The man stops by the shop twice a week.

It's a small shop, nestled between an antique store that doesn't sell real antiques (but likes to charge like it does), and a little store that sells teas and dainty flower cakes that come in boxes. The store he goes to doesn't sell cakes or teas, though if you ask the portly gentleman behind the counter the right way there might be things to drink.

It doesn't sell any fake antiques, either. Almost everything is old- older then most of the people walking around on the planet. Things that have been through several wars over and have managed to make it out all right. Things that have survived through burnings and drownings and being lost and being found and have -through a strange sort of magic nobody has managed to get a handle on yet- have acquired something a little like a soul and a little like a mind.

He stops by the shop twice a week. Partly because he likes the look of it.

He likes the musty smell of different types of magic and dust all mixed together, and he likes how the shop is bigger on the inside than the out. How the windows are grimy and small on the front, but once inside are huge, stained glass ones with pictures of dragons and things. He even likes the crotchety old owner, whose name few know and nobody uses. (Because there are some things even magic folk won't poke with sticks)

But mostly, he goes because he's looking for something, and the shop restocks every Tuesday and Friday.

He walks through the doorway and feels an electric jolt. It doesn't hurt, just tingles. It's the door making sure he's friendly.

He goes straight for the glass counter up front, next to where the owner is writing down stuff near the reg. He smiles. The owner grunts in acknowledgment, his eyes never leaving the paper. It's okay. He knows it's the best he's going to get. Instead, he starts looking.

Behind the glass are bits and bobs. There are crystals that glow with inner light. Some say things like 'good luck' or 'love'. he passes those on. They technically work, but they're just conversation pieces, mostly. Knick knacks. There are small paper bags labeled with crayon in a child's scrawl:


He smiles sadly and passes those on, too, trying not to think how they'd come to be inside the bags and not in the people they were born with.

Little bottles of sand that contain the smell of the ocean. Seashells that have the voices of sirens singing. Jewelry that snatches people's attention and makes them easy to manipulate.

All very nice, but not what he's looking for.

He walks through the dreams section without a thought. Bottled storm dreams spark as he goes, feathers that grant flight dreams when placed under pillows float gently in their containers. Small plants send out tendrils of vine out to reach for him. He brushes them off and passes on.

It's not in there.

The man frowns, feeling the familiar weight of disappointment.

It's not anywhere.

"Hey. . . " he falters, not quite sure what to call the storekeeper. "Uh. Sir?" he finishes, awkwardly.

The storekeeper grunts. "Max."


"Call me Max." Max squints up at him with his one good eye.

"Oh. Well, Max. You get anything. . . unusual, this week? Anything. . . you know. Heavy?"

For the first time, the storekeeper puts down the pen. "What're yeh lookin' for?" He's got a deep voice and a thick accent that could have come from anywhere, everywhere, and nowhere, all at the same time.

He shifts uncomfortably. He doesn't like to talk about it. "Uhm. I'm not sure what it looks like. I'd know it when I see it, though."

Max glares at him for what seems like ages. One eye is milky white, the other is a sharp shade of gold matching some of the knick knacks perfectly. He finds he cannot move as the keeper picks away at the edges of his mind.

Finally, Max sighs.

"Yeah. 'S in back." Max hefts his rather portly frame off the stool and heads for the back room.

The man can barely believe it. "Y-you've got it? Really? How do you know it's mine-?"

Max comes back out, holding it like one would hold a dead bird.

It's smaller than the man would have expected. It's grey. It looks like a piece of sheer cloth, but -like the crystals and things on the counter- it glows.

"It's beautiful," he breathes. He reaches out to touch it-

-Only to have his hand slapped away.

"Not free," says the storekeeper. "Not cheap, either."

"Oh, right. Of course." He pulls out his wallet, suddenly feeling embarrassed. "How much-?"

Max shakes his head. "No cash. Not for this lot. Something else. Something more."

The man feels his heart sinking. This is what got him into trouble the last time. . .

"What do you want?"

Max squints at him. "Laugh," he says.

The man does without hesitation. He can afford the laugh.

No luck. Max shakes his head. "Nah. Too rusty. Too raw. How about your heartbeat? That any good?"

The man's hand unconsciously goes to his chest. "No," he says. "Someone else's got dibs on it." He shows off his wedding ring, and the storekeeper nods.

"Damn. Well. . ."

Max frowns, then smiles. "Open yer' eyes. No, wider. Lemme see 'em."

The man opens them as wide as they'll go.

The shopkeeper inspects them. After a moment, he nods. "Yeah," he says. "Green. Nice shade. They'll do." He goes to one of the shelves behind the counter and picks up a clear crystal.

A moment later, Max is holding the crystal up to his face. He forces the man's eyes to stay open, and jabs the pointed end of the crystal in.

It doesn't hurt.

He thought it would. But when Max is done, and the crystal is glowing a dark, nearly hazel green, his eyes feel fine.

He watches with a strange mixture of loss and anticipation as the crystal holding his eye color is set on the counter inside a box marked 'to be priced'.

The storekeeper prods him gruffly on the shoulder to get his attention, then shoves the wisp into his hands.

"Here," he says. "Don't wanna lose it again, do yeh?"

He looks up at the owner, his eyes now pitch black, and smiles. He cups his hands and holds the wisp up to his face. He inhales deeply.

When he removes his hands, the wisp is gone. He heads for the door.

"Pleasure doin' business with yeh," the shopkeeper calls.

He nods, but doesn't say a word.

The smile stays on his face the entire walk home.

This is all Intentions' fault. Go yell at him.

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