Saturday, February 13, 2010


Title: Syris
Author: Ranger 

If Paul spoke to one more person tonight, Neil intended to scream. He'd waited for it, he'd earned it and he was damned if anyone was going to deprive him of it.
The museum was packed. Suits and lecturers and journalists, and Paul stood in the middle of it, being polite and charming until Neil could have cheerfully bounced cheese balls off the back of his head. It was Saturday night, it had been a long night, Paul had been working night and day for weeks… Neil glowered at him across the hall. Paul had MORE than done his duty for the museum, he did not need to be here tonight. Neither of them needed to be here tonight.
"Isn't it a fantastic turn out?" someone enthused, passing him with a glass in hand. Neil gave them the saccharine smile Paul hated.
Paul turned a little from his group and Neil flushed, catching his eye and recognising the look. It said 'Behave'. Paul held his gaze a second longer, then turned his attention back to his conversation. Angry and not a little ashamed, Neil headed for the counter and looked busy getting himself a drink. It was so rarely Paul had to warn him in public. This damn weekend was important to him. Neil had wanted him to - sort of - know he was cross. But not actually notice. This was so unfair. Really he ought to find someone to be polite to, make the effort to talk and be nice. Except now he was too upset AND too annoyed. Neil took his glass, cast a covert look at Paul to make sure he wasn't watching, and slid quietly out into the hall.
The dinosaur was there, towering forty feet up into the arched ceiling. Too big to move, it was rather out of place amongst the current Egyptian exhibits. Neil, looking for somewhere to be small and quiet in, sat at the foot of the stairs and huddled up against the bannister, sipping moodily at champagne. He loved the dinosaur. Usually. Tonight it's face looked unpleasantly sad and the funerality of it and the Egyptian stuff only added to his gloom. His heart both jumped and sank when Paul pushed through the swing doors at the end of the hall and looked around. Neil kept still, half hoping he wouldn't be seen. Then Paul's eyes fell on him and he walked across to the stairs.
"What are you doing in here?"
"Nothing." Neil said defensively. "Just got a headache."
"Ah." Paul sat down on the stairs beside him and put his glass down. "Now what kind of headache? A tension headache? A bad headache? Or an 'I want to go home early' headache?"
Neil ducked his head on his arms as Paul's hands settled on his shoulders, rubbing gently enough to take the sting out of his words.
"Just a headache."
"You're not being very polite love."
"PLEASE can we go home?" Neil said pleadingly. Paul sighed.
"I have to be here. And it would be nice if you'd help."
"I hate this sort of thing!"
"I don't ask you to do it very often." Paul pointed out. "This is important, please come back in and be sociable just for another hour."
"Can't I stay in here?" Neil said hopefully. "Or wait in the car?"
Neil flushed, knowing Paul was a step ahead of him.
Because then you'll worry about me enough to leave early….
"Can't we go home? Please? You've made your speeches-"
"Neil I have to support the others. Just one more hour. Okay?"
Neil nodded slowly, knowing there was nothing else he could say. Paul got up and held out a hand to him. Neil swallowed and got up.
"Can I have two minutes to go to the bathroom?"
Paul pulled him close and gave him a quick hug. "Two minutes."
He walked out of the hall, leaving Neil miserable.
"That was feeble." A voice said dryly from the stairs. It was a slim, dark man in black, Neil's abandoned champagne in his hands. Neil flushed to the roots of his hair.
"I'm sorry, we didn't see you-"
"No." the man agreed. "Or rather your boyfriend wouldn't. I presume he IS your boyfriend? Or do you let just anyone push you around like that?"
"Wait a minute-" Neil said sharply. The man grinned and vanished. Neil blinked. A whistle alerted him to the black dressed man, now sitting perched on the neck of the dinosaur.
"WHAT?" Neil demanded.
"Syris." The man said cheerfully. "At your service. And boy do you need me."
"Need you to do what? HOW did you get up there."
Syris looked bored. "Like this." He vanished to rematerialise beside Neil.
"Or this." He said from the top of the stairs.
"Or this." He said, up side down in the doorway, booted ankles neatly crossed. He swung up onto his feet and finished the unspilt champagne. "You know about genies?"
"Well I'm sort of, but not. If you get my drift. No wishes. Just kind of cataclysmic self help. You know. Assertiveness. That kind of thing. Cleopatra? She owed it all to me. She was just a girl with an asp until I came along."
"I'm-" Neil backed away, uncertainly. "I'm just going-"
"You see your technique is all wrong." Syris explained. "You've fallen into the old and basic trap. Guilt."
Neil frowned at him. Syris waved the glass.
"I watched you all evening. Did you want to be here?"
"No.." Neil admitted.
"Has he been ignoring you this week?" Syris said sympathetically. Neil hesitated.
"Well, not really-"
"Of course he has! Work work work, when do you ever come first! And did you or did you not just try to explain to him- very nicely- that you wanted to leave? And did he listen? No! Why? Because your technique was wrong! No assertiveness! No strength of feeling! Do you WANT to go home?"
"Yes." Neil admitted. Syris gave him an approving nod.
"Do you WANT him to actually know you're alive this weekend?"
"Yes." Neil said, a little more convinced. Syris waved the glass expressively.
"There you go! Now you've got to stop the looking down and whispering, and the 'yes Paul' and 'No Paul'- look him in the eye! Shout!"
"He doesn't like shouting." Neil pointed out. Syris snorted.
"Do you think Alexander never shouted? Do you think Caesar went through life whispering and tiptoeing when something important happened to him- Paul isn't respecting you! He isn't even listening to you! You need to make an impression on the man, do you or do you not deserve to be listened to? Try a little drama. A little bizazz. It can't be hard to outshine those stuffed shirts out there, virtually everything in this place is stuffed, dead or not."
"Neil?" Paul put his head around the door. "I thought you were coming out?"
"Well?" Syris said pointedly. "Are you a man or a munchkin?"
"Shut up." Neil said half under his breath. Paul's eyebrows rose.
Syris stood directly in front of Paul and waved. Paul walked straight through him. Neil swallowed.
"I- er-"
"Er." Syris mimicked. "Pardon me for breathing…don't hint, TELL him!"
"What?" Paul looked more than slightly irritated. "We've talked once tonight, I didn't expect-"
"I said I didn't want to be here!" Neil snapped.
"Better!" Syris approved. "Less lettucelike. Now try sounding like you mean it."
"I DIDN'T want to be here!" Neil said, lifting his voice. Paul's irritation changed to a look of startlement.
"Short on approaches, isn't he?" Syris commented. Neil glowered at his partner, ignoring Syris.
"I SAID I wanted to go home! I TOLD you I'd had ENOUGH!"
"Be specific!" Syris encouraged. Neil folded his arms.
"I want to go home NOW!"
"Louder." Syris said shrewdly. Neil folded his arms.
"NOW Paul!"
"What’s the matter?" Paul demanded. Syris waved a hand.
"Never mind him being all reasonable, he's only trying to shut you up."
Neil stamped and Syris grinned.
"Atta boy."
"I TOLD you what the matter was! I WANT to go home!"
Paul hesitated, glancing over his shoulder at the door.
"He's wavering." Syris pointed out. "You see, all you had to do was be assertive!"
"NOW!" Neil said sharply. Paul ran a hand through his hair and held out a hand.
"Okay okay. Calm down. I'll get my coat and tell Adam I'm leaving. Allright?"
Syris caught Neil's eye and raised both thumbs.
"That's my boy." 
"So what was that about?" Paul said for the second time, gently and reasonably. "Neil? You never lose your temper like that, there has to be SOMETHING that made you do it."
Yes. The genie type thing currently exploring their bookshelf. Syris cast a look over his shoulder at Neil stranded on the sofa, and shook his head.
"Goes on a bit, doesn't he?"
As a matter of fact, Paul had been trying to get him to talk for a good ten minutes. Obviously convinced he was seriously upset about something. Syris smirked.
"You've got his attention now allright."
Neil cast the genie a look and thought he didn't really like him very much. Syris grinned.
"You want out of the Spanish inquisition? Try a little more of the same. A little flair. A little excitement. A few shouts, a few slammed doors. Impress the man!"
"No." Neil said sharply. Paul looked worried.
"No what? Come on, you wanted out of that conference, are you going to tell me why?"
Syris levelled a finger at a jug near Neil, levitating it up off the table. Neil grabbed for it before Paul could see, Syris grinned and the jug smashed hard on the floor. Paul's face blanked in shock.
"I didn't!" Neil exploded, just as shocked and hating Syris's grin. "Get out! Go away, I mean it!"
"Neil I'm not going anywhere!" Paul said sharply. "Not until you tell me what's going on!"
Syris pointed at the door.
"One good loud slam. That ought to make him think."
"Leave me alone!" Neil got to his feet, grabbing for the door to escape. Somehow, without thinking, he slammed it hard behind him. Syris was sitting on the stairs and laughing.
"You see! He's flummoxed! That ought to make him think a little harder about upsetting you! Or boring you to death with stupid questions."
"Get lost." Neil said sharply and ran upstairs.
"Sorry." Syris said from the end of the bed. "You're stuck with me. Places don't get to choose who haunts them and when."
"Why are you haunting me?" Neil demanded, shaken up and miserable. Syris moved to let him lie down, curling up on the bed. He and Paul NEVER shouted like this. Syris smirked.
"Look at you. All shaken up and tearful because the lord and master got a little edge in his voice-"
Neil, at the end of his tether, snatched up a book off the side table and hurled it. Syris dodged easily, blew at the book and Neil stared in horror as it smashed the mirror hanging over the sink.
"What did you do that for!"
"Its fun." Syris said simply.
The sound of Paul running up the stairs suggested that he had reached the end of his patience.
"And this," Syris said with satisfaction, "Really ought to be MORE fun."
"You are a BASTARD SON OF A-" Neil exploded, hurling a pillow at Syris just as Paul opened the door.
Neil looked from Paul's frozen face to the book, the smashed mirror and Syris's grinning face with a growing sense of horror.
"NOT you! I DIDN'T mean you!" 
Paul was a gentle and slow to anger man, but he had his limits. Tearful, fidgeting to try and ease the blazing smart of his backside, Neil pressed his forehead to the wall and tried to find the words he needed.
"You don't understand!"
"Neil be quiet." Paul said firmly. Neil's eyes stung.
"There was something at the museum-"
"Neil, I'm not going to warn you again. You've gone far enough tonight."
"I need to tell you!"
Paul sighed. Across the room Syris gave a second, exaggerated sigh and rolled over on the bed to grin. Neil braced himself to ignore it.
"Tell me what?" From the creak, Paul had sat down on the edge of the bed. He had been picking up the pieces of the mirror, in between a shocked and annoyed diatribe on tantrums which involved extensive breakages. Neil swallowed.
"Uh.. you know the museum? There was something there?"
"Something. In the Egyptian collection."
"What?" Paul said again, patiently. Neil swallowed.
"Er. This guy."
"Who?" Paul's voice deepened with sudden concern. "Did he upset you? Do you know him?"
"Not exactly…"
"Why don't you tell him about the fairies at the bottom of your garden too?" Syris suggested helpfully.
"This is NOT fair!" Neil exploded. Paul shook his head.
"If you're going to shout-"
"I'm NOT! It's not ME!"
"Neil you're not making a lot of sense. WHAT isn't you?"
Syris chuckled. "Do tell him. Go on."
Neil closed his lips tight and pressed his head against the wall. "Nothing. Nothing, I'm sorry." 
It was a long and horrible evening. Paul had once more try at coaxing him to talk, which he gave up on when he found Neil only closed his lips tight and looked more and more upset. In the end he persuaded Neil downstairs and they cuddled in front of the tv, Paul stroking stiff, tense shoulders and wondering who his brat had quarrelled with, or if this was the early stages of 'flu. 
With his face firmly buried in Paul's shoulder and his eyes shut, Neil couldn't see Syris. Just hear a tuneless humming from the windowsill where the genie was carefully filing his fingernails and occasionally murmuring phrases of Rockabye Baby with enough sarcasm to keep Neil's temper at simmering point. Paul turned the tv off at nine thirty and gave Neil a quick, tight hug.
"Suppose we go to bed, hmm?"
"Yes." Syris sneered from the windowsill. "Run along and he might read you a story."
With great strength of will, Neil resisted hurling anything at the window.
"It's early."
"And you're tired." Paul said gently. "Come on love."
"Look." Syris hopped off the windowsill. "You are SUCH a slow learner. Maybe I need a blackboard and some chalk."
"No." Neil said mutinously. Paul drew a deep breath.
"Now don't start-"
"NOT original." Syris commented. "He doesn't try very hard really, does he?"
Neil bolted back upstairs out of earshot. Syris held up two scorecards as he landed on the bed, a 3 and a 5.
"Good style. Excellent flouncing. Good overall presentation. But low marks for creativity."
Paul shut the bedroom door and sat down on the bed beside him.
"Are you going to tell me what this is all about?"
"The mirror got his attention." Syris pointed out. "Try buzzing something else."
"I'm getting tired of the hysteria tonight-" Paul said warningly. Neil grabbed the pillow to pull it over his head. Syris leaned past it and gave it a gentle flick. It flew in Neil's hand over his head and directly into Paul's face.
Paul peeled it away, no longer patient. As a matter of fact, he looked absolutely furious.
Syris lolled back on the end of the bed with a giggle of appreciation.
"Now THAT worked." 
"You have GOT to help me." Neil begged, throwing himself down in front of Dr Alleson's desk. James Alleson gave him a short sighted peer of concern.
"You look awful."
"I had a HUGE row with Paul this morning." Neil scrubbed once more at his face which hadn't responded well to cold water. "He thinks I pushed the teapot off the table because he wanted me to shop on the way home."
"Wow." James surveyed his friend with mild horror. "You didn't?"
"Of course I didn't! Unfortunately Paul saw my hand on it when it GOT pushed and he's furious!"
"I bet."
"It WASN'T me!" Neil pushed heavy tomes aside and banged on James' computer terminal. "You're into this Egyptology stuff, you tell me What do you know about Egyptian genies?"
"They don't have genies."
"ANYTHING like damn genies!" Neil exploded. "And quick! I only lost the damn thing a few minutes ago, it won't be long before he finds me!"
"Er-" James gave him a slightly nervous look and pushed his glasses back up his nose. "Do you want to tell me what's going on?" 
"It's like a kind of vampire." James said eventually, handing the printout to Neil. "Except it doesn't want blood. This little demon likes emotion to feed off. Preferably anger. Conflict."
"Conflict?" Neil repeated. James waved his hand at the picture on screen.
"The tombs hieroglyphics record them as lying in wait for victims who looked to be easy to manipulate. Usually in some distress themselves at the time. Not always invisible- although I suppose the little wretch can stir more easily if Paul can't see him."
"So what do I do about him?" Neil demanded. James winced.
"There's no record. From the writings, sometimes the victim died in the provoked conflicts- the demon then chose another host."
"So I wait for Paul to kill me? Are you SERIOUS?"
"I don't know what else to say!" James said helplessly. "I don't believe in this stuff anyway!"
"So YOU take him home!" Neil snapped. James tapped the pen on the table.
"He IS feeding off you."
"So how about starving him off? There is ONE charm written up that might just work." 
"Don't get angry." Neil muttered to himself all the way home. "Whatever you do, don't get angry."
Syris appeared to be interested only when Paul was around. Neil searched the house without finding a trace of him, but the second Paul walked through the door, there was the little black suited figure sitting on the stairs and grinning nastily through the bannisters at Neil. Neil ignored him and came to kiss Paul, clearing his mind of anything but being pleased to see him.
"Hi. I missed you."
"I was only at work." Paul's tone and expression showed he was still less than happy from the teapot incident this morning. Since he'd caught a fair amount of the tea in his lap, Neil had every sympathy with him.
"I'm a little teapot short and stout…" Syris sang above them. "What shall we drop on him tonight, Neil old boy?"
Neil ignored him, biting his tongue with an effort. "Do you want to go out tonight?"
"Why?" Paul said suspiciously. Neil shrugged.
"Just thought it would be nice? I could sort of.. make it up to you for last night?"
Paul raised his eyebrows.
"Chicken.." Syris said through the banisters, clucking. Neil turned his back on him.
"How about we go to Opals? Hmm?"
"Why don't you just crawl across the floor?" Syris jeered. "Come on, after the way he yelled at you this morning, anyone with any self respect would barely be talking to him! Make him WORK at it for pity's sake!"
Shut up.
Neil gritted his teeth and smiled at Paul. One of the melting smiles. Paul's mouth responded helplessly, but his eyes softened too.
"Okay. Okay, why not. I'll get dressed."
Neil followed him upstairs, triumphantly ignoring a definite scowl on Syris's face. 
Opals was a small restaurant and bar, but something of a special place to both of them as the place they had done most of their early dating. Syris skulked along beside them, scowling and muttering.
"In five thousand years I have NEVER met a creep like you. Agamemnon? He was a creep and a half, he could crawl with the best but he had NOTHING on you…."
(Don't get angry,) James had advised. (Try not to even FEEL angry. If he's got nothing to gain out of you he'll have to move on…)
I can do this, Neil told himself repeatedly, blocking his ears to anything but Paul. I can do it, I can get rid of this little……Egyptian.
And there was the charm to try. If the situation was right.
It was a tough night. Frustrated with trying to taunt Neil into fighting with Paul, Syris first disconnected all the beer barrels, fused the lights, then fixed the sound system so it would only play YMCA. He was still more infuriated that the clientele regarded it as a huge joke.
"This isn't exactly what you had planned." Paul commented as the bar men hastily put candles along the bar. "Do you want to go somewhere else?"
"Not unless you do." Neil grinned at the young man who brought them a candle pushed into an empty beer bottle. "This has a certain Blitz spirit to it."
"The English are out of their heads." Syris said bitterly from the other side of the table. "Mad dogs and Englishmen…."
"We are the bulldog breed." Paul commented, drinking coke and wincing on it. "It's nice to see you smile about something after the last few days."
"I'm SO sorry about the tea." Neil said sincerely. Paul shook his head wryly.
"Accidents happen I suppose."
"I'll make it up to you." Neil leaned over the table, ignoring Syris's yelp of sheer disgust.
Now? Neil wondered. Then relaxed. No. For the charm to work he needed the little vampire weaker and provoked to real rage himself.
"How?" Paul said with the beginnings of the lazy smile Neil loved. Neil grabbed Paul's hand before Syris could push the table over.
"Suppose we dance and I'll think about it?"
Syris seemed very good at escalating crisis- without a problem to attach to he appeared to be nothing more than sullenly whiney. It was no real effort to block out the thin, whingey voice in his ear as they danced, Neil concentrating on Paul with everything he had. Really, the little vampire was too small to be a problem to anyone. Now if it was just possible to REALLY annoy him…
It was nearly ten when Paul gently detached himself and glanced at his watch.
"I think it's time we go love. Apart from the fact I'll scream if I hear the YMCA again, we need to get up for work tomorrow."
Neil bit his lip, swallowing on an open protest of disappointment. "How about another half hour? Just another half hour?"
"Not tonight love, wee need to go home." Paul said mildly. "I'll get the coats-"
"This is it!" Syris said with delight, "Come on, there's a really good audience here and he won't want you to embarrass him-"
Neil looked around. To his horror, the vampire was once more solid, his voice gaining vibrancy by the second. Paul turned with the coats in hand.
"Now!" Syris urged. "NOW! One really good yell-"
Neil forced himself to smile and took the coat, trying to rid himself of everything but the peace of a good evening and Paul to go home with.
"Wimp!" Syris shrieked, stamping his foot. "What sort of a man are you!"
Paul's answering smile outweighed that shriek to the point of drowning it out. Neil accepted his coat and Paul's arm slipped around his waist as they walked out onto the street. The sky was clear outside and the stars were unusually bright. Neil tipped his head back to see them, counting slowly and clearly as Syris's voice reached the point of detonation. "One…."
"You're useless! You're beyond hope!"
"NO! You can't DO this! It's NOT FAIR!"
"Three." Paul said bemused. "Now what?"
Neil turned around and blew gently. Syris's face held the pout of a toddler as he flickered out of sight.
"Nothing." Neil said serenely. "Nothing at all." 
~The End~
Copyright Ranger 2010

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