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4 times the lynch brothers celebrated día de muertos and 1 time they didn't

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1. Cempasúchil

ronan age 2. declan age 4.  

 

 “Ayúdame con esto, cielo,” Aurora Lynch holds the flowers out to her son. 

 

Declan takes them from her. He tries to smell them, but instead presses them so close to himself that it tickles his face. He lets out a giggle, then, and sees as his mother does the same, taking the flowers back from him. He frowns at his empty hands.

 

“Pretty,” Declan says, gesturing back towards the flowers, wanting to have them back, “Very pretty.”

 

“They are, aren’t they?” She hands him a single one of the flowers, “They’re for the altar, in the living room, we’re going to take them there, okay?”

 

“Okay,” Declan draws out the a , not looking at his mother and instead just turning the orange flower around in his hands. 

 

“Okay, c’mon,” Aurora extends her hand out to him and he holds it as they walk together towards the altar the family had been working on all morning. 

 

It looks bigger each time Declan looks at it. It has three levels, tables that were covered in white cloth and colorful papel picado lining the sides of each level. On the top level there are pictures of an elderly couple and a young woman Declan doesn’t know. There are two candles besides each picture, neither of them lit up. Then there’s a cross behind the pictures, made of wood with silver-colored details, and calaveritas de azúcar, sugar skulls his father had called them, to the sides of the level. 

 

The middle level holds a plate with salt, more sugar skulls and empty plates, as well as alfeñiques (the little food-shaped candy his mother had stopped him from eating) and candles smaller than the ones on the top level lining up the sides. 

 

The last level has oranges on it, an empty plate in the center, and papel picado covering all of the visible surface. A small statue of a skeleton with a big dress and a fancy hat, that Declan knows has a specific name but can’t remember what it is, is on the side of the last level. More candles.

 

Every single level is outlined by the orange flowers.

 

“So many already,” He says, gesturing towards the altar, then back towards the flowers in his mother’s arms. 

 

Aurora laughs softly, “Yes, there’s a lot of cempasúchil already, but these ones are for the floor, we’re making a cross on it.”

 

“Ce..cema..cem..” Declan attempts to repeat the word.

 

“Cempasúchil,” Aurora enunciates each letter carefully. 

 

“Cembasushil,” Declan says, and Aurora smiles at him,

 

“Así se llaman las flores,” She explains and Declan nods. 

 

“Why?” Declan asks.

 

“Why we put the flowers here?” Aurora asks in response and Declan nods, “Well, they let the people visiting us rest.”

 

Then she sits, and gestures to the spot on the floor beside her for Declan to sit too. 

 

He does so, his legs tucked underneath him. His mom begins to cut off the stem from the flowers, handing him over what is left, and showing him how to place it on the floor so that they can get the shape of a cross she’s looking for. 

 

“Do you like it?” Aurora asks.

 

Declan nods with enthusiasm. Then he tilts his head to the side. He gestures towards the entire thing.

 

“Forever?” He asks.

 

“No, not forever,” Says Aurora, “Only until Día de Muertos.”

 

“¿Por qué?” Declan frowns.

 

“Porque para eso es la ofrenda,” His mother begins, then she stands up, helping him follow her right after. She points towards the top level of the altar, at the pictures placed there, “¿Sabes quienes son esos?”

 

Declan shakes his head no, although he feels like he should know.

 

“Son tus abuelos,” She says, gesturing towards the picture of the two people with wrinkled skin, “y esa es tu tía.” She points towards the other picture.

 

“Your grandparents and your aunt,” She says, this time in English, “They are not here anymore-”

 

“Why not?” Declan interrupts.

 

Aurora takes a deep breath, “Well, when people get really old and really tired, they go to heaven, to be able to rest.”

 

“Do they not come back?” The boy’s voice sounds worried. His mom is big, he thinks, and aren’t old people big? Her skin doesn’t look like that of his abuelos’ in the picture, but his aunt’s doesn’t look like that in her picture either. Maybe his mom is old and tired and isn’t gonna talk to him ever again soon.

 

“No, no, mi cielo, that’s what Día de Muertos is,” She says, crouching down so that she’s at eye level with him, “The people who have gone to heaven come back to visit us for one day, so we set up ofrendas for them to know where to find us, and put food on them so they have something to eat while they’re here.”

 

“Oh.” He says, “You come back?”

 

Aurora gives him a soft smile, then brushes his hair away from his face.

 

“I’m not going away, not any time soon, okay?” And then she boops his nose.

 

He giggles, “Okay.”

 

Then the sound of his brother crying out “mamá” reaches them.

 

His mother smiles at him, “Vamos por tu hermano.” 

 

Declan frowns at her, then crosses his arms, “Only him, always him.”

 

She shakes her head fondly, “No seas celoso, ya vamos.” 

 

Declan huffs, but follows his mother to the room where Ronan lives, and is currently sitting up in bed, alternating between the words “mamá” and “dónde”. As they arrive, his mother picks him up, and Declan huffs once again as his little brother clings onto her like she’ll disappear if he doesn't. Then he looks down to where Declan is, and even though he knows his mother would say he’s just jealous, Ronan looks almost smug about being held. Declan sticks his tongue out at him. Ronan does it back. 

 

“Ay, ya,” Aurora looks between the two of them, “No se vayan a pelear. Vamos, que hay más cosas que hacer con el altar.”

 

 

2. Alfeñiques

matthew age 7. ronan age 9. declan age 11.

 

Ronan kicks the ball back to the boy whose name he’s yet to get, although the two of them have been playing soccer together for a while now. The boy looks older than Ronan, older than Ronan’s brother even, he has hair that’s straight, unlike Ronan’s curls and eyes dark brown, so dark they almost look black. He had been playing with the ball on his own in the middle of the street when Ronan stormed outside after an argument with Declan over food and Ronan had decided joining him was the best course of action. 

 

He’s not exactly a soccer player, the other boy is clearly more experienced than him, but Ronan has been competitive for as long as he’s held any ability to be, and although this side of his personality is usually reserved for his older brother, it very much shows throughout the time he plays with this boy. So much, in fact, that-

 

“Ronan, ¡cálmate!” His mom is standing on the sidewalk, her arms crossed, “You’re gonna hurt the poor kid.”

 

“Am not!” Ronan stops running, the ball rolling away from him as the other boy goes to stop it. He’s soon back, standing besides Ronan and Aurora.

 

“Mi mamá probablemente me está esperando…” The boy starts.

 

“Si, claro mijo, gracias por entretener a este mientras hacía su berrinche,” His mom says, a slight smile in her face, “Llegas bien a casa.”

 

And thus the dark eyed boy bid his farewell and disappeared down the street.

 

“You scared him away,” Ronan finally huffed.

 

“De todos modos había salido por ti, ya estamos preparando los alfeñiques y habías dicho que querías ayudar,” Aurora says.

 

Ronan crosses his arms over his chest, “Declan dijo que no necesitaban mi ayuda.”

 

Aurora clicks her tongue, “Y tú ¿de cuándo a acá le haces caso a Declan?”

 

He shrugs, conceding the point, and walks with her back towards his uncle’s house, his hand clasped in hers.

 

When they get there, Ronan’s uncle greets them at the door, leaning down slightly to smile at Ronan.

 

“¿Listo para los alfeñiques?” He asks, and Ronan nods enthusiastically in response.

 

In the kitchen, as they walk in, Ronan sees his brothers, Matthew sitting on a chair just looking on, Declan near the table, excitedly chattering with his cousins. The oldest of his cousins, Cecilia, who is even older than Declan, stands near the mix for the sugar candies they are making, waving away the hand of Ana Luz, her younger sister, Declan’s age, every time she tries to dip her finger into it. 

 

“¡Por fin!” Exclaims Ana Luz. 

 

“Ven,” Declan starts as soon as he notices it’s Ronan who walked in, “Como soy dos años mayor-”

 

“One year tomorrow,” Ronan interrupts, watching his father, who leans against the refrigerator. 

 

Declan looks towards the patriarch of the Lynch family, then back at Ronan.

 

“Since I’m two years older,” Declan repeats in English, Ronan grumbles at this, “I will be teaching you how to make alfeñiques.”

 

“You don’t know how to-”

 

“Ah ah,” Declan smiles, “I learned while you were doing whatever outside, so now I have to teach you.”

 

Ronan rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling, and he walks to stand beside Declan and lets him teach him. Cecilia butts in a lot, always in English, clearly proud and happy to show off her fluency in it, correcting something they’d done, or just commenting on what kind of alfeñiques they usually make. It’s nice. Eventually Niall walks out of the kitchen and they switch back to Spanish, and Ronan pretends he doesn’t notice Cecilia’s annoyance at this. 

 

By the end of it, they have a variety of alfeñiques. Some of them are shaped like skulls, calaveritas de azúcar, then there's some more shaped like coffins, and most of the rest have the shape of some food. Nothing very elaborate except for the ones Tío Genaro made, those show very neatly shaped little meals. The Lynch brothers have made a bunch of fruits, strawberries and mangoes, pears and a couple of oranges. Cecilia has only made corn cobs, all of them neat, showing her experience in making them, and Ana Luz has tried to make flower shapes, but they’re very odd-looking, reminding Ronan of the abstract art he saw at a museum his father took them to once. 

 

“What are they for?” Ronan finally asks when they’re all sitting at the table, having just finished dinner, and he looks directly at his uncle.

 

“¿Los alfeñiques?”

 

Ronan nods.

 

“Well,” Tío Genaro leans back, “The sugar skulls, a lot of people use to represent the people who the altar is for, each one of them for a person, then the coffin can work the same. At the fair where we are going to sell the alfeñiques we don’t use, a lot of people have sugar skulls with names on them, so that people can pick one with the name of their relatives. The food is just easier to put there for the dead ones who visit us to have something to eat.” He then pauses thoughtfully, “They also just look good and taste better.”

 

Matthew giggles at this, “Yes, they taste so good!”

 

“And how would you know that?” Cecilia narrows her eyes at him, “You wouldn’t happen to have eaten the mix without permission, right?”

Ronan’s younger brother quickly shakes his head with wide eyes in a way that makes it clear he had, in fact, eaten from the alfeñique mix. 

 

“Good for you!” Says Ana Luz, and it’s clearly towards Matthew, but she is looking at her sister as she says it. Then, “See? It wasn’t me who you had to guard, dummy.”

 

“Cállate, idiota,” Cecilia grumbles. 

 

“Hey! Don’t talk like that to your sister,” Tío Genaro butts in.

 

“I’m sorry, Anita” Cecilia replies, and even though she clearly doesn’t mean it, Ana Luz looks satisfied. 

 

Later into the night, when Cecilia, Ronan and Declan argue over who gets to have the top bones on the pan de muerto they’re sharing, Ronan thinks that this might be his favorite time of the year. 

 

 

3. Pan de muertos.

matthew age 12. ronan age 14. declan age 15. 

 

Matthew can hear Ronan’s soft breathing from inside the room as Declan fumbles with his phone, looking for Las mañanitas to play as they wake him up. He can hear his mother singing something, probably Chayanne or Luismi, downstairs as she makes breakfast. He can’t hear his father, he’s not sure of where Niall is. He’s not sure he cares anymore, it feels like their family is just Declan and Ronan and Aurora and him sometimes from how gone Niall Lynch is. 

 

Declan finally finds the song and smiles at Matthew, opening the door softly. and the two of them go to stand beside Ronan’s bed. Then he started playing “Las mañanitas (Heavy Metal)” at full volume from his phone as the two of them sang along to it.

 

Ronan shoots up, his eyes wide open and stares at the two of them. He’s silent for a second, then he starts just cackling while they’re both still singing. 

 

“Están bien pendejos,” He says when they’re done, a wide smile on his face. 

 

“Okay, Santo Ronan,” Replies Declan, sarcasm seeping through, “Like you didn’t love it.”

 

Ronan purses his lips at his older brother, but doesn’t deny it. 

 

“¡Feliz cumpleaños!” Says Declan.

 

“¡Feliz Día de Todos los Santos!” Says Matthew, and Ronan throws a pillow at him as he and Declan exit the room, Declan calling “mamá is making chilaquiles!” into the room before the door closes behind them. 

 

They walk down the stairs and find Aurora in the kitchen, serving the chilaquiles onto plates, still singing along to what turns out to be Luis Miguel, although Matthew can’t tell where the real song is coming from.

 

She points towards Declan as she sees him, continuing her singing, and he buries his face in his hands, groaning as he says “mamá”. Matthew laughs at him, then walks over to his mother to help her with her rendition of La chica del bikini azul , bringing Declan to groan louder. 

 

Just as the song is ending, Ronan walks down the stairs, rubbing at his eyes slightly.

 

Aurora rushes towards him.

 

“¡Feliz cumpleaños, mi vida!” She exclaims as she hugs him, then stands back. As they are both the same height, she has to stand on tiptoes to give him a kiss on the forehead, “¿Dormiste bien?”

 

Ronan nods and Aurora gives a satisfied smile.

 

Matthew sits at the dining table as Aurora and Declan set the plates of chilaquiles for each person. 

 

“Are we going to go to the cemetery?” Matthew asks as they’re eating.

 

“Mhm,” Aurora replies, her own chilaquiles already gone from her plate, “We’re going to wait for your father to get back, then we’ll head there. We will not stay there, though.”

 

She says this directing a warning look at Ronan, then at Matthew, and while Ronan ducks his head slightly, Matthew simply smiles at her, pretending not to know she’s referencing the time himself and Ronan tried to sneak back into the cemetery to sleep over there on Dúa de Muertos, like they would if they were in Mexico. 

 

Matthew thinks to ask what will happen if his father doesn’t get back at all. He’s never missed Ronan’s birthday, but he missed Declan’s once, and he’s missed Matthew’s more than that, so the possibility doesn’t seem too far-fetched. Then he thinks this might upset Ronan, so he doesn’t ask anything.

 

Declan doesn’t have such reservations.

 

Ronan glares at him from his seat.

 

“He’s getting back,” He says.

 

Declan rolls his eyes, “Ok, but if he doesn’t-”

 

“We don’t have to plan for that, because he’s getting back.” Ronan interrupts.

 

In the end, Niall does get back in time, only a bit after five, bringing pan de muerto with himself, perhaps as a sort of apology for the delay, although Matthew is sure Ronan wouldn’t have needed anything to forgive his father. He cuts Ronan’s birthday cake with them, sings the song, chants mordida for Ronan to take a bite out of the cake and consequently be pushed into it, eats a slice. Exactly as he should. Exactly as he doesn’t, when it comes to his other two sons.

 

Matthew doesn’t dwell on it, and instead, after giving Ronan his gift (this year, a popup card he had made, and a drawing of a raven) starts calling out for his dad to drive them to the cemetery.

 

The cemetery in the outskirts of Henrietta, Virginia, does not hold the body of any Lynch family members. Their grandparents, Niall’s parents, died in Ireland, Matthew knows, and their bodies are buried there. Then Niall’s younger sister, Ana Luz and Cecilia’s mother, died in Oaxaca, and her body is buried there, where Matthew is sure his cousins and uncle are currently visiting. Seeing as this left them nowhere to pay their respects to their dead loved ones on Día de Muertos, Niall paid to have a plaque installed for each of them at the cemetery. 

 

Arriving there, Matthew places the cempasúchil he’s brought with himself at his aunt’s grave, then he watches as Ronan and Declan do the same for each of their grandparents.

 

Aurora hands a candle in a vase to each of her sons, and they all light the one they’ve been handed to place them at the plaque they’re closest to.

 

Matthew looks around the cemetery, and thinks of how it would look if they were in Oaxaca instead, orange and yellow, the darkening sky becoming a candle-lit night. The cemetery here looks so lonely and depressing and Matthew wishes, not for the first time, that every Día de Muertos was spent in Mexico. 

 

Not too long later, the five of them sit on a blanket, eating the pan de muerto Niall had brought,

 

“You know,” Matthew says as he takes a bite out of the sweet bread, “I wonder if those visiting find it rude that we eat their bodies while they’re here.”

 

Declan chokes on the bite he’d been eating, Niall looks at him with what could only be described as “eh”, his mom chuckles in what sounds like a confused manner, and Ronan raises a single eyebrow at him.

 

“What do you mean? We don’t eat them,” Ronan finally says.

 

“Well, we kind of do,” Matthew reasons, holding up what’s left of his pan de muerto, “These are supposed to be the bones right? The things on top. And the general bread is supposed to be the skull. So we’re kind of, metaphorically, eating the people who came to visit us.”

 

Ronan lets out a loud laugh, “I suppose you’re right.”

 

 

4. La Catrina

matthew age 13. ronan age 15. declan age 16. 

 

The cemetery is filled with people, families gathering together to celebrate their loved ones as a whole. Little kids run around with laughter following them. Grave after grave is covered in orange, there are petals of cempasúchil all over the floor. Declan stands next to his cousin, both of them to the side of her mother’s, Declan’s aunt’s, grave. It’s covered in the same orange flower, a cross being formed inside it by another flower, this one hot pink, terciopelo, and carnations outlining the entire grave, along with candles, still unlit as the sun still occupies the sky. At the end of it is a picture of the woman the whole thing is for, a beautiful wooden frame Declan knew his father had made. She is smiling at the camera, and she looks exactly like her oldest daughter in that picture, he thinks, tan skin covered in freckles, dark brown eyes, bushy eyebrows, hair that is straight, and although Cecilia has now bleached her own hair and dyed the tips of it bright green, naturally she would share the dark brown of her mother as well.

 

“Do you want me to do your make-up?” Cecilia asks, suddenly, turning to him. She wears catrina make-up herself, a skull with beautiful red patterns, and a get-up of what the traditional Catrina looks like: big expensive-looking dress, with patterns of lace, and a big hat with feathers on it. Her sister, in slight contrast, wears an adelita dress, a red rebozo resting on her arms, and her hair in two braids with ribbon over them. Matthew had wanted to wear something like that, an old adelita dress that Ana Luz had worn a couple of years back he’d found in the house, but Niall laughed at the suggestion and he instead wears a charro getup, black with golden details and a red bowtie. Meanwhile, Ronan and Declan himself wear white pants and white dress-shirts, with red bandanas tied around their necks. 

 

Declan’s mother has the most elaborated get-up out of them, she wears a typical oaxaqueño dress, black, with flowers embroidered all over it, and a white layer underneath. Her hair has a cempasuchil crown and braids going into it, and she did her own make-up, yellow, red and orange details on it. 

 

“I’m fine like this,” He answers, thinking of how itchy his face had been the last time he’d tried catrina make-up.

 

“Alright,” Cecilia begins to put away the face-paint, “That leaves you and your dad make-up-less for the caminata. Might look a bit odd.”

 

Declan then looks around to see that while he’d been finishing the cross on the grave, Matthew had had his face painted, and Ronan is currently being painted by Ana Luz.

 

(“¡Deja de moverte!” She exclaims as Ronan flinches away from the brush when it goes near his eyes.)

 

Declan turns back to Cecilia, “Actually, on second thought, you should do my make-up.”

 

The older girl nods, satisfied. 

 

She paints the typical catrina picture on his face, with the addition of a mustache, which he frowns about but doesn’t complain anyways.

 

As soon as she’s done, Declan’s uncle and father are walking up to them, talking to each other, in English as expected. While Tío Genaro has the makeup and attire to match everyone, Niall has a clean face and wears a normal suit. 

 

“Are y’all ready to go?” Niall asks, mostly directing this to his sons.

 

Matthew shoots up, nodding as he smooths out wrinkles in his suit, and Ronan says “yeah”.

 

Declan just nods.

 

The family all stand together as the caminata , a walk of people, mostly dressed up as catrinas, that goes from the cemetery, into town through a few closed streets, then back to the cemetery, is about to begin. 

 

“Weren’t you going to get food?” Ana Luz asks, arms crossed as she goes to walk beside her father.

 

“There’ll be vendors on the road if you get hungry,” Tío Genaro replies.

 

Declan looks around at the other families, and wonders what they think of them speaking English, if they think anything of it at all. Are they seen as tourists, outsiders basking in a tradition that is not their own? Are they tourists? 

 

The eldest of the Lynch brothers finds himself having this same internal conflict every time they come to Mexico. He sees the people surrounding him, the people who grew up with two parents who spoke Spanish, who grew up with these events every year on Día de Muertos, who grew up with mexican peers and mexican music and mexican streets and homes and he wonders if he gets to call himself the same thing they do. He wonders if he’s just lying by saying he’s mexican, just raised in the US, when he’s asked where he’s from by the lady at the grocery store who hears his father speak English. 

 

When he’s younger, it was simpler, if not by a lot. The disconnection he felt to Mexico was something that cemented his idea of belonging in Virginia, in the Barns, where he’d been his whole life, raised and taught by his mother and although the people outside did not share his culture, he didn’t need them to to feel like he belonged.

 

Starting at Aglionby Academy made things a lot more complicated. Suddenly he was hyper-aware of how the people of America did not see him as one of them any more than Mexicans saw him as one of them. Maybe even less. He had to make an effort to fit in with them, change the way he speaks, stop mentioning certain aspects of his home, call his parents “mom” and “dad”. But he’d been raised to go unnoticed, and he would stand out by being who he was at home at school. 

 

Ronan doesn't have the same issue. When he joins Aglionby, he does not change a single aspect of who he is, and does not care one bit about what some of the boys have to say about it.

 

Declan envies him for it almost as much as he fears for him over it. 

 

The walk is pleasant enough, the sun is starting to set, and once he gets out of his head, Declan can admire the many varied dresses and makeup being used by everyone around him. Matthew looks especially excited about this, constantly looking around and occasionally pausing to take a closer look at someone’s attire. Declan smiles.

 

“Look!” Ana Luz suddenly says, “He’s selling elotes.”

 

She’s pointing to a man on the side of the road, standing behind a food stand, selling elotes, corn, and esquites, the corn kernels prepared in a cup with mayo, chili powder, cheese and lemon. 

 

“If we stop to buy one for you, the crowd might leave us behind,” Declan points out.

 

Ronan shrugs, “Who cares if they do?” And then he walks towards the stand, Ana Luz and Matthew in tow.

 

Niall, Cecilia and Genaro follow soon after, leaving Declan and his mother to be the only ones staying behind, though they soon move to the side so as to not stand in the way of the people walking through.

 

“¿No quieres nada, mi cielo?” Asks Aurora.

 

Declan shakes his head.

 

The two of them sit down at the sidewalk while they wait.

 

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Aurora says, and Declan turns to her, question on his face.

 

“This,” Aurora answers the unvoiced question, “All the people here dressed up as one of the most emblematic Mexican things out there, something that’s important to our people that we share.”

 

Declan nods slowly, “Everyone looks really pretty.”

 

“Yeah, but it’s more than that,” Declan’s mom has her eyes closed now, “Did you know La Catrina was originally an image made as a mockery of indigenous and mestizo women that, after becoming rich, would throw away their culture and try to assimilate into the society Spaniards wanted for us?”

 

Declan gets a sinking feeling, the narrative hitting a bit too close to home. Is that what he is? Is he throwing away who he is by wanting to fit it? Is survival worth the loss of your identity?

 

He hates that some would have to choose between them at all.

 

“And then, we turned it into this! A show of our culture, instead of a disparage of it,” She opens her eyes, not having noticed how troubled Declan looked, “It’s just… beautiful.”

 

It would be the last time Aurora got to see the event. 

 

 

 

1. Veladoras

ronan age 16.

 

Gansey is standing behind the couch, doing absolutely nothing, and Ronan can feel his eyes on the back of his head.

 

“What is it?” He finally asks, turning to look at the other boy, who looks unsure.

 

“It’s… um,” Gansey walks towards the front of the couch, eyes the empty beer bottle on the floor, perhaps thinking Ronan might be drunk, although it’s been long enough since the bottle was emptied that he no longer is. Then he crouches in front of Ronan, “It’s Día de Muertos, isn’t it?”

 

The pronunciation of the holiday’s name is slow and careful, although Gansey could’ve just as easily said Day of the Dead, and Ronan can’t help but appreciate the effort.

 

“Yeah, kinda.” The time is currently eleven on the second of November. If his father were not dead, they wouldn’t be celebrating anymore anyways, as the celebration was usually reserved for the night of the first, going into the early hours of the second, with a “Feliz Día de Muertos!” being thrown around breakfast in the morning.

 

Gansey stares.

 

“Just say whatever the hell is on your mind, Dick,” Ronan says as a response.

 

“Right,” He gets off the ground in front of Ronan to sit beside him, “You.. didn’t set up an altar.”

 

“Why would I?” Ronan sinks into the couch.

 

“Well, isn’t that like.. a thing? For Día de Muertos? I know you celebrate,” Gansey says this unsurely.

 

Ronan huffs, “Yeah, I guess.”

 

“So… why didn’t you…” Gansey sounds even more unsure than before, his every word careful.

 

“Maybe I just didn’t fucking feel like it,” Ronan replies.

 

Like most things Ronan says, it’s the truth, just not the full one. He didn’t feel like putting up an altar for his dead father to remind him of the fact that he is, in fact, dead, as if his face in his dreams every time he really slept wasn’t a good enough reminder of the fact. He didn’t feel like going out of his way to get pan de muerto that would never taste like the one his mother made some years, didn’t feel like setting up a cross on the floor when that was something Declan and Aurora always did, didn’t feel like going to the cemetery to look at the one grave of a person he could celebrate this time of the year, the one grave that shouldn’t be there.

 

More than that, he didn’t feel like doing any of those things alone. 

 

Although he would never say it to his brother, part of him had hoped that Declan would force him out of Gansey’s place, to go with him and Matthew to celebrate. He had hoped that perhaps, even if they didn’t have dad, even if they didn’t really have mom, they could have this day.

 

Declan didn’t bring it up, though. Not during the rare call Ronan answered, not when he actually came into the house to give Gansey a stink-eye and Ronan a disappointed huff, not yesterday, when himself and Declan and Matthew had actually gone out together for Ronan’s birthday, hadn’t talked about anything meaningful although Declan tried to bring up his declining academic performance. Declan didn’t bring it up, and Ronan wouldn’t be the one to do it, had never learned to ask for the things he wanted with words. 

 

So, maybe Ronan didn’t fucking feel like putting up an altar is true enough.

 

Gansey looks like a kicked puppy, although Ronan cannot tell what the reasoning behind this could be. 

 

“Why?” It sounds like a genuine question, but Ronan can’t understand what Gansey could possibly hope to do with the answer to it.

 

“Oh, I don’t know, sometimes putting a picture of your dead father on a table with a bunch of shit on it doesn’t sound like the most entertaining activity to do on your own,” Ronan means to sound angry when he says this, hopes to be cutting enough that Gansey will just leave him alone, knows from the look on Gansey’s face after that he’s not even close to succeeded at this.

 

“I’m sorry,” Gansey says, resting his head on Ronan’s shoulder, “Would you have done it if I had offered to help you with it?”

 

The honest answer would be Yes , but Ronan knows Gansey will feel guilty at this, so he settles for “Too late for that anyways.”

 

“We can still do something now, though, right?” 

 

“Not really,” Ronan rests his head on his hands, “Time when they come back was the night between yesterday and today.”

 

Gansey lets out a quiet “Oh”. 

 

“We can light a candle, I guess,” Ronan will later tell himself that he does this for Gansey’s sake, so that he feels like he’s being helpful when he so clearly wants to be. This will be a lie. 

 

Ronan then goes into the room, and gets two candles in cups that he had dreamt the night before, and realizes how ready for the day he had been as he finds papel picado and an alfeñique staring at him with other discarded things he keeps in his room. He sighs, then brings the candles back out to Gansey, who is already holding a box of matchsticks.

 

He sets the candles on the floor and sits beside it, taking the match Gansey has offered him to light it as Gansey lights the other and sets it like Ronan had. 

 

“What do they do?” Gansey asks.

 

“They’re supposed to, like,” Ronan realizes his voice is shaky and breathes for a second, “We call them veladoras, they’re supposed to guide the spirits here, so they know where we are, then back to where they came from.”

 

He wonders if his father did come the night before, what he thought of seeing Ronan if he did. Would he look at him the same way Declan does? Would he hug him? Did he not find Ronan at all, as there were no candles or ofrenda?

 

“Puta madre,” Ronan wipes at the tears running down his face. He shouldn’t be crying, he shouldn’t- “It’s supposed to- fuck- It’s supposed to be a happy thing.”

 

Gansey nods at him.

 

“I shouldn’t be crying.”

 

“It’s okay,” Gansey’s voice is soft as he scoots closer to Ronan, “You can cry.”

 

“Fuck!” Ronan wipes furiously at his eyes as if that will stop him from crying further, but Gansey is right there and he’s got the saddest look in his face and suddenly Ronan is sobbing and Gansey is hugging him and maybe it doesn’t feel so bad, to be held, even if it’s not the person he wishes it were, even if that person will never hold him again.