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It’s raining and Gansey’s who-knows-where and Ronan goes to Noah’s room to check if he’s there. Noah’s room is as vacant as ever. The bed is neatly made and unslept in. Nothing litters the floors. The walls are blank. Usually Ronan only feels a numb discomfort by all this, but today it bursts the way the baseball shattered through the window last week.

“Ronan?” Noah is standing by the window. Ronan’s not sure if Noah was already there before he came in, but the way Noah looks over his shoulder at him leaves his face muted and strange.

Ronan turns and walks away. He hears Noah calling his name. He doesn’t answer. Just goes to where Gansey’s art supplies are sitting—the paints and pens and crayons and markers that he uses for his miniature model of Henrietta—and gathers as much of them as he can before returning back to Noah’s room.

Noah is sitting on his bed, legs criss-crossed, leaning forward as if he is expecting something. He eyes the art supplies and says nothing.

Ronan drops the supplies onto a heap at the bottom of the bed. “We’re giving this place some personality.”

“Why?” Noah moves forward. For a moment, he searches through the pile before pulling out a fountain pen.

Ronan can almost hear the underlying question—“what’s the point?”—behind that “why?” He ignores it. He moves to switch on the lights, so that the room can stop being so fucking gray and depressing. The rain is falling so lightly outside that he’s almost forgotten about it. “By the time we’re done, this room’s going to be the art piece of the century. People are going to come from all over the world to get a glimpse of it.”

Noah snorts.

Ronan collects a rainbow of markers and goes to sit by one of the walls. “Do you have anything in mind?” he asks.

Noah joins him, his face thoughtful. “You.”

“What?”

Noah takes Ronan’s left arm in his hands. “You’re cool and you’re important,” he says. “Put something about yourself on there.” He begins to draw something on Ronan’s skin with the fountain pen. It’s a circle at first. Then, Noah draws two dots and the simple curve of a smile.

Ronan stares down at the smiley-face, watches as Noah fills out the eyes more. The touch of the pen is so careful and he can’t believe the nerve of this guy, trying to make something smaller than it is. That’s what Noah always does. Makes himself smaller, makes his problems smaller, makes his feelings smaller. Ronan wishes he’d stop doing that, but he knows that’s what makes them different. He explodes. Noah retreats.

Noah looks up at him. There is a question in his eyes, and the more Ronan searches, the more he sees that something else lies beneath the curiosity. Noah averts his eyes before Ronan can pinpoint what it is, but he has a good guess.

He grabs a marker, not bothering to check what color it is. The skin of Noah’s face is a pale landscape, smooth in places, but stark in others. Ronan sees that the marker he’s grabbed is the color purple, which will provide a noticeable contrast. He places a hand along Noah’s jaw, keeping his face still as he begins to draw.

“You,” Ronan says, “are not as subtle as you think you are.”

Noah starts to protest, but Ronan shushes him. “Don’t move.”

He traces out a circle, trying to make it as round as he possibly can. For the eyes, he draws out two little hearts and then gives the face a wide smile, adding a tongue sticking out for good measure. He looks over the drawing, nods to himself, and sets down the marker.

“What did you draw?” Noah asks.

Ronan smiles. “I drew about how horny and love-struck you are.”

“Screw you.”

“That’s what you wished.”

Noah frowns, but his face reddens. “You’re being unfair.”

“You’re right.” Ronan kisses Noah’s cheek—the one that’s been drawn on—and he’s careful the way Noah was with him. “I’m not fair.”

Noah has closed his eyes. When Ronan sees this, he kisses Noah again, except this time he moves up a bit higher, placing his lips to Noah’s cheekbone, and he lets this kiss linger. In those few extra seconds, it feels as if they’ve both stopped breathing, and then he pulls away and Noah opens his eyes.

“You make me happy,” he says.

Ronan still can’t breathe. The truth can hurt like that. “I won’t always be able to.”

Noah shakes his head. “It’s fine.” He nears closer. “I don’t expect you to.”

Then, Noah presses his lips to Ronan’s, and Ronan takes in a deep breath. Kisses can be so soft.