[Master Post – Glass]
Title: The Brighter the Glitter
Fandom: Viridian Legacy/Magelight Chronicles
Characters: Severen, Arkady, Baron, Betty, Frostburn
Warnings: Expletives in abundance
Notes: Yeah, so I wrote a crossover… Kind of. Just a totally tongue-in-cheek appearance by my favourite ninja-guitarist of the Winter Court. I hope he’ll forgive me for borrowing him for this… Special thanks to Darkling for… er… consulting and editing.
"I can’t fucking believe Lir’s sick. Jesus, it’s Lir. He’s like a paladin — solid constitution and resistances to things medicine hasn’t even discovered! How in god’s name is he sick, and what the fuck are we doing about tomorrow night’s show?" Arkady stopped shouting when he realised he’d tangled his fingers so badly in his hair that he wasn’t sure how he was going to get them back out. "Shit."
Baron leaned against the wall. "I don’t know what he’s got, but I’m staying in Betty’s room, until he’s better. He’s still throwing up. You know me and puke. And whatever he has? I don’t want it. We’d end up cancelling the next two weeks of shows. We can not bitch out like this."
"Oh, sure, just invite yourself to stay with me, Baron. Evan can stay with me and you can keep Severen company. You are not getting that close to me if we’re not in transit." Betty threw a pillow mint at Baron’s head. "And don’t worry about tomorrow night. I called a friend of mine; he knows a guy."
"A guy? He knows a guy? Do we know this guy? Does he know us? Do we even know he can play?" Arkady continued to pick at the knots he’d worked into his hair.
Severen sighed, leaning backward over the end of the bed. "Shut up, Evan. Any way you slice it, we’re stuck doing this show without Lir. We have three options: we try to play it with no guitarist, which will fail; we try this guy, which might not be so bad; or we cancel the show, which will make an awful lot of people exceptionally displeased, myself included. And no, Barry, you’re not staying in my room. I like to sleep. You like to party."
"Look, if he wasn’t good, I wouldn’t have his name. Chey thought of him instantly, when I asked, because he’d been — I don’t even believe this — hanging upside down from the laundry poles in Chey’s back garden, at the last party, talking with Loni about the nuances of Lir’s style, and demonstrating. With Loni’s guitar. Upside down. If the guy can do a passable impression of Lir while he’s hanging by his knees, I think he can do a passable impression upright." Betty stood up and yanked her sleeves straight. "I don’t give a shit if you don’t like Chey, Evan. I know why you don’t like him. And I still trust him to give me a good name when I ask."
"Wait, stop, no." Baron waved his hands. "You can’t seriously play upside down. There’s a physics problem there. I mean, yeah, I barely passed physics, but you really can’t. Not for any length of time. Gravity works. I should know."
"I’m with the Baron on this one," Arkady remarked, head cocked as he tried to figure out how exactly that would work if it worked at all. "The guy would have to be a fucking ninja. And possibly have three arms. And I dunno, Liz, three-armed ninja-guitarists just … don’t really happen. Not even in London. Nagasaki, maybe, but not London."
"But, what’s the worst that could happen? He sucks like a hoover on high, and we end up cancelling the show. We’re back to where we were if we hadn’t tried at all," Severen reasoned. "So, we try first, because I’d really rather not blow off a show in London of all places. If we have to drop a show, which I’d really rather not have to do, it should be somewhere we play often. Somewhere they’re not really going to miss us, because we’ll be back next year. Or next month, because it’s Denver and we can just hit it on the way back from Bangor. But, I do not want to see us dropping dates in places where it might actually matter. We’re not Bauhaus. We can’t just fuck this one up, and then expect to get invited back. We’re just not that big."
"Severen, Severen… This is what I love about you. Always so practical, when you’re not too busy loathing everything to be bothered." Betty leaned down and poked his nose playfully, and he bit her finger.
She grinned. "I bought you that shirt, didn’t I?"
"Which is why you should know better," Severen grumbled.
"Well, who’s to say I wasn’t looking to get bit?" Betty batted her eyes at Arkady and swished toward the door. "He’ll meet us late tomorrow afternoon. I know we’ll already be setting up, but he can’t get here any sooner, and we can’t afford not to try. Thank god he’s already a fan."
"I’ll thank god when I know he can play. Think I’d rather talk to god than Chey, anyway," Arkady muttered as the door closed.
Severen had been chainsmoking for the better part of two hours, which he knew better than to be doing, the night of a show, but he was well past the point of caring. It was nearly five, the show started at eight, and their mysterious ninja-guitarist wasn’t there, yet. It might’ve been different, if they were sure he’d be what they wanted, but they weren’t sure. No, Betty was sure, but even she was just operating on faith rather than certainty. The whole thing made him nervous, and the more nervous he got, the more he smoked.
There was a twang of metal and a rustle of leather off to his left, and as Severen turned to look, an exceptionally tall figure dropped into his field of vision, boots first. As the tall man unfolded from the crouch he’d landed in, he tossed back his hip-length hair and introduced himself. "Frostburn," he said with an easy smile. "Chey Landover’s friend. I’m looking for Liz Sinclair."
Sinclair, Severen thought, That would be why Betty trusts this Chey’s opinion. He knows her not her job.
Severen looked the guy up and down. Black and white, from the tall leather boots to the long black hair. For a moment, he wondered what Sin would look like with black hair, but pushed that thought out of his mind — it wasn’t something he needed to be thinking about on a night like this. Even Frost’s eyes looked black, but he was sure that was just a trick of the light.
He beckoned for Frost to follow him and flicked his cigarette into the rainy evening, as he walked back inside. "Betty! Your act of god is here!"
"I’ve been called a fair few things, most of them true," Frost remarked, amusedly, grinning down at Severen, "but an act of god? That I’m surely not."
"You’re apparently an act of Betty. That’s usually close enough." Severen snorted and half-smiled tiredly.
As they stepped onto the stage, Baron nodded to Severen and shrugged. Arkady was complaining about something — probably something completely irrelevant, knowing how he got right before a show — and Betty was yelling, like she tended to, when he whined.
"Yes, Evan, I was sleeping with him! We were nineteen. Get over it already! He’s not going to sandbag a show, because he’s jealous! It’s been more years than I’m going to admit to having lived through! And you’re the jealous one, not hi—" Betty turned around, suddenly, picking up a cable as she crossed to where Severen stood with Frost. "You’re Chey’s friend." It wasn’t a question. She handed Frost the plug. "Impress me. We’re on in a little less than three hours."
"Jesus, Liz! Polite! I know you’re capable of it!" Arkady shouted, looking totally horrified. "Sorry about her, we’re all a little … Long day."
Frost shrugged serenely and placed his flight-case on the ground. Flicking the lid open, he lifted out the black Strat. "No opening act?" he asked, the faintest hint of a smile flickering across his face as he squatted down and rested the guitar across his knees, plugging in the jack, and attaching the strap.
"They got stuck in customs, coming in from France. Something about a profound quantity of cocaine." Severen looked pointedly at Baron on the last word.
"And this is why you don’t fly with drugs," Baron remarked, attempting to look not only innocent but pious.
"Jaysus, you guys really got dicked, didn’t ye?" Frost grinned and stood up, lifting his hair out of the way and settling the strap over his shoulder. He tuned the guitar quickly, picking out harmonics and running his fingers easily over the strings before starting straight in on the first number.
After about a minute, Baron joined him, with an admiring glance. The guy wasn’t Lir, by any stretch of the imagination — moved differently, carried a completely different vibe — but his sense of not just the timing, but the organic nature of the music itself, was outstanding. He was good, and he was clearly passionate about both his ego and his technical excellence, but not so much that it interfered with his ability to maintain that excellence. The guy wasn’t Lir, but he was almost too good to be true. Baron nodded to Betty.
The end of the song approached and Frost looked at Baron, inquisitively. Baron just shook his head and cocked his chin at Frost, indicating that he’d follow whatever Frost decided to do next. Frost smiled graciously and nodded, transitioning into another song almost effortlessly. After a few moments, he glanced curiously toward Arkady, who’d wandered over to watch. Simple curiosity shifted rapidly into definite interest, and the perpetual easy smile on Frost’s face curved slyly at the corners, as that interest began to present itself in a definite but still deniable fashion.
"The guy’s good, Sev," Arkady muttered into Severen’s ear. "And I did not just say that. But, he’s too … pretty."
Severen nearly choked on his tongue. "Coming from you, Evan? Really?"
"Yeah, coming from me, Severen. He’s … It’s kind of …" Arkady gave up and sighed, running his hand through his hair.
"She’s right. You are the jealous one." Severen covered his mouth and laughed. He really wasn’t up for smiling where people could see it, and for all that Frost would be playing with them, that night, he was still people.
Arkady reflected that it was a good thing his paint was almost as thick as spackle as he felt the flush run up his cheeks. "I am not —! Yeah, no. You’re right. Jesus, man, my only competition should be Liz. And she’s a girl, so it doesn’t really count."
Severen shrugged. "Give him hell. You’re the one who keeps setting Lir off on the Spanish tangents in the middle of things. Push this guy, if you don’t like him. See how long it takes to lose him."
"Thought we agreed I wasn’t allowed to wander out of what was on the album, tonight," Arkady challenged.
"We’re not on for another couple of hours. Get it out of your system. And if you don’t lose him? Then we get to use that on stage." The corner of Severen’s mouth twisted up in a terribly satisfied smirk. "I don’t really see there being a down side to it."
Arkady grinned wickedly and eyed Frost. He lifted an inquisitive eyebrow, and Frost just nodded and grinned back, implicitly accepting the challenge. He knew what was coming — it was one of those things that happened from time to time, and if he was totally honest with himself, he usually preferred it.
Baron shook his head and laughed, knowing it was going to be a good few minutes, at least. When Arkady got creative, Lir tended to get creative right back at him. They’d had to drop a couple songs from a few shows, when the good-natured duelling had gotten a little out of hand. And Baron suspected that Frost might be good enough to keep up, for a while. Possibly for long enough to be somewhat dangerous to their set list.
Arkady started easy, following Baron’s lead for a while, just to get a feel for what was already going, and where he was going to take it. His eyes slid shut as he stopped paying attention to everything that wasn’t the rhythm taking shape in his head. Baron watched Frost, as Arkady started to nudge the edges of the song. The corner of Frost’s mouth curled up in pleased surprise, as he began to read where Arkady was going. Still, he followed fairly easily, letting Arkady take the lead for several minutes.
Baron looked moderately impressed. It wasn’t that he couldn’t keep pace, but he and Arkady had been playing together for more than a decade. And yeah, maybe he hadn’t been too good — neither of them had been too good, back then — but he hadn’t just struggled to keep up, himself, he’d watched Arkady trip up Lir a few times. Just never on stage. Never ever on stage. But, Frost? The guy never even started to sweat. His lips tightened a little, his fingers moved a little more sharply, but never a note out of place.
By the time Arkady started to wind down, Baron was laughing with gleeful relief and Frost lounged mostly vertically in an attitude of perfect pleasure, head tipped back, eyes half closed. Severen reflected he’d seen the very same look on Sin, under very different circumstances. It was enough to send a faintly uncomfortable shiver down his spine. He wasn’t going to stand too close to Frost, if he could help it.
Baron bounced up and down, grinning at Betty. "Can we keep him? C’mon, mom, can we keep him?"
"Baron, what in the fuck have you been smoking, this time?" Betty reached out and smacked him in the head. "Don’t you ‘mom’ me! I’m what four years older than you?"
"Never tease a woman about her age, Baron! ‘Specially not this one. She’ll kill you, man," Arkady called out, laughing.
"But, but, the brownies! And the emergency ninjas! And the brownies!" Baron complained. "But, no, really, are we keeping him?"
"I’m for it," Severen offered. "We keep him or we call off the show. And he’s good. And it’s way too late to cancel, now."
Arkady still looked a little bitchy around the edges, but he nodded, grudgingly. "I can’t say no. He’s sharp."
Betty smiled grimly and shook Frost’s hand. "Think you can stand us for the night?"
"Stand ye? Ye kidding me? I had tickets fer tonight. Was going to bring my boyfriend, but it looks like I won’t be able to — what with me workin’ and all…" He grinned and shrugged. "He’ll be here. I’ll be here. Yeah, I’m in."
As Frost and Betty’s conversation turned to business, Arkady swaggered up to lean on Baron’s shoulder. "I’m seeing some ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia’ action, later."
"Are you crazy, Ebony? Mike’ll just throw up on him." Baron elbowed Arkady in the side.
"Nah, nah, not this trip. Later later. I gotta see this." Arkady grinned viciously as Frost flirted a little more obviously with Betty, and she smiled coyly. "Mostly I want to see this asshole get taken down a notch. Not that I’m not eternally grateful that we have someone to fill in, but that’s — he’s — and she’s — and I’m — Jesus, man, tell me I’ve got my face on straight."
Baron turned and put his hands on Arkady’s shoulders. "Go have a drink. Three drinks. She’s practically your sister, man. You’re supposed to be protective. But, you’re only freaking out because you think she’ll actually go for it. You really think he’s better looking than you are? He’s a kid, man. He’s probably younger than I am. She doesn’t go for young guys, and you know it. And besides that? He’s got a boyfriend. He’s flirting for the money, and so’s she. Drinks. You need a few drinks."
"My face. Tell me I didn’t just fuck up my face." Arkady blotted lightly under his eye with the edge of his finger
"Oh, yeah. You totally fucked it up. You look like Severen, it’s so bad." Baron rolled his eyes. "No, you didn’t fuck up your face. I don’t even think the paint comes off, any more. I haven’t seen you without it in years."
"I look good without it. I just look better with it. And I’m not gonna look anything other than perfect in front of —" Arkady’s hand shot out, in the direction of Betty and Frost, and he didn’t clarify which of them he meant, but Baron was pretty sure that, under the circumstances, he meant both. "This is insane. I’m jealous of some kid. What is he, like seventeen? I’m —" he cleared his throat and shook his head. "I’m twice his age. And between you and me? I am better looking."
Baron headbutted Arkady amicably. "Course you are. No doubt in my mind, not that I’m really looking, ’cause, ah, you and me? No. Not ever."
Arkady blinked and stared at Baron. "Four drinks. Right now. Jesus, you say shit like that? I need at least one more drink than I did a minute ago. You don’t swing that way. I don’t swing that way. It’s just … that one time." He shook his head and looked vaguely unsettled. "You were there. I don’t have to tell you."
Baron shuddered and stepped back, putting down his bass. "Yeah, I was. You went for a drink. I went for a — We both need a few drinks. How many do you think can we have, before we’re too trashed to play?"
"Are you shitting me? You and me? We’re not gonna make enough money from this show to get that trashed." Arkady laughed and headed off the stage.
Frost watched Arkady pass, studying him for a long moment, appreciatively, before he turned back to Betty. Beautiful people, probably a good show… Yeah, it would be time well spent.