“Sleep well guys,” Matthew murmured, patting a few sleepy cows on the head as they dreamed away in the field. He tried to come by at least every other day to greet them, even as they slept on seemingly blissfully unaware of his presence. Matthew wanted to believe that the cows still heard him, that they knew they were safe and cared for, even if there was no proof of that. It was a good day for them too, he hoped, warm sun shining down but enough cotton candy like clouds in the sky and a breeze rustling through the trees to make it so that it wasn’t too hot. Sometimes it was hard not to think that the innate magic of the Barns extended to the weather too, on days like this.
Humming a nothing tune he walked through the grass back towards the house and the barns, happy. Matthew smiled at the world, and the world tended to smile back, which only made him happier. Matthew’s happiness was a simple one, he didn’t need much. His friends and family, some snacks, some cute animals, some terrible jokes, and he was content.
The landscape Matthew knew well was broken up by a tractor pulled out from its normal spot. Curious, he walked up to it while opening up a bag of chocolate chip cookie flavored popcorn. It was a little disappointing that the snack itself wasn’t a cookie with the texture of popcorn, but eh, it was hard not to like a sweet and salty combination. The reason for the tractor’s placement became more obvious when Adam emerged from under it, and, smiling like this was exactly what Matthew wanted, he walked over. Extending the bag of popcorn, of course.
“Hey! You’re doing a great job!” Well, Matthew figured Adam was, at least, even if he didn’t exactly know what Adam was working on or the state of it.
The tractor had been a project one that Adam found himself orbiting every so often when he had free time. The concept of free time to Adam was the carefully scheduled breaks he made throughout the week. Having Boyd's in his possession was both overwhelming and a challenge he couldn't back down from. It was a delicate dance to not overwork himself—because he promised—and to make time for the things that mattered. The people that mattered.
And if fixing a tractor that had been stashed away in a barn so that his boyfriend could use it eventually like the backhoe, then that was doing something for someone he cared about and satiated his need to be useful around the Barns.
Adam had currently been hiding underneath the vehicle, with an assortment of wrenches and bolts. A dark sludgy spot stained his shirt when he made the mistake of loosening a cap and its contents spilled. The shade was nice from the heat, but even then the metal from the tractor was baking the ground to an uncomfortable warmth. Adam slid out to find another tool, to find Matthew standing there offering him popcorn.
A surprised sort of smile crossed his face, and graciously waved off Matthew's snack. His hands were covered in grease, and he wiped them off on his pants. "Thanks. I think the engine might still be salvageable, everything has been sitting unused for so long, the bands are half-rotted or disintegrated. And Ronan might need this if he starts clearing out the back field or if he wants to move supplies out by the west fence."
He paused, tilting his head to the side, curious and not-yet-concerned, but... "Everything okay?"
Matthew, because he was Matthew, pulled out a bottle of lime cucumber Gatorade and this he insisted (in his Matthew way) that Adam take. He bent down to look under the tractor, not that Matthew would have been much help in the way of mechanical knowledge, but the Lynches did love cars. “I don’t even really remember Dad using it all that much,” he admitted, standing up and scratching the back of his head. “So that makes sense! But it would be really nice and useful to have one, especially if we decide to start planting.” He liked thinking about the future of the Barns, and knowing that there was one. Matthew appreciated that everyone had their own ideas and projects, no matter what the size or the immediate impact, because it meant that everyone was making their own contribution. It felt even more like a family.
He shrugged, glancing off towards the field, even though nothing could have or would have changed. “Everything’s fine! I just checked in with the sleepy cows.” Doing that always made Matthew just a little bit more reflective, now. Now that he knew. Maybe that was a part of the reason he visited them as often as he did. But diving any deeper into that line of thought just wasn’t something Matthew wanted or was ready to explore.
So instead, he smiled at Adam. “You want help? Or you want to take a break and hang out?”
Adam knew he wouldn't be able to deny a snack or drink from Matthew again. Not because Matthew would force him to accept his gift, but Adam felt painfully guilty when he did. And he was thirsty—maybe that was Matthew's hidden skill, one he learned not one he was born with: know what other people needed intrinsically, and what Adam needed right now was apparently a lime cucumber gatorade. He took the bottle with a thanks, and drank deeply.
He felt less hot than he was a moment before. Huh.
"Do you want to help?" Adam asked, noticing that long beat where Matthew looked off into a field after mentioning the sleepy cows. The problem—the one any of them had yet to solve, though it plagued them at different hours during the days—was tricky. After the situation with the bunnies, Adam hadn't quite figured out how to address it. Bringing it up would probably cause emotional reactions that Adam was not equipped to deal with. Sadness from Matthew, or frustration if he were with Ronan. Now was the time. The sun burning overhead in the cloudless, beautiful sky, seemed to agree.
"If you don't mind handing me tools, I want to check everything else inside the body before I look into trading for a bunch of parts that won't work anyway," Adam said, putting the gatorade down and sliding back under the tractor. Once there, he started reaching for a wrench, describing it to Matthew, before he added, "I haven't looked much into planting." Okay, sort of a lie. He researched a lot at first, but a passing interest and nothing recently. "Is that something you want to do? Since we're talking about the future."
Matthew always wanted to help! Even when it was helping in a passive or mundane way, Matthew didn’t view it like that, instead, he saw it as either being able to spend time with someone (and how great was that!) or making someone’s day a little bit easier (and how great was that!). So he gladly got down on the ground next to Adam and handed over the requested tools.
“Like getting into crops?” Matthew asked, tilting his head back and forth in thought. “Kind of seems like that’s the next step, you know? If we want to go bigger, because then you could do things like selling to local restaurants, or like, I’ve seen there are farms that you can sort of get a subscription to, and they’ll box up produce or eggs or honey or whatever else they sell and you get a box that lasts for a week or so! And that would be really cool! But,” Matthew drummed against his chin, unknowingly getting a bit of grease there, “That would all be a lot of work. Which, I don’t mind, I like work, and I bet Ronan could dream up some really clever things to make it all easier, but, I don’t like relying on that? And I don’t want to go too big too fast, it’s still a family farm and I never want to lose sight of that, you know?”
The thoughtfulness was then broken up by Matthew’s loud, completely unselfconscious laugh. “But I mean, there’s a good chance I would eat a lot of our crops before they got to anyone, so maybe that’s a bad idea!” Just in case, with the next tool, Matthew also passed over the Gatorade again. “I’m still thinking about what I want to do. I really really like working with the kids at the orphanage, it’s so fun and kids are great. You and Gansey are going to go to school, right? You think law school too? That’d be so good, Adam, you’d be awesome, I can’t even handle it.”
Likely Matthew would have said that about anything Adam wanted to do, but it would have been with the same earnestness and sincerity that Matthew brought every time. When Matthew believed in someone, he did it with his whole heart.
"There's always the greenhouse," Adam suggested, as he took the offered gatorade again. "We could do a season of our own crops first in there, figure out which ones would be the easiest in the climate and produce the best yield come harvest. With the summer, we've missed a lot of planting already,—" Something Adam had felt guilty over, knowing that Ronan had worked hard to complete it and even on his most determined days, Adam found himself pulled in different directions, prioritizing immediate tasks versus ones that were just a new hobby he had decided to investigate. The bunnies had caused enough damage to set back the greenhouse project for a while.
Adam hadn't asked for help, because he was Adam and principles. And he knew how to do things in moderation and how to carve out time for himself. Sometimes.
He realized, as Matthew continued to heap on praise about being good at whatever he did, that it wasn't right to hide his face behind the undercarriage of the tractor. Matthew deserved to have an actual conversation with him. And this would count as a break, right? Matthew could vouch, if asked. Adam was already sliding out again, wiping his hands off on his pants.
"But it would be small and contained. And something we can maintain in the fall when we go back to school." He drank deeply from the bottle, and wedged it in the ground between them. "We'll need to have, maybe a house meeting, so that everyone is on the same page in regards to the schedules. And—" The law school question had thrown him off and he had bypassed it for a second there, but he circled right back to it. "I'll need to start a new five year plan. But yeah, law school is probably going to be on it. We're all local now so it doesn't seem like such a difficult conversation to have."
“It’s hard to say,” Matthew agreed, shrugging. “Because if Ronan wants, we could grow anything! Which might be a good thing, because we can offer things that maybe aren’t naturally here? But maybe that’s not a good thing, because it messes with the environment and impacts all of the other things in a food chain?” Oh man, thinking through things was a lot harder than just going with whatever someone said, but Matthew found he actually liked it. Even if those situations didn’t have a right or wrong answer, more and more he wanted to explore them. And whatever they came up with, it was what was going to be right for everyone and the farm, so there was no wrong choice! He loved that.
Adam popped out from the tractor and Matthew beamed a radiant smile, content to be sitting with him. In honor of their summer chat, and just because Matthew had a taste for them (and always, always had snacks on him) he pulled out a bag of Coca-Cola gummies. They may not have gone well with the Gatorade, but Matthew tended to go with his heart in life and in snacks. “I’m really excited about school,” he said, before popping a handful of gummies in his mouth. “A little worried, but mostly excited.” Back home, he would have gone to school because Declan would have insisted, wanting as much normality and routine and structure for Matthew as he could possibly create through willpower alone. Matthew loved him for that, but coming to this decision on his own felt right.
“What else is on your five year plan?” Matthew asked, curious, but he quickly amended. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to! Or if it’s too personal.” Matthew wanted to know, because Adam was his friend and Matthew was invested in his life, but because Matthew wasn’t sure what his own future looked like. While most of their friends had become their older versions, Matthew and Ronan hadn’t. Matthew was never so pessimistic as to assume that meant he didn’t have a future, but it would have been nice to have something as a touchpoint.
Adam leaned back against the tractor and stretched his legs, tipping his face up to the sun with a smile. It was strangely comforting to listen to Matthew go through all the questions that Adam had also attempted to sort through. Not that he didn't think Matthew was capable of over-analyzing planting methods and environmental impact, but more because Adam didn't feel so alone in his obsessing perfectionist nature.
"You don't have to be worried about school. Not really," Adam offered, rolling his head to look at Matthew beside him with a new snack. "You have a great support system here and any trouble you have, me or Gansey or Ronan will help you with it. No one has to do anything alone here." Normally that would sound hypocritical coming from Adam who often insisted on completing tasks independently because he clung to his agency as the only thing he had.
It was not that way anymore. It hadn't been that way for a long time.
He was caught off guard by Matthew prying further into his five year plan. Adam should have expected it, and yet somehow he didn't answer right away. "Uh, no. No, it's not personal. It's—" The flush on his cheeks was not from the sun. Adam and Ronan had certainly danced around the subject before, but discussing it seriously in any length made Adam—god, terrified. "I want to marry your brother," Adam said, looking straight ahead, across the field to another barn. "That's in my five year plan, if that's okay with you."
Matthew leaned over to bump shoulders with Adam to grab his focus and when he did, he grinned, open, pure, sincere. Matthew was usually a bubbling font of excitement and energy, all big gestures and completely unselfconscious. But for this, for the brother he loved so much, Matthew’s pure happiness was enough, he wrapped his arms around Adam and settled in there. He had a way of fitting himself into any space when it came time for physical affection. “I would love for you guys to get married. In a five year plan, or a ten year one, or even if you decide that marriage isn’t how you want to express how you feel about each other but something else entirely. What’s most important to me is that you love Ronan the way he deserves to be loved, and you do. And I’d love for you to be officially family! So of course it’s okay with me, Adam! You didn’t really think I’d say it wasn’t, did you?”
It was Matthew’s turn to look off across at the barn, or maybe somewhere beyond that, still resting on Adam. “Hey, can I ask you a question, since I did just say it was okay to marry my brother?” But he laughed then, and wanted Adam to do the same. “How do you know? Like, not what it is about Ronan, I already know how great he is. But like. How’d you know, just in general?”
Adam was nervous, he had only realized it now. Rejection and disappointment were universal consistencies, ones Adam was not a stranger too. So when Matthew's face lit up with pure delight at the statement I want to marry your brother, relief washed over him so suddenly, he was rendered motionless—did he expect Matthew to say no? Honestly? Conditioning to pick out the worst-case scenario was a bad habit he was only now learning to break.
His feelings for Ronan felt sometimes so breakable that he was afraid to hand them over to someone else. Even someone like Matthew. There was such a goodness in them that Adam didn't deserve to have, he didn't think he deserved to love someone so completely like Ronan. So yes, he did fear having them smashed by one of the people who could. He still shook his head no at Matthew's question, a small lie to help in the future.
Matthew's comforting embrace forced Adam into motion, and his own arms came up to hold Matthew's arm around him. He laughed a little, with a "Yeah, ask me whatever you want." But for the second time in the span of two minutes, Matthew gave Adam pause.
How did he know?
"When I think about Ronan, there is a part of me that—that comes alive." And just like that, Adam was slightly different, not as subdued, but present, focused. "I'm awake, I'm so so awake, and I don't ever want to go back to when I wasn't. There is no one that can make me feel—home," Adam said the word like he just realized it himself. "He's my home and being with him is—" Adam made a face, as if putting words to a feeling was ridiculous. He was overcome with the sheer magnitude of his love for Ronan. "It's homecoming."
Adam's attention slid to Matthew. "It's like nothing else. And you'll know. No one else will be able to be that for you."
Matthew closed his eyes, absorbing the words. Sometimes it was easier for him to do that, as if by turning off that one sense, he was able to feel more, or focus more intently. He wanted to give his full attention to this rare glimpse into Adam’s heart. When his eyes opened, they held a thoughtful look. “You know, I read this thing, or maybe I heard it, I’m not sure. But it’s that we are what we love and I think,” Matthew patted Adam’s leg, smiling at him again. “I think you need to hear that.”
There was another pause, quiet and serene, before Matthew laughed, like something had surprised him and he was just so pleased. “I guess that means I’m a bunch of mystery flavored Gushers!”
He took a gummy and stretched it around his finger until it seemed right at the brink of snapping, and then he released it for the candy to slowly morph back into its original shape. “Really?” he asked, almost wistful, if Matthew could ever be accused of such a thing. “You think? I hope so. I’d like to have what you guys have, what Gansey, Blue and Henry have. Not like what Mom and Dad had though.” But Matthew didn’t spend much time reflecting on that right now, that was just one of the many, many things Matthew had to work through, all in due time. “But yeah, I’d like a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, or something else if the person doesn’t identify as either or just doesn’t care for those terms. It’d have to be someone who doesn’t run scared from Ronan!”
Adam watched Matthew play with the gummy while he considered what he said. How long had it taken for Adam to allow himself a little bit of love in his life? How long had it taken for it to spiral into something he didn't realize he had the capacity for? How much and how deeply had he loved? Adam was not the same person he was a year ago, five years ago. It was only now—we are what we love—that he was happy. Every second up until this point was worth it.
"You don't have to have what other people have. It's different for everyone," Adam said, with a small frown. Adam had done the same thing before: watched people swipe credit cards without thinking, throw money at bills without counting, jump off a cliff without hesitation, without over analyzing every second of the drop. Adam had wanted and wished to be that person—he never thought that his relationship was something worth coveting. It was so insular, so private and intensely intimate, that Adam foolishly didn't know anyone else was looking.
Adam squinted up at the sun. "I don't believe in soulmates or destiny or anything that takes the choice out of your hands, but I do believe there is something out there for everyone that will fill that unexplainable thing inside them. Whether that's another person or a purpose in life, you'll find it Matthew." There was no doubt in his voice; he hoped that relieved some of the doubt inside Matthew.
And if it's someone you care about, and someone who cares about you, I don't think Ronan will scare them off. Too much." He gave Matthew a soft nudge with his elbow, before grabbing the gatorade and taking another long swig. "That's all anyone wants or wants for someone else, to be loved in the way they deserve. You deserve to be with whoever you want, whenever it's right for you. Sometimes it just happens."
“No, wait, that’s not what I mean,” Matthew said, slowly, like he was working out something for himself just as much as wanting Adam to understand. This dual task, of communicating with others what he meant to say, while at the same time Mathew was trying to understand himself, was challenging, but challenging was good for Matthew. He had to work through things, instead of a blissful acceptance or glossing right over them. It felt like stretching out a muscle, stiff, uncomfortable sometimes, but worth it once you finally got past the resistance. “I think I just like the possibility, you know? Of that, or of some bigger purpose.”
“Because I’m not like any of you, and you’re not like me, and that’s great! So of course it’s going to be different, and I wouldn’t be with anyone just to be with someone! It would have to be someone,” his brow furrowed slightly, again, in thought. “Kind. Who wants to be a part of a family, because Ronan, you guys, this is so important to me. And,” once again, Matthew burst out in laughter. “Maybe the heir to the Gushers fortune so I can stay in Gushers for the rest of my life.”
He nudged Adam back, still thoughtful but content. It was good spending time with Adam, Matthew would have liked Adam even if they never had deeper conversations because Ronan loved him so much and he loved Ronan, but Matthew appreciated that he and Adam could share their thoughts and feelings. They were developing their own friendship. “Eh, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t know that anyone will ever think of me like that. But I really like what you said about a purpose filling you! I’d like to find that too.”
Adam couldn't help, again, to be caught in Matthew's happiness. He laughed with him because, naturally, it came back to snacks. Or Gushers, more specifically. Kind, wants family, and heir to the Gushers fortune. Easy. "Like I said, you'll know. Something or someone, or both, will just fit right into place in your life. Maybe not snack food royalty, but it will be fulfilling nonetheless. You might even be on your way to it right now and not even realize it. There's no rush." And there wasn't, not really.
Adam had been lucky, in weird strange ways that he usually wasn't, when it came to Ronan. Even when it came to Gansey, who had become more of a friend to him than Adam had ever understood as the concept of friendship. His life was wholly transformed by the people in it, and his purpose in life—although nebulous around the edges—came into clearer, brighter focus. The person he was and the person he became were merging into someone Adam wasn't ashamed of.
He wanted that self-love for Matthew. Adam didn't want anyone to be miserable in their loneliness if that wasn't what they wanted. He knew all too well what that was like.
"Do you want to help me push the tractor back inside the barn? I think it's going to rain this afternoon and I'd rather not ruin all the work so far."
“Nah, no rush,” Matthew agreed, pulling a perhaps unexpectedly coordinated and graceful leap to his feet. He tilted his chin to the sky, happy even with that simple thing. “For sure, I’ll help! Just think how much easier our lives would be if Ronan would make the dream drone I came up with!” He was only half kidding--of course he’d think a dream drone would be AWESOME, but Matthew would never shy away from anything physical.
He extended a hand to Adam to pull him in a standing position, and to no one’s surprise, ended up wrapping him in another hug. “Hey, Adam? Thank you.”
Adam was getting used to these surprise hugs, and this time he wasn't so stunned by the affection from Matthew. He wrapped his arms back around him in return. It was his way of saying you're welcome. But more importantly, it also said thank you, too.