi's in the kitchen making breakfast," and headed up the stairs, calling her daughter's name.

Adam and Ronan traded a look. The dragon flapped its paper-thin wings clumsily, then got one of its claws stuck in Ronan's jacket. Carefully, Adam detangled it, his lips pursed, his fair eyebrows drawn together. His lashes threw shadows over his cheeks.

He looked up and caught Ronan staring. "What?"

It was too fucking early to be looking at Adam Parrish's eyelashes in the front hallway of 300 Fox Way, but Ronan was looking anyway.

Footsteps crashed down the stairs.

They looked up to find Blue hanging so far over the banister that the railing dug into her stomach and her feet almost the left the floor.

"Why do you have a dragon?" she demanded.

~

The kitchen was packed. Blue was digging through the fridge and Maura was yawning over a new cup of horrible smelling tea. The Gray Man had disappeared. A woman Ronan was pretty sure was Jimi was busy by the stove, but there were psychics coming out of every crack and mouse hole in the place so what did he know.

Orla was leaning on the counter, still up from a long night manning the psychic phone line. Her hair was piled on top of her head in a messy bun and there was a post-it with a phone number and a man's name stuck to the back of her neck. Her eyes were locked on the dragon, her mouth hanging open.

"What do dragons eat?" Blue asked the inside of the fridge.

"Don't know. It's always princesses in stories, right?" Adam said, looking to Ronan questioningly.

"Do I look like some kind of expert?" Ronan asked him. He remembered, though, being a little kid and sitting side by side with Matthew on the floor by the fire, smelling wood smoke while their mother read to them. Aurora always did voices: growly for the dragon, highpitched for the princess. Sometimes she'd gotten Declan to read the knight. He agreed, gruff, "Yeah, that's how it goes in fairy tales."

He heard Gwenllian's harsh singsong laugh come from the yard and silently willed her to stay there. She looked like the kind of princess who bit the dragons back.

"Doesn't explain why it's chewing on Ronan, then," Blue said.

The dragon wasn't chewing on him anymore, but it was trying to crawl up his sleeve. He fished it out with gentle fingers while it tried to nip at his jacket cuff.

Blue pulled a yogurt from the fridge. She kept sliding the dragon little looks out of the corner of her eyes. Ronan remembered her small hands cupped around Chainsaw's small body.

"Hey," he said. "Wanna hold her?"

"She's going to bite me," Blue said, but she held out her hands anyway and Ronan placed the squirming bundle of scales in her palm. The dragon did bite her. She looked pretty pleased about it, but maybe that was because her cousin looked jealous.

After a second she gave her back to Ronan. "Thanks."

"I knew if you dropped her it'd be a pretty short fall the ground," Ronan said. Blue kicked his ankle, but gently, because the dragon had curled up in his palm. Her tail lashed from side to side.

"Food," Adam reminded them, gesturing to where the dragon was trying to chew Ronan's thumb off again, only she couldn't quite unhinge her jaw wide enough. Ronan wiggled his hand just to get those tiny back claws kicking.

"Give her some time, she'll do fine with Ronan," Blue said, but she waved at two empty chairs.

Jimi slid two mismatched plates of eggs in front of them, muttering 'mother lover' when she bumped her hip into Adam's chair.

"I hope you two know that little one's going to get a whole lot bigger," she said.

Adam sat up straight while Ronan hunched over further, watching their tiny dragon stalk Orla's fluorescent manicure. "How do you know? Have you seen one before?"

"No. I'm psychic," she said. Then, brightly, "And I took an online cryptozoology course."

"Oh," said Adam, at the exact same moment as Ronan said, "Fuck no," the wind up to something a lot louder and a lot ruder building in his chest.

Blue saw it coming; she stuck her yogurt spoon in his mouth. He spit it back out, glaring at her. She didn't even blink.

"How big is big?" Adam asked.

"Oh, a house or a barn," Jimi said. "Eat your eggs."

Neither of them picked up a fork, but the dragon seemed to have noticed the food. It nosed curiously at Adam's plate and then practically fell on it.

Adam and Ronan and Blue all traded glances. This strange teacup creature could be smuggled anywhere, and something the size of a dog or even a horse could've lived easily at Monmouth. A house-sized dragon was going to be a problem. The Barns, Ronan realized with a vicious twist of his stomach, were right out. Watching the way the tiny dragon worked its way through a plate of eggs made it too easy to imagine what a house-sized one might do to a herd of dream cattle.

Under the table Adam's knee bumped Ronan's, and Ronan set his jaw.

"Eat your eggs," Maura told them again. She cast a look at their plates. “What’s left of them, anyway.”

Calla appeared in the doorway all dressed for work in lipstick that matched her deep purple sweater. She took one look at the scene on the kitchen table and turned back around. "I'm going back to bed."

"Wait!" Blue said, plucking the dragon off the table and sprinting after her. Ronan saw Adam open his mouth and then quickly shut it again, and figured they both knew that if anyone could be trusted to run with a teacup dragon at ass o'clock in the morning it was Blue Sargent.

Calla grudgingly allowed Blue to hand her the dragon.

"Anything?" Blue asked. Calla's eyelids fluttered, her eyebrows drew sharply down.

"The snake loves the snake," Calla said, looking dead at Ronan. "Go figure."

"Anything else?" Blue insisted. Calla shook her head, her eyebrows a frustrated question.

"She's too new," she said. Blue blew a spiky lock of her hair out of her face and put her hand on Calla's wrist. Calla's face was tense, then slack, then tense again for different reasons.

She gave the little dragon back to Blue, said, "You know where she came from," and then turned on her heels and walked out of the kitchen.

Ronan's phone vibrated: one new text. He dumped it in Adam's lap. Adam unlocked his phone, and then there was a telling moment of silence.

"Why is Gansey texting you about the farmer's market?" he said.

"I asked him to find out where the egg came from. How do you not want to murder all of them?" Ronan demanded as Blue returned to the dragon to the table.

"It's a constant struggle," she said. She traded Adam the dragon in return for Ronan's phone, tip of her tongue between her teeth as she took over texting. “Oh my god, Gansey, leave the farmer’s market alone.”

They got up to leave as soon as Blue managed to get Orla to stop feeding the dragon whatever she could find in the fridge. It scaled Ronan's arms, gossamer-thin wings flapping uselessly, then curled up at his shoulder, stuck its snout under the collar of his shirt and apparently went to sleep.

"Wait," Maura said, waiting by the door. She shuffled her tarot deck between her hands then spread the cards out like a fan, face down. "Pick a card."

Blue reached for one and Maura smacked her daughter's hand away. "Not you."

"She meant you, Coca Cola," Calla called from outside.

Adam frowned, but he reached out, his open palm an inch from the edge of the deck. He swept his hand over the fan of the cards, paused, then plucked one from the rest and flipped it face up. Ronan couldn't see it over his shoulder.

Adam made a quiet noise of surprise. He looking back at Ronan, just a glancing thing before he handed the card back to Maura. "Thank you."

"Things a little clearer now?" she asked.

"A little," Adam said, and smiled at her shyly before he slipped out the door.

"What the fuck was that?" Ronan asked as they tramped down the lawn towards the BMW.

The neighborhood was waking up now. Adam cupped his hand over the little dragon to keep her out of sight of a neighbor. "Nothing."

"Welcome to my world," Blue said, shoving a sharp elbow in Ronan's ribs.

~

"Yours hasn't hatched, has it?" Adam asked Gansey when they got back to Monmouth. Gansey's eyes had gone very wide as soon as his gaze had landed on the dragon. Adam's question made him snap back to himself. He shook his head.

"No, no, thank God. I think you're the only ones," he said. The Gansey-Cheng egg sat, dangerously, in the middle of the pool table. It still wore Blue's makeshift cap and it still looked like any ordinary chicken egg. "Can you imagine? Aglionby overrun by dragons."

"You'd all have to get special dragon butlers," Blue said, picking her way across the floor to settle crosslegged on the edge of Gansey's bed.

"May I?" Gansey asked when everyone was seated. His eyes were fixed on the dragon perched on Ronan's shoulder, kneading its claws into his jacket. It was Adam who reached up to gently disentangle it, unhooking each delicate claw.

Gansey's expression when the dragon was placed in his hands was nothing short of sheer awe.

"Incredible," he breathed, a wide grin breaking over his face. "Of course you two would somehow manage to hatch a dragon. Of course."

"Of course," Adam echoed, shaking his head.

The dragon sneezed, delicate tendrils of smoke curling up from her nostrils. Ronan wondered when they should start being worried about that. Then she jumped up and tried to bite Gansey on the nose. Adam yelped, leaping for her as Gansey went cross-eyed. Blue clapped a hand over her mouth, laughing.

“Amazing,” Gansey said, hand cupped over his face. “Absolutely amazing.”

The dragon clambered from Adam's arm onto Ronan's, making a noise oddly reminiscent of a barn cat's purr. Her tail was still wrapped tight around Adam's wrist, too delicate for him to pull away, and so his hand ended up pressed knuckle to knuckle with Adam's.

Adam's hand shifted the slightest fraction, but not to pull away.

"Congratulations you two," Noah said, his cold breath ghosting over Ronan's ear like he'd been there the whole time. "It's a lizard."

Ronan shoved him backwards. Noah cackled.

"I told you," Noah said gleefully. "I told you it was warm!"

"Gold star," Ronan snapped at him, but he held still and let Noah pet the dragon until she unfurled her tail from his wrist and flapped her spiny wings.

"Wow," Noah said as the dragon poked her nose between his chilly fingers. "You guys really can't do anything normal."

"Says the dead guy," Ronan said, but it was hard to argue the point with Adam's leg pressed ankle to knee against his own and new, fire-breathing life held in their hands.

It only lasted a moment - a few minutes later the dragon discovered the joys of rolled up paper balls. She skittered down miniature Henrietta streets and pounced on one, ripping it to shreds while Blue and Noah hastily constructed more.

Already the dragon looked more substantial than it had an hour ago. Less fairy creature, more miniature killing machine.

“Bigger,” Ronan said. “Shit.”

"Do we want to doubt the house full of psychics?" Adam asked, and Ronan grunted. The dragon tipped over in front of a cardboard house, little claws kicking in the air. Noah cooed, bent so low his smudgy cheek nearly brushed a roof.

The back of Adam's hand brushed Ronan's, then his thumb trailed over his wrist. Ronan flipped his hand over easily.

“You know where we have to take her,” Adam said.

Ronan sighed, tipping his head back. “Right. Where else would a magician take a dragon?”

~

Cabeswater was vibrant in fall, nothing like the grey Saturday they'd left behind. Inside the forest everything was bright red and yellow and even more orange than the Pig. The grass was greener than green where it poked out between the carpet of fallen leaves.

Ronan and Adam went in with their dragon alone.

The trees rustled and whispered overhead, and Ronan listened as they walked.

“They’re happy we brought her here,” he said, even though there was no real need to translate when it was just them. Adam nodded. The dragon made a noise like a squeak toy, which Ronan figured was an agreement. She was restless in Adam’s arms and after a little while he put her down and let her walk alongside them on her own.

“Hey,” Adam said, jostling him with an elbow. “Look.”

Just beyond them was a sharp slope, the kind that would be perfect for sledding if there were snow.

Ronan walked to the edge, staring down at it, then back to Adam, and then at the hill once more. He raised his eyebrows significantly.

"No," Adam said, even as he looked down the hill, silently calculating, even as his hand came to rest at Ronan's hip.

Ronan opened his mouth - what, it's not like Cabeswater's going to let its Magician crack his head open - when he caught the look in Adam's eye and realized, oh fuck, distraction, a split-second before Adam toppled them both over.

They tumbled together downhill, the world blurring until it was just a rush of trees and grass and falling leaves and Adam Parrish's hands. Something tore itself from Ronan and they were halfway down the hill before he realized it was a laugh.

They landed on soft moss, Cabeswater's very own landing pad grown special for them.

"That," Adam panted in between laughter, collapsed over Ronan, "was for the shopping cart."

"You got in the damn cart," Ronan told him, breathless.

Adam pushed himself up on hands and knees until he was all Ronan could see. They looked at each other for a long moment, neither of them wanting to blink first. Then Adam swore in the vicious, peculiar way he always swore, nothing like Ronan, and crashed back down.

Ronan grabbed at him, keeping him pinned against him. By the time they broke apart Adam's lips were red. Ronan's tingled. He felt, stupidly, like pressing his fingers against them, a pale imitation of the touch of Adam's mouth. Every time Adam kissed him it was like a happy car crash.

Above them, the trees rustled an approval. Ronan almost flipped them the bird, but then Adam was kissing him again, and Adam's hands were pushing at the hem of his tank top, warm fingers and callused palms pressed to Ronan's skin. Everything was Adam and the smell of grass and the voices of the trees.

Adam made a noise of surprise, jerking against him and not in the fun way. His teeth met Ronan's bottom lip, hard, something Ronan thought he'd like if Adam had actually meant to do it. He hissed as they broke apart.

The dragon was on top of Adam's head. She chirped at them. Adam's eyes practically rolled back in his head when he tried to look at her. Ronan barked a laugh.

"Really, Parrish?" he said before he could stop himself. "In front of the child?"

"Oh my god," Adam said, rolling off of Ronan and onto the ground. He flung his arm over his eyes. "It means good things on the horizon."

"What?" Ronan said. One of his shoelaces had come undone during their fall; the dragon scurried after it whenever he moved his foot.

"The card Blue's mom had me pull," Adam said. "Good things on the horizon."

For a long moment Ronan just lay there, eyes closed and tiny magical creature trying to slay his shoe. When he rolled onto his side and opened his eyes Adam was looking back.

"You think so?" he said, thinking about their quest, Glendower and Gwenllian, about the cave of skeletons, watching Blue disappear into the dark. About how everything suddenly seemed to be hurtling forward. About being curled together on Adam’s mattress.

Adam shrugged one shoulder.

"I want to," he said. Ronan breathed out, climbing to his feet.

Adam let Ronan take him by the hands and drag him vertical. He looked out into the clearing they'd fallen into, shading his eyes against the golden light falling through the treetops in rays. "Where to?"

“Excelsior,” Ronan said in his best faux-Gansey voice. “Upwards and forwards and all that Marvel shit.”

They didn’t have to walk long before he saw a flash of golden hair through the trees.

His mother was waiting up ahead, the way she always was when he came to see her. Maybe, he thought, the trees told her he was coming. Sometimes, though, when he remembered how things had been before, he thought it was maybe just her.

"You go ahead," Adam said, jerking his chin at her, his expression suddenly guarded. Ronan didn't know if it was because it was his mother, or because it was a mother, but it wasn't the day for that to matter.

“Whatever. Just don’t be an asshole in front of my mom,” he snapped, stomping through the leaves.

“Hey, mom,” he said, catching her hand when she held it out to him. The dragon ran between them, wings folded against her back and tail lashing through the leaves.

“Where did she come from?” Aurora asked, ducking to run her hand along the dragon’s back. The dragon turned her head into Aurora’s palm, making a pleased noise, but then a leaf caught her eye and she was off like a shot.

“I hatched it,” Ronan said. “From an egg.”

"I always wanted grandchildren," Aurora said lightly, watching as the dragon darted after falling leaves.

"Mom," Ronan said. She smiled beatifically up at him.

"My Ronan," his mother said, cupping her dry palms to his face. "This is why we said no to the goldfish."

"Mom!" he said, and she burst into bright peals of laughter. The sound startled the dragon, who took off like a shot back the way she’d come, zipping past Adam, who turned as if to run after her and only stopped when he felt Aurora’s gaze land on him.

She waved. Ronan almost wanted to laugh, Adam looking like a deer in the headlights, but not as much as he wanted Adam to come stand shoulder to shoulder with him.

Adam raised a careful hand in return, fingers slightly curled. He called a polite, “Mrs. Lynch.”

Aurora nodded, serene. She squeezed Ronan’s hand. "Well, go after her."

“I’ll come back soon,” he said, ducking his head to kiss her on the cheek. “I’ll bring Matthew.”

“He’ll like your dragon,” she said. She squeezed his hand and waved him off, watching as he headed back towards Adam.

For one bristling moment he thought Adam might touch his shoulder or ask if he was alright, but then Adam’s gaze slid forward again. Their elbows bumped as he said, “She ran this way. I hope.”

They found her dipping her claws into a clear blue puddle and stopped a few feet away, just watching.

“Your mom doesn’t seem the dragon-taming type,” Adam said after a moment.

“My mom can handle it,” Ronan said.

“Sure,” Adam agreed easily. “She raised you, and you’re way worse than a dragon.”

Ronan shoved him. “She’s less than six inches tall, obviously I’m worse.”

The dragon accidentally splashed herself. She sneezed and smoke curled up in delicate tendrils.

"We had to get her out of there before she learned how to breath fire," Ronan said, sticking his hands in his pockets. "Gansey’s cardboard town has been through enough."

Adam snorted. "You know she's going to be fine."

"I know the magic forest that we're connected to will make sure our dragon doesn't run headfirst into traffic, okay?" Ronan said. He glanced over his shoulder just in time to see the dragon dive headfirst into a puddle. "Shit."

She surfaced a moment later, shaking her head like a confused cat.

Adam looked torn between frustration and laughter and some third, heavier emotion.

"We're coming back," Ronan told him. He caught his hand, briefly, and squeezed maybe too hard. Adam squeezed back just hard enough.

"We're here all the time," Adam said. "Maybe literally, considering what time does in here."

"Shut up," Ronan said. The dragon paddled in circles in the pond. A little while away there was a cave that was both new and old. It looked like a perfect fairy tale lair. "This is so ridiculous."

The dragon seemed to know it was time for them to go. She climbed out of the pool and twined around their ankles for a moment, making her strange yipping noises until Adam bent down to stroke his index finger along the ridge of her spine. She sat back and regarded them for a moment with her marble blue eyes, then trotted and flapped her way in the direction of the cave.

“They don’t call and they don’t write,” Ronan said, watching her go.

They walked back in silence, struggling together up the steep heel.

"Hey," Ronan said. Adam's eyes were closed, his head tipped back.

"What?" he said.

"Back in the clearing I think Cabeswater told me to lie back and think of England," Ronan said.

Adam nearly tripped over a tree root. Cackling, Ronan took off for the edge of the forest with Adam hot on his heels.

Gansey, Blue and the impression of Noah were loitering just within the confines of the trees, trying to look like they hadn't been waiting long.

"I said to wait outside," Ronan said, jogging up to them.

"It's getting late," Gansey said, and Ronan knew it was true even though it seemed impossible in Cabeswater's golden afternoon sun.

"You said to come get you if it looked like Adam was going to miss graduation," Blue said. "You're doing it backwards, you know. You're supposed to drop the kids off at college a long time after you get out of high school."

"None of you are ever going to let this go, are you," Adam said. Gansey reached over to clap him on the shoulder, shaking his head.

"Nope," Noah sighed happily, swinging his arms around them both. "Not ever."

~

Ronan woke up the next morning with Adam's face inches away and Adam's cold feet shoved under his calves. Something round and heavy was caught in his palm. He didn't have to look to know what it was.

For a few long minutes, the only thing in the world was the gentle rise and fall of Adam's chest. It was still dark outside. Declan would only just be climbing into his car. It would be hours before Ronan would have to climb down the stairs to the church.

Adam's eyes drifted open.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey," Ronan returned. Adam's lips met his chin first, sleepily, before he found his mouth. His hand curled around the back of Ronan's neck, fingers brushing the edges of his tattoo. "Morning, asshole."

"You're the asshole," Adam said. He shoved him backwards, climbing on top of him.

Ronan held the dream egg above their heads, safe from the crush of their bodies.

Adam stretched when he rolled back off of him, asking, “What’re you holding?”

"Here," he said, tossing the egg the easy few inches to Adam. “Catch. What do you think?”

Adam fumbled for it, then turned it over in his hands, long fingers pressed against a freckle, tracing the rough texture. He held it up to get a better look. "This one's not going to hatch too, right?"

"Nope," Ronan said.

"Then it's perfect," Adam said, closing the distance between them again.