It’s not even ten in the morning and I’ve had a drink. Not coffee or tea, but something definitely stronger. Jay has left the hotel in search of another breakfast – because when you’re eleven and from far Outside the universe, breakfast is very important. As is everything else. The wandering magician is somewhere in this town working quiet magics. It is what he loves best, but sometimes I think it’s also his retreat from other things. Not that I’d dare say it.
The drink goes down with a smooth burn and I feel a little better. Jay telling people this morning that he’d been spayed had been an adventure in itself. To say nothing of the attempt to reserve-microwave a pop tart for reasons I still don’t understand. I assume someone on tumblr convinced him it was a good idea. Probably without ever wanting to. The space where the microwave was makes my skin itch when I look at it.
That was one reason for the drink. Jay making a dimension just for stray dogs was maybe not another, but it is Jay. It’s not one thing: it’s a hundred little things, all piling up on each other. I could go away again. Take a break. But each time hurts Jay, and he’ll never understand why.
“Go away,” I say when the door to the hotel room opens without anyone bothering to use the lock. Sometimes the magician just forgets to: when you’re a wandering magician, every door is open to you.
But it’s not the magician, or Jay. What enters looks to be a man, but he both wears and carries an impossible beauty. He tried to use it on me once; it’s as much history as we have. I’ve learned more from Jay, because it never occurred to him not to tell me when I asked.
“The magician isn’t here. If you’re looking for him.” I don’t move. I can do some pretty impressive things if I have to, but I’d rather not test myself against someone who is the equivalence of a magician for Outside the universe. Even with more drinks in me I’d never consider it.
“I was.” His voice is silk and honey, butter and chocolate all rolled into smooth perfection. “But I felt other problems and thought perhaps I could help with them, Charlie?”
He says my name like no one has. I shake the effect off. “Are you trying to toy with me, Moshe?”
“No. I am a Walker of the Far Reaches. We are what we are.” He pauses, eyes paler than they were a moment ago. “I admit I didn’t expect to be resisted so easily.”
“You say my name in an – interesting way. It definitely doesn’t top Jay saying it.”
“Ah! But he is why you seem... unbalanced?”
“Jay. He just – the things he does...” I trail off. “The wandering magician is able to cope with more than I am.”
“He is what he is as well. But I am also from the Outside, and there are things you simply have not considered. Jay is not human, at all, for all that he can hide so well even you forget what he is. You and the magician are his anchors in this world, but that means more than you think it does. He learns what is allowed from you. He has, in human terms, outsourced his morality to you and the magician. Because it is not a natural thing to him, not part of what he is.”
“And every time he pushes the impossible at us, the possible bends a little more.”
“It is not something he intends, but yes. Children test limits. Jay is no different, though I doubt he understands what he does at times, or even why. But he is testing himself as well as you. Learnings things that are not bindings, and thus far outside of both his experience and his power. I would not call it easy, what you have been called to do. But I would suggest it may be the most important thing that will ever be done.”
“By me?” I ask slowly.
“No.” For a moment I think he is going to leave it at that, but Moshe is no more human than Jay: “By anyone.”
I stare at Moshe.
“Even I have limits,” Moshe says. “Jay, I think, does not.”
“I try not to think too hard about that. Ever.”
“It is wise not to. It may be safe to explain that he is pushing you, and to ask him to stop it. He cannot operate on instinct alone.”
“And we have to teach him to think before he acts.”
“All the time, yes. I think that is the lesson, among others. I could be wrong. Jay does not wish to hurt you. You know this.”
I nod. “Because of jaysome, yes.”
“But he must he told when he does. You cannot hide things from him; attempting to do so will only confuse him further. It is nothing I envy you.”
“When why were you here?”
“Sometimes I help the magician – escape, when he needs to. I could offer you the same service.”
Moshe’s eyes narrow slightly. “These lessons for Jay can be applied to you as well. To learn to think before you act. To not speak wholly on instinct.”
“Maybe. Still no.”
He nods once, and vanishes.
I turn on the TV. Sit down on the bed, and find cartoons and watch them until Jay returns. The magician and I are human, for all that we know and can do. And I think Jay doesn’t scare me, not half as much as what might happen to him and because of me when me and Nathen are gone.
I hug Jay tight when he returns, and he returns it with a jaysome grin, not understanding it is more than just a hug. I’m not sure he can. I think some day he will. And I don’t know what to think of that at all.