Hotel room bathroom doors tend not to slam well, as a general rule. Jay manages to slam it regardless.
I rub the bridge of my nose. “Jay.”
“Go away,” the boy yells from the other side of the door.
I knock on the bathroom door. “I didn’t mean that.”
“I thaid to go away,” he yells, even louder, and the wood buckles as the door is bound to the frame, merged together by sobbing anger.
“Jay. Open this door.”
The creature from Outside the universe either doesn’t hear the note in my voice or ignores it entirely between sobs of fury. I find it in myself not to care, reach into the world and unmake the binding holding the door and frame together. Hard.
In the small bathroom, Jay is doubled over, clutching his head and whimpering in pain.
I reach out a hand and he spasms, twisting back and glaring up at me. “Your jutht uthing magic to be a bully!”
“Is that what you think I am a magician for?”
He flinches visibly at my tone and straightens with an effort, veins visible at either temple. “You thaid I wath thpethial,” he says.
I take a deep breath, steel myself. “You’re sounding like you are.”
Jay’s jaw drops. He makes a small noise, tries to find words. I wait. “My lithp ithn’t my fault,” he says, his voice cracking.
I reach over, close his mouth and lift his chin so he can’t look away from me. “You are whining. That is all I meant. Do you understand?”
I let go and he shakes his head minutely.
“You asked if I had someone special in my life, Jay. I said you were special. I did not mean special in the afternoon TV special sense. You bound yourself into my service; you should have known that.”
He sniffs. “You hurt me,” in an even smaller voice, fighting back tears.
“You bound the door to the frame,” I say softly, and watch his eyes widen as the words sink in. “For the first time you manipulated a binding in the world on your own. And you did it from anger.”
“Oh.” He bites his lower lip and says nothing else, looking scared.
I turn and walk back over the bed. he follows in silence and sits beside me, trying not to look like he’s about to cry. I sigh and press a hand to either temple, rubbing gently, and he lets out a small gasp of relief and relaxes almost bonelessly into my side. I’d have more luck staying angry with a puppy. I rub the headache away gently and he doesn’t protest at all, making happy sounds.
“Still mad at me?”
“I will be if you thtop,” he mumbles, eyes closed.
I smile at that and continue for a couple of minute before letting go.
“I’m thorry,” he says softly, staring down at his feet.
“I know. It’s okay. And for the record: No, there is no one special like that – which you well know – and and that is not giving you permission to try and set me up for a date on any internet website.”
Jay twists his head up to look at me, eyes narrowing. “You’re reading my mind?”
I smack him upside the head gently and stand. “I don’t need to,” I say, leaving him to worry that I can. “And you’ve watched more than enough TV today. We’ll grab supper and check out the local cemetery.”
“We will?” His eyes narrow suspiciously. “Why?”
“Because if you’re going to learn how to bind things together, you’re going to learn to unbind as well. Removing lichen from stone without any anger at all.”
Jay lets out a huge sigh and dives under the bed to find his shoes. I put mine on and wait by the door as he finds his coat as well and studies what used to be the bathroom door. “I did a good binding,” he says proudly.
“You are special,” I say, and step out of the hotel room into the hallway even faster than he can remove a shoe to throw it at my head.