Threads of Fate
The old image is banished,
Transformed by fire,
With me I keep
My heart's desire.
~ Part of a rite for fertility or a successful harvest
"What time did you say your bus left at?"
Patrick Graham leaned against the side of the desk in his shared hostel room, and absently ran his free hand through the close-cropped black curls on his head as he spoke into the phone. "Quarter after ten."
"Time for a little more sight-seeing, then?" His father's slightly distorted voice came back through the phone line to him. "Where did you say you were?"
"Derry. Ireland. I called you when we got here yesterday afternoon, remember?" Patrick grinned a bit. His parents both had terrible memories at times. "And it's just after nine-thirty now, Dad. I won't have time for more sight-seeing, unless I want to skip breakfast." He definitely didn't want to do that - the bus trip to Coleraine would probably take several hours, and he'd want to have a lot of food in him.
They'd probably make some stops, but… still.
A static-laced sigh came back over the line to him. "There's still over two thousand dollars in the Visa account I'm financing for you, Patrick."
"I've only been in Europe a couple of weeks," Patrick pointed out, glancing quickly at his watch. Nine-thirty-eight. "You should be glad I'm not wasting all your money. I bought a couple of souvenirs for you and Mom, went to the theater with some of the guys, took in a little culture…"
"Patrick." His father's voice was weary. "You're only twenty-two. You've just finished your undergrad. Go out and waste money. That’s what it's there for. Go drinking. Enjoy the night life. Have fun, for god's sake!"
"I'm having plenty of fun." Patrick grimaced, recognizing the starts of a familiar argument that he really didn't have time to get into. In his opinion, a tour group across Europe wasn’t meant to be spent partying. "I just don't have to spend a lot of money doing it. Why should I?"
"Dad, I really have to go," he interrupted, before the discussion could get into the dangerous ground. "I don't have that much time to eat. I'll call you when we get to Coleraine, okay?"
Another distorted sigh. "All right. Have fun." Considerable emphasis was placed on the last couple of words.
"Yeah." Patrick hung up, took a moment to frown at the phone as if it could somehow transmit the expression to his father, and then reached for his bag - already packed, and with the schedule for his tour bus tucked into a convenient side pouch for easy access. "Better bring this with me for breakfast," he muttered to himself, shouldering the bag. It was too late for him to be able make a side trip back for it after he ate.
It was really too bad about the sight-seeing, actually. Not that he'd admit that to his father.
There was something different about European cities, Patrick had noticed. Probably because of the buildings - the tourist attractions and old monuments, anyway. It seemed sometimes like a lot more things were made of brick, and there wasn't as much concrete as he'd find back home in Canada. It took a little getting used to - sometimes he still felt like he'd wandered into a travel brochure.
And he didn't want to start thinking about how much film he'd wasted on useless pictures of various old buildings. Dad would probably say I should be wasting more…
The thought made him grin as he headed down the stairs.
A quick glance out the window at the bottom of the staircase told him it was probably going to be nice: the sky looked too blue to be real, a universal sign of good weather ahead. Definitely not a bad thing for a tour where a lot of the scenery was part of the sight-seeing.
Can't wait to see more of Ireland, if it's all this good.
The city his tour group was visiting at the moment was called Derry - which was the same name as the County it was located it. The place was a seaport, fairly busy, and their first stop in Ireland. That morning also marked the beginning of his third week on another continent - courtesy of his parents, who'd spent more money than he wanted to think about on a trip that was a combination grad and birthday present.
"Oh, goodness!" The lady who ran the hostel nearly ran into him just off the foot of the stairs. Shaking her head, she offered him a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry, love. Looking for breakfast?"
"Oh - yeah." Patrick returned the smile, without having to force it. "Where do I - ?"
"Just through there, dearie." She hitched up the bag slung over her shoulder, and held her other arm out towards a door across the room. "It's a bit crowded right now - breakfasts are open to everyone, you know. Go ahead and join a table if there's nothing empty."
"Thank you." He glanced after her briefly as she moved on, before heading out to eat.
The local dialect was something he got a real kick out of. Lots of character. One of the first things Patrick had done when they'd arrived the day before was spend some of his father's money on a slang dictionary. Hell, if he looked like a complete tourist, at least he'd understand what people were talking about.
Assuming he had enough time to look things up before something else came up.
The breakfast room - which was apparently open to the public - was just as busy as his host had warned him. Just about every table was filled up, and it seemed like there were enough people moving around to fill a small circus ring. Patrick couldn't even tell if any of the guys he'd met on the tour were anywhere in the room.
Loading a plate from the table with the food set up was relatively simple. Navigating, on the other hand, was difficult. "Excuse me…" Trying to squeeze between two tables to get a look at the other side of the room turned out to not be such a good idea. One of the women on his right pushed her chair out suddenly, not seeing him, and he stumbled back a few paces, nearly knocking a couple of people off their feet as he tried not to feed his meal to the floor.
"Whoa! Mind yourself there!" A boisterous looking guy with a good foot and a half on Patrick gave him a good-natured shove back out of the way.
And right into an empty chair. Patrick slammed his food down and grabbed the back, quickly sliding into it before he could take any more damage, and looking up with a sheepish grin for the other occupants of the table. "This seat taken?"
"Not any more." A set of wary grey eyes met his, their owner's mouth turned down in a frown. Somehow, the accent attached to the words seemed different from what Patrick had come to take as typically Irish, but he couldn't put his finger on what was odd about it.
The speaker wasn't anything bad to look at, though - pale skin and a pointed chin, with a cutely upturned nose and large, deeply set eyes. He was average height, lightly built, and he had very dark hair, cut unevenly, with the longest strands of it reaching his chin.
Patrick figured it was love at first sight. And it could last for - he checked his watch - another twenty-three minutes. Moving on was going to be hard.
The boy's eyebrows came down; the frown looked more like a scowl by then. "Get a good eyeful?"
"Alex, that's rude." For the first time, Patrick realized that there was another person at the table. He glanced over at the third occupant - and blinked.
If it weren't for the fact that the newcomer was blond, his first impression would've been that he was looking at the same boy. A couple of seconds would've proved him wrong even without the hair color to tip him off, though - the new boy smiled at him with honest, although somewhat vague, warmth. There was something about his eyes that didn't seem quite focussed on what was going on around him, and he had a strange sort of look that Patrick couldn't place - like someone who didn't really belong in his surroundings. Despite the peaceful, friendly expression, there was a very distinct impression of some distant sadness about him.
"I'm Marcus," the blond introduced himself, still smiling in that daydreamy sort of way. For a brief, guilty moment, Patrick found himself wondering if all the lights were on upstairs for the guy. "This is Alexander. Nice to meet you."
"Patrick Graham." He smiled back - first at Marcus, and then at Alexander, who didn't return it. Ouch. Guess there's no chance of getting a phone number, is there? Too bad the friendly one was blond. Patrick wasn't too big on blonds. "You guys look exactly the same. Are you twins?"
"Are you a complete header?" One corner of Alexander's mouth quirked up, eyes staying sharply fixed on the other boy's face. "What sort of fib you think we'd be spinning for you if we said we weren't?"
Header… what's a header? Patrick suddenly wished for his slang dictionary, but didn't want to pull it out over his meal. He took a glance at his watch. Nine-fifty-five. "Oh. Okay."
"Don't mind him," Marcus said, and directed a lazy smile across the table at the dark-haired twin. "He picked up on some of the city slang when we started traveling, and now he doesn't know how to stop using it."
The table jostled slightly as Alexander kicked his brother under the table.
Patrick relaxed. This, at least, seemed normal. He picked up his fork, feeling ready to eat while having a - hopefully - normal conversation. "So you two don't live around here?"
"We're doing some wandering right now," Marcus answered, as Alexander poked at the food in front of him disinterestedly. The blond's plate looked like it had hardly been touched, and he wasn't making any move to fix that. "It's taken some getting used to, being around people." He paused for a moment, then shrugged. "You might say we were raised in isolation. Nowhere near civilization, really."
The food didn't seem poisoned. Patrick was hungry enough to take his chances on it, anyway - never mind what a crazy pair of twins did. "How long have you guys been traveling?" he asked, after finishing his eggs.
"Five years, I think." Marcus shrugged, and smiled again, almost apologetically. "We're sort of trying to find - "
"Don't tell him that!" Alexander's eyes suddenly jerked back up, first to glare at his brother and then to glower at Patrick. "Our parents are dead - we've been on the run since finding that out. The rest isn't none of your business."
Marcus fell silent. Patrick was uncomfortably aware of the tension that had picked up, and tried to find a way to cover it. "Marcus and Alexander - those are Roman and Greek names," he noticed out loud. "Were your parents big on history or what?"
"Just Marc and Alex. And yes, they were." Abruptly, the smile was back on Marc's face. "My mother liked reading about kings and emperors - our names came from that. Marcus Aurelius and Alexander the Great: a Roman emperor and a Greek king. Funny, isn't it?"
"Sure, but I'm used to it." Patrick grinned and looked over at Alex again. "I've got the opposite - I'm actually Greek, but my name's Irish. And my adoptive parents are Canadian, so that's how I was raised. If you look at it right, I'm representing three nationalities."
"Fair play to ya," Alex muttered back without looking at him, voice threaded with sarcasm.
Great attitude on this guy.
Patrick checked his watch, and frowned. Nine-fifty-seven. Was time moving more slowly than usual? Maybe it just seemed that way. He started in on his waffles.
"I have a question, if you don't mind." Marc pushed his plate aside, giving up on the pretense that he might eat something from it at some point, and rested his arms on the table. "Are you part of the student tour group that stayed here last night?"
"Oh - yeah." At least someone at the table was interested in a little friendly conversation. "I'm not a student any more, though - I graduated about a month ago." He hesitated a bit, glanced warily at Alex, and then decided it probably didn't matter if he was mocked for the rest of it. "Actually, my parents are paying for this trip."
Alex set his fork down, and sighed. "Ours too."
"I thought you said your parents died."
"They left us money." A set of striking grey eyes met his again, considerably less hostile than before. There was quite a difference between Alex's gaze and Marc's - for one thing, Alex actually seemed to be looking at him rather than through him. "You’re not the full shilling, are you? Why do you keep looking at me?"
Patrick blinked. "Sorry?"
"Looking at me! You know, turning your head and pointing your eyes this way?" Alex looked exasperated. "You're talking to Marc, but you keep looking over here like you want me to join in."
"Uh." Great. And Marc wasn't going to be any help - a glance in that direction showed the blond twin looking at him curiously, as if he wanted the answer just as much but was too polite to come out and say it. Patrick cleared his throat and mustered his dignity. "I thought you might want to be included."
"Don't give me any of your guff." Alex made a rude noise, and crossed his arms, slouching back in his seat. "If you were any normal person, you'd be too busy mooching for Marc's attention to notice if I pulled down my pants and did a jig on the table." His mouth twisted sullenly, and he looked away, as if the other end of the room were suddenly very interesting.
Marc shifted uncomfortably, but didn't add anything to the speech.
So that was it. Patrick relaxed a bit, ignoring the hints of trepidation. Well, he could handle this - and if it turned out he was making too much of an assumption, his bus left in - he checked his watch - sixteen minutes. "I don't go for blonds," he said, calling up a calm tone from somewhere, and took a gulp from his glass of orange juice.
It wasn't something he wished for often, but right then he would really have liked something a lot stronger than just juice.
When he set the glass down, both twins were staring at him. "What?"
Marc blinked rapidly, offered him a small, forced smile, and shrugged. "Nothing."
"Don't go for - " Alex was almost sputtering; he stared at Patrick as if he'd just sprouted a couple of extra heads. "That has nothing to do with it!"
Patrick hastily finished off the last few bites of his meal. This was probably going to turn ugly, and he wasn't sure he wanted to stick around for it, good looking head case or no. "You asked why I kept looking at you instead of him, right? That's why."
"But that doesn't make sense!" Alex blustered. His face was coloring a bit, as if the implications of what the other boy had said were finally sinking in. "That's just guff - it's all just bloody stinking - "
"Look at your face." The smile Marc directed across the table at his brother was much more real than the one he'd given to Patrick - and a lot less innocent. "You took a reddener over that one." The slang term was delivered with a certain wicked humor.
"Sh-Shut up." Alex glared back, not looking at Patrick at all. He didn't seem to know how to handle the attention at all. "He's just a mouldy sneak, trying to catch us off guard, that's all…"
"I'm not sure what you think I have to gain from being sneaky…" Patrick finished his meal and pushed his plate forward, glancing quickly at his watch again. Still nine-fifty-nine. Had his watch stopped? "But you’re the one who caught me off guard first, so it’d be only fair, wouldn’t it?" He grinned, and watched the color spread further across Alex's pale skin.
Well, as long as his interest was out there anyway…
"That - That’s just blarney," Alex accused him, trying his best to glare despite his obvious embarrassment. "Why do you keep looking at your watch, anyway?"
Patrick took pity on him and backed off a bit. "I have to be at the bus by quarter after, or they'll leave without me."
The color faded off Alex's face - he and Marc suddenly glanced at each other.
There was something not very comforting about those apprehensive expressions. "What?"
Marc turned back toward him, looking guilty. "Maybe you'd better get out there."
Patrick stared back at him. "But - my watch says…" The words trailed off. There was something very uncanny about the blond's expression - a certain knowledge, or a feeling… It was somehow alarming.
Pushing his chair away from the table, Patrick turned to shoulder his way through the crowd without bothering to say goodbye.
My watch did stop? But he'd checked it often enough - it had been moving. Maybe it had seemed slow, but… It couldn't have slowed that much! If anything, it should only be a minute or two behind, right?
He squirmed his way out of the room, through the front of the hostel, and out the door.
The bus was gone.
"No way!" Patrick checked his watch again, not willing to believe what his eyes were telling him. Ten o'clock on the dot. "I'm fifteen minutes early! How could they have left already?"
Unbelievable! Those jerks…
"I'm sorry." Spinning around, he found Marc standing just outside the doorway, giving him an apologetic smile. "This is my fault. I didn't intend to make you miss your bus."
"Not your fault." Patrick muttered the words out, glaring helplessly down at his watch. "This stupid thing must be broken - damnit! I should've been paying more attention!"
I'm going to feel like an idiot when I have to call Dad and tell him what happened…
"It is his fault." Alex strode out ahead of his brother, shooting the blond a wry look as he did. "But you can't blame him; he doesn't mean to. And don't throw out a perfectly good watch over it. Have you got another way to get around?"
"I'll have to dig into the money Dad gave me." Patrick ran a hand through his hair, frustrated. He didn't even want to try and sort out the meaning behind that vocal garbage Alex had just handed him. "Fuck! What a great way to start off the week! I'll probably have to catch up to them in Dublin; by the time I get things sorted out, they'll be too far ahead to cut off any sooner than that."
And it meant he'd probably miss the chance to really see Ireland, too.
Fucking wonderful… Can't believe what a moron I am!
"You can travel with us if you want," Marc offered suddenly, calmly.
"What?" The word came out of Patrick's mouth almost at the same time as it escaped Alex's. "Have you lost your mind?" The dark-haired twin demanded incredulously, before Patrick could say anything.
This time, Patrick could really only agree with him. Asking a complete stranger to travel with you was not something a person with any sort of brain did in normal circumstances.
"I have a feeling about it," Marc said, voice almost dreamy. He smiled at Alex.
His twin bit his lip, looking worried, but - surprisingly - didn't say anything.
"Is that a good idea?" Patrick frowned. Running off traveling around an unfamiliar place with a couple of strangers was probably worse than allowing a stranger to come traveling with you. "I mean, we don't know each other very well…"
Marc turned an astonishingly clear-eyed gaze on him, and he abruptly forgot what he'd meant to say.
There was something very startling about that gaze. Patrick licked his lips, not certain if it was a good sign that some of his fears seemed to be quieted at the sight. He could see now why Alex had been so insistent that Marc was the person to be noticed out of the two of them. There was something almost… other-worldly… about the blond twin, as if he didn't really belong on their plane, but had almost halfway moved on to another.
And it was as comforting somehow as it was unsettling.
But - it meant his objections had been effectively pushed aside. Patrick let out a low breath, and moved his gaze over to Alex as a safer place to rest his eyes. "So how do you guys get around?"
The corners of Alex's mouth abruptly turned up.
Somehow, Patrick decided hours later, standing by the side of the road a mile or so outside of Derry with his thumb held up for outgoing traffic, his vacation had turned out extremely weird.