Author's Note & Acknowledgements: I especially wish to thank Corvis and Mandorin, without whom this story could not have been conceived or completed. Also, I am well aware that the nature of the leanan sidhe is different from how it is portrayed in this story. The nature of this particular kind of fae has been twisted to suit my purposes, but I assure you that no fae were harmed in the making of this story.
Devon McKensie glared balefully at the blank word processor page on the screen for a moment; then took her black, wire-rimmed glasses off and threw them on her desk in disgust. The blank computer screen looked better slightly fuzzy - the cursor didn't mock her by blinking quite as much when she had to squint to see it do so.
She sighed heavily, then leaned back in her computer chair and ran her hands through her long red tresses. "What am I doing wrong?" She asked herself despairingly. "Why can't I write any more?" She stopped her hands halfway through her hair and tugged on what she had gathered, hoping that the slight pain from the pulling would help her organize her thoughts. They seemed to be increasingly difficult to gather lately, and utterly impossible to put on paper. Or the computer screen that she normally preferred. She'd tried both lately.
In fact, she'd tried just about anything she could think of to rid herself of the terrible case of writer's block she seemed to have suddenly acquired in the past six weeks. She'd tried to put all of her unfinished projects out of sight and out of mind in hope that inspiration would suddenly strike and she would want to write again. She'd tried searching for inspiration in other places and things by listening to various kinds of music and going for long walks to watch the activities of people around her. She'd tried furiously pacing the floor, in the hopes that the mindless activity would spark her brain into overdrive when it came to words and ideas. She'd tried typing a steady stream of drivel on her keyboard to kick-start her creativity. She'd even tried to meditate and calm herself to the point where the ideas would just come to her.
But none of it worked. Not one, single, ridiculous thing worked and Devon hadn't written anything worth allowing others to read in six solid weeks. Forty-two days, six hours, 21 minutes, 17 seconds, and counting. In all that time, she hadn't produced one iota of printable work. Hell, she hadn't even done anything worth printing out on her own printer and giving to the neighbor, who was housebreaking a puppy and in constant need of something other than the carpet for the puppy to piddle on.
Taken all together, Devon was at her wits' end. Her publisher was expecting the next book in her fantasy series soon, and it was currently only 3/4ths finished with no end in sight. Devon's fertile imagination, lacking as it had been lately in the writing department, had no problems in coming up with what would happen when she went to her publisher without a finished novel. Her publisher would likely drop her in favor of more prolific clients who could make them money; she'd become destitute; have to sell her small, but perfect, house; find an apartment; a job unrelated to writing, that probably involved Wal-Mart or a grocery store; and to top it all off, the apartment she'd be forced into wouldn't allow cats and she'd have to give up her beloved Fiona to some nasty shelter that would probably euthanize the poor thing.
Faced with such daunting and unpleasant prospects, Devon resorted to doing what she had always done as a young girl - she ran to her grandmother, her Mamó, for comfort and advice. Since Mamó currently lived a good three hours away by train, (having retired to run a little shop in Livingston, New Jersey) picking up the phone and calling her was the next best thing. Not to mention more immediately gratifying.
Lifting the cordless phone from its base on her desk, Devon pushed the 1 and waited for the speed dial to kick in and connect her to her beloved Mamó. It rang once, twice, three times... and then, just as Devon started to worry, she heard a cheerful, if slightly breathless, voice say, "Dia duit!"
"Oh, Mamó," Devon sighed mournfully, not even bothering to respond politely to her grandmother's hello. "I don't know what to do anymore!"
"Tell your Mamó what's wrong, cailín, and I'll do what I can to ease your troubles," her grandmother replied calmly.
Devon smiled at the warmth that seemed to flow over the phone lines on her grandmother's voice. She always liked the way that Mamó called her girl in Irish. The slight Irish lilt was always present in her tone, even though she'd spent all 73 years of her life on American soil. She'd stubbornly refused to let go of her Gaelic, and continually peppered her speech with little Irish words, as if she was likely to forget them after seven decades of near-continuous use.
"I can't write anymore, Mamó," Devon began explaining. "I've tried everything I can think of and nothing helps at all! I'm almost ready to give up on the whole thing all together and begin life anew as some dull drudge in a boring office. I still have my excellent typing skills, after all. But when I try to create, I just can't! I sit and stare at the screen and nothing comes to me. It's horrible Mamó. Help me?" Devon's voice ended on a broken plea, upset beyond words at her inability to do something that used to be so simple and brought such joy to her life. She had always been happy to write before, that now her inability to do so was making her utterly miserable.
"There, there, cailín," her grandmother soothed, "Let Mamó cure your troubles. And haven't I always done just that? Now... You say there's no reason for your writer's block? None at all?"
Devon could practically feel her grandmother's gaze through the telephone; the one that urged her to think and carefully tell her the truth. That was the look that had always had Devon confessing to any sin she'd recently committed, including the ones Devon hadn't thought were wrong. Even now that she'd reached the advanced age of 26, she was still cowed by that look, even imagined rather than in person. So she thought carefully before responding, "No, there really isn't any rational reason I can see for my writer's block, Mamó. I was writing at my usual pace and then, suddenly, I just couldn't write a single word further on anything I had unfinished."
There was a long pause on the other end of the line. Finally, Mamó said, "I hate to tell you this, cailín, but I think you've got yourself a Leanan Sidhe."
"I've got a what?!?" Devon's tone was unabashedly skeptic, with a hint of astonished curiosity. "What would one of the Fair Folk want with me? And what kind of fae is a Leanan Sidhe, exactly? I've never heard of that one before."
"A Leanan Sidhe is bad news, cailín. Typically, they're female, although they can also be male. They're vampiric fae who like to steal the creativity from artistic types - poets, painters, writers, and the like - because they've none of their own. They're nasty little things, they are. And they look just like regular people to you or me, save for the fact that they can't stand the touch of cold iron upon their skin."
Devon removed the phone from her ear and stared at it as if she could broadcast her incredulous stare through the receiver, if only she looked hard enough at it. After a moment, she snapped out of it, knowing that there wasn't much chance of it working to begin with and said, "Okay, Mamó. Say I believe you. What would I have to do to find it, get my creativity back, and be rid of the nasty fae for good?" At this point she was willing to try anything - even searching for faeries she didn't really believe in, if it would help her start writing again.
"Well, after you figure out which one of your friends is fae, you'll have to trick them into revealing that they've stolen your talent from you. Once you have, they are obligated by Fae custom to return what they have stolen and trouble you no more."
"Okay," agreed Devon, "That sounds good. But how do I test my friends to see if they're really a faery in disguise? They're going to look at me like I'm crazy if I just come out and ask them. And the one who's really the one to blame would just lie and then leave. Then I'd never see that friend again, or get my creativity back."
"Getting them to leave should be fairly easy, cailín. When you trick the Sidhe into revealing that they have stolen your writing talent, it will be obliged to return what it has taken and leave you in peace. As for a test... hmm..." Mamó thought for a moment. "I bet I know what would work. Do ya have that gilded spike your mother gave you on your 18th birthday?"
"Yes, I use it as a paperweight usually because it's fairly heavy and reminds me of my family. Why do you ask, Mamó?"
"'Tis made of pure iron, it is, 'though it looks bronze. My da took it from when he was working on the last of the transcontinental railroads. In early 1893, he was working in Washington, where the final spike completing the Great Northern Railway was driven. To honor his time spent working to connect this huge country together, your great-grandda pilfered an iron spike. He was a bit of a scamp in his younger days, my da was, and he was a mere lad of 18 at the time. Later, when he could afford it, he had the spike protected by a thin layer of another metal, to preserve it for all time. You know how it came to be yours, of course. Anyway, enough of the nattering of an old woman. The important thing is, it's iron enough to burn any fae that touches it, so get your friends to pick it up. Whoever drops it again right quick is your fae. Then you trick them into revealing that they've stolen your gift, and all will be right in your world once more."
Devon nodded, then realized her grandmother couldn't see her doing so, and said, "Okay," into the phone. She did know the story of how it had come to be in her possession. Jack Driscol had two wives in his lifetime. Of the offspring he had created with his second wife, only her Mamó had survived. So it was, that on her 18th birthday, that Fiona Driscol had received the one thing that had meant the most to Jack - the bronzed iron spike that was a tangible symbol of the pride and hard work that had went into his adopted country. Fiona had continued the tradition: her youngest daughter Maureen had received the spike on her 18th birthday, and Devon had in turn taken possession of the spike eight years ago when she reached adulthood.
A question prodded its way into Devon's conscious mind, drawing her away from thoughts of family history and back into the conversation she had been neglecting with her grandmother. "But Mamó, you didn't tell me how to trick the Sidhe into revealing that they'd stolen my ability to write," Devon protested.
"Now cailín," Mamó chided. "What kind o' grandmother would I be if I did everything for you? It's your ability and if you want it back, you'll figure out a way to do that yourself. I know that if you put your mind to it, you can make that fae prove that they stole your gift. Put your mind to it, cailín, and you'd best be hurrying. Leanan Sidhe, like most of the Fair Folk, tend to get bored easily and move on to other prey fairly quickly. Once that's happened, there's no way you'll ever get your talent back then. Now give us a kiss over the phone and tell me that you'll come for a wee visit after you've your gift back again."
Devon dutifully did as she was told, adding a tiny disclaimer of, "But just a short one Mamó. I'll have a lot of catching up to do in order to make my book deadline on time," and hanging up.
Returning the phone to its charger, Devon stared thoughtfully at the war zone that doubled as her desk. The desk was a fairly wide expanse of wood that took up a large portion of the room that doubled as both living room and office. Devon needed all of the space that her large desk provided, however, given the amount of computer equipment, papers, and books that covered every inch of its surface. In fact, she really needed more room than she actually had, because the papers and books had escaped the desk's confines and were making a run on the available floor space.
All in all, it was a large mess. But Devon more or less knew where everything was, and could find the stuff that she considered really important when she needed to. A tiny space around her computer was kept clear of clutter so that she could type, see the monitor, and consume her current beverage of choice. The phone, whose ringer she occasionally turned off if she didn't want the interruption, she was always careful to place back onto its base, to make sure that it didn't get lost in the sea of paper. And there, in the corner, on top of a stack of paper to prevent a small white avalanche from occurring, sat her great-grandfather's spike.
It didn't look like the one instrument she could easily lay her hands on that would be able to reveal the fae amongst her human friends. In fact, it didn't look like it was made of iron at all any more. The bronze had darkened over the years to a dark, rich brown that gleamed dully in the light. It had been carefully polished over the years, and the thin layers of wax had prevented the spike from acquiring any of that awful green patina that many bronzes eventually did. But this object was the one thing that could give her her writing back if Mamó was right.
She twirled the spike idly in her hands as she thought about her current dilemma and what she had to do in order to resolve things. First, she needed to make a list of all the friends she'd come into contact with regularly over the past six weeks. Devon thought it would be best to write down her newest friends, and then work her way back to her oldest friends. The Leanan Sidhe had probably only been in her life for a little while longer than she'd been afflicted with writer's block. Devon was estimating that the fae had known her for a week or two in order to get an estimation of Devon's talent and what ever sort of other things fae do while stalking their chosen prey.
So Devon made a list on a clean piece of paper she'd snagged from the printer tray. She put those she'd befriended most recently at the top of the list and worked her way down to her oldest friend in the world, just in case the fae were more patient than she'd originally thought and they stalked their prey for years before going in for the steal. That done, she next gave some thought to how she was going to get these people somewhere near her office to touch the spike and then how she was going to trick them into admitting they'd stolen her creativity. It might take some time, because she'd need to arrange for all of them to come separately. She'd look crazy if she tried to get one of her friends to admit that they were really a faery while other people were around.
Devon gazed at the list, glad for once that her list of friends wasn't very long. She only had seven people on her list of friends. Devon had always been a firm believer in quality over quantity, but if one of her friends was really an evil fae, she'd obviously have to rethink her position. Quality over quantity was a fine theory, but only if you had the ability to definitively judge quality, something Devon was beginning to doubt she could do.
Tapping her pen on the paper, she contemplated the first name on the list: Alexandros Dounias. Alex was a struggling graduate student at NYU's Film School. His parents, who were suspicious of their son's chosen career, were Greek immigrants. Devon had met Alex a little less than two months ago, when the coffee shop she had habitually frequented closed and she'd been obliged to find another place to fulfill her people-watching and coffee habits. After trying several places nearby, she had settled on Agathos Kafes, a small coffee house with a distinctly Mediterranean feel to it. The ambiance was slightly exotic, the music was pleasing, the windows to the street outside were large, the baklava was delicious, and the coffee was strong, even if Devon wished the cups it came in were bigger.
It was there that Devon met Alex. His parents owned the small store and he frequently worked there to help both his parents and to aid in defraying his expenses a little. As Devon was very fond of the food there, in addition to the people and the caffeine, she saw Alex frequently. During slow periods, he would come over to her table and they would chat a little. Over time, this habit had inexplicably turned into friendship and now they occasionally saw each other outside of his workplace.
Devon checked her watch, then picked up the phone. Alex should be at work now, and she could probably catch him there. Dialing the number, familiar from many nights of ordering carryout, she waited impatiently for someone to answer.
"Agathos Kafes, how may I help you?" asked a heavily accented female voice when the ringing stopped.
"Hi, Mrs. Dounias," Devon greeted, "Is Alex there?"
"Nai, I get him. Hold please," was her reply.
The phone on the other end of the line was set down with a loud and obvious thunk, and Devon was left to listen to the background noise as she hastily tried to concoct a script for her incipient conversation with Alex; something she realized she didn't have only about two seconds after being put on hold by Mrs. Dounias. She quietly panicked and her mind raced frantically in circles until her mind was brought crashing to a halt by a smooth voice saying, "Hello?"
"Um... hi, Alex? It's Devon." Devon was never the best phone conversationalist. "I was wondering if you wanted to catch a movie tonight. There's a new indie film playing that I wanted to see and thought you might like." This was true. Devon had taken to providing herself with distractions lately, in hopes that some external adventure would rekindle the internal spark she needed to write. It hadn't worked so far, but that hadn't stopped Devon from trying. She'd noted the opening in the paper yesterday, and really had intended on asking Alex about the film, but she hadn't intended on going and seeing it so soon. However, it was as good an excuse as any to explain why she was calling. The planned outing would also allow her to lure him into the house to determine whether or not he was, in fact, a fae masquerading as human.
"Anyway," Devon continued, "I was wondering if you wanted to catch it tonight. They're showing the film at 7:00 and 9:45. I'll even let you pick which time you want to see it. What do you think?"
"Hmm," Alex was silent as he thought a moment, mentally running plans and errands through his mind. "I've got work until seven tonight, so I definitely can't make the first showing. I can do the other one though. What time do you want to meet and where?"
Devon quietly heaved a huge sigh of relief. Setting this up was going so much more smoothly than she had imagined. "Why don't you swing by my place and we'll go to the theater from there," she suggested. "Say, about nine-ish? That should give us more than enough time to get down there before the opening previews."
"Okay," agreed Alex. "Sounds good. Nine it is. Look, I really need to get back to work here; there's a rush starting. See you tonight," he said, hanging up the phone without allowing Devon the opportunity to say so much as a simple goodbye.
Devon set the phone down, happy that her first attempt at subterfuge and fae-hunting had gone so well. Now the only question was: What was she going to do with the hours remaining between now and nine p.m.?
Devon glanced at the clock and frowned. She had a lot of time to get very nervous in, if she didn't keep herself occupied. Even taking into account the fact that she needed to shower, eat, and dress up a little before Alex arrived, she still had way too much time on her hands.
After chewing on her lip as she stared into space for a moment, Devon decided she needed to be more proactive about the whole thing. It would be best if she could set up at least one more meeting with one of the friends on her list. She didn't want to be too cautious about the whole thing; Mamó had said that the fae might be moving on soon, and if the fae did that, then her talent would be forever gone. She certainly didn't want that to happen!
So she turned to the next name on her list: Holly O'Conall. Devon had known Holly for three... no, nearly four months now. Holly was a willowy brunette whom she had met at the library while doing research. It had come as a considerable surprised to Devon when, a few days later, she had met Holly again, this time at a formal party given by her publisher. Holly was the newest proofreader on the staff. To the best of Devon's knowledge, Holly hadn't done any proofing of her novels, but she still had to be put on the list. Holly had even frequented Devon's previous coffee shop for a while, keeping her company on her days off. She hadn't liked the atmosphere of Agathos Kafes, so she hadn't joined her for coffee recently. They still got together for lunch every so often, however. It was this habit of their friendship which would provide Devon with the excuse she needed to get Holly in her house for a minute.
Devon picked up the phone for the third time that day with a sigh. She wasn't very good at dissembling under normal circumstances, and trying to carry on a normal conversation before she achieved her goal of securing a lunch date the next day was extremely taxing on her nerves. She persevered, however, and after 18 minutes of excruciatingly mundane conversation, she had her desired appointment. Devon had made the casual excuse of not knowing what she'd feel like eating tomorrow to Holly, and suggested she simply drop by around 11:30. They could then decide what type of cuisine they had a craving for. Devon felt that it was very lucky that Holly hadn't questioned her motives too much. She had been deathly afraid that something in her voice or the way she asked the question would give away the whole thing. But Holly hadn't seemed to notice anything unusual, something Devon was extremely thankful for.
After two such stressful conversations, Devon desperately needed to relax. So she did what she normally did when she wanted to unwind - she took a bath. The hot water and jasmine-scented bubble bath were just what she needed. As an added bonus, she did some of her best thinking while soaking in the tub. While she was there, she thought of a way to trick the fae into admitting that they had stolen her talent. It was a kind of rough idea at the moment, but it should suffice if Alex proved to be the fae. If it turned out that Alex wasn't the fae she was looking for, then Devon would have that much longer to refine and improve upon her plan for tricking the talent-stealing fae.
More than an hour later, Devon emerged from the bathroom, relaxed and refreshed. She felt a thousand times better and had a much firmer grasp on how she wanted to handle the confrontation she was sure was fairly imminent. Devon had never been terribly good at confrontation, but for these particular stakes, she was going to give it her best shot. The ability to write was the most important talent Devon had; it allowed her the opportunity to connect with and touch people in ways she had never dreamed possible before being published. The (hopefully temporary) loss of her writing skills had nagged at Devon like an open wound that was painfully raked open and laid bare to the elements on a regular basis. Devon knew that, should her block become permanent, she would forever mourn her loss. It would be worse than losing Mamó, worse than losing a child, worse than losing a limb. It would be like losing a part of her soul, and Devon didn't want to contemplate how she could live her life without it.
Devon traversed the hall from bath to bedroom to find some clothes. Since she was already clean, she decided that she might as well get dressed for the evening while she was at it and save some time later. She dressed simply, casually, and warmly for the chilly December weather in a pair of black slacks and a blue-gray sweater she was particularly fond of. It was nice without being too dressy, which was exactly the look she wanted.
Seeing that she still had plenty of time, Devon carefully pulled out and organized the papers she'd need if/when Alex, or someone else on the list, proved to be the leanan sidhe. After she had arranged things to her satisfaction, she played games on the internet awhile, knowing that writing was a lost cause for the time being.
Then, after looking at the time display in the right-hand corner of the computer for perhaps the fiftieth time that afternoon, she moved to the kitchen for a leisurely, but simple, meal. It needed to be done slowly in order to keep her nerves calm, and it needed to be simple because she was afraid her anxiety would make it impossible to eat very much safely.
By the time she had finished her meal and the dishes, it was a little after 8:30. She only had another half hour to wait. Finally, Devon thought with a sense of relief, it's almost time.
Lacking anything else important or soothing to do, Devon turned back to the games on her computer for solace. The door to her house opened into the living room where the computer was anyway, so she'd be sure to hear when Alex came to the door. She occupied herself playing a variation of solitaire that was so simple it was almost impossible to lose. It provided mindless entertainment that didn't further frustrate or agitate her already strained nerves by being impossible to win.
The game was so mindless, in fact, that she was actually startled when nine o'clock arrived and the chiming of the doorbell resounded throughout the small abode. The noise caused her to jump in her chair, and then made her jump out of her chair in her rush to open the door. She didn't want to keep Alex waiting any longer than necessary. Even so, she paused, with her hand on the doorknob, to take a deep breath and calm herself. This might very well be the most important night of her life and she didn't want to ruin it.
Outwardly calm, she unlocked the deadbolt and opened the door. She smiled at the sight of Alex, who normally managed to brighten her day, but it was a forced smile because she knew that was what he expected to see from her. She was too concerned about the possibility of their whole friendship being based upon such a deceitful and treacherous foundation as her relationship apparently was with the fae. So she smiled rather wanly, tried to appear cheerful, and unleashed a torrent of words to cover it all. "Hi Alex! Come on in. I'm just about ready to go, I think. I just need to grab a few things and then we can leave. Go ahead, sit down! This shouldn't take too long, but there's no reason why you can't be comfortable while you wait. Just take the chair in front of the computer, it's probably the most comfortable one in the house.
"How was work?" Devon's voice floated back to Alex as she moved further into the house to find an appropriate pair of shoes and gather the items she needed to leave the house.
"It was good," Alex's slightly raised voice replied. "No nasty, unpleasant, or upset customers, which was a nice surprise. But the tips weren't that great, so it could have been better." Alex racked his brains a bit, searching for something else to say, but came up empty. He'd always been a fairly quiet person, and lousy at talking to girls. Just because he was now friends with a few didn't make it any easier, unfortunately. So he fell silent and looked around for something to keep occupied with as he waited.
Devon considered dawdling a bit in her search for shoes, but nixed the idea almost as soon as she thought of it. It wouldn't really help at all to draw this out any longer than necessary. She'd only get more nervous the longer she spent in suspense. With the intention of finally having her question answered definitively for at least one of her friends in mind, Devon hurriedly searched through the shoes in her closet, looking for the pair of black ankle boots she knew she wanted to wear.
When she'd found them, she put them on and moved back down the hall. The hall closet contained the winter coat she needed, and her purse hung from that closet's doorknob. She checked to make sure that her keys were in her purse, then headed back to the living room and Alex. He'd been awfully quiet since responding to her question, and Devon felt a brief tinge of worry.
Devon came to an abrupt halt and gasped in surprise upon her first sight of what Alex was doing in the living room. He was picking up the spike! Devon couldn't believe it. She hadn't even mentioned it yet, and he was already answering her question for her, without any conniving or subterfuge on her part. She wasn't sure if she felt relieved or disappointed that this was happening so easily for her. Ultimately, it didn't matter and she held her breath as she waited to see if Alex would have an adverse reaction to her family's heirloom.
Alex, who had intended on playing with the eye-catching paperweight, dropped it halfway through the act of picking it up. Devon's gasp had startled him badly, and his already nervous fingers had no problems with becoming suddenly nerveless and dropping their burden. Alex bit his lip to suppress a dismayed curse. Why did he have to be so clumsy around women? He stared at the spike on the floor a moment before realizing that he was acting like a complete dolt.
Devon couldn't believe it; Alex was the fae? He'd always seemed so normal to her. She couldn't believe that he was the fae, but he had certainly dropped the spike like it was a hot potato almost as soon as he'd picked it up. She was glad to know for certain who had made her life miserable these past few weeks, but she felt an unexpectedly deep stab of hurt that it had turned out to be him. She had gotten really close to Alex in the months she had known him and considered him to be a good friend.
At least, Devon thought the identity of the fae had been confirmed. That is, right up until the point where Alex said, "Oops! I'm sorry about that. I didn't mean to drop it. I just thought I could play with it as something to do while I was waiting for you to be ready. I'll get it."
Alex swiftly and apologetically leaned down to scoop up the precious spike. Devon watched in amazement as he showed absolutely no signs of being discomfited by its touch on his bare skin. He really wasn't the fae after all! Devon breathed a sigh of relief, glad that Alex wasn't the one she was looking for. She'd think about who else it might be tomorrow. Tonight, she was going to enjoy her time with her handsome friend.
"Are you ready to go?" she asked politely, once her paperweight had been safely returned to the top of the pile it kept in place without further mishap.
"Yeah, let's go," Alex agreed. "We should get there just in time for the previews." He stood and moved towards Devon. "Here, let me help you with your coat."
Devon thought the gesture was sweet; she'd never had anyone offer to help her into her coat before. She smiled as she allowed him to help her, and then they headed out the door to catch the bus that let off near the theater.
They arrived at the small, rather shabby, independent cinema a few minutes before the film was scheduled to begin. It was perfect timing, really. Enough of a cushion time-wise to purchase tickets, snacks, and settle in, but not enough time for the conversation to get boring or awkward while waiting for the previews to start. Alex and Devon had each purchased their tickets separately, but Alex had insisted on buying their snacks. Chocolate covered raisins for her, a popcorn without butter that he insisted he couldn't eat alone for him, and a large soda to share. After the three items had been rung up, the total was nearly as much as the price of both their tickets combined, but that was only to be expected. All movie theaters were known for their exorbitant concessions prices, even independent ones, albeit slightly less so than their blockbuster counterparts.
They made their way through the mostly vacant rows of chairs until they reached the section they wanted to sit in. It was a good thing both Devon and Alex preferred to sit in the middle of the theater; major relationship rifts had begun over less. After getting settled in to their individual seats, they had only a moment to discuss their expectations for the film before the previews began.
Devon was instantly enthralled with the film. Authors were generally very visual people, if only in the stories they saw in their head, and enjoyed the visceral experience of the movies. And of course, it made a good escape route to forget about one's problems for a few hours, whilst being caught up in the trials and tribulations of the characters on the silver screen.
However, Devon could not quite manage to stay fully absorbed in the visual tale woven upon the screen. Oh, there was nothing wrong with the film, it was interesting enough. No, the reason Devon had a problem keeping her concentration on the film resided solely in Alex's lap. Or more specifically, in his hands.
Alex had positioned the tub of popcorn, sensibly enough, on the armrest they shared at the beginning of the movie. That was fine. Devon had absolutely no problem with that, it was even quite logical to put the popcorn there, where they could both reach it with ease. What was distracting Devon so was how Alex had changed positions ten or fifteen minutes into the film. He had shifted slightly onto the hip closest to her and casually placed his arm over the back of her seat.
At the time, the motion had seemed entirely natural to Devon. Of course he'd want to shift closer to the food. The fact that he had to shift towards her as well in the process was just a side effect of no particular importance. However, when, a few minutes later, Alex began to gently play with one of Devon's long curls, she was forced to throw that theory right out the window. That sure didn't seem like an utterly unconscious gesture on his part to her! No, there had to be another reason for it. But what?
Slowly, it dawned upon Devon: Alex liked her! The revelation was quite startling to Devon; she'd never thought of Alex like that before. It was such an unexpected development to Devon that she spent a good five minutes staring blankly at the screen as she tried to process the new information. By the time she became aware of her surroundings and brought her attention back to the film once more, she'd missed a crucial turning point and was now completely lost where the plot was concerned.
At that point, she gave up on the film entirely and went back to contemplating the fact that Alex liked her in more than a friendly way, and what that would mean to their friendship. It was this last part that really concerned Devon the most; she had come to treasure the relationship they had in the months they'd known each other. She didn't want a romantic relationship to destroy what they had as friends.
Still, if Devon was honest with herself, there was some attraction on her part towards Alex. His swarthy Greek features and olive skin were quite attractive, and helped him draw decent tips from his customers at the coffee shop. He was a handsome man, but she'd had him firmly labeled as "friend material," and hadn't really ever considered the possibility of more.
Now that Alex had her thinking about it, however, it was seeming more and more appealing all the time. His fingers playing with her hair caused a warm ball of feeling located in the pit of her stomach to jerk with each gentle tug on her red tresses. And she had felt absolutely devastated earlier, when she'd briefly thought that Alex was the fae. More hurt than she should have been for a friend she hadn't even known that long, truth be told.
It was ultimately the hurt that she'd experienced earlier, and what that told her about her true feelings for Alex, that made Devon decide to take the chance. Slowly, in a manner designed to avoid drawing attention to its movements, she moved her hand towards the nearly empty popcorn container that also held her true objective: Alex's other hand.
After what seemed like an eternity, her hand finally reached the popcorn bucket. Their fingers tangled as she dipped her hand in, but instead of releasing his hand like an embarrassed teen, she grasped it more firmly. Admittedly, this caused her to duck her head and blush exactly like an embarrassed teen, but it was all worth it when he squeezed her fingers in silent encouragement and didn't pull his hand away. Emboldened, Devon allowed her eyes to meet Alex's. She smiled shyly at him and received a gentle, understanding one in return. Her smile widened with relief as she realized that she hadn't read the signs wrong and that Alex really was attracted to her. Devon was suddenly sure that all would be well where Alex was concerned.
Devon didn't even see the rest of the movie. She spent the remainder of the film's run time marveling at the feel of Alex's hands on her body. She'd never considered that such simple human contact could be so... satisfying. When the house lights came up, signaling that the film was over, Devon felt as if she was waking from a wonderful dream. Only the dream wasn't over, because Alex was still holding her hand.
They travelled the whole distance back to her house hand in hand, reluctant to be parted physically from each other for even an instant. Neither wanted to be the first to break the fragile connection that was keeping them both content. Eventually, however, they were walking up the path to Devon's house and both knew that the evening was drawing to a close. They stood awkwardly on her front step a moment, unwilling to be the first to speak and break the enchanted feel of the evening.
Finally, Devon couldn't take the mounting suspense any longer and started to speak. "Alex..."
Whatever utterance she had intended to voice was destined to forever remain a mystery. For, at that very moment, Alex leaned in and joined his lips to hers. The feel of his soft lips upon hers drove all thought from Devon's mind and she, too, moved her body closer to his, in order to more fully savor the experience of this, their first kiss.