I spend the morning with Jay finding an entire nest of fairies for the fae; the fae just want to make sure the fairies aren’t doing anything untoward, as they put it. Which, when I asked for details, apparently means that creatures the size of an index finger have a tendency to gang up on people and eat them. I’m half-tempted to see if they could eat more than Jay in one sitting when he’s feeling hungry, but just settle for using the GPS the fae provide and running into the fairies in the woods – who prove they are not eating people by defending their territory with snowballs.
Jay and I have got really good at snowball fights lately. Between the both of us we win against the fairies and they’re so happy they decide to be our friends – which Jay spends most of the walk back to the motel we’re staying on going on about. I suspect this means he’s lost another follower on tumblr, but decide not to ask. I just walk, let his words wash over me as he tosses snowballs at trees to show his aim is improving when not binding snow to a tree and he even does two forward flips on ice to impress me. Thankfully, no one is around to see a blind kid of about ten doing that, though Jay is good at sensing if other people are paying attention to us; it has to do with bindings. With Jay, most things do.
“So,” I say as we reach the parking lot across from the motel, “you were going to show me something yesterday?”
He looks at me, eyes wide under dark glasses. “Charlie?”
“Jay. Don’t ‘Charlie’ me.” I stop, and he reluctantly stops as well, squirming in place. “Twenty minutes talking all about having made friends with fairies and how friendship is awesome. What do you think that is?”
He blinks. “Me talking?” warily.
“You’re trying to hard. To be funny, and goofy, and probably Jay as well.” I mean the last as a joke, but Jay flinches back from it.
“But –,” he protests.
“But you can’t see bindings!”
“I don’t need to see bindings to know something is wrong. Talk to me, kiddo.”
“I don’t want to,” Jay mumbles.
“You don’t want to talk,” I say as calmly as I can manage.
“Oh, no! I like that, but! I don’t want to show you the thing I’d show you,” he explains.
I let out a sigh of relief, and nod back into the wood behind us. “A little way back and then you can, all right?”
Jay hesitates, then nods and takes the lead, trudging slowly through snow. It’s hard to tell with the winter clothing I’ve made him wear, but I’d swear he’s trembling in fear. “It wath in the house,” he says, and I start at hearing the lisp in his voice as much as him not looking back at me as he talks. “The one with the evil ghost and the kid I couldn’t help with bindings and he was going to go downstairs and I had to stop him.”
“The boy is fine; the family as well.”
“I showed him parts of me I didn’t know I had,” Jay says as if I hadn’t spoken at all. “Honcho says I have before sometimes but this was by choice and that changes everything. I can feel it, like a set of clothing under the skin? A little like the god inside you but not like that at all,” and he sounds so miserable I want to hug him until he turns and faces me, his entire body taut with strain. The snow under him vanishes between one moment and the next, pushed back or away and
the god inside me rising out without my bidding, throwing its back up like a wall against the sky
a wall against seeing, a barrier against understanding, its fear mirroring my own will for will
beyond it are shadow made of quasars and movement I feel more than see, perception made
of smells the brain cannot process – there is height, width, length, depth, breadth – and
there are other things as well movements scraping places inside me, things a god-eater
could not eat for they are too alien to even be alien and then there is Jay, and his cane
Dark glasses under an almost-noon sky, his clothing the same as always, the boy’s face so pale I see veins under it and he’s shaking all over as the god flows back inside me like some wounded beast.
I don’t say his name. I walk over, and Jay doesn’t move at all beyond a taut tremble that dissolves as he collapses into me when I hug him. He seems heavier than he did before, his sobs shuddering through him. “Honcho said I should show you,” he manages, the words cracking wildly. “So you’d know, but you’re scared!”
“I am.” I hug him tighter. “But I’m more scared for you than I am of you, Jay.”
He makes a keening noise and is just curled up into my hug bonelessly, relief coming off of him in waves of desperation. I don’t try and process what I saw. I think I might in nightmares, but I don’t know. Is it what Jay really is, what he might become? I don’t know; I don’t think Jay does either.
“You shared this with me,” I whisper as I push him away slowly. “And with a human boy to save his life.”
Jay nods unsteadily, eyes locked on my face.
“You are the bravest person I know, to do that knowing what I might do.”
“I am not,” Jay says hotly, almost sounding like himself in that. “I was scared all the time, Charlie! Even when I wasn’t me, and I don’t – I don’t think that Jay is suppossed to be scared at all.”
“Being unafraid isn’t bravery or courage,” I offer, and stand slowly, holding his left hand gently in mine. “The question I have is can you avoid doing that in a snowball fight?”
Jay blinks, gaping at me.
“If you did that during a snowball fight, I would have to call it cheating.”
Jay says nothing at all as I let go of his hand and turn back toward the motel. “You mean that,” he whispers, as he walks up beside me after a few steps, meaning so many things with those words that it hurts.
“We are friends, and friendship-bindings are important,” I say.
“What? You didn’t think I’d make fun of you?”
“Not after that,” he snaps crossly.
“Well, tough.” And Jay giggles in fits and starts at that the rest of the way back to the motel.
I try and pretend this is the Jay I know. I try and pretend it is enough.
And he wants it to be enough so much that we almost trick ourselves along with each other.