Despite what Aithne said we wound up at the coffee shop to get out of the torrential rains. I didn't mind even though I don't particularly like coffee. But I feel odd not ordering coffee at a coffee shop. This time, however, I went with hot chocolate. I sat there while Tiernan and Aithne thought about what to say. They kept shooting looks at each other. I raised an eyebrow and looked from one to the other while they had a tennis match of glances. Then gave up when I started to get whiplash.
They seemed to be communicating without words. I picked up my cup and let the warmth from the cup warm me. I inhaled the warm bittersweet smell. Savoring it and then took a slow sip, my eyes closed in ecstasy. The warm thick taste soothing stressed nerves and easing the cold out of my muscles and bones. I laughed softly to myself when I felt the whip cream get on the tip of my nose. I opened my eyes to see Tiernan looking at me strangely, his blue eyes dark. I looked at Aithne who was smirking at Tiernan. Aithne kicked Tiernan under the table, he jumped ,startled and shot her a reproachful look but under her knowing smirk he looked away, eyes still dark and unreadable, a light flush across his high cheekbones.
"So have you decided how much to tell me now?" The two shot me surprised looks. I blinked. What I had meant to say was, have you decided how to tell me what's happening yet? But now that I thought about it the sentence I had spoken rang true and the looks on their faces only confirmed what I had said. They weren't thinking of how to explain what was going on but rather were deciding how much to tell… and how much they wouldn't. When I looked up they were still looking at me suprised. I covered up my lapse into thoughtfulness by taking a big sip of hot chocolate. By the time I looked up we all had our game faces on.
Once again Tiernan did his spy impression as he scanned the room. I would have laughed if I hadn't yawned. I took another sip of hot chocolate. Blessed caffeine. Tiernan spoke, "well lets start with can you still see the archway?" I looked over my shoulder and across the street. My eyes narrowed. It was there… and it wasn't. I could see the archway but it was strange its as thought the Starbucks and the archway were two drawings that were overlapped. I could see both and neither. When I looked for the Archway I saw it clearly like I had right before I walked through it. As an experiment I looked trying for the Starbucks and I could see it like I had every other day.
My voice came out soft and thoughtful, " I can see it when I look for it otherwise… I can see both the Arch and the Starbucks kind of blending… but when I look for the Starbucks I see the Starbucks and no arches." Tiernan and Aithne both look thoughtful. Aithne took a sip of her coffee and spoke, "Maybe now that he's seen them he can always see them. The blending might be his way of seeing them without he sight." I hold up a hand, "What exactly are they… uh them and what's the sight?" Tiernan looked at his cup of tea.
Aithne then spoke to me; "They are gatewaysbetween worlds." I turned away from Tiernan since it seemed they had decided Aithne would do the talking. Then what she said hit me. "What?!" Tiernan looked up from his tea. Aithne reached out and placed a hand on my shoulder. I shivered. According to her. I had walked through an Arch to another world that only exists part of the time. I hadn't been in the same world anymore. Many possibilities filter through my mind. What is it had closed? What if I had gotten trapped on the other side?
Tiernan mutters into his drink, "and he had been handling it so well too." Both Aithne and I kick him. He jumped spilling his hot tea on his hands, "Ouch… crap." I was trying not to smirk but Aithne didn't bother. He glared at us both and then took a sip of his tea. As I sat there I realized that I was okay with all of this. My eyes fluttered closed and I took a deep breath, I sat taking it in. My eyes tightly closed. I was sitting next to two people who talked about multiple worlds as though it was commonplace and not just something in a science fiction novel. I had been to a… gateway and I had felt something was different.
I was there… I walked through a doorway. I am currently sitting in a coffee shop in my world…safe. Well as safe as anyone is. I opened my eyes to see Tiernan looking at me concerned. His had scooted closer. He was looking at me carefully. His eyebrows knit, he was frowning in concern for me. One of his hands hovering above my elbow as though he wanted to touch me but was unsure if he should. He was really concerned. Wow. We barely knew each other and yet here I was taking at face value that there were other worlds… that they aren't insane. Heck, that I'm not insane. And he was really concerned for me… a stranger. Why? Because it feels right. I am no psychic but my instincts are good and for some reason this feels right. I feel as though I know them… as though I can trust them.
I smiled at Tiernan who leaned back slowly pulling his hands back and began to take a sip of tea as I took a sip of my hot chocolate. A slight shy smile touched my lips one, which he returned. He had such incredible hands. My gaze was drawn form his hands as he held to cup to his lips as he sipped. He started to smirk. My gaze traveled up to his smiling dark blue eyes. Ahem. Huh? Both Tiernan and me turned startled by the sound. Aithne smirked over her coffee. Tiernan carefully didn't look at her face. I flushed and lifted my cup to sip covering my face. Hoping they would think the flush was due to the warmth of the coffee. Aithne spoke abruptly, "I think we should tell him all of it. I think we should show him." Tiernan's startled gaze jerked up to her face before he could speak she rushed on, "I feel he was meant to be involved. I think we should take him to Isolde and Moira, they would know if it was an accident or if he was meant to meet us." Tiernan rose looking pissed he hissed his voice low and throaty, "Are you crazy Aithne? You must realize how dangerous that would be…." His gaze shot to me, "To go to… the otherside would put him in danger. He just found out… today. His first meeting should not be Isolde and Moira… those two might tear him apart." I stiffened. I could read real fear in his eyes and his body tensed when he spoke their names. His smooth voice continued, "Also it's war of there…"
Aithne rose and cut in, her accent thickening with her annoyance, "Aye, I know that... I am not 'ta fool Tiernan. It is my home too. It might be he is to help us. Few ever see the gate even when we walk through. The arches prevent it. Make em' think we went another way and yet he wasn' fooled. And even now he can see the gate and he wasn't changed… he didn't even fully enter the otherside." She pointed at me, "he can even now see the Arches when he wants to… with little exposure…" Her tone turned pleading as she implored him to listen to her, "I feel it Tiernan… really feel it…. It could mean everything. He could mean… everything." This conversation is rapidly making me feel ackward. I sit there, still, my presence forgotten even though it is me they are arguing about. And I feel as though this conversation is pivotal. Pivotal to something I don't fully understand. Tiernan is standing stiffly his face in shadow his head turned toward me and yet I can't read his expression. She continues, "Can we afford to miss this chance?"
I see he's thinking. And tense. An almost sad expression on his face. He nods and then runs a hand through his hair. Aithne takes his hand and I see his head jerk up he looks at her face and they share another of their silent communications. He nods and sits down. He leans forward and rests his elbows on the table, his face in his hands. Then after a moment that seems like hours he sits up and nods seeming resigned, "alright… I agree. We can take him."
I feel sudden anger fill me. I hate feeling powerless and yet something tells me I have never been more powerless in my life. This situation is out of my control and yet I won't just sit here and let them make decisions for me. I stand up.
"You can take me?! Says who?!" Both turn startled towards me. Neither was expecting protest from me, clearly. Well, were they ever wrong. With all their silent dialogues they had forgotten me! I had never agreed to be their lab rat! And I said as much I leaned over the table, "I was never asked if I want to go with you…. And frankly… no I don't! You two can go yourselves."
I could feel my face flush with anger. My mouth opened and closed rapidly I spun on my heels. Leaving them with the stunned expressions on their faces. Tiernan rose and called out, "…. Hey wait…uh… you!" I stiffen as I realize something. They had felt so familiar and yet…. I spun on my heel; "Tiernan you never even asked me my name!" I turn to see Tiernan standing stunned one arm out stretched towards me as though pleading on me not to go. Everyone in the Café turns to see. I stand freeze as I feel half a dozen patrons' eyes on me, not to mention several surprised waitresses who had stopped trays held high that were staring. I emit an inarticulate gurgle and run.