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He's Trying

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Ronan shouldn’t have been surprised that a child created as a sort of mirror to his subconscious would be stubborn. It wasn’t even that he was surprised that Opal was stubborn, he was surprised that she blatantly refused to wear almost anything but the clothes she had been wearing when Ronan had brought her into reality. Every few days, when her grey sweater reached its limits, he convinced her to change into one of his old t-shirts just long enough for him to wash her clothes.
Opal trailed down the staircase after Ronan as he carried her wadded up clothes to the laundry room. “Kerah!” She whined for probably the fiftieth time since he’d told her it was time for a bath a little less than an hour ago and close to the twentieth since she realized he intended to wash her clothes . He’d been successful in getting her clean and his shirt soaked, now the only thing he had left was clean her clothes and her hat.
Ronan led her through the kitchen into the laundry room. “I hear you, urchin,” he chided while blocking her from intercepting the clothes on their way into the washing machine, “In an hour and a half your clothes will be washed and dried, and you can have them back.”
She tugged at the hem of his wet shirt in protest. “Go in the other room and bother Parrish about it. He takes your side more often anyway.” Ronan grabbed a dry shirt from a basket of folded clothes he hadn’t gotten the chance to take up stairs yet.
The rest of his friends were in the living room, a now empty box of Nino’s pizza laid open on the coffee table in the middle of the room. Gansey was laying across the sofa with an abandoned book on his chest while he talked to Blue, who was sitting on the floor and digging through her purse nearby. Adam sat on a loveseat with a textbook and notebook in his lap, there was a wet spot on the back cushion from Opal’s wet hair but no Opal was in sight.
Aside from Opal the only person who wasn’t there was Cheng and that was mostly because Ronan still wasn’t too thrilled with the new addition to their group. He liked to think he was doing better than he had with Adam and Blue but knew it had probably gotten worse.
“Where did she go now?” Ronan sighed as he fell back onto the couch next to Adam. “She might be worse than the night terrors, Jesus Christ. At least I knew what those bastards wanted.”
Adam shifted his notebook as Ronan leaned his head against his shoulder. “Does that look right?” He showed Ronan the Latin worksheet he was working on.
“You switched the subject and the verb on three,” He pointed lazily in the general vicinity of the error.
Opal decided to make her reappearance, hooves clacking on the wood floors as she skipped into the room. Ronan watched with curiosity as she knelt down in front of Blue. She set comb down on the table by the grease stained pizza box and looked at the older girl expectantly.
Blue collected whatever it had been she was digging out of her purse, “Okay pick two,” Blue offered the objects in her hand to Opal. She plucked some out and held them up for inspection. Ronan realized that the things Blue was searching her purse for were hair ties. Opal offered them back to Blue calmly, “I like the sparkly purple ones too,” Blue whispered like it was a secret and not an unnecessary fact.
Ronan sat up a little and poked Adam in the ribs. “The hell Lynch?” Ronan pointed at the two girls sitting on the floor.
Blue was making Gansey move his legs so she could sit behind Opal. Opal quietly handed her the comb but stretched back up at the table to tear a bit of cardboard off the pizza box. She sat back and started chewing at the edge of it. Again with the goddamn garbage. Blue combed through Opal’s blond hair and expertly separated it down the middle.
“If I tried that she’d bite my hand,” Ronan hissed at Adam, “She threw a fit when I even looked at the bottle of shampoo upstairs. She freaks the fuck out when I have to comb the knots out of her hair.”
Blue’s fingers worked gently and efficiently through Opal’s hair. It was still relatively short but it had grown a few inches since Ronan brought her out of his dreams. It got knotted and dirtier faster but god forbid Ronan try anything to fix that problem for her.
He tried not to feel a little jealous that his own dream seemed to prefer anyone but him. Blue could comb her hair. Adam could get her to eat actual food. Gansey could get her to sit still for longer than five minutes. Even Cheng had earned her favor with that fucking bee of his.
“And when your hair dries, if you want to take the braids out your hair will be all wavy,” Blue said gently.
Gansey had sat up to watch Blue finish off the braid with fascination. “How do you just do that?”
Blue looked over her shoulder at him, “My mom used to braid my hair like this before I decided to stick with my ponytail,” She shook her head to flip the spikey black hair around, “And then I would braid some of my younger cousins’ hair. I come from a house full of women I know how to do all kinds of stuff with hair.”
“When was the last time a member of your family had a son?” Adam asked curiously. He seemed to have momentarily forgotten his homework in favor of understanding any home life better than his had been.
Blue paused while pulling a comb through Opal’s hair. “I honestly don’t know.”
Ronan stared at the complicated braid, neatly tying up half the hair on her head. Opal patted the intertwined hair gently, looking pleased with the outcome. “Hey Maggot,” He blurted, “Can you show me how to do that?” Everyone’s heads, including Opal’s, turned to look at Ronan. “What? She likes it and Sargent can’t be here to do it all the time.”
Ronan was fully aware that he put too much venom in his tone. They would know he was overcompensating. He squeezed his eyes shut as the repercussions came. “Aw, look at you trying,” Adam teased. Ronan glared at him but Adam leaned in and kissed his cheek.
“Go back to your Latin,” Ronan squeezed Adam’s leg and got up, “I can only be so domestic and gross for so long.”
Ronan sat cross-legged on the ground. Opal handed him the other hair tie and turned her back to him. Blue gave him step by step instructions on how to separate the strands of hair and intertwine them. He had to restart a few times and had accidentally tugged a little too tight a couple times but Blue had given him a passing grade overall. It was one of the few grades he had ever felt proud to earn.
Opal seemed more than pleased with the new hairstyle. She kept patting the top of the French braids and moving her head so the ends would flip around slightly. “Opal you look very pretty,” Gansey said gently.
She wrapped her arms around Ronan’s neck and buried her face in his shoulder. Being the center of attention wasn’t exactly her favorite thing. She usually spent most of the time everyone was over hiding behind or in between Ronan and Adam. She muttered a thank you into Ronan’s shirt that he repeated louder for Gansey.
“Can I have my sweater now?” She whispered.
Ronan couldn’t help but laugh. They had moved a step forward with Opal’s behavior but it hadn’t been in any of the directions Ronan had been hoping for. “You and that damn sweater, I swear to god.”
“Not like you don’t wear identical black t-shirts and tanks,” Gansey muttered.
“Hey Opal,” Ronan poked her in the back to get her attention and flashed Gansey a dangerous smile, “I’ll get you a new skullcap if you go take a big bite out of Gansey’s book.”