Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 4

But since it was only Adam, lonesome Adam, he just silently looked at the meager sum he’d managed to scrape together.


He would not beg at the booth. He had very little of anything except for some damned dignity, and he couldn’t bring himself to hand that through the driver’s side window.

It would have to be another day.

He didn’t get angry. There was no one to get angry at. He just allowed himself a brief moment of leaning his temple against the driver’s side window, and then he pulled out of line and backed onto the shoulder to turn around.

As he did, his attention was drawn to the vehicles still in line. Two of the cars were exactly what Adam might imagine: a minivan with a young family in it, a sedan with a laughing college-aged couple in it. But the third car was not quite right. It was a rental car — he could see the bar code sticker stuck in the corner of the windshield. Perhaps that was not strange; a tourist might fly in and visit the park. But on the dashboard was a device Adam was very familiar with: an electromagnetic frequency reader. Another device sat next to it, although he wasn’t sure what that one was. A geophone, maybe.

The sort of tools Gansey and the others had used for hunting for the ley line. The sort they’d used to find Cabeswater.

Then he blinked, and the dashboard of the car was empty. Had always been empty. It was just a rental car with a bored family in it. A month ago, Adam wouldn’t have understood why he was seeing things that weren’t real. But now he knew Cabeswater better, and he understood that what he had just seen was real — just real in a different place, or a different time.

Someone else had come to Henrietta looking for the ley line.


“Mapey neat downer,” Blue said, “to see how far it goes.”

“How far what goes?” Gansey demanded. He replayed her words, but they remained nonsense. “Lynch, turn that down.”

It had been several days since their trip into the cave of ravens and now they were on the way to the airport to pick up Dr. Roger Malory, international ley line expert and aged mentor of Gansey’s. Ronan lounged in the passenger seat. Adam keeled against a window in the back, his mouth parted in the unaware sleep of the exhausted. Blue sat behind Gansey, clutching his headrest in an effort to be heard.

“This car,” she despaired.

Gansey knew his reliable and enormous Suburban would have been a more logical choice for the trip, but he wanted the old Camaro to be the first thing the professor saw, not the expensive new SUV. The Camaro was shorthand for the person he had become, and he wanted, more than anything, for Malory to feel that person had been worth the trip. The professor did not fly, but he had flown three thousand miles for him. Gansey couldn’t fathom how to repay such a kindness, especially considering the circumstances under which he had left England.

“I said maybe we should just rappel down into that pit you helpfully found.” Blue’s voice warred with the engine and Ronan’s still-abusive electronica. It seemed impossible that Adam could sleep through it.

“I just don’t — Ronan. My ears are bleeding!”

Ronan turned down the music.

Gansey started again. “I just can’t imagine why Glendower’s men would have gone to the trouble of lowering him into that hole. I just can’t, Jane.”

Even thinking about the pit made long-ago venom hum and burn in his throat; effortlessly, he conjured the image of warning-striped insects prowling the thin skin between his fingers. He had nearly forgotten how horrifying and compelling it was to relive the moment.

Eyes on the road, Gansey.

“Maybe it’s a recent hole,” she suggested. “The collapsed roof of a lower cavern.”

“If that’s true, we’d have to get across it, not in it. Ronan and I would have to climb the walls like spiders. Unless you and Adam have rock climbing experience I don’t know about.”

Outside the car, Washington, D.C., slunk closer; the deep-blue sky got smaller. The widening interstate grew guardrails, streetlights, BMWs, airport taxis. In the rearview mirror, Gansey saw a corner of Blue’s face. Her wide-awake gaze snagged on something outside, fast, and she craned to look out the window, like this was another country.

It kind of was. He was, as ever, a reluctantly returning expatriate. He felt a pang, a longing to run, and it surprised him. It had been a long time.

Blue said, “Ronan could dream a bridge for us.”

Ronan made a noise of glorious disdain.

“Don’t just snort at me! Tell me why not. You’re a magical creature. Why can’t you do magic?”

With acidic precision, Ronan replied, “For starters, I’d have to sleep right there by the pit, since I have to be touching something to pull it out of a dream. And I’d have to know what was on the other side to even know what kind of bridge to make. And then, even if I pulled all that off, if I took something that big out of my dream, it would drain the ley line, possibly making Cabeswater disappear again, this time with us in it, sending us all to some never-never land of time-space f**kery that we might never escape from. I figured after the events of this summer, all this was self-evident, which was why I summed it up before like so —”

Ronan repeated the noise of glorious disdain.

“Thanks for the super helpful alternative suggestions, Ronan Lynch. Your contribution at the end of the world will be tallied accordingly,” Blue said. She turned her attention back to Gansey, persisting, “So, then, what? It has to be important, or Cabeswater wouldn’t have shown it to us.”

That, Gansey thought, assumes Cabeswater’s priorities are the same as ours. Out loud, he said, “We find another way in. One that brings us in on the other side of that hole. Since it’s not a normal cave — it’s all tied in with the ley line — Malory can help us.”

He couldn’t believe Malory was really here. He’d spent nearly a year with the professor, the longest he had stayed anywhere, and it had started to feel like there would never be a time when he wasn’t searching. Now he was looking in a narrowing grave, and somewhere in that vast darkness was Glendower and the end.

Gansey felt off-kilter; time played in jittery fast-forward.

In the rearview mirror, he caught Blue’s eyes by accident. Strangely enough, he saw his own thoughts reflected in her face: excitement and consternation. Casually, out of view of Ronan, making sure Adam was still sleeping, Gansey dangled his hand between the driver’s seat and the door. Palm up, fingers stretched back to Blue.

This was not allowed.

He knew it was not allowed, by rules he himself had set. He would not permit himself to play favorites between Adam and Ronan; he and Blue couldn’t play favorites in this way, either. She would not see the gesture, anyway. She would ignore it if she did. His heart hummed.

Blue touched his fingertips.

Just this —

He pinched her fingers lightly, just for a moment, and then he withdrew his hand and put it back on the wheel. His chest felt warm.

This was not allowed.

Ronan had not seen; Adam was still sleeping. The only casualty was his pulse.

“Your exit, dick!” Ronan snapped. Or Dick. It could have been either, really.

Gansey steered in a hurry. Adam blinked awake. Ronan swore. Gansey’s heart restarted.

Eyes on the road, Gansey.

At the airport, the professor was not waiting at the outdoor passenger pick-up area as arranged, nor did he pick up his phone. They finally found him sitting by the baggage carousel, near a group of chattering people, a tower of luggage, and an irritable-looking service dog. He looked precisely as Gansey remembered him. There was something of a turtle in his visage, and he had not only one chin, but another waiting in line behind it. His nose and his ears appeared to be fashioned whimsically from rubber. The round bags beneath his eyes perfectly mirrored his round brow lines. His expression was befuddled.

“Mr. Malory!” Gansey said gladly.

“Oh, God,” Ronan said under his breath. “He’s so old.”

Adam punched Ronan, saving Gansey the trouble.

“Gansey,” Malory said, clasping hands with him. “What a relief.”

“I’m terribly sorry to keep you waiting — I called!”

“My blasted phone. The battery on these things is rubbish. It is like a conspiracy to sell us something. Blood pressure medication, possibly. Are airplanes always like that? So full of people?”

“I’m afraid so,” Gansey said. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Adam was regarding Malory in a not entirely Adam sort of way, his head cocked, pensive concentration in his eyes. Disconcerted, Gansey hurried on. “Let me introduce you. These are my friends: Ronan, Adam Parrish, and Jane.”

Adam’s expression focused. Became Adam-like. He blinked over to Gansey.

“Blue,” Blue corrected.

“Oh, yes, you are blue,” Malory agreed. “How perceptive you are. What was the name? Jane? This is the lady I spoke to on the phone all those months ago, right? How small she is. Are you done growing?”

“What!” Blue said.

Gansey felt it was time to remove Malory from the terminal. “Which of these is your bag?”

“All of them,” Malory said tragically.

Ronan was trying his best to meaningfully catch Gansey’s eye, but Gansey wouldn’t let him. The teens collected the bags. The service dog got up.

Blue, friend to all canines, said, “Whoa there, fellow. You stay here.”

“Oh, no,” Malory protested. “The Dog is mine.”

They eyed the Dog. It wore a smart blue vest that advertised its usefulness without providing further details.

“Okay,” Gansey said.

He avoided another meaningful look from Ronan. On the curb outside, they all stopped for Malory to remove the Dog’s vest and then they watched the Dog relieve itself on the sign for the rental car shuttle.

Ronan asked, “What’s the Dog for?”

Malory’s turtle mouth got very small. “He is a service animal.”

“What nature of service does he provide?”

“Excuse you,” Malory replied.

Gansey avoided a third meaningful look from both Adam and Malory.

They reached the car, which had gotten no larger since they entered the terminal. Gansey disliked confronting the consequences of his folly so directly.

Ladies and gentlemen, my trick for you today will be to take this 1973 Camaro —

Removing the spare tire from the trunk, Gansey abandoned it beside a streetlight. The price of Malory’s visit.

— and fit five people, a dog, and a hell of a lot of luggage inside.

After performing this magic trick, he sank into the driver’s seat. The Dog was panting anxiously. Gansey knew how it felt.

“May I pet her? Him?” Blue asked.

“Yes,” Malory replied. “But he won’t enjoy it. He’s very highly strung.”

Gansey allowed Blue to exchange a meaningful glance with him in the rearview mirror as they got back onto the interstate.

“The food on the plane was appalling; it is amazing the staff has not perished of bleeding ulcers,” said Malory. He slapped Gansey’s arm so suddenly that both Gansey and the Dog jumped in surprise. “Do you know anything about the drapery that was lost to the English in Mawddwy?”

“Drapery? Oh. Oh. It had women with red hands on it? I thought they’d decided it was a flag,” Gansey said.

“Yes, yes, that’s the very one. You are good!”

Gansey thought he was no better than one would expect after seven years of fairly single-minded study, but he appreciated the sentiment. He raised his voice so as to include the backseat in the conversation. “It’s actually very interesting. The English pursued some of Glendower’s men, and though they got away, the English got ahold of this ancient drapery. Flag, whatever. The red hands are interesting because red hands are associated with the Mab Darogan, a mythic title. It was given to people like King Arthur and Llewellyn the Great and of course Owain Lawgoch —”

“Of course,” echoed Ronan sarcastically. “Of course Owain Lawgoch.”

“Don’t be such a shitbag,” Adam murmured.

“This lane ends,” Blue said.

“So it does,” Gansey said, merging. “Anyway, the Mab Darogan was a kind of Welsh ‘Son of Destiny.’ ”

Malory broke in, “Blame the poets. It’s easier to stir people to rebellion if they think they’re on the side of a demigod or some chosen one. Never trust a poet. They —”

Gansey interrupted, “The flag was destroyed, right? Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off.”

“It’s quite all right,” Malory said, and sounded as if it was more than all right. This — plucking threads from the tight weave of history — was their common ground. Gansey was relieved to realize their relationship was still intact, just built upon a very different foundation than his relationship with the people currently in the backseat. As a Honda blew past them, its occupants giving Gansey the finger, the professor continued, “It was indeed thought destroyed. Repurposed, really. Skidmore wrote that it was made into nightgowns for Henry the Fourth, though I couldn’t find his sources.”

“Nightgowns!” repeated Blue. “Why nightgowns?”

Gansey said, “For maximum ignominy.”

“No one knows what ignominy means, Gansey,” Adam muttered.

“Disgrace,” supplied Malory. “Destruction of dignity. Much like airplane travel. But the drapery was, in fact, just rediscovered this past week.”

Gansey swerved. “You’re joking!”

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