Title: All the Right Words
Genre: Future!Fic, Adventure, Mystery, Fantasy
Characters/Pairings: Simon, Marshall, Dash, Syndi; Eventual Marshall/Dash, hints of Simon crushing on Syndi.
Summary:Syndi has to save Simon and Dash has to save Marshall and it's all kinds of backwards and weird, but Marshall figures that's just what happens when the right books find you in Eerie.
Marshall led the way though the shelves of books that currently crowded the World O'Stuff. The library had dug through its stores again and shipped what it found to Radford for another of what were fast becoming annual sales. There were more this year than there had been previously and the shelves of dusty books took up most of the available floor space in the corner of the store Radford had set aside specifically for the purpose.
Marshall hadn't wanted to come - he would never admit it, but he was a little afraid of digging up another dead letter and the ghost that went with it - but a glance at the calender had reminded him that a day with the potential to be scarier than Halloween was only sixteen hours away: Syndi's birthday, and he had to get her a gift. Being a strapped-for-cash teenager with a part time job making milkshakes for Radford, the library book sale was his first and almost only option. He just hoped he could find something that would interest Syndi. Or at least something that he could pass off as a bad joke.
"How about this," Simon called. Marshall stopped short and turned to his friend. Simon had pulled a book of the shelf and held it out. Marshall took it and looked down at the dark blue cover with gold lettering that spelled out Beginner's Magix in script so fancy he almost couldn't read it.
"I dunno," Marshall said, carefully opening the book and looking through the first few pages - they were all covered in the same hard to read calligraphy the title had been written in and Marshall struggled a moment before he could make out what he was looking at: spells. "I'm not sure I want Syndi to have something so potentially dangerous as this." He closed the book and trailed his fingers lightly over the title.
Simon shrugged. "Don't you need powers before you can use magic?" he asked. "That's what all the research says, anyway."
Marshall nodded slowly, not that he'd done much research into magic like this. Simon had taken that project on his own because of his conviction that Mrs. Clearwater - a cranky, wizened old woman who lived two doors down from him - was a witch. So when it came to the spellbook brand of magic, Marshall was more than willing to defer to Simon's expertise.
"Do you think she'll like it?" Marshall asked, still not sold on the idea.
Simon shook his head, a wicked grin that reminded Marshall eerily of Dash spreading over his features. "Not in the least," Simon said, "she'll think it's some lame joke you decided to pull."
Marshall wasn't sure lame joke was the message he wanted to send this year, but it was usually what he wound up going with and Syndi would more than likely be expecting it. "I guess it could work," he said, tucking the book under his arm. "Are you getting her anything?"
Simon held up a dark-red book titled Shakespeare's Sonnets.
"Hey, why can't I get her that?" Marshall asked, reaching for the book.
Simon pulled it away from his grasp. "Because you're not the hopeless romantic," he said, then he turned sharply on his heel and headed towards the checkout, clearly expecting Marshall to follow.
Marshall didn't, though. He shifted the spell book to his hands and stared down at the oddly well kept book. He felt a shiver run down his spine as the fluorescent light glaring down from above glinted off the gold letters, giving them an eerie shine, and he almost shoved the book back on the shelf and forgot about it.
Instead, he jumped a mile when a hand landed heavily on his shoulder, then turned to glare at Dash X as the rasping laugh of his sometimes-sort-of ally filled the small space between the looming shelves.
"Man, Teller, you're getting jumpy in your old age," Dash said.
"I'm sixteen," Marshall mumbled, knowing full well it didn't actually help his case. "Besides," he added, louder and with more conviction, "I wouldn't be jumpy if you didn't sneak up on me all the time."
Dash rolled his eyes. "Somebody's gotta kep you on your toes, Slick," he said.
"What are you even doing here, Dash?" Marshall asked, "looking to get tarred and feathered?" Over the past three years, Dash hadn't changed much. He had gotten better at blending in, but he was still the surly, confrontational thief everybody remembered and no matter how good he'd gotten at fitting in most people in Eerie still didn't like him. Marshall wasn't actually worried - Dash was perfectly capable of taking care of himself - but he did prefer when Dash stayed out of trouble because Marshall always wound up pulled into whatever trouble Dash was in. A fact which Mars was pretty sure amused Dash.
Dash shook his head and gave Marshall a look like he was a complete idiot. "I'm looking for a book," he said.
Marshall couldn't help it, he laughed. "What do you want with a book?" he asked.
Dash glared at him. "These," he said, running his hand along a row of books, "are old books. Older than old Mr. Cole, even. One of them has to have something useful in it."
"Oh," Marshall said, staring at the marks on Dash's hands. He knew exactly what Dash was looking for and he felt a little bad for laughing. "There are hundreds of books here, Dash, how are you going to find the one you want?"
"You offering to help me, Slick?" Dash asked, Marshall hesitated. "Didn't think so." Dash turned away. "I'll find it," he said. He walked down the aisle and disappeared around the corner. Marshall just stood there, staring at the place where Dash had been.
Simon came up beside him then and Marshall knew he'd seen and heard everything. "We're going to help him, aren't we?" Simon asked.
"Yeah," Marshall said, "sorry."
Simon shook his head. "No," he said, "it's fine. I don't mind."
Marshall knew it was true, but he still muttered, "sorry" again, though he wasn't sure who he was apologizing to this time - Simon or Dash or himself. Or maybe Syndi who would be getting a useless spellbook because somehow whenever Dash needed help Marshall wound up on the case at the expense of everything else. Particularly homework.
"We should split up," Simon said. "Go row by row."
"Yeah," Marshall said with a nod. "I'll take this row, you go one over."
"And hope we'll know what we're looking for when we see it," Simon said, sounding oddly cheerful as he disappeared around the corner of the shelves again.
Marshall tucked the spellbook under his arm again and returned to the start of the row. He began with the first book on the top shelf and went title by title looking for something that, as Dash had said, would be useful. It was going to take forever, he knew, but he was going to do it anyway. He often found himself doing things he normally would never dream of to help Dash - there was probably something to it that he wasn't admitting to himself considering he generally justified his actions by reassuring himself that the more he learned about Dash the more he learned about Eerie.
He was going to stick with that reasoning for now, it was safer.
Simon found it. Marshall had made it through half a row when he heard his friend call, "I've got something," from a row over. Marshall shoved the book he'd been distracted by - A Catalogue of Lost Things and How they Might be Found Again by Herman G. Lodgepool IV - under his arm with the spellbook, then hurried to the end of his row and around the corner to Simon's. Dash was already there, gingerly taking a small black book from Simon. As Marshall came up, he saw a silver plus and minus on the cover.
"This is it," Dash said, his voice hushed. "It's been in the basement of the library all this time."
"That's Eerie for you," Marshall said. "So, what's it say?"
Dash shot him a glare. "I'm not reading it here," he said, "I'm not that desperate."
Marshall bet back his 'could've fooled me' and just nodded as Simon led the way to the checkout. Marshall went first, still questioning his choice for Syndi's gift even as he paid for the two books he'd chosen. Then Dash stepped up, pulling a wad of cash from one of the pockets of his trench coat. Radford didn't say anything about the likely ill-gotten money, but the look he gave was not a favourable one.
"Where'd he get all that?" Marshall asked under his breath.
"Fixing cars," Simon replied with a shrug. "He's really good at it."
"So he didn't steal it?" Marshall asked, trying not to sound surprised.
"Not all of it," Simon said.
"Your faith in me is inspiring," Dash said, taking the bag with his book in it and striding past Simon and Marshall and out into the Eerie afternoon.
Simon glanced at Marshall. "Shall we go wrap?" he asked, holding up the bag with his book. Marshall noticed that Simon, too, had found something else to buy and he was quite curious as to what it was, plus he was eager to show Simon the other book he had found, so he gave a quick nod and led the way out to where their bikes were waiting. Marshall briefly entertained the idea of tailing Dash to the Mill, but he knew Dash would rather have privacy when he opened the book and Marshall figured it was only fair to give him that, so instead he turned and headed for home.
At the Teller House, Marshall made sure the coast was clear before he and Simon booked it upstairs to the attic. They dumped their bags on the table and Marshall pulled the wrapping paper out from where he'd stashed it in cased Syndi came snooping around looking for her presents a day early.
"What else did you get?" Marshall asked as he cut wrapping paper for himself and Simon, who was unloading the books from their bags.
"A book on the old families of Eerie," Simon said, flashing the cover at Marshall - shiny red letters said Eerie Family Trees. "I was flipping through it and I saw your name."
"I'm sure Teller's not an uncommon name, Simon," Marshall said, carefully wrapping up the spellbook.
"No," Simon said. "Not just your last name, your whole name." He pushed aside his half wrapped sonnets and opened the other book to a page a little more than half-way through. He turned the book around and pushed it towards Marshall who looked down at the top of the page where the name Marshall Eugene Teller was written in a careful hand. Beneath it read "March 12, 1978-"
"I know," Simon said, carefully finishing wrapping his sonnets. "I'm in there, too. I'm just glad there aren't any death dates."
Marshall couldn't stop staring. "How?" he asked. "How did we hit the jackpot today?"
"Jackpot?" Simon asked, stacking the presents and hiding them. "What do you mean?"
"This book," Marshall said, tapping the volume still open before him. "Dash's book, and this," he held up the Lodgepoole book, "we found them all today. I don't like it."
"It's probably just a coincidence, Mars," Simon said, but he didn't sound sure. They both knew that coincidences were rarely just that in Eerie.
Now, though, there was nothing Marshall could actually do so he just closed SImon's book, stowed that and the Lodgepoole book in the evidence locker, then led the way downstairs.
He would come up with a plan after lunch.