I walk back into the world. Sometimes it is harder to return than to leave, and not even magicians know why: in this case, it could be because I am trailing smoke as thick as ichor that burns the air around me. There are monsters entirely of this world who learn places to hide from which they can strike victims, evils so twisted the world is relieved when they find ways to slip sideways and away from it. Even worlds take the path of least resistance when they can.
I borrowed Jay’s talent to be unseen and took it with me, finding the killers. Dealing with them. Everyone kept saying the bees were dying off; no one wondered at the cause. They’re dead, the wasp-ant creatures whose motives I hadn’t much cared to learn. I use the bindings I have with Jay to make a Way to his location, step through a door and leave as much of the sideways place behind as I can.
I ache all over but nothing is broken. The story of my life, some days.
Jay is watching the TV in the hotel room and grins when he seems me, huge and relieved, flinging himself at me for a hug despite the ichor. He pulls back first, radiating a pride that pushes some of the cold of the other place from my bones.
“I helped people when you were gone!”
I pause. I wonder if the world was trying to keep me away as a kindness. “You helped people?”
The boy who is really a creature from Outside the universe grins even wider, practically dancing from foot to foot. “I thtopped a monther all on my own and made it run out of a human!”
I want to ask who – or what – the ‘monster’ might have run into, wondering if I was going to have to explain that celebrities weren’t actually monsters posesssing human hosts. “I need a shower first okay?”
He nods, and I head into the hotel room shower, using magic to keep the water warm for over an hour before I finally leave, sit down on the couch, and listen. Jay is worried and proud, but he did well. I don’t point out he can’t threaten people with his potential all the time, since he knows it. But he helped a girl named Iola and her dad, so I tell him he did well and order in breakfast.
We spend the whole morning watching cartoons, and Jay tells me more than I ever wanted to know about kid’s cartoons, happy to teach and just spend a day doing nothing at all.