Threads of Fate

 

 

Part Three

 

~~~

 

"Sorry."

 

Patrick blinked. Considered rubbing his ears out. Figured it would probably look rude. Blinked again, and stared down at the picture in front of him. "Sorry?"

 

The picture included a very embarrassed-looking Alexander, whose cheeks were a bit red and who was staring fixedly at some point beyond Patrick's shoulder, eyebrows slanted down as if he were blaming the wall outside the motel's front desk for his having to make the apology in the first place. "For eating your head off last night."

 

Patrick sighed, and reached into his back pocket.

 

"Oh, for feck's sake, don't bring out that stupid book!" Alex's glare actually fixed itself to the face it was supposed to be aiming for then. "For snapping at you, being rude, telling you to shove off… pick one, I don't care. I was acting the gom - I made a right bags of everything, and you helped… so, sorry. And thank you." He colored again, and looked down at his feet.

 

"Um." Patrick wasn't too sure what to say to that - pretty much anything would probably only embarrass Alex further. "I think I still need the book," he commented, instead.

 

"Ugh. Fine." Alex looked up again, scowling at him. "You really know how to put the kibosh on it, don't you?"

 

The dictionary came out. "I think that's three now."

 

"I gave back our keys," Marc's voice announced suddenly, as the boy himself came out from the little office area that housed the main desk for the motel. He smiled at Patrick. "Morning. I didn't see you walk up - did you sleep okay?"

 

He looked as normal as he ever had - if it weren't for Alex's apology, Patrick might think he'd dreamt the whole thing. Except that he hadn't done much sleeping that night. "Better than I thought I would."

 

The smile faded a bit, and Marc sighed, looking almost sad again. "I'm sorry about that. Honestly, there's no warning for those… um. Fits, I guess you'd call them." He shrugged a bit awkwardly. "Every now and then, they just happen."

 

"If you can't help them, they're not your fault." For a moment, Patrick hesitated. He wanted to ask about the strange waves he'd felt - the weirdness in the air as the blond twin had that unexpected episode. But a quick glance from Alex's face to Marc's told him that asking questions would probably be a great way to get both of them to completely clam up. "Don't worry about it," he said instead, with a crooked grin.

 

At some point, though, he told himself, he was going to find out what was going on.

 

~~~~~~

 

"So." The driver of the nice black Honda they'd been offered the conveniences of gave Marc a friendly-looking smile. He was middle-aged, and dressed sharply, with a head full of greying brown hair and a fairly tall frame. "Where are you fellas headed?"

 

"Antrim." Alex leaned forward from the back seat, between the driver and passenger seats, so that his voice would be heard over the music playing on the radio. "How far are you going?"

 

The man laughed, shooting a quick, indulgent smile over his shoulder without taking too much attention from the road. "Your lucky day, I'd say - I'm on the way to Antrim myself."

 

"That is lucky." Marc smiled, looking a little vague again. There was something odd about him since the incident - well, more odd than usual. Patrick wasn't too sure what it was, but somehow, he seemed to have been sharpened - outlined, or highlighted. It was hard to take your eyes off him. His attention, by contrast, seemed less focussed than ever - sometimes he missed things that had been said, and there were times when he looked so far away from his own body that it'd take a plane to fly him back.

 

Alex was obviously anxious, but his anxiety made him so irritable that Patrick didn't think it was worth the trouble it'd cause if he asked what the matter was.

 

The younger twin leaned back into his seat, letting out a sigh, and then glanced quickly over at Patrick. "I know what you're wondering," he said, in a tone that suggested that he was sick and tired of listening to the other boy think. His words were quiet enough so that he wouldn't be heard over the radio. "Marc's always a bit out of it after he has one of his fits. It's not anything major, so you can stop giving yourself a brainache over it."

 

Patrick looked at him for a moment, assessing his mood, before carefully replying with, "It's not really any of my business."

 

Alex snorted, and gave him a wry look in return. "No, but between the three of us, we've made it your business, and there's not much to be done about it now."

 

"Well… okay." So maybe it'd be worth the risk - the worst that could happen was that he'd be told to shut up. Patrick took in a quick breath, and went on to ask. "In that case, can you explain to me what those, um, waves were last night?"

 

Immediately, Alex's posture became very stiff; he turned his gaze out the window. "Don't know what you're talking about," he muttered, so quietly that Patrick almost didn't hear it.

 

Big red flashing lights were shining in Patrick's head. Neon lights, at that. Very bright. "All right, never mind." Obviously that much of their business wasn't his business just yet.

 

Marc suddenly shifted around in his seat, looking over his shoulder to grin at them. "What are you two talking about back there?" he asked, teasingly.

 

"Nothing," Alex said, just a little too quickly, snapping his eyes forward to glare at his brother, and then corrected himself, "How much the bathroom stinks when you leave it. What the hell do you eat when I'm not looking?"

 

The blond drew himself up indignantly. "You should talk! They probably had to get the motel fumigated after you left the place this morning! Don't ever decide to live with this guy, Patrick," he added, altering his gaze a bit and pointing accusingly at his twin. "He hogs the shower too - always goes first, and uses up all the hot water while he's at it."

 

"I do not!"

 

Marc gave him a smug sort of look. "You take longer than most girls getting clean."

 

"Well, you're the one who never changes socks until they start rotting off your feet," Alex accused, leaning forward against the seatbelt holding his shoulders back. "People around you need a gas mask whenever you take off your shoes."

 

"That's an exaggeration and you know it!"

 

"Yeah? Then why don't you go ahead and take them off, and prove it?"

 

"Please don't," Patrick cut in, sending a pained look Marc's way. He wondered absently what their driver must think - but the man must've had kids himself, because he was chuckling to himself as he drove. In the rear-view mirror, he saw the guy's eyes dart quickly over toward Marc, with something like…

 

Patrick couldn't place it. And for some reason, he felt suddenly very uneasy.

 

Alex obviously didn't catch it because he grinned, triumphant. "See?"

 

"Sure, get your boyfriend to help you," Marc shot back, and smirked at the way color spread across his brother's face. "I'll let you two get back to whispering at each other," he added airily, and turned around again.

 

Alex slumped sullenly back into his seat. "Bogger," he muttered, glaring at the back of Marc's head.

 

Patrick turned his head so his grin wouldn't be caught.

 

Not quick enough, apparently. "What are you laughing at?"

 

"Nothing." That sounded innocent enough. "I just thought of something funny."

 

The younger boy muttered something under his breath and crossed his arms over his chest like a petulant child, sinking down even further.

 

The scenery was absolutely beautiful. And very green. Patrick spent the rest of the trip watching it through the car window, without any distractions beyond the radio playing. He'd never been able to sleep in a car himself, but both Alex and Marc nodded off after a while, leaning against their respective windows. Put them next to each other, and it would've been a Kodak moment, most likely.

 

The thought made him smile to himself.

 

"I need to gas up," their driver said, as they passed a sign at the side. "They won't mind if I stop, you think?" He glanced quickly at Marc, and then back at Patrick. "Maybe you fellas would like a bathroom break?"

 

"Huh - sure." He didn't actually have to go, but it might be nice to stretch his legs a bit. There was something about sitting in a car for long periods of time that really made a person antsy. And that uneasy feeling was back - for some reason it seemed to spark up whenever their driver looked at the blond sleeping next to him.

 

I need some air, I think. He was starting to imagine all kinds of things.

 

They pulled into a station about two or three minutes later, and Patrick leaned over to shake Alex awake as their driver got out of the car to pump gas.

 

"Mmrgh… what'reyaon'bout?" The dark-haired boy shifted under his hand, as if lazily trying to shake him off. "M'avin'adream…"

 

Patrick grinned, and managed to not think too hard about the warm, pliant lump under his hand. "Any water in there? Because we're at a bathroom now, and we might not be again for a while. I'd take advantage of it while you can."

 

"Huh… ergh…" With a slight yawn, Alex sat up and looked around blearily. "Where are we?"

 

"On the way to Antrim?" How was he supposed to know where they were? He wasn't the one who lived in Ireland, was he? "Just a sec, I'll get Marc up."

 

"There's only one spot in the Jacks here." The driver was back, offering them an easy smile. "How about the pair of you go ahead, and I'll get your brother after you when someone's finished up?"

 

"That sounds fair," Patrick agreed, deliberately pushing aside that uneasy feeling again. That unanswered question about Marc's fit was probably making him imagine that he was seeing things.

 

Alex, though, had gone very quiet. He looked at the man for a long second, and then nodded. "All right. Come on, then."

 

He stayed quiet even as they went inside; Patrick felt a bit funny about it. Somehow, it didn't seem like the silence came from having just woken up. He took his turn first, and then wandered over to the window at the convenience store to check out the scenery. It looked like they were in the middle of nowhere - green rolling hills with the occasional patch of forest all around. And there'd been a couple of signs telling them they were still quite a ways from Antrim - a long time even in the car.

 

So, 'the middle of nowhere' is probably right.

 

"Done." Alex came up behind him a second later. His expression, when Patrick turned around to see it, was subdued. "You sleep in the car at all?"

 

"Uh - no." Patrick gave him a quizzical look. "I don't sleep well in something that's moving. Why?"

 

"You might get tired, that's all." Alex's voice was about as subdued as his face, almost an undertone. "The car's gone."

 

"What?" He spun around, half-running out to the front area. The car was, indeed, gone. The two bags - one belonging to him and the other to the twins - were left lying on the ground where the car had been, as if they'd been shoved out in a hurry. "Shit! You're right!" They were going to have to hitchhike again - try and find someone else to carry them on their way… "Why would he - ?"

 

Patrick's thoughts caught up to his words, and he stopped right in the middle of that question.

 

Holy shit… Marc!

 

Spinning around again, he faced Alex, who had come out of the convenience are and was staring at him with a blank expression. "Marc was still in the car! Jesus Christ! That guy took off with him!" He should've been paying attention - damn, he'd just shrugged the feeling off, but there it was… "What are we going to - ?"

 

"Yeah, he was." Alex's expression didn't change; he took a couple more steps forward, and stared off down the road, impassively. "Maybe we should walk the rest of the way to Antrim," he mused out loud.

 

Patrick stared at him. What the hell? "That guy just abducted Marc!" he almost yelped, incredulously watching as the younger boy tilted his head back toward him. "We have to do something - call the police, or - or - or tell someone or - " He paused, trying to find another option.

 

Alex was looking at him appraisingly. "You saw it, didn't you?" he said after a minute, still with that infuriating calm.

 

He couldn't believe it… Damn, this was surreal… "Saw it?" Patrick repeated weakly, after a minute. His head was whirling.

 

The dark-haired twin nodded. "People notice Marc," he said, and shrugged. "He… attracts them, sort of." A corner of his mouth tugged up. "That's what makes you such a bloody header. You're not supposed to notice me."

 

"I don't go for blonds." The words were automatic; he blinked a few times and stared at Alex with deep confusion. "But what - I mean - about Marc…?"

 

"What about me?"

 

Patrick spun a third time. The blond twin stood in the doorway of the convenience store, looking at him quizzically. "Sorry," Marc said, with a bit of a smile. "I was using the toilet. Did our ride run off on us?"

 

Wha… but… he… "I didn't see you go in there!" Patrick accused, pointing a shaky finger at the boy as if to make some point. What the hell is going on around here? This is like the twilight zone or something!

 

"Well, he was there," Alex said, as if that answered everything, and shrugged. "You ask too many questions. That guy left. We're here. Let's walk now." He strolled calmly over to where the car had been and picked up his bag, shouldering it. "Come on."

 

Patrick glanced helplessly from Alex to Marc. The blond gave him a brief shrug and an apologetic smile, and then moved to follow his brother.

 

After a moment of agonized, extremely confused silence, Patrick joined them.

 

~~~~~~

 

They did not get to Antrim by the end of the day. "Not likely tomorrow either," Alex predicted, and from what Patrick could see on his map, he was probably right. The sun was setting, so they set up camp, just outside a little grove of trees - far enough from the road so that they wouldn't easily be seen.

 

"We should have an extra blanket," Marc offered, when Patrick admitted that he hadn't come prepared for sleeping outside. "The weather's not bad. We'll get a fire going, and it'll work out good. Here." He handed over an armful of worn wool blanket that he'd just pulled from their pack as Alex set up a fire pit.

 

Patrick had recovered from his moment of shock a long time before they'd stopped, and he was keeping his questions to himself. It wasn't like they'd be answered anyway. "Why don't we camp out in the trees if you're worried about us being seen?" he asked instead.

 

Alex looked up from the makeshift pit. "Because the moon is waxing," he answered, as if that explained everything.

 

"What does that have to do with it?"

 

The dark-haired boy sighed, and gave him a condescending look. "The Sidhe Draoi roam about at Esbats - when the moon is full - and the closer it is to fullness, the more power they have. I'd rather not risk sleeping in the trees."

 

"She… Dra…?" Patrick stumbled with the words.

 

"Sidhe," Alex repeated distinctly, then sighed again, long-suffering, and took a stick to print the letters into the ground. "S. I. D. H. E. Sidhe."

 

"Sidhe." He repeated the word again, lost. "Uh…"

 

"Daoine Sidhe," Marc said suddenly, voice soft. When Patrick looked over, he was staring at the trees, eyes almost wistful. "The Faerie People."

 

"Faeries?" Patrick repeated, a bit incredulously. "You believe in that sort of thing?"

 

Marc was quiet again, almost broodily so. Alex, however, glared. "The Sidhe Draoi," he said distinctly, as if he hadn't heard Patrick ridicule him, "are tree spirits. Faerie Druids. Dryads. They only answer to the High King, Midhir, and his wife-Queen Etain."

 

"And their daughter," Marc added, still in that soft voice, a bit of a sad note creeping into it. "Also Etain."

 

Alex made a derisive noise, and attacked the fire pit with abrupt ferocity.

 

Locals. Patrick decided not to comment. Whatever he believed, they obviously thought the whole faery thing was important. It was probably better not to push any kind of judgement on it.

 

"There." Alex sat back a moment later, staring at the fire he'd just created with satisfaction. "We'll be warm tonight, anyhow."

 

"I don't think we have anything to cook," Marc commented, coming over to sit down beside him on the ground. "I bought some sandwiches this morning, remember? At that deli. They should still be good."

 

Patrick did remember. "How did you know we'd need them?" he asked, seating himself on Alex's other side. He carefully made sure there was a comfortable amount of space between them.

 

Marc smiled at him - the kind of smile one might give a child who couldn't possibly understand the question they'd just asked. "I had a feeling," he said, simply, and shrugged.

 

He finally remembered I'm a tourist? Patrick wondered if maybe his reaction to Alex's superstition had suddenly reminded them of that. "So, what's the story behind those… the sidhe?" he asked, as a bit of a concession.

 

"Daoine Sidhe," Alex corrected him, immediately. He looked up warily, as if he wasn't sure whether or not Patrick was mocking him - and then mimicked his brother's shrug, picking up a stick to poke at the fire with. "Most people are most familiar with the Tuatha De Danann, Regal Faeries - those ruled over by Midhir and Etain." He paused for a minute, then added, "Stories say it was Midhir's spiriting away of Etain - a mortal - that eventually had the barrier placed between our plane and the Sidhe Realm. Mortals can't touch sidhe treasures or eat sidhe food without losing something of themselves." He went silent, eyes fixed on the fire moodily.

 

"It sets a claim," Marc added, in that quiet tone again. There were odd shadows playing about on his face, from the fire. "Legends speak of trials where mortals are tempted with banquets set out by the Daoine Sidhe in their own realm. If you fail the test and eat the food, they can keep you there as long as they like."

 

"Unless someone else rescues you," Alex added, quickly and firmly. He let out a breath and gave his brother a bit of a pained look. "But there are still problems with that."

 

Marc said nothing, and didn't meet his brother's gaze.

 

"We'll need more wood to keep the fire going." Alex stood up, abruptly, tossing down his stick. "I'll go and gather some."

 

"Weren't you worried about the… the dryads?" Patrick asked, raising his voice as the dark-haired twin stalked purposefully toward the woods. "I thought you said they were more powerful because the moon is waxing."

 

Alex threw a quick, unworried glance over his shoulder. "I said we shouldn't camp there - I'm not so worried for me," he called back. "Back in a bit. Don't worry for me." And then he was swallowed up by the shadows that had formed around the trees, almost as if they'd reached out and pulled him into their depths. The branches even seemed almost as if they were bending forward, barring his return path.

 

Patrick swallowed a short burst of uneasiness. All the talk about legends was creeping him out just a little.

 

"He's like that sometimes," Marc told him, with a rueful smile. It almost sounded like he was trying to apologize for his brother in some way. "It'll drive you mad after a while - he's terribly reckless about his own safety."

 

"But pretty protective of you," Patrick added, retrieving the abandoned stick.

 

"Of course, but that's understandable." The blond shrugged. "The way he sees it, I can't look after myself - not in my condition, anyhow. It's ridiculous, and he knows I hate it, but he does it anyway. Sometimes I think only to be stubborn."

 

Several of Patrick's friends had had siblings of some sort, and he was familiar with this complaint. "Probably," he agreed, allowing himself a bit of a smile.

 

Marc was regarding him with an expression that Patrick decided after a moment was probably a mix between teasing and hopeful. "You like my brother a lot, don't you?"

 

Strangely - considering that Marc had known for a while, and he'd known Marc had known - having to admit it made Patrick kind of embarrassed. "Yeah," he said, and poked at the fire with more care than was really necessary. Man, this is like being back in elementary school…

 

"Well, good." The smile Marc gifted him with at that was wide and warm and openly relieved. "Alex gets lonely sometimes, you know? I mean, I'm there, but… that's not exactly what I mean. I think it's nice that someone likes him, even if he doesn't deal with it well." That came with another apologetic shrug.

 

"Uh. Yeah." Patrick rubbed at the back of his neck, not sure if he liked the idea of the pressure that came with that statement. "It can't be more than a summer fling, though - I mean, if he decides he's interested. He might not. But, uh, I'll be leaving in a couple of weeks."

 

"I know. And it's too bad." Marc shrugged a little, but didn't lose the smile. "Forgive me if it sounds selfish, but I'm satisfied that someone like you is so obviously interested in Alex - it doesn't matter so much to me whether he returns it. Does that make sense?"

 

"Yeah." Of course it wouldn't matter so much what Patrick got out of this; Marc hardly knew him, and Alex was his brother, after all. "No offense taken."

 

"Good. That said…" Marc's gaze was suddenly quite flat; the vagueness took nothing away from it, and the shadows from the fire added to it significantly. "Hurt my brother, and I'll make you sorry for it. Understand?"

 

Patrick nodded quickly. Not that he'd ever thought about hurting Alex, but… still. It was enough to make a person nervous. "Perfectly."

 

"As long as you do." Marc shrugged, and abruptly the smile was back, a little sheepish that time. "Sorry. Alex and I are more alike than I'd care to admit, I think."

 

"You're not really that much alike."

 

"'Not really that much' is still too much for me," Marc said, leaning back and looking a bit miffed. "I don't want to be anything like him. He's my brother and I like his company, but I don't want his personality at all. He probably thinks the same thing about me," he added, thoughtfully.

 

Patrick poked at the fire and smiled a bit, awkwardly. "I guess."

 

The blond glanced at him, curiously. "I can't imagine what it's like to grow up with no siblings," he admitted after a moment. "Much as Alex annoys me sometimes, I really wouldn't want to. Do you ever feel lonely?"

 

Looking up again, Patrick shook his head. "No. I wouldn't know what to compare it to, though. It's hard to think about what it'd be like if I had a brother or sister."

 

"I suppose ignorance is bliss, either way - neither of us knows what we're missing." Marc rested back on his hands and stared up at the sky, almost dreamily.

 

It was a comfortable silence that time rather than awkward; Patrick didn't mind letting the subject drop, poking absently at the fire as Marc wandered off to whatever separate mental world kept him occupied when he wasn't fully present in the real one.

 

He didn’t wonder about what it'd be like to live with a twin brother, really - but Patrick definitely did wonder what it was like to live with Alex.

 

~~~~~~

 

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