Aetheric Cleansing

For JanetMiles‘s commissioned prompt.

After Estate (LJ) and Lost Spirits (LJ)

and in the same setting as Heirlooms and Old lace (Lj)

“Three liters of water, boiling, with four cc of salt and one cc of rue. Testing with item one-seven-seven, ivory and brass dip pen.”

“Got it,” Johias nodded, and then, a moment later, “no. The aetheric resonances are still off the scale. What was your aunt up to, Ruan?”

“Wish I knew,” she sighed, pulling the pen out of the boiling water. “What’s next, salt, angel’s-tears, and holy water?”

“That’s after the holy water with rue. Here.” He handed her a towel, which she used to carefully wipe down the pen. There was no ghost inhabiting this one, yet, and if they were successful, there never would be. “Talking to the ghosts, they don’t even all seem to have known the woman. I suppose they still could have wronged her, if she was the sort to take offense at small things…”

“She was the sort to bind spirits into torment for her pleasure – well, for whatever purpose she had. I’m glad I didn’t ever get to know her. Holy water with rue, three liters boiling, one cc fresh.”

“You know,” he pondered, as he readied the aetheric detector, “it’s possible she had one of these set up for herself, as well.”

Ruan froze. “You think my father’s sister is in one of the ghost traps?” It still felt wrong to call Tansy an aunt.

“Well, it’s a possibility, at least. We haven’t checked for non-vocal ghosts because the ones we found were so very vocal.”

“I…” She dunked the pen very aggressively into the water and counted down seconds. “Ten.”

“Less aetheric resonance, we’re down to a measurable number. Nine point seven five.”

“That’s at least an improvement. Johais – I don’t like this woman very much.”

“I can’t say I fault you. Well, we could, perhaps, get some answers out of her if we did find her.”

“We could,” she admitted slowly, taking a towel and drying off the pen again. “All right, let’s try the salted holy water.”

“You don’t like the idea?” He aimed the detector at the third pot of water.

“Everything about the woman makes my skin crawl. She was evil, Johais, and that is not a word I use lightly. Evil, nasty, impolite… and I worry that she could, in some way, rub off on me. I don’t want to wake up evil.”

Johais kissed her forehead, just over the goggles, carefully. “Very unlikely.”

“Thank you.” They were alone, so she let the giddy smile she was feeling come out, just for a moment. “But you don’t know my family.”

“I have, to date, met thirty-five members of your family, counting the men, and that’s all your mother’s side. I’ve met four members of your father’s family, one of whom was, at the time, a ghost. I have a pretty good idea what your kin are like, my beloved. And I can easily see which family members you take after, and which you do not – and this one, this evil witch, if I may be so bold, is nothing like you.”

“You say the sweetest things. Holy water, three liters from St. James on East and Main, with three cc’s of salt and one drop of angel’s-tears, which, I will note, we’re almost out of.”


She dipped the pen into the concoction, not, by this point, expecting much result. They had tried every suggestion from every aunt, cousin, grandmother, friend, quack, and even a couple from her father and uncles, and, to date, holy or not, water or vodka, nothing had given them the results they’d been looking for (although the blessed vodka had burst into flames, carrying with it a beautiful mother-of-pearl cigarette case said to belong to a former burlesque dancer).

“And… oh, my. That did it, Ruan. The aetheric reading just dropped to zero. Ruan, I think we found the solution… pardon the pun.” Johais was smiling from ear to ear as he set down the aetheric detector and hugged her tightly and rather inappropriately.

She didn’t mind. She pulled the pen out of the water and set it aside to hug him back properly, and, even less appropriately, kiss him very firmly on the lips. “You,” she murmured, “you wonderful man. I could not have done it without you.”

“I wouldn’t have had it to help with without you. This is a brilliant project, Ruan, a concrete application of research. And we succeeded!” The man’s glasses were fogging up, he was so happy.

“Once,” she pointed out. “Once, and with a very rare and difficult-to-obtain component. And we won’t know if we succeeded, in truth, until poor Mr. Anthony passes away.”

“Well, we have achieved something, at least! That’s… Ruan, did you kiss me?”

“I did. And you kissed me back.” Her own goggles were fogging as well; it had been a nice kiss, but not, she thought, quite that nice. “It was very pleasant.” She pulled the goggles off to clean them on the hem of her apron.

“It… what would your father say?”

“At this point, I believe ‘thank goodness you’ve managed to do something at all about Tansy’s mess.’ He’s quite embarrassed about the whole thing.” It wasn’t her goggles, she realized; the salted holy water was steaming over. She turned off the stove and moved it from the burner, then, to be safe, moved all the other vessels as well. The holy components had, after all, reacted very strangely to Tansy’s possibly-damned-artifacts. “Could you point the aetheric meter at the water, please?”

“That wasn’t quite what… well. Yes. But then I’d like to discuss this kiss again, if you don’t mind.” He stepped back away from her to point the boxy machine at the steaming water. “Ah… one moment, my glasses… hrm. Do did we simply transfer the aetheric connection into the water?”

She peered at the meter. “I don’t think so. There’s not nearly enough resonance left for that. It does make me wonder, though – and worry about pouring the water down the drain. Perhaps if we let it sit? As long as it doesn’t evaporate – I’d hate someone to die and then be bound to individual water particles throughout the world.”

“But it would be awfully convenient to know when he died.” Johais set down the meter and wiped his glasses off again. “Ruan, you kissed me.”

“Would you like me to do so again? To compare the results, of course, purely scientifically.”

“I do not believe there is anything at all scientific about what I am feeling, unless one wants to delve into biology. Quite messy.” The steam was curling his hair – and hers – and both goggles and glasses were fogged again.

“Johais, I’m fairly certain that whatever happens between us, it is going to be both biologic and messy.”

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

8 thoughts on “Aetheric Cleansing

    • Well, some of them knew her, yes, just not all of them. Also, this scene makes me want to commission Meeks for another drawing 😉

  1. “Ma? How do Aetheric Investigators get started?” “Well… When a lady Aetheric Investigator meets a gentleman Aetheric Investigator and they find their goggles steaming…” “…” “And then nine months later you have a gaggle of junior Aetheric Investigators.” “Ma? Am I going to be as… eccentric as you?” Hehe. I like!

  2. <giggles> I approve of adding some steampunk to the weirdshit. The dubiousness about suggestions from her father and uncles given that her fellow investigator is male is interesting. I mean, she comes from a tradition of Aunts, but Tansy is from the other side …

  3. “Johais, I’m fairly certain that whatever happens between us, it is going to be both biologic and messy.” And I LOVE that line. Also, the steaming goggles were highly amusing.

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