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i.

 

Four, five, six hours of sleep. Adam awakens to midmorning light. The whole room smells of Ronan, which makes sense. Anyplace in the Barns is bound to smell of Ronan, to carry him in its nooks and windows and walls. Dream-things, dream-castle. None of it seems particularly real. Maybe I dreamt you, Ronan said once. Sometimes Adam wonders just the same.

 

He gets up from Ronan’s childhood bed, and pads toward the bureau by the door. Adam has some clothing in the top drawers. A toothbrush in the bathroom, slippers down in the foyer. The Barns is a dream-realm that runs on wants and sleep. Ronan’s sleep, to be specific— Ronan, who can stretch ten minutes of shut-eye into a garden of lilies, into an acre of fruit-trees, a lake in the shape of a plum.

 

Adam could dream for a month on end and come out of it with nothing but rest. But now, as he makes his way to the front-porch, where Ronan and Opal are sipping cocoa from chipped, white mugs, he finds that it’s quite alright. There is a simpler type of magic— woven within his shirts tucked away in Ronan’s bedroom, in Chainsaw’s makeshift perch at St. Agnes.

 

Perhaps Cabeswater is gone from Adam. But Adam is not empty.

 

Four, five, six hours of sleep. Adam could sleep in later. It’s a Saturday. He could rest before his shift at the garage, could laze before university starts up in the fall.

 

Instead, he kisses the corner of Ronan’s mouth. Good morning.

 

ii.

 

It is not until late June that Adam asks: “Should we talk about what we are?”

 

Ronan furrows his brow. “Like— humanity-wise? Or relationship-wise?”

 

“Hilarious,” Adam drawls, sneaking a kiss along Ronan’s jaw. “I was thinking more of the second one. But as for point A— very much mortal. Maybe a chaotic neutral.”

 

Ronan snickers. “Always so methodical, Parrish. Your bullet-point format brings out true emotion.”

 

“Don’t be an ass,” Adam says wryly. “I’m trying to have a real heart to heart, here.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Ronan says. He gingerly takes Adam’s hand in his, and brings it to his lips. Adam shivers. “What’re you thinking about?”

 

Adam says, “We might’ve been doing this a bit backwards.”

 

“You mean—” Ronan dips his face into Adam’s neck. His lips leave wet, ghost-marks. “This?”

 

“Mm,” Adam says. “Yeah, definitely that.”

 

“Should we restart?” Ronan jokes. “First dates and all? I’ll open the car-door for you, too, like Prince fucking Charming.”

 

Adam laughs. “Can you take this seriously for five minutes?”

 

“I’m always serious.”

 

“And I’m—” Adam says, before he can regret it, “always going to want this. Us.”

 

Ronan freezes, pulling back from the bone-shape of Adam’s shoulder.

 

“Parrish,” he asks, though it doesn’t sound like a question.

 

“I knew I liked you before you kissed me,” Adam blurts, even though he might be a few months too late. “I— I think it was more like. I knew it, but I didn’t… really put much thought into it. It was always there, though. Like my hand or my knee.”

 

“Elbow?” Ronan adds.

 

“You’re an ass,” Adam comments, but he’s grinning. “Yeah. I guess. My— how I felt about you. When you— and I. In your bedroom, I really acknowledged it. Put it into perspective. It’s like, this part of me was burning. And I didn’t know I could burn, like that.” Adam meets his eyes. “But it felt right. Like thinking— oh.”

 

“Oh,” Ronan repeats.

 

“It’s not just…” Adam’s gaze lolls upward, but eventually lands on Ronan, again. “It might be obvious. Because of the whole doomsday thing, the love and death, can’t be without you— stuff. But I think I needed to say it at least once. This isn’t just a kissing thing, or a touching thing— I want. To stay with you. I mean, I’m going to college, but I want—” Adam grapples for the words. “To come back to you. For as long as you want me to.”

 

“I’m always going to want you to,” Ronan says, without hesitation. He’s smirking, but his eyes are soft. “Parrish, was that a confession?”

 

“Don’t push your luck,” Adam says. “I like you a whole lot,” he teases, putting emphasis on lot, just to be annoying. “But even I have limits.”

 

“Adam Parrish? Limits?” Ronan looks shocked. “Who dares put those two words in the same sentence? How dare they share the same fucking breath?”

 

“Oh, stop it,” Adam says, voice light. “Put your mouth to better use.”

 

As you wish,” Ronan jokes. He tilts forward, closing the distance between them.

 

iii.

 

The drive from the garage to St. Agnes seems to last for hours. Adam leans against the window by the passenger-seat. Ronan isn’t playing any music. Adam thanks the higher powers for this small mercy.

 

“What’s taking so long?” Adam asks, voice thick, tired. He squints at the speedometer, and is suddenly wide-awake when he sees the ruby-red needle hovering over 25. “Are you really Ronan? Are we— is this. Are you going below the speed limit?”

 

“Ha, ha,” Ronan says dryly.

 

“I’m,” Adam says. “Should I contact the authorities? Can they give you a reverse-ticket. Like a medal, maybe?”

 

“Shut up, loser,” Ronan says, though it lacks bite.

 

Adam sits back, and scoffs, “Here I thought I was being kidnapped by your doppleganger, or something.”

 

“Not even my doppleganger would drive this fucking slow,” Ronan comments. “Nice try though. I give the sass a solid 6/10.”

 

“Then why—” Adam stops. Uses his 4.0 GPA, Harvard-ass brain, as Ronan likes to call it.

 

When he figures it out, he only says, “Oh.”

 

They arrive at St. Agnes a half-hour later. Ronan parks the car right by the church-entrance. He fiddles with the key in the ignition, for a moment, before deciding to pry it out. Adam watches all of this with an amused glint in his eye.

 

“You know,” Adam says. “If you wanna spend more time with me, you could just ask, instead of holding me hostage in your car for eighty-five minutes.”

 

Ronan huffs. “Parrish, I swear—”

 

“Swear what?” Adam asks, the airy lilt gone from his voice. He searches Ronan’s face. Ronan pauses, for a second that seems like a year. Then he pulls a silver key off of the chain in his grip.

 

He holds it out to Adam. “Here,” he says.

 

Adam’s jaw clenches. “What is this?”

 

“It’s for the Barns,” Ronan says. To his lap, he adds, “And… the BMW. Magic locks, magic key.”

 

Adam starts, “Ronan…”

 

“I don’t like…” Ronan sighs, steadies his tone. “Dropping you off here. When I know we could be— together. And stuff. You’re going in August— and. It’d be stupid, for you to have to keep paying for your apartment when you’re all the way up in fucking Boston. So—” Ronan grimaces. His face is cherry-bright when he presses the key into Adam’s palm. “Stay with me?”

 

Adam blinks. Once, twice. His thoughts bend and sway. He almost says no. But he doesn’t-- he doesn't want to. Because— I want to come back to you. Hadn’t he said that before? He meant it, too. And now— this. It feels like coming back home. It feels like belonging.

 

Adam grasps the key with a reverent, tentative touch. He says, “Okay.”

 

iv.

 

Four, five, six hours of sleep. Adam wakes to the sound of Ronan’s voice. He says, “Adam,” into the skin of his spine.

 

Adam tries to twist around, but Ronan’s hold is firm.

 

“Ronan?” he asks, heavy with sleep.

 

“You were so still,” Ronan says, and Adam immediately understands. “You were so, so still. I’m so—”

 

“Shh,” Adam says. Ronan finally loosens his grip, and Adam rolls to face him. He cups Ronan’s cheek. “I’m here. I’m fine. Didn’t you see me, just now?”

 

Ronan grunts a bit. Adam is kind enough not to call it a whimper. “Adam,” he says, a second time.

 

“Mm,” Adam says, trying to be brave. He knows what it’s like to be haunted, by something out of your control. He kisses Ronan’s bottom lip. No more unmoving bodies, no more dead things. Only this, only this.

 

“I’ll be here when you wake up,” Adam promises. “Go to sleep.”

 

v.

 

The next morning, Ronan is calm. Smiling.

 

“Good dream?” Adam asks.

 

“I didn’t dream at all,” says Ronan.

 

“Mm?” Adam says. “Maybe you did, but you just can’t remember yet.”

 

“Doesn’t matter,” Ronan says. He moves to trace Adam’s face, from his temple to his jaw. “This is better.”