Threads of Fate

 

 

Part Ten

 

~~~

 

Alex slept through most of the next morning, even after Patrick and Marc, who had been conscious through the event, had woken. He'd had to be carried back to their temporary camp, finally snapping out of his trance only to immediately fall asleep. The expression on his face was not the typically content one that someone who was sleeping soundly might wear. Sometimes he would moan or twitch and his face would try to scrunch up in distress - but he didn't wake up.

 

Patrick sat beside him as Marc dug their breakfast out of his bag. Sandwiches again, probably - that was usually their best bet on the road if they didn't want to try and cook over a fire.

 

That wasn't what was on his mind right then, though. "Is he going to be all right?"

 

Marc looked up for a minute, pausing his search. Something about his face looked almost cautious, or guilty. There might've even been some regret when he looked at Patrick. "He'll be fine. It'll take him a little while to get over it." His gaze shifted right back down to the bag again.

 

Patrick frowned at him. He was starting to get the feeling… "You're not sorry that you asked me to make that choice, are you?" He sighed. "I did the best I could. I know it probably wasn't what you wanted, but - "

 

"No!" Marc's eyes jerked back up, looking a bit wide. That guilty look was back again, worse than before. It made him seem a lot less vague than he normally did. "I just… I'm sorry." He shrugged, awkwardly. "I feel bad for making you choose."

 

That wasn’t at all what he'd expected to hear. "What?"

 

"Well… It wasn't an easy choice." At that point, it seemed like Marc had trouble meeting his eyes; he glanced away, fingers toying with the zipper on the bag. "I didn't think - I mean, normally, I'd let Alex take care of it, so I just thought… You'd have Alex's best interests in mind, and - well… It was the next best thing?" He shrugged again, helplessly. "It didn't occur to me until later that it must have been hard for you."

 

Patrick blinked at him. "I didn't actually think of that," he admitted, after a minute. He'd never seen Marc this uncomfortable before - he was more human at that point than he'd seemed in all the time they'd known each other. "It doesn't matter. Actually, it made me think a lot about myself - I think it was useful." He grinned a bit.

 

"I guess." Marc's answering smile was hesitant.

 

I managed to hurt Alex - I'm not going to mess this one up. At least this situation seemed easier to take care of. "Seriously, don’t worry about it," he said, waving a hand as if to brush the whole thing off. "You've got enough bothering you - I'd feel bad if I went and added to all that."

 

"Well, for your sake, I will, then," the blond twin agreed, looking relieved even as he cracked the joke. "Thank you."

 

It probably wasn't for the actual choice, but at least he'd done something right. Patrick nodded. "No problem."

 

"Mm… rgh…" Alex suddenly rolled from his curled up position on his side to flop onto his back, groaning. "Wassallth'noiz? S'too'rly." One arm slid up to limply hang across his eyes.

 

Marc blinked, then smiled, shifting his gaze to look down at his twin. "Good morning, Alex."

 

"S'not morning." The younger boy groaned again - more of a complaining sound that time. "S'nighttime. G'way, sleep."

 

Patrick couldn't help it - he had to ask, and make sure. "Are you all right?"

 

"Na…ah?" Alex was interrupted by a yawn. "What're you on abou - AH!" Abruptly, he sat up, looking around wildly. "The grass - there was a - " He seemed to choke on his breath, drawing the air in so fast it was almost as if he was hyperventilating. His eyes were still wide.

 

"Careful!" Patrick put a steadying hand on his shoulder. The dark-haired twin was trembling violently; he stared at the ground, without acknowledging either of them, jerking a little every now and then. "Alex?"

 

All he got in reply were a few deep gasps. Alex's hands fisted in his jeans, and he kept staring, not talking at all.

 

Marc moved to watch him, sympathetically. "Is it coming back to you?"

 

"Sh - Shut it." Alex's voice croaked - but the next second, he reached out and grabbed at Marc's shirt, almost desperately. "They didn't take you."

 

"I'm fine, Alex."

 

That seemed to calm him; with a sigh, the younger boy relaxed. "I was worried…" He slumped forward, eyes shutting again with relief or residual shock - it was hard to tell which.

 

"You should thank Patrick," Marc reminded him, glancing up quickly to meet the older boy's gaze. Another apology - at least, sort of. "If you think about it hard enough, you can probably remember exactly how much he had to do with looking out for you."

 

Alex colored; when he opened his eyes again, it seemed to be all he could do to shoot a very embarrassed, and somewhat confused, look at Patrick. His hands fisted again, without grasping at anything that time, and he stared down at them. "Um. Thanks."

 

Somehow, that was enough - Patrick had a feeling Alex didn't really know how to deal with him at the moment, so he was willing to go with it. "Sure. Glad to do it." He let his hand slide away from the younger boy's shoulder, and gave him a little distance.

 

He needs time, right? If that was all, then he could give it to him. I'd give him as much as he needed, if I knew it'd do me any good.

 

Marc's eyes met his over Alex's head, and he saw sympathy there.

 

At least someone understands.

 

"Well… so." Alex seemed to recover somewhat; he'd relaxed enough to look up again, at least to act like everything was normal. "We - We have a chance now, don't we?" His gaze was almost painfully hopeful as he looked over at his twin. "They said there was a chance."

 

Marc shrugged a bit, and smiled at him. "Yeah. There's a chance."

 

Patrick wished those words wouldn't twist in his stomach the way they did. "Well, they said we should get to Portmarnock," he added, trying to push the feeling aside. "And as soon as possible, right? We should hurry up and eat, so we can get going."

 

"Right." Alex immediately went for the bag, without looking at him. "The sooner we get there, the sooner we can find out what to do next. And," he added, with a bright grin for his brother, "the sooner we can get Marc back to normal."

 

Marc's answering smile wasn't quite as bright.

 

Patrick sighed. It was already looking like the rest of the day was going to be long.

 

At least he's not mad any more.

 

~~~~~~

 

They'd been told to hurry, and apparently Alex was taking that to heart - the three of them went back to hitchhiking as soon as they'd finished breakfast. The younger twin talked a little too fast sometimes - keeping his hands and eyes as busy as possible so he didn't have to face whoever he was speaking with.

 

Either he was really in a hurry or he was having trouble dealing with other people while trying to sort out his own head.

 

Patrick was familiar with this by now, so he let it go without comment.

 

And Marc was characteristically withdrawn.

 

What a fun group we are.

 

They were picked up about twenty minutes after making it to the side of the road to try and catch a ride. Patrick didn't get any bad feelings from the woman driving the white car that took them - he was starting to get used to paying attention to those kinds of instincts - and apparently neither did the others. Once inside the car, Marc dozed in the front passenger seat, and Alex stared resolutely out the window.

 

"Your friends are awfully quiet," the driver commented to Patrick, in a hushed voice. She seemed like a nice enough person, about thirty or so with plain features and a polite, kind demeanor. "Rough night?"

 

"Sort of," Patrick agreed, with a bit of a smile. "Don't worry about them - they're survivors."

 

"If you say so." She smiled, glancing back briefly before fixing her eyes on the road again. "How's a bit of music sound?"

 

"Sure."

 

Their ride was only going as far as Dundalk, so they booked another motel for the night once they'd arrived. To Patrick, it seemed like the day had been longer than all of the others put together. Somehow, the journey had taken a morose turn, and he wasn't sure how to fix it so that things were back to normal.

 

With Marc staying broodily silent and Alex seemingly too uncomfortable to have a real conversation with him, he had several serious doubts about his ability to help at all.

 

Surprisingly enough, Alex spoke up after his brother came back from the motel's lobby with their key. "Are you tired?" he demanded, gaze intent. "You look pretty jaded."

 

Marc blinked, caught off-guard. "Um…"

 

Patrick reached into his back pocket.

 

"Exhausted, tired, or whatever else." The dark-haired twin didn't turn to look at him, but his voice was annoyed. "Put that fecking thing away. Marc?"

 

The blond seemed to recover from his surprise, and smiled a bit, hesitantly. "Yes, a little. Why?"

 

"In that case, you should go have a shower or something and relax." Alex looked determined - face a bit flushed and eyes flashing stubbornly. "We'll go for dinner, and bring you back something from the restaurant. Good?"

 

Marc glanced from his brother to Patrick, blinked twice, and then an expression of understand passed over his face, bringing a more vibrant smile to it. "I suppose I am awfully tired - how considerate of you, Alex."

 

His brother looked a bit disgruntled. "You need to take care of yourself, that's all," he muttered, flushing even more.

 

"I know, and you have no idea how glad I am that you're around to look out for me." Marc's smile was really more of a smirk by then. "You really don't need to hurry back, either - I'm so tired, I think I'll probably need a long, long rest before I can find the strength to eat…"

 

"Shut your gob." Alex scowled, very noticeably red by then.

 

Marc tossed him a key, and gathered up all of the bags. "Have fun with your meal," he told his brother over his shoulder, as he headed for their rooms.

 

"Bloody header." Alex turned to face Patrick, still with that intense determination written all over his face. "Come on, let's go eat."

 

Patrick wasn't too sure where this was going, but he wasn't about to turn down an opportunity - not after Alex had spent the day ignoring him. "Sure."

 

The restaurant wasn't very big, but that suited Patrick fine. Alex seemed to have a thing for small, cozy places with warm atmospheres and friendly staff. Hell, anyone would like that. And it was definitely better than a fast food place. This particular place didn't even have booths to sit in - only tables. The waitress showed them to one of the smaller tables, near the far end of the room.

 

It was… very date-like.

 

Alex apparently had noticed that too, and it made him agitated. He sat stiffly across from Patrick, eyes on the menu rather than his dining companion, fingers toying with its laminated edges. "Um," he said, after a minute, awkwardly. "Nice… Nice place. Yeah?"

 

"Yeah. Good call." Patrick had to admit, he wasn't exactly feeling as confident as he'd like, either. Alex's earlier behavior and this unexpected chance didn't seem to fit in with each other. He tried a hesitant smile. "You're not tired, are you?"

 

"Course not." Alex snorted, and seemed to relax then, smiling back almost shyly. "That was some great craic last night. If not for the sidhe."

 

Patrick instinctively reached toward his back pocket.

 

"Fun. Fun!" The dark-haired twin waved his hands emphatically, before settling back to glare. "Why is your first instinct always to reach for that bloody book?"

 

"Well, if you wouldn't always use weird language, I wouldn't have to," Patrick returned, with great dignity.

 

Alex's lips twitched a bit, and then he was abruptly laughing.

 

That was… unexpected. Not unwelcome, though. Patrick grinned, snickering a bit himself. It was kind of ridiculous - their constant bantering over the book. Of course, maybe it was partly because Alex was cute when he was annoyed…

 

I missed this, he realized. That was what had made the day so long. Alex wasn't talking, so he wasn't getting annoyed. They hadn't really had a chance to interact like they used to - and he had to admit that part of him was very, very worried that it had to do with those words that still echoed through his head.

 

"I hate you."

 

Was this his way of saying that he hadn't meant it? Patrick wanted to believe it was.

 

"I was saying before." Alex seemed to get hold of himself, although he still smiled, brightly. "We had fun last night. I mean, it wasn't so great being hypnotized and not being able to do anything about it, but the dancing part." He shook his head. "It wasn't bad. Never is."

 

"I noticed. Sort of." Patrick offered him a sheepish smile. "I was worried about you. Marc didn't say much, and I wasn't sure what they were going to do to you."

 

"Nothing good," Alex said darkly, and then let out a breath and bit his lip for a moment, before trying again, shoulders hunched awkwardly. "I felt better since you were there," he said, in an undertone. "I mean - I couldn't react to much of anything, but I knew you were there, and that - well. Made me feel better." He rubbed the back of his neck, looking embarrassed.

 

Maybe he is trying to apologize. The thought made Patrick feel a lot better - not to mention it helped a lot that he'd been right about Alex trusting him. So does he think I'm worth trusting now? I don't think I let him down this time. "I'm glad," he answered, sincerely. "I felt bad."

 

Alex looked a bit surprised at that. "What for?"

 

"Because it was my fault you were upset and got distracted." Patrick smiled again, ruefully. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I just wanted - "

 

"Wait a minute," Alex interrupted, frowning a bit. "How did you know what I was upset about when I got distracted? I didn't tell either you or Marc how I was tricked."

 

That was something that, in the excitement, Patrick had almost forgotten. "Oh. That." He shifted in his seat, wondering if the whole business had been a good sign at all. Marc hadn't brought it up again… "I had a weird dream. That was how we found you - it felt like I was in your head. A little, anyway." He coughed.

 

Alex looked… pretty shocked, not surprisingly. "In my head?"

 

"Right." Patrick watched him apprehensively, waiting for any signs of anger. "I woke up after you noticed that circle. At that point, I was too worried about you to really think about it." He licked his lips, anxiously. "Was it bad?"

 

"Um. Probably not." Alex seemed to recover, looking down at his menu as if he wasn't really sure how to deal with all of this. "We're - I mean - yeah. We're lovers." He said that almost defiantly, as if daring Patrick to argue with him. "And it was Esbats, and they were playing their tricks. Probably a side effect."

 

Patrick nodded slowly. He was more interested in Alex's use of 'lovers' - the reference gave him a certain amount of hope for the near future. He says it like we still are… But he made an attempt to continue the conversation anyway. "So you don't think it was done consciously?"

 

Alex spread his hands helplessly. "Who knows? They can be tricky - we don't know their motivations. I know Marc had to get there, somehow. Maybe you were meant to feel me."

 

I'd like to feel you right now… By some valiant effort, Patrick kept himself from wincing at that thought. "I'm just glad I could help somehow," he admitted. "I tried to think about what you would do in my place. I think it helped."

 

"Yeah, well." Alex did look pleased with that, ducking his head and smiling a bit to himself before raising his eyes again. "Thanks. For saving Marc." The look in his eyes made the words that much more sincere.

 

Patrick felt light - lighter than he'd felt while dancing that night. I'm really gone, aren't I? Somehow the thought couldn't even be wry, with Alex looking at him like that. It was worth it. "Sure," was about all he could say - and he stared back, smiling stupidly.

 

"Ready for drinks?" the cheerful voice of a waitress interrupted, suddenly.

 

"Water," Alex said quickly, glancing away almost guiltily.

 

"I'll have a coke," Patrick told her, feeling a bit dazed. She nodded cheerily and wandered off toward the kitchen.

 

"So." The younger boy raised his gaze again, that determined look back on his face. "About what I said - last night, I mean. You know that - you know - "

 

He seemed to be struggling with the rest. Patrick waited, a bit anxious despite all of the positive signs he'd been getting.

 

"You know - that I - "

 

"Here you go." The waitress beamed at them, carefully setting both drinks down. "Are you ready with your orders, or do you need a bit of time?" she asked, cheerfully.

 

"Uh." Patrick glanced from her to his - date? He couldn't say that for sure. Alex looked about ready to explode. "I think you'd better give us a few more minutes."

 

"Right." She nodded, and left for another table.

 

"This is ridiculous!" Alex blurted out after she'd gone. He looked a bit red-faced, but if anything, the determination on his face had gotten more intense since the interruption. "I'm sorry, all right? I didn't mean what I said. I don't hate you, I - " That cut off sharply, with a sharp intake of air as if Alex had sucked the words back into his mouth before they could fully escape. His eyes were wide, almost trapped.

 

"It's okay." Patrick could feel his heart beating hard. Had he been about to say…? Don't push it - if he does, he'll say it sooner or later, right? "It's. Uh. It's good to know you don't. Hate me, I mean." He smiled again, feeling sort of like a weight had been lifted off of him. Knowing that it probably wasn't meant and actually hearing the words were two very different things.

 

"Yeah." Alex's answering smile was relieved.

 

"I guess I should look at the menu." Reluctantly, Patrick picked it up. "We'll have to order for Marc, too, if we're bringing him back something."

 

"I'll do that when she brings our food," Alex said, copying his example. "I don't want it sitting there while we eat - it'll probably get cold. But I should figure it out now, yeah."

 

Since he agreed to be 'tired' for you - it's the least we can do. Patrick kept that thought to himself.

 

Dinner was delicious. Patrick hadn't decided if he was so satisfied with the meal because of the company that came with it or if the food was good all on its own, but he wasn't complaining. As they made their way back to the motel, slowly, chatting about various little things and enjoying the crisp coolness of the early evening, he felt better than he had in a long time.

 

Possibly even as good as the night before last.

 

And hopefully tonight's going to end the same way.

 

Alex had apparently been thinking along the same lines - when they came to the two doors where they would logically have split up, he turned to face Patrick, eyes glinting stubbornly. "So… I can come in, can't I?" It was more of a challenge than a question.

 

Patrick couldn't keep himself from grinning back, probably really stupidly. "Yeah. Of course." As if you really have to ask.

 

"Good." Alex grinned back, just a bit shyly, and fumbled for his key. "I'll be right back, then - just have to take Marc his food."

 

"I'll leave the door open," Patrick told him, and they went their separate ways.

 

I still can't believe this is happening. He left the door open a crack, and turned around, smiling foolishly at the room without really seeing much of it. The most interesting part was the bed - big enough for two, certainly. He felt warm, light, dizzy - this was it, he was in love with Alex. No doubt about it. He'd fallen in love with his summer fling, and now they were going to have another amazing night, and - well. It felt great.

 

Alex wanted him.

 

That thought on its own was enough to make him feel as if nothing could bring him down.

 

Patrick pulled his shirt over his head, humming lightly to himself, and absently tossed it aside. This is going to be great. I'll make sure of that. Great. Fabulous. Alex is mine, all mine…

 

The door creaked open behind him.

 

"Getting ready for me?" Alex asked, a brilliant smile on his face as he shut the door and stepped forward. "Awfully nice of you."

 

For some reason, the first thing that came to his mind at that was another corny line. "I aim to please."

 

Which, of course, Alex had never heard before anyway. "That's good to hear," he said in a low voice, and closed the distance into Patrick's personal space, kissing him soundly before pushing him back down onto the bed with all the eagerness the older boy could have asked for.

 

It ended up being quite a late night, but neither of them really minded.

 

~~~~~~

 

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