The plum smacked into his lap from nowhere; startling the man into looking up. "What-"
"Move your shit." The girl ordered, balancing a heavily-laden tea tray with one hand and pointing with the other.
"You know I don't drink tea." He muttered, one corner of his mouth quirked, but he cleared the small table nonetheless. "What's the occasion?" he queried as soon as she placed the tray down.
The girl plopped into her chair and lifted the teapot, pouring a light-colored liquid into a empty cup. "It's Tuesday." She shrugged, tilting the teapot upright. She dropped two cubes of sugar into the cup and stirred it, the spoon making clinking noises against the ceramic. "Do I really need a reason to have tea with my favorite brother?"
"Yes, because I don't drink tea." He argued, turning back to his journal. "You interrupted my writing."
"Oh boo-hoo." She mocked, lifting the cup to her lips. "Sláinte Mhaith, bráthair." she murmured in toast.
"Sláinte, siúr." He replied, toasting her with an empty cup. "What is that sludge you're drinking?"
"Sage and mint, you should know that." She replied glibly, humming a song as she gripped her tea. "I usually drink mint tea."
"Sage is only for when you seek answers, little one, it's never a daily occurrence." He replied with a smile, reaching for a glass of water on his other side. "Hardly a Tuesday occurrence."
"You're making things up." She muttered, sipping her tea almost petulantly.
"You have your cards in your belt." He noted with a smile, nodding towards her waist.
"And me stones." She shrugged, tightening her shawl around her shoulders. "I just felt like I needed them."
"Unsettled." She shot back with a glare, gripping her teacup tighter. "Something's off."
"Something's always off." He muttered. "You never find out what until it passes, or not at all."
"I can't help it, you know that!" she snapped, taking a deep drink from her tea cup. "Nothing seems to work."
"You're working too hard at it." He shrugged and picked up a cracker from a plate on the tray. "You never get clear answers when you actively seek them."
"The crystals didn't help either." She murmured, staring off into the distance. "Nor the mirror."
"They never do, you always forget that." He chided gently, shaking his head. "You know that your gift is in your cards and your visions."
"I know..." she groaned, putting her cup down and burying her face into her hands. "I just wish I could do more."
"We all do." He said, patting her shoulder. "Come on, little lioness, you're better than this."
"I just wish-"
"Oi, shut yer hole already." He ordered. "You're not a all-seeing Seer, stop beating yourself up about it."
The girl laughed, the sound short and husky. "You're right, again. But you know me, I won't stop until it stops, and it won't stop until I stop."
He nodded at her and gave a small laugh. "I know, but unless I tell you to stop you'll ignore your health and break again."
"What were you writing about?" she changed the subject abruptly, drawing her knees to her chest and arranging her skirt for modesty. He gave her a look as she rested her arms and head on top her knees; she hadn't fooled him with that little tatic.
"A story." he shrugged at her, taking a drink from his water.
"About?" she pressed.
"About a little girl who doesn't know when to quit." he replied, teasing her.
She wrinkled her nose and stuck out her tongue in response to his barb, he chuckled and handed his journal to her. "Go on, take a look."
"I'll read when it's over." she shook her head, smiling. "Perhaps then, she'll have learned not to push where she's supposed to pull."
Silence reigned as the girl drank her tea and the man wrote in his book, both lost in their own little worlds. The porch they sat on looked out onto a street that was strangely quiet, it was past eight 'o' clock at night and for once the neighbors were inside, and only the crickets and the wind made any noise.
"I'm sorry." The girl whispered, staring up at the night sky.
"For?" he asked idly, not really paying attention.
"I promised you we'd be traveling by now, and here we are, in my parents' old house, with no lovers and no pets and no journeys, just each other and a few random visits from a few random friends to break up the time in between work." She sighed, drawing her shawl closer. "It's my fault, and I'm sorry. If I hadn't bought the house-"
"You'd have regretted it." He told her gently, reaching for another homemade cracker. "It may not be a traveling wagon, but it's ours. Lovers would be nice, but you know how we both are about those, and pets-"
"Are something we don't need right now." She sighed in agreement, one foot sliding down to nudge at a potted fern. "It just feels so lonely sometimes, you know? Like there's something we could be doing, something we should be doing, and we're stuck here-"
"We're not stuck. You can sell the house at anytime, we can sell our belongings and just take what we need and just go. We choose to stay here, we choose this life." He shook his head. "This isn't you, what happened?"
She laughed bitterly, a harsh sound from a girl normally so soft and soothing. "I ran into him at the store today, he came in with his new little toy and paraded her around, showed her off- in my store. Like the people there actually gave a damn." She spat angrily, sliding to her feet and beginning to pace. "He's still bitter about it, he's still angry and thinks that by bringing his little fucktoys around me, in my own store, shoving them in my face-"
"He wants this reaction from you."
"He always did get what he wanted from me." she laughed bitterly, clasping and rubbing her upper arms. "Even if I didn't want to give it."
The man sighed and put his journal next to the crackers. Standing, he pulled the girl into his arms and just held her, letting her rant and rage and hiss like an angry cat into his chest. It was always like this, whenever the girl ran into someone from her past. She would change from her normally carefree self and begin to pace and doubt and hate herself- and she had no reason to. It was his job, as her brother, to protect her from those things, those people- but most of all, from herself.
"Are you done?" he asked mildly, leading her back to her chair.
"Yes." she muttered, taking her seat and accepting the near-empty cup of tea he pressed into her hands. "I'm sorry, it's just-"
"Drink your tea, then read your cards." He instructed, returning to his seat and his journal. "It'll become clear to you then."
"One day, you won't have to pick up my pieces." She whispered into her cup.
"When that day comes, my dear girl, I'll be proud of you, and hold you high for it." He replied from behind his journal. "Eat some of those delicious crackers you made, and that apple you have on the tray, and read."
She was always so restless at times like this, he reflected as the night wind blew, the wind chimes tinkling and clanging above them. He reached under the table and opened a small waterproof box, removing a book of matches. Striking one against the strip, he began to light the candles spread around the porch, providing them with a source of light beyond what shone through the windows.
"Read." He repeated, shaking the match out before it burned his fingers. "I'll listen."
"Thank you." She murmured, sliding from her chair and onto her knees. Reaching into the belt at her waist, she withdrew a thin cloth and a Tarot deck. The silence was broken by the sound of shuffling cards and a scratching pen, occasionally the clink of china as it was set down on stone and wood. Above them, a waning moon glowed and stars twinkled through the streams of clouds, and the wind gently moved through the trees.
The girl started to hum a low song, no doubt to help maintain her focus as she read the signs in her cards. The man hummed along with her and continued to write, ignoring her occasionally mutterings and curses, waiting patiently until-
"Something good?" he teased, looking up from his journal.
"Something good." She smiled at him, her long hair sliding past her ears, brushing her cheeks and falling into her eyes. "I'm sorry I was such a bitchy little prat earlier."
"You're forgiven. It's not the first time, and won't be the last." He informed her dryly. "And you've helped me as well, and will help me in the future. It's what we do."
"It's what we do..." she mused, looking up at the moon. "I probably shouldn't have read out here, what with the moon waning and all."
"You're the one who defies traditions and rites and all that, not me." he shrugged at her.
"They're not for me. What we do is." She laughed, gathering her cards and placing them back into the pouch on her belt. Standing, she threw back the last of the tea in her cup before refilling it and downing it in seconds. She placed the cup down and held out her hand to the man. "Coming?"
"You go." He shrugged. "I'm not the one who dances."
"I'll get you to eventually." She smiled wickedly before stepping off the edge of the porch, landing on the grass beneath. "Keep a beat for me." she called over her shoulder.
"Always." He called back, watching as she began to twirl and spin and dance, her head and arms and shoulders visible above the railing of the porch. He kept time with his foot, tapping against the stone as she moved through the grass, her laughter adding a music all it's own.
He loved his little sister, this temperamental little minx who argued and fought and teased and laughed and sang songs too old for her and danced and told sarcastic jokes at inappropriate times. She was the ethereal, the haunting sylph that he could picture sitting on the edge of the crescent moon, her feet dangling over the edge as she laughed and threw moon rocks at the heads of the people below. She was full of light and dreams and ideas and kept him hopeful, kept him afloat when sometimes he wanted nothing more than to sink below the waves and beneath the silt, to die peacefully in his sleep and feel no more.
She was his sister, a slip of a woman who acted like a child, innocent and pure even after all her heart had been through, full of laughter and cheer and bright ideas and hopes, a stranger he met one day and immediately felt that he could not live without. It made no sense, yet he was at peace the most when she laughed and giggled and danced with fireflies and talked to the wind in the trees, and she knew it too.
Just like he knew that she loved him, without a question, without a doubt, she reflected as she spun around in the dewy grass. Her brother, her mulish big boor who was too stubborn and argued and teased and bellowed with laughter as he played songs on his guitar for her to sing to and told inappropriate jokes all the time. He was the corporeal, the earthly tether that kept her from floating off into the night, the proud warrior she saw standing at the head of his tribe and clan, his hand on his sword and his eyes fierce and proud of his blood as they trudged on. He was full of a different light and ideas and kept her balanced, kept her from leaving the world behind when all she wanted was to disappear into a world of stars and clouds and whispered dreams, to feel everything and anything and become lost in it all.
He was her brother, a big rock of a man with a lewd and perverted side that came out at inopportune times, a man who had his heart beaten down and torn apart, only to rise above again with hardness and a will of steel. He gave her the strength she needed when she could not continue on her own, a stranger who spoke with her one day and she immediately clung to like a lifeline. She didn't know why, but she was her best when he would chide her and tell her to stop acting so silly and to do what she needed to do, her quiet support that would let her play but not forget who or where she was.
Theirs was an odd relationship, she thought as her foot slipped and she tumbled down the hill, shrieking with laughter as she landed in a heap at the bottom.
"Did you forget that was there or do that on purpose?" he called from the porch, an eyebrow arched.
"A little bit of both!" she called back breathlessly, her hair tangled and full of wet grass and weeds and crushed clover. Stumbling to her feet, breathless with laughter, she trudged back up the hill and collapsed into her seat. "Give me a minute and I'll clear the tray away."
"Sounds like a good idea." He nodded, chuckling the expression on her face. "You look much better after you laugh."
"It's rarer than sex," she agreed, "and I haven't been laid in ages!"
"Yeah yeah." The man grumbled, shooting her a disgruntled look. "Need I remind you-"
"Nope, you don't." she replied cheekily, standing and sweeping the tray up in her hands. "I'm going to go to bed. Night!"
"Of course!" she laughed as she ducked inside. "I make my family proud!"
As she placed the dirty dishes in the sink, and the food back in the fridge, she hummed the song from earlier and danced around the kitchen, her skirt swirling around her ankles and her hair spinning around her shoulders. Dancing always cheered her up, no matter what, and it was then that she promised herself to dance at least once a week.
She turned off the lights and began to go upstairs, humming as her fingers trailed along the plaster walls of the staircase. There, at the top, where two white doors leading to their different bedrooms. Each bore a heavily embroidered hanging, a piece of muslin featuring a Celtic animal design. Her door bore the emblem of two entwined Horses among Holly leaves, while his bore the image of two Wrens among Oak. She kissed her fingertips and lightly pressed them to the foreheads of the Wrens, lightly tracing the needlework that took her ages to finish, before turning and entering her room.
She changed into her nightgown and climbed into her bed, smiling at the hanging above her head. She was most proud of that hanging, because of what it represented. A Rowan tree provided shelter for two Horses, with two Wrens hidden among the branches. Dara Celtic knots wove a frame around it all, Oak and Holly leaves woven amongst the strands.
There were two of those hangings in the house, the other in her brother's room- one of the first signs of their love for each other, a sigil that tied them together even amongst all the bitterness of the world.
Whenever they sought lovers, they would always warn them of the bonds between the two, that it went far beyond just brother and sister and that they would not be separated. One man thought she was sleeping with him, and she had laughed in his face before slamming the door on him.
They never touched each other beyond a hug or a light kiss to the head, but their bond was not just that of siblings. They were friends, advisers, companions, siblings, confidantes and parents to the other, and anyone who sought to love one of them but did not love the other, did not stay.
That was the way it always had been, and always would be, the girl smiled as she closed her eyes. He would go to bed when he was ready, and she was on a different schedule than him at times, but she always knew when he was asleep in bed because she would be as well.
Yes, they had an odd bond, but they wouldn't trade it for the world. Thus was the axiom of their relationship, and hell be kind to those who denied it.