WHO Adam Parrish & Persephone Poldma WHERE Cabeswater & The Barns WHEN Feb 28th, afternoon WHAT Magic flexing! Showing off to a parental figure! Advice, comfort, dancing. STATUS Complete! WARNINGS Some talks of death and lingering pain from that.
If asked why he invited Persephone to Cabeswater, Adam would have said the obvious. He wanted to show her what he was working on. Always working, always learning, always pushing the boundaries of what he could do. But the deeper meaning behind it was born from a childhood that left him wanting. A long-rooted desire for approval. And while Adam had mostly shaken that need years ago—fitting seamlessly into his friendships with Gansey and his relationship with Ronan after months of not—that was not necessarily the case for everything.
As Adam broached new territory, new parts of himself that felt too big and too unwieldy to understand, there was a calm that came from Persephone; it always had. Adam knew that Ronan and Gansey would give approval in their own ways, but it wasn't quite right. Not the same. Not what Adam found him still lacking, except with Persephone.
They stood inside of Cabeswater, in the small field that opened into the forest. Any casual observer might not notice how smoothly the end of the property blended with the sentient trees. But Adam's whole being surged with the awareness of being close, his body coming alight. Although still fighting the cold bitter air of the last dregs of winter, the temperature around them rose ever so slightly.
"I've been practicing," Adam said, his voice even as he stared at the trees, before sliding a glance to Persephone. Did he look nervous? He felt nervous. But not in a frightening way, there was no fear of messing up, only that he was stepping into the unknown with a person who had done it so many times, with grace. And Adam did not feel graceful.
He wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans, and took off his beanie. "After what happened last month, I wanted to see if I could more. And I guess—" Adam faltered, swallowed, tried again. "I guess I wanted you to be the first one to see."
Persephone tilted her face upward to greet the sky as it peeked through forest trees, her eyes closed and she breathed in the crisp air of forest and Cabeswater. It smelled like home, and familiarity of Adam. Cabeswater wasn’t a place she visited often, but it was a place where she felt comforted.
She wasn’t sure if it was because Cabeswater liked her through Adam, or because Persephone was like him. Maybe a combination of the two.
But now, as the breeze clipped her ankles and whipped around her floral skirts, she looked between the place of comfort and the person of comfort. She gifted him a smile, an easy thing when it came to Adam. “You can do anything,” she sounded sure of herself - and she was. She’d seen him from the ground up, from when he felt like nothing but was still everything. “Show me?”
You can do anything. The words gave Adam a strange surge of comfort. It was different from when Ronan said them, not that they meant any less. But this feeling, this heat of pride that crawled up his neck, couldn't be hidden. He could do anything, it was stamped as fact in his bones.
"I thought a lot about what Caleb had shown me," Adam began to explain, as he picked up a handful of cold dirt. The pulse in his ears grew louder, he felt the humming under his skin. "About control, when I had his fire. It's different with Cabeswater, we share control. But that feeling of direction that's what I was missing with Cabeswater, I'm almost certain of it."
As he rubbed the dirt between his hands and let it fall back to the ground a flower sprung up. With his free hand, Adam took hers and led her back out of the forest, the flowers becoming like breadcrumbs through the winding path. Not that he needed a map, Cabeswater would always provide.
"But then in the snowglobe, that was—different. That was generosity, awareness. I asked Cabeswater to help but I don't know if I needed to. It already knew." They came to the edge of Cabeswater, where the flowers should have stopped, but Adam kept going. As they stepped past the border, the forest seemed to come with them, roots and warmth and energy as they moved onto the Barns property.
“That’s because,” Persephone paused to touch the air, where a leaf floated by and kissed her cheek lovingly, before drifting back into Cabeswater behind her. “You are just as much a part of Cabeswater as it is you.” Where the forest ended and Adam began was getting more and more difficult to see, beyond the regular visible eye.
And it wasn’t a bad thing, by any means. It made her feel good to see him flourishing, to see that look of pleased pride cross his face when he learned something new. She’d never had any of her own children, but she watched Blue grow up, and the magic of learning was so familiar and delightful. There was a layer of sadness, of knowing his home life, and how few people Adam had ever met that supported him in endeavors like this.
So now she watched carefully, each step he took, and smiled the further they got out and the longer Cabeswater lingered with him. “Does it diminish if you’re across the city? Or do you feel it just as closely now, no matter where?”
Adam was caught up in it: the way plants took root at their feet, the way the chill was banished by a mellow breeze, the way this small sliver of magic burrowed into him, grounded him. That was probably also because of the look Persephone was giving him as a butterfly landed in her hair. Wonder and amazement filled his face, pleased that after all his own trial and error it wasn't a dream.
He was doing this, he was doing this for Persephone. Adam needed that validation more than he realized.
"I always felt it, even away from the city. Those first few days after the bond, Gansey and Ronan and I went into the woods directed by Cabeswater. Or well, I thought it was the forest directing us, following us, showing how connected it was to the rest of Vallo. But I realize now, it was trying to explain—" Adam lifted his hands, fingers dancing in the air as if he was plucking an invisible harp. He was intentionally and unintentionally pulling on the strands of the energy of Cabeswater.
"That it was always with me. No matter where I go, we'll always be connected. I thought I was just limited to the forest but I don't think that ever was the case. I just couldn't figure it out." Until now. Until he had all those pieces of the puzzle laid out around him.
He took a deep breath, before adding a little uncertain, "I'm not sure what to do with it. There is a lot I don't know about the forest. It feels like I've opened an endless book, and no matter how much I read, I'll never reach the end."
Persephone looked up through her fringe, trying to spot the butterfly that had fluttered against her hair. She failed, but could feel it regardless.
So instead she held up a hand, stuck her finger out, and waited to see if it would peep out to say hello. She didn’t have to wait long, the luminescent purple butterfly floated over to her finger and sat there, and she was content to let it, taking in it’s beauty without comment.
When she looked back over at Adam, she was calm and letting herself absorb all of this, carefully, but with a faint, pleased smile. “Those are the best books. The books you never want to end.” Her smile didn’t fade, but her eyes did get a little more serious, full of thought like the universe around them as the colors swirled together. “You’re on the right track, and-- doing very well.” She was learning as she stood there, from the world as it spoke to her. “What are you going to do now? Use it as Vallo needs, to help? To learn? To grow? The possibilities - your possibilities are endless.”
"I've never been a protector," Adam said, his voice nearly tripping over the words. It was an honest truth that he never fully realized until this moment. "Anything I've done to save myself or anyone else has been out of desperation or fear, and I don't want to be scared anymore." A root crawled over his foot, like a calming hand. It was Cabeswater answering that statement with don't be.
Again the ground underneath him pulsed, Cabeswater a steady heartbeat against the magic of Vallo and lodged deep within his chest. The longer he was bonded to the forest the more intrinsically entwined they became. No longer two entities sharing one space. Adam glanced to the main house, and flowers—soft pastel unseasonal wildflowers—began to bloom like a trail back home. He had done that.
And this was where the moment came, where Adam was at his most vulnerable and most conflicted. This was why he needed Persephone, this was why he showed her before the others. He would always be the student, he would always look to her for guidance—even after she was gone, Adam remained steadfast in leaning on her direction; she was a voice in the dark. "What would you do?"
“You don’t have to be, Cabeswater is your protector. The king is your protector. The snake is your protector.” The raven, her Blue, the dream creature, the ghost. The family as a whole was a united front, and everyone served their purpose. To protect each other. It was like the family unit of Fox Way, the similarities mirrored themselves beautifully.
Persephone was hesitant to tell him what to do -- even in the way of saying what she would. She knew in the end, he would have to make that choice for himself, but a little extra guidance helped things. Usually.
“Have a little fun.” She laughed into the breeze, the sound carrying off with the wind, as light as it was. “Sometimes, even in the face of new and unusual magic, you need to let loose a little. Go exploring, find the boundaries.” Cabeswater seemed to hear her, and leaves kicked up around her ankles, swirling like they were ready to play. “Dance in the moonlight. Play a game.”
Adam was thinking about this all wrong. He was overthinking this all wrong. Persephone was right—he had so many people in his corner after a lifetime of just himself. It wasn't him versus the world. Or the world versus him. It was them, all of them, including Cabeswater, who seemed more interested in having fun than talking magical logistics of how to use Adam's growing abilities.
"It's still daylight," Adam pointed out, lamely. A poor excuse to not give into that side of him that was easily and usually coaxed out by Ronan. There was that desire to stay impressive to the person he wanted to impress. But that was the whole point, right? He didn't need to prove anything to her by being one way or another, just himself. That was all she ever asked of him.
With a thought, just a singular thought—an indication of the boundaries he was starting to push with Cabeswater—a tiny piano melody started to play, in surround sound, incredibly close despite being outside. Adam held out a hand to Persephone. "I haven't practiced, but I think I'm decent enough to not step on your feet?"
Persephone laughed again, pleased with how he jumped right in, even if he had to be practical about it at first. Though, Adam not being practical about something would have been more strange, and she liked him like this.
She gave a small twirl before ending up with her hand in his, not looking down at their feet. “I have sturdy boots on, but let Cabeswater guide your movements.” The music was calming, serene, a far cry from the music she listened to during her thesis days, and it inspired her movements with each step, each sway, each turn. She closed her eyes and let it guide them both, but Persephone had years of learning how to turn her mind off to distractions.
To help him along, she smiled and continued with her eyes close. “Think of this as practice for next year.”
Adam was so careful, delicate even, with Persephone—and Cabeswater—guiding him around in a slow, somewhat waltzy dance. A previous version of Adam might have balked at the impracticality, the uselessness of having a sentient forest play music when there were other bigger dangers lurking around the corner. But this was a nice reminder that not everything had to be unflappably serious.
He let out a breathy laugh, almost embarrassed at how obvious he and Ronan were. He knew what she meant by next year, and his face turned a soft pink thinking about it. Adam was glad her eyes were closed. "Yeah, next year. That's only because Ronan's birthday is so late, and he made a promise I don't want him to break. He doesn't want to either."
His emotions were a strange and reckless thing when he let them go, and thinking about next year, thinking about all the years ahead of him, made him unexpectedly panic. A fear of a looming loss.
Adam stopped dancing and pulled Persephone into a hug, fiercely tight, burying his face in her shoulder to hide the thickness building in his voice. "Tell me you'll be here for it."
“Oh-” She hadn’t seen the direction that was going to take, had preferred laughing over their obviousness and the fact that nearly everyone who knew them, who saw them, knew exactly what direction they were headed. That was a certainty, more now than it was when she had known them back home, even if she had seen how he was with Blue and knew that wasn’t right for him.
Now it was obvious what was, but not that Adam had worried about her. She leaned into the hug, squeezing back, before leaning away just enough to cup his face with her hand. “I’ll be here for it, I promise you that.” Even if she hadn’t expected his pleading statement, she knew that as long as he was here, so was she. It was a finality that Persephone held tight to her.
And she hoped it helped put him at ease.
He closed his eyes then, when she put her hands on his cheeks. It was such a small gesture, and not one he was unfamiliar to. Touch had become less of an anomaly to him, and Adam had been greedy for all kinds as he figured out he was allowed to have it. But from Persephone, the kind a parent might give their child was still so foreign to him. It cracked a small piece of that wall he had built up against emotions like this. So Adam swallowed a hard knot in his throat and nodded.
She promised. He would tuck that away, for any time he worried about her being gone. She promised as long as he was here. Cabeswater hummed in his chest with comforting approval.
Adam took her hand again. "Where were we?" He was a little more confident now, a little more settled. The music grew louder, and the flowers under their feet grew brighter, thicker. A tree and then another popped from the ground, moving from willowy saplings to hearty mature trees. The extensions of Cabeswater surged around them, making a little hideaway, summer-like warmth leaking through the branches.
"I think I'm getting better at this," Adam said. And whether he meant the dancing or the influence over Cabeswater, it wasn't clear. Maybe both. "You'll help me practice though? With the dancing? With... all of it?" The loosening up, the stretching the boundaries, the things Adam still felt stuck in.
Persephone went back to grinning, to the lightness that her feet took when they were dancing, to feeling the music and the magic, and the pleasures this place could give. There was still pain, in some ways, she felt it every time she was around Blue, but The benefits were as plain as day.
They were protected now, but Adam would be protected always, thanks to Cabeswater, and that was a comfort warmer than even the sun. “I’ll help you practice as much as you need. For as long as you need.” Which wouldn’t be as long as either of them liked, but she could pretend.