“We don’t have time for this,” Toar said.
Alek glanced at his older brother over his shoulder, then continued down the overgrown path. He twisted sideways to brush past a long, leafy branch, then hit it with his palm to send it rustling behind him. “And yet, you keep following me,” Alek said.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do with madmen, to be sure they don’t hurt themselves,” Toar said. He hit the branch out of his way as well. “But we should go back.”
“Nothing’s stopping you,” Alek told him.
Toar stopped, looked behind them, considering. Alek didn’t pause, and Toar ran through three steps to catch up.
“You’re supposed to be the one to follow me,” Toar murmured. “Where are we going?”
Smiling, Alek spun, and walked backwards so he could face him. “You ask too many questions,” he said.
Toar’s eyes narrowed. He shook his head, and very carefully picked out one of Alek’s favorite phrases: “There’s no such thing.”
Alek laughed. “True,” he said brightly. He flashed a grin, skipped, turned and faced front again. Immediately, he ducked to keep his nose out of a tree trunk. When he straightened, Toar had easily sidestepped to avoid it, and he was shaking his head.
“Where are we going?” Toar repeated.
Alek glanced at the greenery, the shadows between the leaves, the dirt that hid beneath their vines and branches, and the sky that peeked through. He heard something, a bird with a long call, a hundred chirps and twitters to pass to his mate. Alek turned his head to listen, and didn’t respond. Everything smelled different between the trees. Still salty as the ocean, but mixed up with something warmer, deeper, that might turn sweet or sour on a whim. He breathed deep, placed his feet carefully in the damp dirt, and braced himself against the next root and ducked under the next branch.
“Alek,” Toar said, and this time, his name sounded a bit like a curse.
Alek smiled to himself. “All right,” he said. “There is no such think as asking too many questions.” He paused, looking for the next non-path to take. “But there is such a thing as wanting too many answers.”
Toar paused. “No, there isn’t.”
“Yes, there is.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“You’re supposed to argue, idiot.”
“Don’t feel like it.”
“‘Cause you’re right.”
“What?” Alek shrugged, looked at him with eyebrows and hands innocently raised. “I’m pretty sure that’s a good word for the purposefully ignorant.”
Toar blinked at him. “You don’t know where we’re going?”
“Not really,” Alek said. “Just… vaguely that way.” He pointed forward and a little to the side, where the trees blocked whatever was behind them from view.
“We should go home,” Toar said.
Alek continued on.