Status: In Progress

The Majesty of Choice


“Come on, Patrick. Time to wake up,” Gerard whispers hurriedly, shaking him awake against every muscle in his body telling him to stay asleep. Patrick woefully blinks his eyes, sleep clouding them, and groans when he remembers where he is. He’s in some virtual strangers upsettingly lonely little house, far from home, and on an adventure that he may very well die from. He just wants to be home where the only thing he has to worry about is the constant smell of candle wax. This fear was mostly to do with living above a candle store, and the thing about candles is that they tend to burn. And his house had almost burned down one before. He misses the days when his only real threat was that he might burn alive in his sleep.

“Now?” Patrick groans.

“Yes, now,” Gerard says, hushing him. “Before Pete wakes up.”

“What? I thought he was… is he not coming with?”

“I don’t want to get him killed,” Gerard says.

“But you’re alright with getting me killed?” Patrick says, grumpy in the morning and wishing he were waking up in his own room rather than this place. And several hours later.

“I don’t want to get a stranger who doesn’t know that he’s agreeing to die. You agreed, that’s on you,” Gerard says.

“Ugh, fine,” Patrick sighs, pulling himself up and stretching before Gerard’s already trying to hurry him up.

“Will you quit it?” Patrick says, “I’ll be ready in a moment.”

Gerard makes a disappointed sound, ignoring the sound of his stomach groaning. He may have accepted Pete’s kindness as far as a roof, but there’s no way he wants to be the bitch who steals food. He’d never allow himself to be that kind of person, no matter how low on supplies they are.

Gerard looks over at Pete, he’s fallen asleep in a chair on the other side of the room, looking perfectly ignorant of the fact that Gerard’s somewhat betraying his trust. To be fair, Gerard never promised Pete that he could come with, but he certainly never agreed to allow him to come either. If he sneaks away now, he won’t have to face the awkward situation of having to tell Pete that he’s not invited. He doesn’t like confrontation, especially not with someone whose been so kind to him thus far.

Gerard only brought so many provisions, but he concedes that they’ll have to skip any sort of breakfast. They’ll have to ration what little food he brought with him, and only if they run out will they think about buying more.

“You ready?” Gerard asks after a minute, glancing over at Pete once again, careful not to wake him.

“I suppose,” Patrick shrugs, not looking entirely happy about being awake, or being here, or really happy at all. He doesn’t look angry though, and that’s what matters. Gerard doesn’t like him being upset, but he’d feel awful if he’d pissed Patrick off. All he wants is to make amends for what he said to Patrick only yesterday.

In a way, this whole trip is for Patrick, or at least triggered by what Gerard was forced to say to him. Gerard’s lived his whole life settling with what he’s been forced to do and it took pushing Patrick away to make him realize that it has to end. Gerard would rather find himself killed than to have to say anything like that to the guy he cares the most about out of almost everyone. Hurting Patrick is the last thing he ever wants to do.

It’s ironic then of course that he’s bringing Patrick with him to take back the curse because he might very well get Patrick hurt which is exactly what he doesn’t want, but Gerard can’t deny that he’s a coward when it comes to being on his own. He claims he doesn’t need anyone and he hates all the people in his town, but that doesn’t change that he’s still so afraid of being out there on his own without anyone there to help if something were to happen. What if Gerard gets his foot stuck in a fox trap? What if he meets an ogre? Gerard would easily be dead in either of those situations if he didn’t have company, and Patrick’s the only company he could ever consider.

That is, apart from Mikey, who is in a book so he’s not much of a use if the situation were to come to combat of any sort. Well, he could use Mikey as a shield he supposes but that would end soon after someone stabs him with a spear. Then he’d be a book on a stick and of no use to anyone. Gerard doesn’t know if that would kill him but he would very much like not to find out.

Gerard leads Patrick to the door, checking one last time over his shoulder at Pete to make sure he’s still asleep. He’s completely still, sat in the same position he had been, not stirring in the least, so Gerard opens the door.

He’s blinded at first by the bright light of the sun, and from its position in the sky, he’d say it’s around one or two in the afternoon. That means that they got very little sleep at all, but they’re awake now so they have to leave.

The town is very much awake, with small people walking all along the roads, going this way and that, and they all seem to be pretending. It’s not that they’re pretending in a menacing way, it’s just that their smiles don’t quite meet their eyes. They’re guising distress with a grin and laughter, and it’s painful just to look upon. It’s people like Gerard that make them this scared, this depressed, this… hunted.

Their short stature is hardly noticeable when you look at only one elf, but when you see many all at once, it becomes more apparent that they are smaller than humans. Frell wasn’t exactly known for having tall people, but they were certainly taller than this. Apart from Patrick, but he is an outlier and should not have been counted. Other than their height, the only other difference is that elves have pointier ears.

Gerard and Patrick don’t necessarily stand out, but they don’t blend in well either. Gerard is either a very tall elf, or a moderately small man. Without the pointed ears though, he’s just a sad, small man.

“Which was are we going?” Patrick asks.

“Uh,” Gerard frowns, looking both ways and not actually remembering which direction they even came from last night.

“Check the book,” Patrick says.

Gerard doesn’t know why he didn’t think of that, and he pulls the book out from his bag, not surprised when he looks down and Mikey’s face isn’t in the little window. He’s still hiding from Patrick. Mikey knows Patrick. Gerard thinks that if there’s anyone he could trust it’s him. Then again, Mikey was embarrassed for years to tell his own brother, so maybe it’s not surprising that he refuses to fess up to Patrick.

“Which way to Giantville?” Gerard asks, opening the book to see a map. It doesn’t have exact directions though, it’s just a map.

“It looks like we should go… that way,” Gerard says, sounding unsure, and pointing in the general direction that he thinks they should go.

“Okay,” Patrick says, sounding uncertain.

It takes them all of twenty minutes for Gerard to realize that they’re on the wrong side of town to get to where they need to be going. He’s not entirely sure what direction Giantville is, but he knows that he’s heading away from it.

“I thought that it was this way,” Gerard says, “but that sign says north. We want to be heading east.”

“We came from the east?” Patrick says. “Won’t we head back the way we came?”

“This town was a little bit out of the way from the direction we wanted to be heading in. Just a little bit off, but it was convenient at the time. Now we have to go back a little the way we came to get back on track,” Gerard says. He steers them back in the direction that they came, a street from the one they came through so that they don’t have to walk past Pete’s house. Gerard doesn’t think he can take the guilt of that.

He sees the main street that they walked down earlier, only remembering it because of the sign on the border of town.

“This doesn’t look right,” Patrick says.

“No, I’m pretty sure it’s this way,” Gerard says.

“Actually,” someone else besides Patrick says, “it would be the opposite way.”

“Pete!” Patrick says excitedly, turning to look at the man, standing with a hell of a lot of snarl and sass in his gaze. Gerard just stands there looking at him, wondering how the hell he managed to catch up with them. He knows they’ve been lost for a while but, as he’s just proven, it’s not a small town. They could’ve been anywhere by now.

“How did you find us?” Gerard asks. He looks to see that Pete has a bag over his shoulder, which means that he’s probably expecting to come along, and Gerard does not see that happening.

“You couldn’t read a map for your life,” Pete says.

“I told you!” Patrick says, looking at Gerard with a cocked smile.

“I…” Gerard starts, “whatever. I suppose you think that you’re coming with us?”

“I have to!” Pete says, his expression changing to a plea.

“But you can’t,” Gerard says.

“You said I could,” Pete replies.

“I said I’d consider letting you come, I never said I would let you,” Gerard replies.

“And you didn’t have the decency to tell me that you never considered anything?”

“I don’t want other people getting hurt because of me,” Gerard says.

“It’s not your responsibility to be concerned with whether I get hurt or not. It depends on whether I say I want to go or not, and when I said that I did, that was my consent. That takes the worrying out of your hands.”

“You can say that, but I’ll still be concerned, won’t I? I don’t have the room to set my humanity aside!” Gerard says.

Pete groans, “I just want to come, I don’t know why you need to make it like it’s a life or death situation. You probably won’t get hurt. Ogre’s aren’t as beastly as you’ve been made to believe.”

“Pete, I-”

“Is it because I’m an elf?”


Pete rolls his eyes, “are you afraid I’ll get hurt because I’m an elf? Because you think I’m less of a person than you?”

“That’s not it at all! I just don’t want you getting hurt.”

“Gerard,” Patrick interjects, “it’s not really up to you whether he comes or not. If you say no, Pete can just follow us.”

“Exactly!” Pete says, smiling at Patrick. He’s starting to like Patrick better than this Gerard character, but he sees Gerard’s point. He just doesn’t want to be stuck here, alone. He doesn’t want to wait here with all this fear leading his day and night. He’s always on edge, like prey when a larger animal is about. He just wants to be free of this town where all he ever sees are faces of those who he’ll never see again. It hurts too much being here.

“You’ve got to learn to let other people help you,” Patrick says.

“It’s not that I don’t want people’s help, it’s that I don’t want to get them hurt,” Gerard says.

“Please!” Pete begs.

“No, Pete.”

“Oh come on. You have to let me come with!” Pete says, and though it sounds more like a plea than an order, the wording stings Gerard anyway. It’s still an order. It’s still something that he has to obey.

“Fine,” Gerard says looking completely broken about his own words. He won’t be able to live with himself, or die peacefully, knowing that he got both of these people hurt.

Pete looks taken aback by the way Gerard says it. He sensed the tone, how completely helpless it sounded. Pete’s starting to think that there’s something very off about Gerard that he isn’t telling him. Not just him, Pete thinks that this something, whatever it may happen to be, even Patrick isn’t aware of.

“I’m sorry if that was rude,” Pete says, “you don’t have to take me with you, I just really want to go.”

Gerard sighs relief, feeling the order being retracted takes a weight off his shoulder.

“I think you’ll need me though,” Pete says. “You couldn’t even read a map! You were going the wrong way; you’ll need me to help you.”

“We’ll manage,” Gerard says, “I’m sure of it.”

“I can’t read a map at all,” Patrick says. It’s a lie. He can read a map, but Gerard won’t let him have the book so he hasn’t gotten the chance to show him that. But this is a small glimmer of hope that Gerard will allow Pete to accompany them, so he’ll follow this thread wherever.

“We’re not hopeless,” Gerard says, though he knows that he is bad at reading a map, he can never understand which direction is which.

“So maybe you don’t need me to read the map, but I still want more than anything to come,” Pete pleads.

“And I still don’t want you to get hurt.”

Pete pauses for a moment, trying to think of something that might get across to Gerard what it is his mind is trying to verbalize. He’s not sure there are words for why he needs to leave. He just does. He needs to leave and there’s nothing he can do that can translate just how much.

“Gerard, this town, it’s like a curse,” Pete says, and Gerard’s ears spark at the word. Curse. It’s such a small word that has such an utter hold on his life.

“A curse?” Gerard questions.

“Everywhere I go, god, all I see are scared people. All I see are the faces of my family, and my friends, before they were… you know. Everyone fears it. It’s such a defining characteristic of this town, we’re all afraid. We’re all afraid of being taken, and being slaves, and it could happen at any time. Sometimes we know beforehand when they’re coming, sometimes we don’t. My family, they were taken by surprise. I’m afraid that the same will happen to me,” Pete says.

“Pete, I just-”

“I was with a friend when it happened,” Pete goes on, trying to get Gerard to sympathize with him. “We were just out, and there was no warning that they were coming. They usually come at night. This time they came at midday. I got home for lunch and they were just gone. All of them. All of my family had been taken. The tea kettle was whistling. They never even got to take it away from the fire.”

“Well if you were trying to depress him into letting you come, I think that would’ve done the trick,” Patrick says, frowning.

“Pete, I don’t know how to say this any other way, but you don’t get it. You will get hurt and your blood will be on my hands.”

“Can you not understand how awful it is to have a curse define your whole life?” Pete asks. Gerard doesn’t know how to respond to that, because of course he does. Of course he knows what it’s like for a curse to warp his entire life. His whole life revolves around this curse. It’s not just a quirk about him, it’s his entire life.

Gerard sighs, but he knows that Pete’s already won. He can’t say no to someone when he knows precisely what they feel like. He knows that it’s a gut fear. It comes from your gut and it makes your entire body feel stale and broken. It’s the worst feeling in the world. Gerard’s sure that being stabbed with a sword would hurt less then when you can feel your fear conquer even your heart. Even your fingertips and toes feel it. It’s such a painful thing to feel, and Gerard can’t be the guy who allows it to happen to someone else when he’s on this whole quest just so he can escape that same thing.

“As long as you don’t slow us down,” Gerard concedes, and he doesn’t even need to finish his sentence before Pete is practically hopping in place with excitement. “And you have to carry your weight, share the load, or whatever.”

“Absolutely!” Pete assures, “anything. Hell, I’ll carry you if it means I can come with.”

“You’re starting to grow as a person,” Patrick says quietly.

“Then fine,” Gerard says.

“I should also probably be the one with the map,” Pete says, holding a hand out for the book that he thinks is just a book. Gerard is wary of handing Mikey over to anyone, and it doesn’t help any that he barely knows Pete. He lost Mikey once, and it took him years to see him again. He is not so anxious to just let other people hold this book.

“I’ll carry it, you can look at it, but I’ll hold it,” Gerard says, opening up the book to show Pete the map. He looks at it for a couple of moments before he points in the direction they should start going. Gerard notices immediately that the direction Pete points to is the one that he had been heading towards when Pete had stopped them.

“You told me we were going the wrong way!” Gerard says, looking confused.

“I lied,” Pete grins, walking ahead of them with a mischievous twinge in his eye.

“Cheeky fucker,” Gerard says, shaking his head.

“Hurry up!” Pete says, and Gerard’s feet instantly spark into action at the order. Patrick doesn’t notice the prompt reaction following Pete’s order, but Pete is not so unaware. It’s just a theory for now, but it’s enough to tell him to keep an eye on Gerard.
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