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[personal profile] indri
SUMMARY: Giles and Ethan, the electric Kool-Aid funky Satan groove year, in the early seventies. Rated M. Spoilers to Band Candy. Acknowledgements and disclaimers.



79.

Randall turned the record over.

"But it's not your fault," said Ethan. "You didn't draft them or send them away. You weren't one of the people who killed them. You had nothing to do with it."

He was floundering, and he did not understand why. He knew of these friends of Randall's, of course, albeit second-hand; back when neither he nor Randall had any money at all, there had often been little to do but sit up and talk all night. He had a hazy idea of what the two dead men had looked like. He knew the name of the school they'd dropped out of, and an anecdote about them running amok in Golden Gate Park. He thought that one of them might have slept with an ex-girlfriend of Jerry Garcia, but perhaps he was confusing him with someone else. He knew these people as if they were characters in a novel he'd reread. And he understood about bereavement, how it could floor you. But Randall's reaction was different.

"I should have gone with them," Randall said, nonsensically. His head was turned away and his face was half-hid by his long hair. "I should have been with them."

"So you could have died too?" Ethan said. "For fuck's sake."

Randall ran his hands through his hair. "You should go now," he said, with an edge to his voice that Ethan had never heard before.

Ethan left. He went back to his room. One of Rupert's books and a t-shirt of his were lying on the floor, so Ethan threw them out into the hallway. He locked the door by means both prosaic and mystical.

What a shit day.

He thought about having a drink or a little hash but his eyes kept been drawn back to the Badescu. He'd got no work done at all this week, for the sake of all these selfish people. He might as well make up for that.

He started with the simple but highly satisfactory spells at the beginning. A vanishing coin, two interlocking hoops, then a small stone passing between three cups. Next up were spells for summoning elements, different versions than the ones Ethan had known before. After those were a series of increasingly complicated transformations of substances -- that was the chapter he'd worked through last week. Those were good: he'd been a bit shaky with them he first time he'd tried, but tonight he was executing each and every one with brevity and precision. When those were done, he decided to plunge on into the next chapter. This one was on the manipulation of the senses: heat and cold, touch and taste. He worked through those with an ever-growing sense of surety.

When he finally stopped for the night, he realised that it was, in fact, morning. Dawn had been and gone. He yawned and stretched.

It was only when he was washing up in the bathroom that the events of the day before came back to him. There were purple-black bruises on him and he was still wearing the clothes he'd taken yesterday afternoon.

He had to go down to the kitchen then, because he was hungry. It didn't sound as if anyone was there, but when he went in he found Adrienne, Rupert and Diedre sitting around the kitchen table, which was covered with newspapers. They all looked as if they hadn't slept.

Ethan stepped around them to make himself some toast.

"The woman's not dead," said Rupert, and it took Ethan a few moments to work out who he meant. "She's in a stable condition in hospital. She's a mother of three and works in a post office."

Adrienne said, "But you did make the front page of The News of the World. Also, pages two and page four, thanks to your stunt at the primary school."

"There's a blurry photo of something that made it into the London Mercury," said Rupert.

"Ethan," said Diedre, "what happened to your face?"

Ethan decided not to wait until the kettle boiled. He smeared some marmalade over his toast and poured a glass of milk.

He went up to Rupert's room then. He put his breakfast down in one corner and then picked out all of his own stuff. There wasn't much, as he wasn't an untidy person: his dressing-gown, a pair of sandals and a record he'd lent, one that Randall had bought for Ethan's birthday last year, of pieces by Ligetti, including the moon-monolith one from 2001. Then he went through the pages of Rupert's notebooks on magic, tearing out any pages in his own handwriting. Finally, he rubbed out a sketch chalked on the floor with the heel of his foot.

He longer felt like eating when he went back to his room. He smoked some hash which, firstly made him hungry enough to eat, and then let him sleep. When he woke he was disoriented because it was dark, not morning at all, with a moon near to full that made monochrome sketches of all the objects in the room. He looked at how it limned his trousercuffs and the backs of his hands. The lights didn't go on when he flicked the switch -- Diedre must have forgotten to pay the bill again. He was thirsty and unwashed.

He went out and knocked on Randall's door but all he got was a "Go away" and the strains of The Cry of Love in reply, so he fetched his dressing-gown and a candle and went downstairs for a bath. The water was cold, as their heater was electric, but Ethan had long ago worked out a spell for that. In the tub he listed off all the people he was angry with, which was everyone. Adrienne still hadn't paid him. Didn't she know how much time he'd spent getting the spell right? He was very nearly behind on his work for the transparently-named Mr Grey, who was someone Ethan was anxious not to disappoint. Randall was being uncharacteristically useless. Rupert-- well, Ethan had honestly considered pissing on all of Rupert's records, but he expected that Randall would be angry with him if he did.

There were flickers of candlelight from the drawing room as he went past, so he glanced in the open door. Diedre, Tom, Stan, and -- what was his name, the neighbour? -- Philip were sitting on the floor, eating and drinking. Ethan recognised it as a powercut picnic, a hasty meal of whatever would otherwise go off in the fridge. There was bacon, sausage and a jug of the noxiously sweet cocktail that Diedre always made out of the milk. He'd better join them and get something to eat now, because there would be nothing but beans in the house by tomorrow. There was no sign of Rupert or Adrienne.

"Before you say anything," Diedre said, spotting him, "I did pay the bill. I have the receipt! I'm going to call them first thing Monday morning."

Ethan went to the window, to see whether the lights were on elsewhere in the street. They were; it was just their house without electricity. "It's very quiet out there," he said.

"Well, it is four a.m."

"Have a drink," said Stan. "We're celebrating!" He poured Ethan a glass of the milk cocktail.

"You're getting married?"

"Yeah."

"Married and moving out and getting a proper job?"

"Yeah," said Stan. He frowned up at Ethan in the candlelight. "Hey, who clocked you?"

Ethan swallowed down the cocktail and then poured himself another. Philip seemed to be eating all of the bacon. Diedre looked trashed. Tom was possibly asleep.

"Living the dream then?"

"Yeah. Can't stay here forever."

"I suppose not. What's the job?"

"I'll be working for Julie's uncle in real estate."

"Bit of a step down then for you, isn't it?"

"Ethan," warned Diedre.

"I'll find you another supplier, if that's what you're worried about."

That wasn't what Ethan was worried about at all. He drank down another cocktail. "Dear God, what's in this? Creme de menthe?"

"And a lot of vodka," Diedre said.

He snatched the bacon away from Philip and made a sandwich. Philip had his sleeve rolled up, exposing a freshly-made tattoo.

"Why does Philip have the Mark of Eyghon on his arm?"

"It's spell night," said Tom.

"Did anyone ask me if he could join in?"

"It's not up to you," said Diedre. "There's others here who can cast spells."

"No-one else bloody could last week."

"Ethan," said Diedre. "We're celebrating tonight. We're celebrating for Stan."

Ethan stood there, feeling unwell. He wanted them to throw Rupert out of the house, but what if most of them decided they liked Rupert better? Rupert was a likeable sort of person. What if they threw Ethan out instead?

"Diedre," he said decisively, "we're going upstairs. We need to talk to Randall."

"Randall doesn't want to be disturbed."

Ethan went upstairs anyway and he could hear Diedre's more hesitant footsteps behind him. He slammed his arms against the door. "Randall! Randall, open up!" When the door didn't open, he opened it himself and walked in. A Janis Joplin record was singing "Get It While You Can." Randall was sitting on a beanbag, looking as drunk and forlorn as Ethan felt. Diedre stepped into the room.

"We have to leave here," Ethan said. "You and Diedre and I have to go on that trip you've been talking about. We'll travel around and visit your friends. You can keep painting and I'll keep learning about magic and we can all see the country."

Randall continued to stare bleakly. Ethan wasn't sure he'd even heard, but Ethan tethered his impatience and waited out the standard length of time for one of Randall's more considered replies.

"OK," Randall said.

"What about Rupert?" Diedre asked.

"It hasn't worked out," Ethan said. He realised he might not have mentioned this to Randall, so he added, "I was hoping it might, but it hasn't." He turned then to Diedre. "Are you coming?"

"Of course."

"Then it's your turn. You have to break up with Tom."

She squirmed. "Can't we wait a little bit longer? At least until the Germans are out of the house?"

Ethan said, "What Germans?"



80.

Adrienne was washing her hair in the bathroom sink. This was quite a production, given the sheer volume of her hair and the frothiness of the shampoo. She cursed every time another dollop of suds fell to the floor.

Rupert leant against the doorjamb. "If they're going to be staying here, then people have to know who they are."

"Hitch-hikers from Alsace," Adrienne muttered as she rinsed her hair.

"Are they from East Germany? No-one could object to escapees from behind the Iron Curtain."

Adrienne stood up suddenly, her wet hair swinging back. She wrapped it up in a faded towel. She was wearing blue jeans and a yellow bra, and her red top was draped over the edge of the bath. "If you like."

"They're not from East Germany then?"

"No."

"Austria? Or the, um, German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia?"

"No."

She plugged her hairdryer into an extension cord. Over the white noise of the dryer, she mouthed, "West."

Then why did they need to be smuggled in? He didn't want to shout it, so he tried to convey the question with his hands.

She turned the dryer off briefly. "We'll go for a walk in a few minutes. Could you fetch Diedre?"

Diedre was downstairs, slouching around in her dressing gown, looking seedy. By the time he persuaded her upstairs, Adrienne was fully dressed and looked ready to go out.

"Could you ask our guests what they might like to eat and drink?"

Diedre sighed. "Essen und Trinken. Naturlich."

On the way to the supermarket, Adrienne said, "You do know that West Germany is still run by Nazis?"

Rupert considered this. "I think it's fair to say that, no, actually, I didn't."

Adrienne said, "The entire political and administrative infrastructure served the Reich. There was no-one who was not implicated by it. During the reconstruction it was impossible to find enough untainted people to run the government, especially given how the Reich dealt with its internal opposition. Many of those in the new German hierarchy are genuinely committed to national reform, and there are many others who know which side their bread is buttered on, but there remain Nazi ideologues, both covert and overt, with power within the government. Their influence should not be underestimated."

"What exactly did your German friends do?" he asked. They were walking down the main street, past a newsagent and a shoe shop. Ordinary English people were out posting letters and walking their dogs. The whole conversation felt surreal.

Adrienne said, "They did what had to be done. No-one innocent was harmed -- I wouldn't condone that. Well, not in most circumstances. I wouldn't tell you any of this except that it was hinted to me that you were once involved in another organisation."

"What?" It took him a few moments to work out what she meant. Then he said, "Ah, well, we're dedicated to fighting literal demons rather than metaphorical ones. I don't think it's at all comparable."

"Demons?" Adrienne asked. "Like Terry at the magic shop?"

"Terry's a demon?"

"So Ethan says." They were just outside the supermarket now and she showed him the shopping list. "We're not going to able to find all this. I don't think Hovis make pumpernickel."

He helped her pick out bread, cheese, tinned fish and fruit. She said, "I wouldn't have agreed to help if it hadn't been so clear-cut."

Rupert wasn't sure that it was.

Back at the house, she gave him a wodge of cash. "That's the two hundred pounds for you and Ethan."

He was very tired now, so he went to his room. As soon as he entered, he saw that someone had been through his things, but he couldn't see anything obviously missing. He lay down and slept.


Date: 2011-09-17 09:02 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Angel and Lindsey (Default)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
Wow, stuff is unraveling so quickly!

Date: 2011-09-18 05:05 am (UTC)
randigiles: (Default)
From: [personal profile] randigiles
I am loving this story. Your writing style makes me feel like I'm there with the characters. I Looked back and saw you wrote a story earlier 'Halfway There' I'm in the process of reading that one too.

Thank you for the effort you've put in and please continue.

Date: 2011-09-26 11:53 am (UTC)
shapinglight: (Giles and Ethan)
From: [personal profile] shapinglight
Have to agree with Rupert here. Adrienne's reasoning is very flawed.

Tiny correction: I don't think anyone in the UK would have talked about real estate in the 70s. Stan would have said he was going to be an estate agent.

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