The Magicians is copyright Lev Grossman and Syfy Channel, and is being used in this fanfiction for fan purposes only. No infringement or disrespect of the copyright holders of The Magicians is intended by this fanfiction.

Summary: The same way that two big wrongs don't make a right—Logan Kinear had been the Technicolor lesson for that—horrifying revelations don't cancel each other out. No, they pile up and burn out your insides until you're hollow.

The only possible remedy is to hide from the masses and self-medicate.

Takes place between 1x09, The Writing Room and 1x10, Homecoming. References events of episodes 1.08 and 1.09, so yes, spoilers for Season 1.

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Solitaire

by Silverr


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It is a horrible start. Red king, red jack, no aces, the low cards all spades and clubs. Nothing goes on anything, and the draw pile fails him, giving him only a solitary ace and a king he has no place for.

Of course, he could cheat and change the cards. There are dozens of magicked decks in the cottage already: one with smug unicorns, a few with nude soccer and rugby players holding up various numbers of fingers, at least one unusable deck where every card is a seven, and the one he and Margo had made when they were feeling extra domestic—the suits were vegetables, the face cards raw meat, and the aces spice bottles. So very Year in Provence . Although, now that he thinks about it, the deck he's using might be the very last one in the cottage completely untouched by magic. Does that make it deserving of not having its pips changed just so that he can win the game, no matter how uncooperative it's being?

He sighs and tries to find a more comfortable spot on the box he is sitting on. It is disagreeably lumpy and not the best size for seating, but the only other option would be to ditch both it and the box he is using as a table for his cards, and sit on the floor. Which he is not going to do. It is difficult enough standing up from sitting on the box in the cramped space. Who'd decided that a storage closet under stairs had to have a sloping ceiling, anyhow? Utterly unimaginative. And lazy. It was lazy. He should change it. If he is going to live here now he requires at least a suite.

He stares down at the cards on the box. When he was a kid he'd enjoyed the tidy geometry of laying out a new game, the excitement of what was revealed and unrevealed, but most of all the sense of accomplishment whenever he guided the game to completion…

"Fuck symbolism," he says, picking up the cards. It's pointless to keep going if the game is going to be a dead end. He doesn't have the strength to do another of those. Not without more… whatever it is he should be drinking instead of whatever it is he has just drunk.

It shouldn't be gin. He is never going to drink gin again.

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He is about to haul himself out to make a fresh drink—seriously, he should just bring the bar in here, no one would miss it—when he thinks he hears someone descending the steps. Whoever it is is moving slowly, as if listening between every step. The muffled clicky-taps have a distinctive resonance, and while he's not absolutely sure, it sounds like The Glinda Shoes, the pair of well-worn crystal-encrusted rose gold ankle strap stiletto pumps that Margo only pulls out for Very Special Occasions.

Has he become a Very Special Occasion?

He dismisses the firefly and hunkers down. It won't be long until she finds him, and when she does she'll probably make a joke about the Dursleys, and then try to pull him out of this musty hole and outside into the sunshine, and while he loves her dearly, he doesn't want sunshine or cheering up. Not yet. He wants to wallow in the dark. He needs to wallow.

Also, she'll probably be pissed at him.

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She had caught him burning his bed.

He hadn't intended to go that far, actually. He'd intended to be reasonable—pillowcases and sheets only—but when he'd stepped into his bedroom Mike's smell roiled off the blankets and spread, and so he'd peeled everything away with flame, a layer at a time. Satisfying, at least visually.

Margo had rushed in as the flannel underpad disappeared in a swirl of ash.

"Oh for fuck's sake, Eliot," she'd said as the mattress topper started to smoke. "Where are you going to sleep? On the floor?"

"I'm never going to sleep again," he'd told her.

"Use your words," she'd pleaded. "Talk to me. Tell me what happened."

He didn't want to use his words. The worst part wasn't that he'd had to kill Mike—he'd had to do it, Eliza was already dead and Dean Fogg would have been next—it was that Mike had never really been there at all. What did that say about him, that the first True Love of his life had been with a mind-controlled puppet? That he hadn't known what was going on didn't make him feel any less guilty.

Oh, but maybe he had known. Mike had been too good to be true.

And then, as if everything with Mike hadn't been revolting or horrifying enough on its own, the revelations about Plover made Eliot feel complicit in Martin's abuse as well. It didn't matter that it had happened decades before he was born; the things Plover had done to Martin filled Eliot with such revulsion that he couldn't even think about them without wanting to retch, and he hadn't wanted Margo to see that. He didn't want to talk about it. He couldn't tell her that he'd spent the hours after his return from England dry-heaving in the shower—she'd know how significant his being in the shower was, because he never took showers if a bath was available—desperate for the water to carry the slime on his skin far, far away from him.

And so, even though he knew she'd be angry when she realized she'd been ditched, he'd sent her off on the pretext of buying fresh bedding, then fled to the storage closet under the stairs.

And now here he was.

To his surprise, the tippity-tapping of the Glinda Shoes becomes faint. A moment later the air throbs slightly with the vibration from a slammed door, and then blessed silence returns.

"Consider your sins," he tells the cards sternly as he pushes himself up, in the darkness bumping his head on the ceiling. "Good going, Eliot," he mutters, and wonders how fast he'd have to stand up to knock himself out.

The floor rises and tilts.

There is just enough light coming through from under the sliding door to his left for him to grab at a bundle of limbo poles, but they give him no support. Isn't that always the way?

He nearly loses his balance, staggering into a stacked tower of metal lampshades.

No one comes running.

He slides the TADA-side door open enough to see out. The sunlight is too bright for him to tell whether the lump on the couch is just a throw or someone sleeping, so he checks Thurston-side. Empty. Good. The bar on that side is better stocked anyhow.

"I need something healthy," he says, holding onto various surfaces as his numb feet explore the floor. "Something… herbal." He leans on the bar. "... and something. And... hm, it'll come to me."

He contemplates the martini glasses. Too small. He plucks an old-fashioned glass off the shelf with a shudder. At least he won't sunk so far as to use a Collins glass. "Tom Collins," he murmurs. "Tim? Jim? Master of…" What had Tom Jim Tim been expert on again?

He sets the glass down on the counter, then squats and looks under the bar.

There it is, back corner. His custom benedictine. Twenty-EIGHT herbs and spices. Margo had pronounced it undrinkable, which was rubbish. "Nothing is undrinkable," he says, pulling the bottle from the back corner with a clatter. "Come here, you shy thing. I appreciate you, even if no one else does." Next to it is a bottle of rye, which to Eliot's knowledge has never been opened, and also a plastic bottle of a red liquid with a caveman on it that someone had brought back from Finland and which no one has been brave enough to taste.

He mixes these unloved orphans with abandon, then takes a sip. The mixture is weird and disgusting and utterly perfect.

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Getting the glass and all three bottles into his refuge takes two trips, but he manages not to spill anything.

It's not until he's gotten settled, summoned a new firefly and laid out a new game that he notices Margo sitting across from him. Her feet are in shadow, so he can't see if her shoes are sparkling.

Just as he'd known she would, she says, "C'mon Tink, the Dursleys are on vacation." Then her face gets serious. "Are you… hiding from me?"

He can hear everything behind the half-laugh that fronts this question: hurt and worry and more than a little bitterness. "Sweetie, I'm hiding from everyone."

Immediately she shapes a box in the air, then closes the lid emphatically. Silencing spell. He can almost see the shimmering bubble that now surrounds them, making it safe for him to talk freely.

His eyes well up; anime tears, ridiculously spherical. He casts his own spell quickly.

"What the hell was that?" she asks.

"Snot-clearing spell," he tells her. "You know what an ugly crier I am."

She presses her lips together, and they tremble a little. "You're really just going to sit here drinking in the dark?" she asks. "Couldn't you think of anything sad and pathetic to do?"

"I am not sitting in the dark drinking," he says. "I am playing solitaire. Did you know we're the only country that calls it that? It's called Patience everywhere else."

She moves to sit next to him, and he closes his eyes, cataloguing all the smells that make up her Margo mask's Margoness: perfume, and the cigarettes that she pretends she doesn't smoke, and something coconut or cocoa butter-ish from moisturizer or shampoo. Usually her smells are comforting, familiar, but right now he can't take them. Her Margo-ness reminds him too much of the Eliot he's supposed to be, the Eliot she probably wants him to be. The Eliot that's sliding further and further away.

"Stop trying to put jacks on kings, you perv," she says softly. "Queens go on kings."

"How heteronormative." Now that she's criticized his game, he's lost interest. "Don't you have something to be, someone to do?" He knows he's being a shit, but the longer she stays the meaner he'll get, and even though they usually soothe each other's storms, that only works to a point. Sooner or later pinches and love nips start to hurt, and while her jealousy irritates him now and again, he's added enough to everyone's bruises and scars this week, thank you very much. Also, it might be nice to have her around around next week.

There's a rattling sound, and the Thurston-side door opens. Some first-year he doesn't know is standing there, gaping at him over Margo's head.

"What do you want?" Eliot asks, aware that the snot-clearing spell hasn't worked all that well.

"The, uh…" The girl is turning red. "That." She points to a battered box of Popper flashcards. "Are you okay?" she asks as he hands her the box. "Do you, uh, need someone to talk to?"

Margo makes a derisive sound.

"No," Eliot says, and the first year scurries off, but the damage is already done. Margo has disappeared.

He should take advantage of the quiet, though. Encanto Oculto will be over in two days, and when it is everyone will be back and the Cottage will once again be full of noise and motion and experienced fellatists.

He sits drinking for a while and then sets up the cards, over and over and over, until the aces are unmasked and the lesser cards step forward, in tidy columns of black and red, to smother them.

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~ The End ~

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Thank you to Beyonder for beta.

First post 25 May 2018; revised 29 May