It was summer, and Adam Parrish was on his way home.
He drove, his head heavy with anticipation. The road in front of him was dark and silent, and the only imprints of human life seemed to be the gentle collections of light that winked at him when another car would race by. In this darkness, everything was just a soft, dazed impression of what it usually was, and that silence filled all the parts of Adam that were still cracked.
Few things made him feel that way. Being at the Barns was another one of these things. Ronan Lynch was another one of these things.
Adam smiled. It was 9:25. He would be home soon.
The Barns were a place that Adam had learned to call home only recently, only after Ronan had taught him to. Only after he had looked into every room and committed it to memory. Only after one of Niall Lynch’s cattle had woken up under his hands.
He had not had a lot of places to call home in his life, so he kept the ones he did have very close to his heart. And while the Barns and their crackling, loving magic still felt foreign to him, he knew nonetheless that they would always welcome him back.
He pulled up next to Ronan’s BMW and turned off the headlights. The house in the distance was nothing but a dark shape, illuminated dully only by the soft glare of Ronan’s invented fireflies dancing in the warm air. Everywhere around him, there was the smell of a million impossible fruit, growing heavy on the summer trees. This was a strange, magical kingdom, and somewhere very close by, its king dreamt.
Adam got out of the car. It was 9:55. He was home.
He walked slowly, his heart jumping in his chest. It had been a whole two months since he had last seen Ronan in person, and ever since then, he had been too dizzy with exams, final papers, and grades to be able to miss him. Now, though, he felt breathless, his mind and body high on anticipation. Everything about him was remembering; Ronan’s lips and Ronan’s voice and Ronan’s dreams and Ronan, Ronan, Ronan.
It had been two months.
Adam was not a dreamer, but when he pushed open the front door and saw Ronan asleep on the couch, bathed in the warm, golden light from his fireflies, he felt like he was dreaming. Opal was curled next to him on the floor, her knees tucked neatly to her chest, and Chainsaw kept watch on the arm of the couch. They looked like a crazy, impossible family, which was what they were. He just had a hard time remember he was part of this family as well.
It was Opal who opened her eyes first, and before Adam could say anything, she was on her feet and running towards him, the tap-tap-tap of her hooves on the wooden floor echoing throughout the house. She collided head-first into Adam’s shirt.
“Kerah!” She sing-songed, her voice cheerful, so different from the one she had had when Ronan pulled her out his dreams. Her words were slightly muffled by Adam’s shirt. She still clung to him as she yelled, “Magus! Magus! Hic est!”
The Magician! The Magician! He is here!
Ronan’s eyes flew open.
Adam’s heart skipped a beat, and in his mind, he lived in this moment; their eyes meeting, Ronan’s mouth falling open in surprise and then the small, tentative smile appearing, shy, just at the corner of his mouth, the night shrinking until it was just the two of them, until it was nothing but furious, blinding light.
“Parrish,” Ronan whispered. And then, after a moment, “Adam. You’re back?”
It sounded like a question. Ronan Lynch was still afraid of his dreams.
Adam tore his eyes away from Ronan and looked down at Opal. Her hair smelled like moss. Adam pried her hands away gently and then bent down to look her in the eye. He took her palm in his, and then kissed the back of it gently. “I got you a present,” he said, and from his bag pulled out a small wristwatch. It was a simple thing, but on the wristband were drawn tiny trees and leaves. He had found it at a flea market one Sunday when he had been missing the Barns even more than usual. “Here,” he said. “It’s for you.
Opal looked at it questioningly as Adam put in on her slim wrist, and then she looked up at him and smiled her strange, loving smile. “Thank you,” she said.
Adam kissed her hand again, and she giggled gleefully and quickly ran off, making Chainsaw caw-caw after her.
Adam got to his feet.
Ronan was still watching him. He looked the same, but something about him was fundamentally different; where before there was hunger and fear and shame, now there was a sort of quiet but fierce content. He looked healthier, even, the dark circles under his eyes cleared, his face tanned from the sun. It was understandable. Ronan Lynch grew better here, where the core of his magic was.
“Yeah,” Adam said. “Yeah, I’m back.”
“For the summer.”
Adam bowed his head. “Yeah, for the summer,” he reached forward and caught Ronan’s hand. “The whole summer, Ronan.”
The tips of Ronan’s ears had turned a very pretty shade of pink. “You don’t have work?”
“Yeah, I do. Work with a dreamer.”
In the next second, Ronan both burst out laughing and leaned forward, and in the second after that, they were kissing, breathless. Adam thought back to their first kiss, and how different Ronan had been then. Hesitant, trembling almost, the enormity of it too big even for him. Now, though, he held Adam’s face between his hands, and he kissed with the passion that he usually reserved only for Irish music and fast cars.
It was the storm, all over again, the rain on his skin, and it burned him in its fervor.
“Ronan,” Adam said, in between kisses, “show me around.”
Ronan did. He showed Adam the plants and the fruit and the animals. He picked strawberries for them as they made their way to the cattle.
It was quiet inside. A small, dim light flickered above them, coating them in a silent, golden glow. Ronan’s eyes were golden.
“I’m waking them up. What we did last time is still working,” he said, and there was a raw kind of happiness in his expression. “Declan comes over, every other weekend, and he helps. He’s not as clueless with dreams as he looks. He suggested a few things as well. Seems to be working.”
Adam took Ronan’s head. “Mathew must be thrilled.”
“He is. The little bastard won’t leave me alone.” He leaned against the door, and looked up at Adam. “What about you? How is it there?”
“It’s good. It’s really, really good. It’s very different to Aglionby. Everything feels a lot less like a race against myself.”
“Are you happy?” Ronan’s voice was almost a whisper.
“I miss you, and Blue and Gansey and Noah, and even Henry,” he said, “but I’m happy, yeah.”
Ronan smiled, and it was an honest smile. Adam got the urge to kiss him again. How much Ronan Lynch changed when there was a forest around him instead of a classroom.
“Good,” he murmured. “Come on. You must be exhausted.”
Up in Ronan’s room, they kissed again.
It was a luxury to be able to touch Ronan’s face instead of seeing it through a screen, and Adam kept having to contain thoughtless, weightless laughter. He quickly discovered the tiny freckles that had appeared on the side of Ronan’s nose from the sun, and he marveled at them and it made Ronna so smiley he said his cheeks were hurting. He ran his fingers over the callouses that had formed on Ronan’s hands. This made Ronan close his eyes, which Adam liked a lot.
They were gentle and curious with each other. Every moment felt stolen and precious, and Adam took his time in discovering places on Ronan’s body that made him blush.
They were interrupted by Blue, Gansey and Henry calling to say that they too were coming home soon. Everything was falling into place. It was the middle of July, and Henrietta was waking up. Adam had always loved it the most in the summer.
It was late when they finally fell asleep. Above them, the plastic glow-in-the-dark stars Ronan had stuck on the ceiling as a kid glowed lightly. Somewhere below, Chainsaw pecked the wooden floorboards. Outside, the real stars were fierce and loud.
Summer was starting, and it was theirs.