Having a god inside you to keep you warm is one thing. Waking on boxing day to a roaring fire while nestled in expensive blankets is something else all together. I can hear the city and rest of the hotel distantly below us, enough to know the rush of Boxing Day has begun and I slept in for the first time in weeks. I’m warm and content, lying in the bed like a lounging cat and it feels good up until I recall why I haven’t been able to sleep in lately.
Nothing. The penthouse we’re renting – or that Jay acquired through manipulating bindings – is large, but not that large. I pull myself out of the bed, throwing on a robe and slippers and pad out of the main bedroom. The living area is large and sumptuous, looking like a middle-class wet dream of understated elegance that screams its elegance. Not a single piece of Ikea in sight, but a lot of antiques and gently modern furniture. There is, however, no sign of Jay at all, and he’s not sleeping in either of the other three bedrooms. I wouldn’t have put it past him to try every other bedroom during the night just because he could.
I finally find the note on a yellow post-it Jay put on the coffee maker, written in his childish scrawl: ‘Out Doing GOOD :)’. I read it twice, then decide not to turn on the tv or listen for sirens, instead spending five minutes figuring out the easiest way to use a one-button coffee machine to give me coffee with two creams and sugars. The coffee does turn out to be nice, and I drink two cups and ring reception for breakfast.
Breakfast is hand-delivered by one of the chefs, who doesn’t bat an eye at me. I definitely don’t look like I belong in a hotel penthouse: there’s still enough goth-punk to me to be noticed, I’m not exactly ordinary at all – the god burning in the back of my eyes at least not visible often in the mornings – and he could well expect both breakfasts to be for me, which definitely doesn't fit the penthouse image. It does turn out to be at least five kinds of toast and eggs, sides of fruits and cheese and fluffy french toast that looks like it might be a crime to actually eat.
The penthouse fridge has four kinds of orange juice, fresh apple juice (as of yesterday) from four kinds of apples as options; I snag orange juice, pour two glasses, put the plates on the table and wait. Jay pokes his head out of one of the bedrooms in under thirty seconds. He looks to be a human kid of about ten and would be unremarkable as that save for his white cane and the dark glasses over his eyes; he wears the glasses almost all the time, since his eyes look very odd, but doesn’t bother with the cane when it’s just us.
He can’t see, but he can still sense bindings as he always has and uses that to figure out where everything is; he’s getting a lot better at not confusing things, and hurries into the kitchen wearing a green Santa’s elf suit complete with candy cane stockings and grins hugely, no doubt sensing my reaction through the bindings between us.
“I went all into a shop,” he explains, “and wanted to be Santa, but the nice woman told me I’d look cuter as an elf, so I got all dressed up by her and I went and found people without many bindings, and whose bindings were all alone and I said hi and made friends and got new bindings with them!”
“You went and friendship mugged people?”
“Charlie! It’s not mugging,” he says, with barely a hint of the lisp he used to have. “I found sad people and made them a little happy and it was about doing good.”
“And since when does Santa employ blind elves?” I ask, mostly to find out his reasoning.
Jay sits at the table and sniffs food, poking it with a fork and starting to eat happily. “Because of Rudolph.”
“He had to employ a reindeer that was not really disabled but everyone thought it was because! they all get confused and confuse it with difference but anyway that’s what I told people and how Santa’s Workshop always had wheelchair ramps because of moving lots of toys and elevators and everything so it was mostly compliant with laws already.” He beams at that.
“And all these people you visited as an elf were children?”
I count to ten. It seldom helps. “Please tell me you didn’t bind people into believing Santa exists?”
“But Santa –.”
“Jay.” And I use that tone, the one I learned from the wandering magician. Sometimes I think I could have whole conversations and never need to say more than Jay’s name in different inflections.
“Okay, I didn’t, but I was all convincing and I kind of maybe appeared out of thin air a few times because I misjudged where people were so they didn’t ask many questions and –.” His patter flatters. “And some of them just wanted me to go and were a little scared, but I didn’t want them to be.”
“Sometimes humans don’t want to feel, or even to be good, kiddo.”
“Like you all the time,” he says with a huge grin.
“I could make your clothing not be green.”
“But this food is far too good to waste on a food fight. So, you made some friends and helped a few people?”
Jay nods, going back to eating. “It was mostly lotth of fun!”
I grin at that. “I imagine so. We could see about helping more people later if you want? Only as Jay and Charlie and not as Charlie with one of Santa’s elves.”
“I like being an elf, though.”
“More than you like being Jay?”
Jay actually thinks it over. “Some times? Not often, but sometimes when I get all sad-face, like that my lisp is going away and that used to be a lot of being Jay, or people don’t want to make bindings of friendship at all, I think it’s easier to not be Jay?”
“I imagine it would be. It’s easy for me not to be Jay.” He giggles at that. “And sometimes I don’t much like being any kind of Charlie – one with a god inside her or not – but I mostly make do. Finish eating, and we’ll figure out some ways to help people this afternoon.”
“But, but –.”
“Duties and jobs and favours owed can wait a little bit; we can do things for ourselves, too, and helping others is a good way to ground ourselves in the normal world a little, one without doing favours for fae, helping gods migrate or anything else. Deal?”
“Okay!” Jay grabs our plates and takes them to the counter, then dashes in an inhuman blur into a bedroom to change. I pretend not to hear him bouncing on the bed.
I shower, change, and find him on his tablet, using voice commands to figure out places we can go to help people. Which, being Jay, means trying to save retail employees from the mad rush of boxing day shoppers. It wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind, but I offer no objections as he lists malls and stores where I could use the god inside me to calm people and he could unbind anger and we head out of the hotel with Jay holding my hand and insisting on taking the lead with his cane, to show me how good he is at hiding his use of bindings to make not seeing easier.
It definitely doesn’t count as a normal way to end the Christmas holidays, but it’s better than a lot of other ones I’ve had done through the years and Jay is so happy at sharing it with me that it makes up for years of family and relatives. Or manages to until the point where some shoppers turn out to be actual trolls who sense our manipulations and chase us for two city blocks, almost discarding their human seemings in the process.