Blue couldn’t sleep.
This was growing increasingly common the longer the year ticked on.
Blue was born without money so she couldn’t go to Argentina; she was born without a father, and when she found one he locked himself in a cupboard; she was born with a curse, so she couldn’t kiss a boy across town who could not sleep without hearing her voice first. Things had clearly been going wrong for Blue for a while.
She wanted Gansey with her. She wanted him next to her, and for neither of them to be dying, and to be able to press her lips to his neck without thinking anything of it. Blue wanted a lot of things these days, it seemed, but this one, in all its simplicity, burned the most.
She kicked the comforter on her bed clear off the mattress and onto the floor, steaming from the inside out. She was not sleeping tonight.
Her walk to the Phone/Sewing/Cat room was a stampede. She wanted to take the whole house to insomnia with her, as though they were responsible for their inability to stop the unstoppable. It didn’t matter. Nights like this, Blue could create villains out of the soap dish.
She called Gansey. The phone rang twice; she couldn’t breathe before the shuffle of him on the other side.
“Back so soon,” he said, and the tired smile beneath it made her want to kick in the wall. She didn’t.
“Blue?” he said again, the sound of the smile gone. Her name in his mouth made her heart slow just enough.
“Hey,” she managed.
“Do you need me to come get you?” he asked.
Most days he picked up the phone and got standard Blue, the Blue that could flirt with the phone cord wrapped around her finger, the Blue that shut her eyes and grinned as he told her of a thousand adventures, the Blue who was calm but never quiet, who understood that these phone calls were as close to true either of them would ever get.
Tonight, she was not that Blue. This Blue stood at the cliff’s edge of one particular truth and was going to catapult off of it. This Blue needed to look Gansey in the eye.
“Yes,” she said, and hung up.
As always, she heard the Camaro before she saw it emerge from beyond the curve in the road. Since she’d surely woken half the house already, she could only assume they enjoyed the second intrusion of the evening. Blue was standing on the front porch before he even arrived; she wanted the chill on her back to explain why she was shaking.
Gansey had barely stopped the Camaro before Blue dove into it. He was wearing his wireframes and a white cotton shirt and it hurt to look at him, so she didn’t. It didn’t matter that just earlier she had been desperate to see him. She turned her head toward the road, closed her eyes, and kept them closed.
“You want to talk?” he asked, very slowly. She thought she felt the heat of his hand by her neck, but then it was gone again.
Blue shook her head. “Not yet. Just—go somewhere.”
The Camaro revved beneath her. It was the only thing louder than the pulse in her head. She exhaled with every roar of the engine, inhaled with every decrescendo. With her eyes closed, there was nothing but this, nothing but the bump of the car on the road, the sound of it in her ears. Whatever Gansey thought of it, she didn’t open her eyes to see. She was revving herself up too. She imagined each of Gansey’s stages of denial. She knew them well; she’d had them first.
Eventually they stopped. The drive was long enough, but also not long enough; Blue thought she was getting reverse motion sickness, nausea from coming to a standstill. It had to happen, and she told her mother it would, and so it was going to.
“You want to tell me what’s going on?” Gansey asked while her eyes were still closed. It was a genuine question, tinged with concern, not one borne of impatience. Normally Gansey responded to her cues, but if she looked as bad as she felt she didn’t blame him for asking twice.
She opened her eyes. Gansey was staring at her, and she didn’t stare back. She looked at him long enough to see he was as worried about her as she suspected, and then she looked out the window.
They were overlooking Henrietta. It wasn’t the same spot in which they’d nearly kissed by the back of the car, but it was the same panorama from a different angle. The sight of it tore her in half, part of her tumbling down to the town below, part of her ricocheting into the boy just next to her. Her fingers felt warm with the memory of his skin.
“I have to tell you something,” she said. The part of her that was rumbling down the hill said it from a safe distance. The part of her in the car wanted to be sick.
She looked at Gansey. It was like lifting a bag of stones to do it. The muscles in her back strained and ached.
She loved him. There had been no denying it for a long time, and no denying it now. I should tell him that too, thought a meek voice in her head, but that voice was wilting. First things first, she knew, though You’re going to die isn’t so far from I worry my mouth is going to do it.
Blue curled one leg underneath her. Her knee bumped against the gear shift, and she wanted to reach across it and touch Gansey but she didn’t. Gansey looked like he was waiting for it though, for her fingers to creep across the convenient border between them.
She wanted to remember this: the last moment she saw Gansey before he knew he was going to die. It shattered something in her, to be doing this to him. But she had to. She loved him. She could not lie to him anymore. And, if she was honest, and though it was the worst of reasons, she could not shoulder it alone.
“I know something about you,” she said, suddenly wishing she’d rehearsed this at least once. How does this conversation even happen? She imagined herself an oncologist, bringing the terrible news. We’re so sorry, sir. There’s nothing we can do. She wanted to shatter the glass at her window.
“Blue—” Gansey started, but Blue shook her head and raised a hand to pause him.
“The first time we went to find the ley line,” she said it in a rush, or she wouldn’t say it at all, “in the helicopter—I said I saw your spirit. But I never told you when. Or why.”
She kept an eye on Gansey while she spoke. He blinked a couple times more than his usual, but other than that he stayed perfectly still. Blue wasn’t actually sure what to make of it—perhaps it was concern, maybe surprise, possibly concentration at the half-hysterical version of Blue in front of him—so she just kept going. She knotted her fingers together, knuckles pressed against bone until the blood beneath her skin was ushered away.
“There’s this day—St. Mark’s Eve,” she said, after a pregnant breath. “And on that day, every year, I go with my mom and identify the spirits of the people who are going to die in the next year. And this year I—I saw you. I never see anybody, I mean—I can’t. But I saw you. That’s how I knew you.”
It wasn’t a relief to say it out loud. It was a shame, a cringeful blush crawling up her neck. She could not pretend it had been a small lie or a mere omission. Their whole history teetered on something scurried under a rug; she could feel the past shaking and tilting on its axis. She couldn’t look at him anymore. She had seen the Gansey that was before, and she was not ready to face the Gansey that was after. She wanted the Gansey she’d always had, the one who laughed into her skin at the Toga Party, the one who she called late at night, the one whose hand she held when she felt most reckless. A weak and burned part of her wanted to take it back. But she couldn’t, and she shouldn’t, and so the only way to move was to move.
“I think you’re going to—to die soon, Gansey.” There was no way to say it other than to say it, and even the I think was kind. “And I don’t know how to stop it.”
Gansey took a long breath in. She still couldn’t look at him. She had kept this from him; now he knew the truth and would hate her for hiding it, and it wouldn’t even matter because soon he would die and now he knew that too.
Then, he said, “I know.”
It was more than an ocean in her ears. It was the water, the boardwalk, the scream of birds, the crack of the earth pushing unearthly waves onto the shore. It was the tide turning inward and cannibalistic. Blue lowered her window; she was afraid they might suffocate.
"What do you mean, you know?" she asked. Gansey didn’t look calm, but he did look like a kind of Gansey she had seen before, the kind they pulled out of the cave in Cabeswater. Terrifying, terrified, but known.
He ran his thumb against his lower lip, and then through his hair. Now he wasn’t looking at her. She needed him to look at her. "I figured it out,” he said, the hand now snaking out to grasp at the stilled wheel of the Camaro. “I had that recording. I know what St. Mark’s Eve is. And I didn’t want to believe it, but—I figured it out.”
Blue exhaled through a small oh her mouth was making. It practically whistled. She turned her head away from him again, pressing the back of her skull against the headrest. Of all his possible reactions, the only one she hadn’t predicted, it seemed, was this. Hadn’t even entertained the idea.
“This whole time?” she asked. She wanted to cry. She had wanted to see the last moment before Gansey knew he would die; in truth, it seemed she had not seen that Gansey for a long time. She did not know what to make of that, for either of them.
“No,” he said, running his hands up and down the wheel again. “I suspected. I guessed. And then Persephone died and I couldn’t pretend anymore. Made it all real somehow.”
He was so calm when he said it; Blue couldn’t stand it. She would have preferred the worst concoction her brain had managed, which was a rageful denying Gansey, one that had very little possibility of existing in reality and had a similar pallor to Ronan Lynch. At least that imagining had some fight in it, and something she could fight too.
It was too much, the acquiescence in him. She wanted him to throw a punch. To scream. To rally, demand a fix, a cure, a savior. She did not want to skip through all the grief stages to the end. She wanted to do something at all with her hands. So, she made this Gansey someone she could fight too.
“You thought you might die this whole time, and you still let me almost kiss you?” she said in a pitch that crossed well into hysterics. “And you didn’t tell me you knew? You were just going to keep it to your damn self this whole time, when we could have been working together to save—”
“Blue,” he said.
She ignored him. She saw the thing buried under the rug come crawling out, and it was putrid. She saw the way he climbed into caves, knowing he could die; would pick her up in the middle of the night, knowing he could die; continued this quest, knowing he could die; the Gansey she had at the toga party, the one whose mouth was just above her skin, knowing he could die. He had known. And done it anyway.
“You ass,” she said. If it wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t, she didn’t think about it. “It’s one thing to go off doing whatever, it’s a whole other thing when you know you’re going to die! Do you think you’re the only person who cares about if you go into a cave and don’t come out?”
His face was nothing—it was like the fight she’d tried to start the night she met Henry. He wasn’t going to block her blows; he wouldn’t even cover his face. He would just wait it out. She wanted to scream.
“Don’t you think?” she asked, somewhere near a shout. “Don’t you think Ronan and Adam and—and me, that we care about keeping you around?”
“Dying wasn’t exactly my intention,” he said, or tried to, before Blue made an angry pfft and folded her arms into an intricate sort of pretzel.
He rolled his eyes; she found herself only minorly thrilled at getting a reaction. “You know this, Blue—I can die any day. Any time. A few months ago there was a wasp in my room. If Ronan and I hadn’t been awake to see it and kill it, I could have died then. In my apartment. Asleep. I can’t just wrap myself up bubble wrap and call it a day.”
He was right, of course. She knew that; she’d always known that. But, god, she needed to hate something, and it was so much easier to tamp down everything inside her when she hated him.
“Blue,” he said again. He was so tired. She could tell from a look there was nothing in him to fight, and she really wanted to fight something else.
Fate was not a thing, though. She could not hit it. It just hovered, waiting for both of them. She slammed her head against the headrest and it stung down her spine.
“Blue,” he said again, softer still, and rested his palm on her neck just above the collarbone. That, just the small gesture, knocked all the wind out of her. She felt it like a current from head to toe, how lucky and luxurious it was to touch him. The fight was gone. Only she and Gansey remained. Just this. For however long it could last.
She leaned her head towards his hand, the edge of her ear drifting just against his skin. It felt like her skin couldn’t contain the nerves inside her body. She did not know how she would keep going when he died.
“I don’t want you to die,” she said. It was miserable to say, and totally insignificant. It did not matter what either of them wanted. It never had.
“I don’t want it either,” he said, and that made her feel like mud, to be so at a loss when she was the one who was going to survive it.
Her voice was a ghost when she said, “Are you okay?” Like he could be. Like there was a possibility.
Beside her, Gansey shifted, and his hand curled around her neck to pull her closer to him. He leaned across the gear shift until his mouth was just above hers. Her thumbs rested at the corners of his mouth, and that was as close as she could go. Gansey pressed his forehead against hers and when Blue shut her eyes she heard water fall to the leather seat.
“No,” he said, his breath close to her skin. “But, if I’m honest, I already lived once before. And I met you and Ronan and Adam and—that’s important. I don’t want any of you to—to suffer because of me, or because I’m gone.”
She scoffed. “We love you, you idiot.”
“Yeah,” he said, and she heard his face stretch to a smile. “I figured that out too.”
Blue sighed and pressed her palms against his shoulders for support as she half-crawled over to his side of the Camaro. She put one knee on either side of him and wrapped her arms around his neck, and then she pulled him closer and closer until there was barely a hint of air between them. Gansey pressed his cheek against hers and she thought, to someone, Please help.
“Do you think it’s going to be you?” Gansey said, finally. “That you’ll kiss me and I’ll—”
Blue sat back to look at him. “I’m not going to kiss you.” Not a chance.
“That would do it, though,” he said, and then he glanced away from her and back. “Right?”
There was a question beneath the question. It was a harder one for Gansey to ask, or he would have asked it outright.
“Yes,” she said. Her voice had only a breath of a waver and that was because it was true, not because it was hard. Blue had never loved anyone other than this one, this boy who carried secrets in him, this boy with the weight of a destiny on his shoulders she could not lift off. But she knew that if she kissed Richard Campbell Gansey III he would die. Yes. Yes.
He nodded once, twice, and then shifted his weight to cue her back to her side of the car. She slid back over, gaining a probable bruise from the gear shift in the process.
“I guess I should take you home,” he said, though he didn’t sound thrilled to do it. This was all they had, these too small gestures. They had never been enough, and someday soon they would be gone. She never wanted to get out of the car. And, yet, the first blue shades of dawn were starting to rise.
“I guess so,” she said, and kept her eyes open the entire drive.
300 Fox Way was asleep again. If she stayed outside just a bit longer, though, she would start to see lights in the bedrooms. Her mother was always one of the first to rise.
Gansey didn’t say anything on the drive back, but Blue supposed there wasn’t much left to say anyway. Her whole body was shivering, out of the stress and the exhaustion and the chill her body kept drawing up. Gansey had thrown his coat over her legs but it wasn’t helping, and she handed it back to him as she prepared to get out of the car. He tossed it somewhere behind him, and then Blue unlocked the door.
“Hey, Blue,” he said, and then his hand touched her leg. It was a gesture to keep her from getting out of the car, but she had stopped when he spoke.
She stared at his fingers on her thigh. There were a lot of things Blue could think of that didn’t involve kissing. She shook her head, a full hair toss from side to side, to get the thought off her. Not the time. It was never going to be the time.
She looked up at him. “Yeah?” she asked. His hand was still on her thigh. It kept her monosyllabic.
Gansey blinked at her a few times, and then, with a terrible breath, ran his thumb against her bottom lip. She closed her eyes at it, more out of concentration than anything else. Don’t move your mouth, she thought. Don’t kiss even a fraction of him.
Gansey pulled his hand away from her. It rummaged somewhere in his hair. Blue licked her lips, a reflex.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he finally said. It was not what he had wanted to say, Blue could tell. But it was what she would be getting.
“Tomorrow,” she said, and stepped out onto the road.