Threads of Fate
Patrick woke up to find that sometime during the night, Alex had rolled over onto his arm and the circulation to his hand had been all but cut off completely. A mild pins-and-needles prickling sensation had taken it over while the culprit slept on blissfully, unaware of the discomfort he caused.
I think I'm going to have to get used to sharing a bed, Patrick told himself ruefully, sliding the appendage carefully free and wincing as the prickling intensified.
"Mmph," Alex said in response to the motion, and rolled over, grey eyes barely slitting open to give his bedmate a sleepy but baleful stare. Apparently deciding it wasn't worth the effort after a moment, he slung one arm over Patrick's chest and snuggled him closer like some giant pillow, settling back in with a sigh.
Patrick was too charmed by this to protest.
Maybe getting used to it won't be so hard, he thought, running the still-tingling hand lightly over Alex's back. Hopefully he'd get the chance.
"Rrngh." Alex pulled back and his eyes opened a little wider this time. "St'pit," he mumbled, but arched into the touch anyway, sighing again. There was a certain amount of contentment in his expression.
Patrick smiled. "Stop what?" he murmured back, in an undertone.
"Distracting me." Like it or not, it looked like the younger boy was awake now. "S'too early for th- thi - " He yawned widely. " - things."
"Things?" Patrick repeated, amused.
"You know what I mean." Alex gave him a sleepy glare. "Hold on a minute." He pushed himself up a bit and squinted over to where early morning sunlight was streaming through the bottom of the door.
"What are you doing?"
Alex slumped back, giving him a pleased sort of smile, complete with heavy-lidded eyes. "No note," he explained, smugly.
Patrick grinned. "Marc slept in, maybe?"
"Maybe." The younger boy definitely didn't seem as interested in sleep then, rolling over to slide one leg over Patrick's and pressing his lips to his collar bone. "I think 'things' would be okay now," he said, a bit breathlessly.
No arguing with that. Patrick complied most enthusiastically.
If Marc had any comments to make about the sleeping arrangements, he kept them to himself - or maybe he'd made them the night before, and it was Alex who was keeping them to himself. In any case, aside from a few little smirks, he didn't bring the issue up.
Alex, at least, seemed very grateful for this.
They went back to hitchhiking immediately after breakfast, and Patrick wasn't too surprised to find that the atmosphere was considerably lighter. As long as Alex was in good spirits, it seemed like everyone was in good spirits.
And Alex was definitely in good spirits. He was even caught humming to himself a couple of times. He didn't seem very embarrassed about being caught, either.
Patrick felt he was justified in taking a certain amount of pride from that fact.
Newry, when they got there, turned out to be the sort of thing sometimes advertised in ads designed to appeal to people's desires for 'rest and relaxation'. The beaches were beautiful. Maybe it was just conditioned into him - in fact, it probably was, but Patrick felt calmer and lazier the second he'd stepped onto the sand.
Even with the activity on the beach.
Just something about it, I guess. Patrick wasn't complaining.
It was still some time before dinner, so he talked the twins into an hour or two of enjoying the almost-sunset by the Irish Sea. The coastline and the darkening sky combined gorgeously - it was compelling enough to even just lounge on the blanket in his swimsuit and stare into the distance.
"Still looks nice," Marc commented, from beside him. He was still dressed, but he'd taken off his shoes and rolled up the legs of his jeans to bury his feet in the sand. "Even after traveling around a lot. Coming to places like this can still take your breath away."
Alex snorted. "Well, it's nothing to get soppy about." Patrick had offered to use some of the money his father insisted that he spend - although he was getting toward the end of it - on a pair of swim trunks, but Alex had been too stubborn to take him up on it. Instead, he sat there in a pair of Patrick's own shorts and a button down shirt open at the front, resting back on his hands with his legs spread out in front of him. He looked very good.
Patrick had to reluctantly conclude that it wouldn't be a good idea to jump him on a public beach. Especially not with his brother sitting right next to them.
He was almost positive that Alex wouldn't have minded, though - once he got into it.
"I wonder when Etain will show up," Marc wondered, out loud.
Even that didn't seem to get the younger twin's spirits down. "Whenever she can get you alone, probably. Sleeveen that she is."
Marc smiled a bit, lifting one of his feet out from the layers of sand he'd covered it with. "She likes things her own way, that's all. Not unlike someone else I know." He shot a quick, knowing look in his brother's direction and got a grimace in response. "I don't mind seeing her alone."
"You wouldn't. She's got you all caught up in her evil clutches." Alex shifted his weight and waved one of his hands, almost absently. Then he grinned, eyes sliding towards Patrick for a minute. "It's all about the shagging, isn't it?"
Marc blinked, a bit startled, but recovered sooner. "If you'd like to think so."
Patrick's gaze transferred back and forth between the two of them, wide-eyed.
"Well, it's not a deterrent, is it?" Alex gazed off into the distance with a little smile on his face, trying for - and not quite achieving - complete innocence.
"I'm not complaining," Marc agreed, looking a bit amused.
"You two are supposed to be naïve," Patrick complained, rubbing a hand over his eyes. "Where did this come from, all of a sudden?"
"Alex is showing off the fact that he's not a virgin any more," Marc stated, calmly.
His brother immediately flushed and glared. "Hey! Don't forget how you acted when I found you at the sidhe court! All love-struck and following Etain around everywhere in case you and she could sneak off to find a private place."
Marc grinned sheepishly, but didn’t deny it.
"I don't remember doing this myself," Patrick admitted, shaking his head. "I was trying to avoid stereotypes, I think - the cocky teenaged male, bragging that he 'got some'. I just didn't want that to be me."
Alex eyed him with a certain calculated mistrust. "Guy or girl?"
"Who you slept with!" The dark-haired twin glared murder at him. "Male or female?"
"Oh." Patrick shrugged. Somehow, he couldn't manage to take the glare seriously. He didn't really think that Alex cared as much as he wanted to act like he did. "Female. Not that it matters."
Marc gave him a vaguely curious glance. "Why doesn't it matter?"
"I can't remember any kind of sex before two nights ago - ow!" Patrick grinned, rubbing his shoulder where Alex had punched him. At least part of that exclamation was real - Alex was no weakling, no matter how thin he looked. "Hey, that was a compliment, you know."
Alex settled back on his hands, seemingly placated now that he'd physically expressed his discontent. "Sounded more like a load of guff to me."
"Next time maybe I won't bother," Patrick said, resisting the urge to check for a bruise.
Marc smiled to himself, and tried to hide it by turning his head. Luckily, Alex didn't seem to be looking at him.
Thank whatever god might be looking on for those kinds of small blessings.
Alex spent the night in Patrick's room again, and didn't notice when Etain showed up at midnight. At least, Marc told Patrick privately later on that it had been midnight. He didn't have any reason to lie, but he might not have had such a good idea of the time.
Patrick decided it was better not to question.
In any case, Etain joined them for breakfast again, but Alex was considerably more amiable. In other words, he more or less avoiding talking to her altogether.
It wasn't much, but it was a step in the right direction.
"I have certain privileges due to my position as Huntress," Etain explained to them, as Marc paid very close attention to her, and Alex paid very close attention to his lemonade. She was dressed in jeans and a plain T-shirt, in stark contrast to the finery he'd seen her in last time. "It was my reason for taking on that persona. My intention was to help Marc for as long as he needed it."
Alex tipped back his glass to take a long gulp.
"How do you plan to help?" Patrick asked her, grateful that this meeting lacked the sheer amount of tension that had characterized the last.
She smiled brightly, as if his asking had made her entire morning. "I'll be providing you with a boat to take you to your next destination. And if I'm needed, of course…" She spread her hands. "I'll do my best."
"Where does our next destination happen to be?" Marc asked, curiously.
"The Isle of Man."
Alex set his glass down hard. "What's on the Isle of Man?" he asked, almost managing not to sound belligerent. Almost.
"Who you're expected to consult." Abruptly, Etain seemed to sober up; she glanced at the blond in the chair beside hers, looking a little concerned. "The Leansidhe."
Both Marc and Alex stared at her.
"What?" Marc said faintly, after a moment. "Leansidhe…"
Etain nodded, slowly. "We understand it's dangerous. You may not want to take the risk. But of anyone, the solitary we know the least of is her. She might know of a way to help you - no one can say, either way. That is why my father called it a fool's hope."
"She likes. Blood." Alex annunciated the words carefully, glaring suspiciously at the girl. "It wouldn't do any good to save Marc if she decides to drain us all dry once we're done."
Etain spread her hands again, out of helplessness this time. "It is your only chance."
Alex slumped back into his seat, still glowering.
"I'm a little confused," Patrick admitted, glancing around at the other occupants of the table. "What is the Leansidhe? And why is going to see it such a big deal?"
Marc beat his brother to that one. "The Leansidhe is a solitary faerie who is said to live on the Isle of Man. She doesn't have dealings with the Tuatha de Danann, so they don't know much about her. And" - he hesitated for a moment - "she's very dangerous."
Patrick nodded, slowly. "How so?"
"Because she steals people's blood, that's how so - it's the source of her powers and inspiration." Alex looked exasperated. "How can we get answers from her? She'd probably attack us on sight!"
Etain was silent.
"We'll have to find a way, I suppose." Marc sighed, and glanced at the girl beside him again. "I don't suppose the iron would work against her?"
"That wouldn't make sense." Finally, Patrick felt like he had something worthwhile to contribute. "Blood has iron in it. If she drinks blood, it's probably safe to say that she doesn't mind iron that much."
Alex chewed on his bottom lip, apparently trying to be rational rather than dismissing the idea altogether. "Shamrocks? Smoke? Would either of those work?"
"Most likely both," Etain said, with a faint, apologetic smile. "But I cannot say for sure. It is even possible that the iron would work; pure iron is very different from a bloodstream containing iron, and I have never heard of any other of my kind who could bear the touch."
"So we shouldn't toss these things into the trash, you mean," Patrick said with a wry smile, tugging at his neckpiece.
"I would say not," she agreed, and then her smiled brightened for a moment. "But I ask you not to inform my father that I was the one who advised this."
"Your secret is safe with us," Marc said, with mock gravity. "Anyway, I'm sure we'll think of something. Unless Alex thinks it's too much of a risk?" He raised an eyebrow at his brother, almost challengingly.
"Of course not!" Alex looked indignant. "I'm not giving up now." He looked over toward Etain. "You said you'd give us a boat?"
She nodded. "You would be wise to take my offer. The destination is not exactly as you are thinking it."
Patrick blinked. "It's not the Isle of Man?"
Alex glared. "You just said - "
"It is indeed the Isle," Etain interrupted him, shutting her eyes momentarily. "It is only - " She paused again, opening her eyes and looking a bit agitated. "How do I say this? It is in a different space. A different… plane? That is where you will find the Leansidhe."
"Not our version of the Isle of Man, then," Marc guessed, watching her carefully.
Etain nodded, smiling with some relief. "Yes, exactly. An ordinary boat would not carry you that far, or with that measure of accuracy that is needed."
"Okay, so we need your boat." Alex narrowed his eyes at her. "Why are you helping us?"
She sighed. "I have explained already…"
He didn't look convinced. "Well, it just seems awfully convenient that we can only get there with one of your boats, which you just happen to have ready to offer us."
"Alex." Marc's voice was weary.
"Well, it's true!" his twin shot back, huffing a bit.
"If you don't wish to believe me," Etain remarked coolly, drawing herself up with a considerable amount of dignity, "then there is nothing else I can help you with, is there? I can only provide the truth - there is no proof I can offer to back it."
Patrick glanced apologetically at Alex. "That's true, too," he pointed out.
The younger boy looked more than a little put out.
"Alex," Marc said again, in a placating tone. "We have to choose, one way or another. If we don't believe Etain, then we're back to having nothing, and what would we do about that decision Midhir asked us to make?"
The wind seemed to go out of Alex at that point; he slumped back into his seat again, looking disgruntled. "I guess," he mumbled, grudgingly.
"I am so happy to have earned such faith," Etain commented, wryly. She looked a bit annoyed. "I don't suppose anything I do could make me worthy of your trust, since you seem to have come to the conclusion that I am your enemy."
"You want the one thing I don't want, no matter what," Alex told her, bluntly. "Doesn't that make you my enemy? We're working on opposite sides."
She shook her head, and looked a bit unhappy for a moment. "But towards the same end."
"I'll believe that when you give me proof, and not before."
Patrick figured this would be a perfect time to cut in. "How soon are we leaving?" he asked Etain. It was probably better to pretend that the argument just hadn't happened.
"Once night falls, we can depart." When Alex turned to stare at her incredulously, she smiled. "I will be along to direct the ship, of course."
"You are not coming with us!" He looked positively livid. "No way!"
"I'm afraid it's not up for discussion." Her expression turned hard. "You are using my boat, and I must be present. Keep to the opposite side of the craft if you must, but I will be along."
Alex was starting to turn red. Patrick decided that some hasty covering-up was needed. "But," he interjected, "you're not coming with us onto the island, right?"
She seemed to understand his intentions, cocking her head to the side a bit as she glanced back at him. "Correct. Once I have done my part, I must return."
"So it's not going to be for long." That part, he directed at Alex. "Less than twenty-four hours, right?"
"Less than six," she promised, with another faint smile.
"See? It won't be that bad." Patrick did his best to look reassuring as he smiled at the younger twin. "Think about it as an obstacle you need to get through to reach the goal. Does that make it any easier?"
He was heartened by the way Alex's expression seemed to drain of anger. "I guess."
"That's settled, then," Marc said, and smiled at Etain, eyes melting just a bit. She smiled back, looking no less star-struck.
Patrick watched them for a moment, and then sighed. "What do you say to breakfast in the motel room?" he suggested to Alex, ruefully.
The dark-haired twin was watching his brother and the faerie princess with a certain amount of resignation. "Yeah," he said after a minute, letting out a long, almost frustrated breath. "That's probably a good idea."