"You don't have to treat me like glass. I'm not going to shatter."
Character Info; Town Opening: Barista; Coffee Shop (Main) Housing: Above the Coffee Shop Character Journal name:skinned Character Name: Ronan Xander Character Age: 25 Character Played By: Dylan O'Brien
His whole life, Ronan knew the story of his parents’ romance better than the back of his own hand. His father had been a brilliant student from an important family, and he had fallen in love with Ronan's mother – a fisherman’s daughter – while on vacation in Ireland. His wealthy parents had obviously objected to the union and forced them to elope and run off to Bristol, England, until they were far enough away from disapproving eyes that they could start a life together, with Jack selling rental estates to wealthy tourists and Soarsie staying at home. Their first two sons were both entirely expected and welcome, despite their mother’s relatively young age: Murphy was born just one year after they were married in a tiny Protestant ceremony in their mother's native Dublin, and younger Connor arrived not two years after that. It was Ronan, the baby, who was the surprise - born more than a decade and a half after the time of vows and veils.
Ronan’s older brothers were well-adapted to the lifestyle of commercial fishermen; they were sixteen and fourteen years older than Ronan, and had more or less been born with fishing lines in their grasp. They were tough and hard and strong like their father, born of saltwater and hard stone. But Ronan was quiet and earnest and artistic like his mother, always several steps apart from his brothers, though he at least had a good relationship with Connor, who played well at the protective older brother. Connor was able to shield the youngest from Murphy’s wrath on the nights when he came home drunk and disorderly, looking for someone inferior to ridicule and somehow always landing upon the baby of the boys. Unfortunately for Murphy, his brother Ronan was quick and exceedingly clever; he was built for avoiding trouble and mayhem, whether with a sharp smile or scathing words.
Despite the fact that their father Jack was a product of money and prestigious bloodlines, their little branch of the Xander family was never quite as comfortable as Jack had hoped. He sold land to farmers and bankers and celebrities in search of the occasional getaway, but his sons nevertheless spent their teenaged summers working on trawling boats and saving up their contributions to the family wellbeing. But Ronan never wanted that life for himself. He had little desire to wear his fingers to the bone on a fishing vessel, or to forget what it meant to stand on dry land. And he was all the more eager to leave after having visited his uncle James in the United States once when he was eleven: James lived a life that seemed like the glamorous American dream. Like escape.
After his two years at college and a wealth of self-doubt, Ronan was admitted to Oxford University’s Fine Arts program. He shared a tiny flat with two very boring older students for the better part of three years, and he learned about the masters of painting and passion and prudence. And then one day, his world was ripped apart by the sudden death of his eldest brother Murphy. It was an aneurysm that took him on his way to work, swiftly and without suffering, and later Ronan would marvel that a painless death should cause so much agony in the ones who were left behind. Ronan's sister-in-law Emily and his infant niece were left alone, and Ronan was torn open from the inside.
For a few months, he tried. He really did. He knew he had to be strong for his family, for their mother and for Emily and for little baby Jude. He left school a few months before he'd have earned his degree, and he moved back home for a time. But it was stifling beneath that old roof; he felt smothered by his mother's heartbreak and his father's horrible distance. Forced to creep through the halls like a ghost, slinking past Murphy’s empty bedroom... it was something worse than torture. And so he left.
He fled to Las Vegas, and he knew that he couldn't spare a backwards glance or he might break. Even with the knowledge that his favourite uncle was currently calling the city home, Ronan could swear that there was some other reason he had been drawn to the resort town, to supplant himself amongst the slackers and the pleasure-seekers and the desert-dwellers. And in that desert, Ronan met his oasis. Sweet Ben, who took in the broken boy with voices in his head and ghosts in his heart, and brought him into his home.
Ronan didn’t understand it. (Still doesn’t, sometimes.) Even when he relaxed that iron-fingered grip he had on his own, broken mind and in came the flood of Ben’s thoughts to swirl with his own, their emotions and their pain. And all the while there were his own feelings for Ben, growing up from the barren cracks of his broken heart like a weed. Sweet Ben, who somehow cared for a broken boy. (Even loved those voices in his head. Those ghosts in his heart.)
After a year in the desert, they were in love, and Ben moved them to New York. Ronan started taking art classes again, just community college, hardly Fine Arts at Oxford, but it was something. And Ronan could afford it, since he refused to take money from Ben or reach out to his family. So they were alright there, for a while. Ronan worked shitty hours at the diner and came home smelling like grease, but he was making art, and they were happy. God, they were happy. Probably could have gone on for a while there, sharing their home with their dogs and getting by just fine pretending to be normal, if Ronan hadn’t heard a woman’s scream one night.
Except that he didn’t hear her. He heard her, a mind’s call out for help from eighteen floors up when Ronan was passing by on his way to a shift at the diner. She couldn’t scream because her boyfriend had his hands wrapped around her throat, but Ronan heard her. Saved her, too - that’s what the first cops on the scene said, after the shithead boyfriend had been subdued and taken away in cuffs. But then the detectives came, and the girlfriend started screaming to anyone who would listen that her ‘savior’ was a freak, how he couldn’t have possibly heard anything. Ronan only managed to slip away from the scene because he knew her thoughts, knew where they were going before she opened her mouth, and he made it home before the cops figured out where they should look for answers. He also knew they’d brush it off as hysterics, some poor abused girl who loved her boyfriend even though he beat the shit out of her on a regular basis. But they’d need a statement, at least. And how was he supposed to answer their questions about how he managed to hear a domestic from outside on the street, eighteen stories below?
Once he’d made it home, they ran. Packed up the car with the dogs and whatever they could fit in the trunk, and just drove until they hit a little town. One that looked like it could keep a secret or two. And it was good, for a while. Ronan found a job waiting tables, he took some art classes at the community centre. He kept his secret under lock and key. And then one day, Ben left. Objectively, Ronan's whole damn world came crashing down.
But he kept on going. He learned how to make coffee for people who wished Repose had a Starbucks, got himself a job so that he could afford to rent a studio apartment above the cafe. He brought home books on Buddhism, Daoism, practically any Eastern -ism that he could find, reading them carefully to preserve their condition so he could put them back on the shelves when he was done. Great stacks of books grew into towers on either side of his sad little double bed that felt empty even with two dogs who took up more space than they should. The subjects ranged from meditation, yoga, mindfulness, to vegetarian cooking. They started out as little windows into the Ben that he remembered, bare threads to help Ronan hold onto the memory of him and the life they shared. Months flipped into years on the Doctor Who calendar on his fridge, and some novels started to slowly find their way back into the piles. Twain, Morrison, Steinbeck, Hemingway. The Great American Novels he never studied in school back home, and didn't have time for while working his fingers raw and bloodied all those summers he spent stinking of raw fish.
He started up a little shop on Etsy to help pay the bills, selling prints of some of his paintings. Took classes in martial arts at the community centre, was even asked to teach some art classes. He kept running with the dogs, early before dawn when the mist hung heavy over the town.
And he ran, and he ran, and he kept on running.
He's still running.
The estranged: His older brother Connor. The pageturners: Those he knows from the shop. The faceless: Ronan runs an anonymous blog about the various oddities in the town, using his telepathy to get the inside scoops, and these are his loyal readers.