Threads of Fate
"Over there," Alex pointed out, his eyes bright, "is the Strangford Lough and there," he pointed again, "is the Lough Neagh - you saw that when we were in Antrim, remember? You can see quite a bit from this mountain, if you happen to take the road that curves around it."
They were in the back of another truck - a much newer one than the last - and on their way to Newry. The mountain had not really been unexpected, but it was an interesting sight all the same.
"What are these mountains called again?" Patrick asked, speaking above the roar from the truck.
"The Mourne Mountains." Alex was actually beaming at him, looking more than happy with the chance to show off some of his knowledge. "I'm surprised you haven't heard of them - they're the best known range in Ireland. Newry sits between them, that's why it's such a tourist attraction. And this" - he indicated the beast they were driving around - "is Slieve Donard, the largest peak."
Patrick believed it. The thing was huge.
"We'll be getting near the top," the younger twin reminded him cheerfully. "It's good luck our driver's interested in seeing the sights himself - we'll get to have lunch with the view all around. You've saved your camera film, haven't you?"
"Oh, there's enough of that," Patrick assured him, wryly. "More than enough."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that."
Patrick found out what he meant when they actually did reach their lunch time stopping point.
"Holy cow!" The view was breathtaking. The lakes that Alex had pointed out were in clear view, sparkling appealingly in the sunlight. To the other side, he could see Newry spread out between the mountains, and the Irish Sea some direction beyond that. It was an inspiring sight, giving him the impression that he was standing up on a cloud, surveying the world as some demigod who could observe everything at once if he chose.
"Told you so," Alex pointed out, smugly, and waved a hand toward an unusual-looking circle made up of hills. "That's the Ring of Gullion - and the mountain they're in the shadow of is Slieve Gullion." He ignored the way his brother watched him indulgently, and their driver - an older man - smiled faintly at the bit of tourist information. "They say it's the home of Cuchulainn, a warrior who had superhuman qualities. He was defeated with the use of magic by Maeve, Queen of Connaught."
Patrick suspected there were probably a hundred or more of that kind of story stored in Alex's consciousness - giving the slightest trigger would probably bring one out. "You'll have to tell me the story some time."
"All right," the younger boy agreed, easily. "Maybe when we're back in the truck - there's still a bit of a ways to go."
Could I get used to this? Patrick turned his gaze from Alex to Marc for a moment, feeling uneasy. The blond studied him back gravely - somehow, meeting that gaze was just too much and he had to turn away, frowning a bit. Something less practical than he was used to listening to was telling that yes, he could - that wasn't the question.
Could I ever be a replacement for a twin brother he loves more than anything else in the world?
There was a piece of land visible out in the Irish sea - an island of some sort. Patrick wasn't sure why, but when his eyes caught on it, he had an odd sense of foreboding - and welcome. It was unsettling, and he swallowed a bit, suddenly nervous.
"Patrick?" Alex looked at him curiously.
"That island." He pointed, trying not to sound too anxious about it. "What's it called?"
"Oh, that." The dark-haired boy frowned, following his gaze. "That's the Isle of Man - named for the Sea God, Manann. We won't be going there any time soon," he added, firmly.
Patrick wasn't sure he was right about that. "Why?"
"It's dangerous - especially for Marc." Alex's voice lowered so that their driver wouldn't catch his words. "There's a large bit of sidhe lore there - mostly of the solitary kind, but it's best to be careful. The same sort of force that pulls humans to Marc will work more so for the Daoine Sidhe."
Abruptly, he shifted back into tour guide mode. "They say the Giant-God Finn MacCool scooped the land out from where Lough Neagh is and hurled it into the Irish Sea - that's how there came to be an island there."
Patrick nodded, accepting the answer, and turned away, trying to push the strange feeling out of his head. Hopefully it was just nerves or superstition.
"What are you doing out here?"
Patrick looked up. He was sitting on the stairs leading to the upstairs floor at the motel, and - as he had the morning before - he found himself being interrupted in his musing by one of the twins.
The younger twin this time, though.
"Just thinking," he admitted, moving over a bit in case Alex either wanted to move past him or sit down.
Alex sat down. "I noticed. All day, on and off, hasn't it been?"
Patrick gave him a quick, surprised look.
The younger boy smiled, a bit sharply but not with any real malice. "I can notice things, believe it or not. I didn't say anything, because you were at least present enough to listen to me when I talked to you, and believe me, I've become good at telling when a person's not really all the way there."
"I believe you." Patrick shook his head. It was dark, but there were lights under the rafters that allowed him to see Alex. The things that made him beautiful - his features and shape - somehow seemed to have more power combined with his expressions, in the dark, highlighted by some dull motel lighting, a little grimy from traveling. This was someone he might end up falling in love with for the first time.
I've known him less than a week. Somehow, that thought wasn't compelling, but it ran through his head anyway. I go on one vacation, and it drives me completely crazy.
"You're doing it again," Alex pointed out, with exaggerated patience.
"Oh, right." Patrick shrugged, and gave him a sheepish grin. "Sorry. Did you want to talk?"
"Um. Sort of." Abruptly, Alex's manner changed - he looked away quickly, and hunched his shoulders a bit, although he didn't blush. "I - well. I wanted to - to - " He stumbled, and stopped for a minute, swallowing hard and directing his gaze up as if looking for inspiration.
"Wanted to…?" Patrick prompted, and then immediately felt bad. "I'm sorry, you look like you're having trouble. Don't worry about it - just say it when you've got the right words."
"Right." The smile Alex offered him then was shaky. "I don't know if there are right words for this," he muttered, looking away again. "Listen. Okay." He took in a long breath, and squared his shoulders. "I wanted to ask - "
He didn't get a chance to finish. From the direction of their rooms came the tell-tale thump, and Patrick shut his eyes as he felt a ripple in the air around him.
Alex was on his feet a half-second later, easily tossing aside what he'd intended to say.
Patrick followed him up the stairs. The room door had been left open - probably a smart move on Alex's part considering what had happened the last time Marc had been in a motel room on his own. All the younger twin had to do was shove it open and dart inside to sooth his brother out of the fit that was already making the air around them shift and thicken.
"Marc! Marky, it's okay. It's okay."
Alex alone wasn't strong enough to keep Marc from moving - it was all he could do to hold his brother in one place. Restraining all of his limbs was only a matter of luck. He basically had to ride out the storm and do his best, which worked fine but it wasn't perfect.
Well… If I can't replace him, at least I can be useful while he's still here. Patrick quickly knelt beside Alex and added his weight to the restraints on the older twin, trying to ignore the animal noises coming from Marc's throat as he struggled.
It was really a weird situation.
But it was worth it, he thought, because Alex shot him a quick, grateful look before returning all of his attention to his brother - and that was somehow enough.
I'm hopeless, I guess, he thought wryly, and under his hands, Marc's struggles began to subside. "I think he's almost through it," he said out loud, forcing his voice to stay even and calm.
Alex nodded, obviously distracted. "Marc," he repeated, urgently. "Marky?"
The expression on the blond's face wasn't anywhere near as heartbreaking as the last time; rather, he looked as if he were in deep thought or communication - eyes tightly shut, breathing hard, his mouth moving a bit as if he were trying to speak but not quite managing.
"Marc?" Patrick surprised himself with how concerned he sounded - and had to admit, it was honest concern. Even having known them for so short a while, it wasn't just Alex he'd ended up sincerely caring about. "You're back?"
"She wasn't… there. That time." Marc let out a long sigh, almost disappointed, and abruptly relaxed under their hold on him. "She… she wasn't… I didn't see…"
"Don't think about her." Alex's voice was sharp; he seemed to realize that himself, and made an effort to soften it in the next instant. "Don't worry about it, Marc - it's okay. Right?"
The blond didn't answer him, but turned his face away, expression wistful.
Patrick felt almost guilty - as if by snapping him out of the fit, he'd ruined something for him. "Who's she?" he asked, and blinked, reminded of when he'd asked the exact same question. Back in the woods…
"A girl. One of them." Alex looked a bit defensive as he answered - then seemed to give up, and shrugged a bit. "Her name's Etain. After her mother."
A piece of conversation was coming back to him - something Marc had said… "You mean the daughter of that High King and Queen, right? Like a faerie princess?"
"Sort of." The younger twin looked oddly agitated. "Look. Maybe you'd better… I mean - I appreciate you helping and all, but. Well. I've got to get Marc settled, and - "
"And I can't help," Patrick finished. He let a corner of his mouth tug up, hoping to reassure the other boy. "Don’t worry about it. I'll be next door if you need me - don't worry about waking me up or anything, okay?"
Alex licked his lips, and smiled faintly in return, raising his eyes to meet Patrick's gaze for just a minute before turning away again. "Yeah," he agreed, very quietly.
"Night," Patrick said, a bit awkwardly, and left the room, shutting the door behind him.
He wasn't sure what time it was when the knock came on his door. The clock beside him on the bedside table said twelve-twenty-one, but considering what kind of effect Marc had had on the air, who knew whether or not that was the real time? Patrick sat up, blinking rapidly to try and get his eyes less blurry.
Wonder what's up…
It was Alex on the other side of the door - not that this was surprising. Marc was almost certainly out for the night, sleeping off the effects of his fit. And no one else in the place was likely to want to see him.
"Um," he said, not too sure what was appropriate at the moment. He was just in boxers and a T-shirt, and it somehow seemed odd to be having the younger boy visit him in his motel room. "Hi?"
And this wasn't exactly his most intelligent hour, either.
"Hi." Alex fidgeted a bit, and then set his jaw a bit stubbornly, and boldly met Patrick's eyes. "Can I come in?"
He hadn't been expecting that. Patrick blinked a bit, trying to process those words, and then realized that he hadn't answered and was probably making Alex feel even more uncomfortable, standing just outside his room being stared at. "Oh, right. Right. Come on in." He moved back, holding the door open.
The younger boy stepped inside quickly, letting his host shut the door behind him. "You're probably wondering what I'm doing getting you out of the scratcher at this hour, am I right?"
Patrick gave him a blank look in return. "Scratcher?"
"Bed," Alex clarified. Oddly, the clarification of the meaning behind his slang term seemed to relax him a bit. "I want to. Uh. To… ask. Or. Something," he finished weakly, looking a lot less sure of himself once he'd gotten that out.
"Ask?" Patrick repeated. His mind wasn't quite awake yet. "What?"
"Oh, feck it!" Alex ran an anxious hand through his hair. "I'm making a right bags of this. Mess," he added, before Patrick could ask. "There's no real right way to go about this, I think," he muttered, almost as an afterthought.
The older boy shrugged helplessly. "I really have no idea what you're talking about," he admitted.
"Right." Alex made a face, then laughed a bit, nervously. "Right. Well, if words won't do it… I think this is - pretty standard?" He took a few hesitant steps closer, and then awkwardly set his hands on Patrick's shoulders, leaning up carefully to kiss him.
Holy Jesus… There was enough time to be surprised and get over it - Alex seemed to want to linger, despite apparently not knowing what the experience of kissing entailed. He was almost painfully still, lips soft but unmoving as if he were the one who'd just been completely caught off guard.
Every nerve on Patrick's body tingled; instinctively, he slung his arms around Alex's body and did his best to guide him into actually kissing while really just holding on for dear life.
This… was an experience.
Alex let out a little surprised noise and pulled back for just a second - long enough to meet Patrick's gaze with enough heat and determination to provide the scene with its realism - before diving back in with considerably more enthusiasm. His lips were warm and clumsy and altogether welcoming as his grip on the older boy tightened, fueled by something that might've been a mix of hormones and a desperate loneliness that led him to fall for temptation even as hard as he'd tried to deny it.
An experience, Patrick decided in the hazy part of his brain that was still functioning, as he let Alex pull him back onto the bed with maybe a bit too much eagerness, that was only going to get better as they went along.