The magician has gone walking, as he does. Working small magics in small towns, fixing small breaks in the world, nudging everything from walls to sewer pipes back into place. An ugly family fight over whether to repair the fridge or dishwasher is averted when the fridge fixes itself: small things, casting ripples. I am almost certain he does this because he thinks it is what magic should be far, and not to balance the debts accruing against him: the more a magician takes from the world, the more is demanded in return.
Fae do not have this problem. We are the payment of debt: our power is our prison, our will our own jailer. I doubt any magician sees that; I doubt anyone else sees it. It is not something we reveal, certainly not something we talk about. But even fae glamour has hard limits, and the magician has left it to me to deal with the CSIS agents that are hunting me. They know Dana is not really a CSIS agent, they know a fae created her as a body and tricked their entire system into believing I existed.
I was almost destroyed some months ago. My glamour has been healing – I have been healing – since then, but they damage allowed the Canadian government spies to find out who and what I am. At least, that is the narrative I tell myself since I would rather not consider other ones. The downside of a glamour that can make reality shape itself to your will is that it is very hard to lie to yourself. CSIS may have figured out what I was, but to seek to destroy me, to unleash weapons designed to nullify tim in an area: that seems too far a reaction, even for humans.
And so I am sitting in a coffee shop waiting for CSIS agents to find me. They cannot destroy me: they do not have power enough for that, I think, but I have few options to end their feud against me that would not involve killing them all. A fae who runs out of tricks is often little better than the monsters. I get a third coffee, drinking it slowly. I am hoping to bluff them, and failingthat to offer bribes.
The boy who comes into the coffee shop is an unexpected surprise. Jay is perhaps eleven in appearance, from far Outside the universe and looks like a normal blind human child, using his cane to go between tables and then plopping down into the seat across from me with a huge, friendly grin. “Hi!”
“The magician is not here.”
“I know Honcho is all busy, and Charlie is doing stuff with gods she doesn’t need my help with and you have lots of meany bindings converging on you so you’re busy and not busy all at once. So I thought I’d come and say hi.”
“Meany bindings,” I say evenly. Jay can sense and manipulate bindings to a degree that is positively absurd.
“You came to gloat, then?”
“Huh?” Jay sits back at that, blinking. His eyes are filled with broken light under dark glasses and he looks hurt. “I only do that when I beat Charlie in a snowball fight and anyway, did you know there is an IHOP down the road and I like pancakes?”
“I am given to understand that there is little food you do not like.”
“Well, I haven’t found it yet but I’m willing to try and,” he adds, throwing words like exuberant weapons, “you’re not busy and I’m only as busy as a not-busy Jay so I thought pancakes!”
“You wish for me to buy you pancakes.” He beams. I would like to say I am immune to his grin, but I strongly suspect I am not. “And in turn, what will you do for me?”
“I can help make those mean bindings go away,” he says, and for Jay it’s a simple statement of fact.
“Very well.” I stand, and Jay hops to his feet. I hold out a hand and he takes it as I lead him out the door and down the street to the IHOP, Jay asking what pancakes I like best and if I prefer waffles over French toast. I answer absently, having no view one way or the other, find us a table in IHOP and order food.
Jay spends the next hour eating pancakes with syrup. No waffles, no French toast, no sides. Just a happy, sticky mess of pancakes and hot chocolate. Somewhere during that, the knowing that I being hunted is simply gone, as CSIS is no longer interested in seeking me out. The magician could have done this, but not without a heavy cost to himself: no magician lightly twists free will that far and fae cannot do it. We may trick or destroy, but they are not the same things. That this creature can casually do such things with no cost is more than a little terrifying.
“You know that I may not be able to restore your sight.”
“Huh? Oh, this wasn’t about that at all! I don’t want Honcho getting hurt or losing you cuz even magicians shouldn’t be alone and he’s my friend but I think he needs you more than friends?”
“More than friends?”
“Like a friend who isn’t a – like a frienemy,” he says with a huge grin. “I just made that up. Anyway, Honcho is kind of weird right now, and you are all kinds of weird, so!”
“And you are not weird,” I ask despite myself.
“I’m a Jay,” he says as if that explains everything, and finishes off a final plate of pancakes before sitting back with a huge sigh. “And I know you might not be able to fix my sight but you’re going to try, right, and that’s the important part.”
“I am, yes.” I get napkins and insist on cleaning off his face and fingers, mostly because he squirms and grumbles about it all and it somewhat makes up for the cost of the food. We leave the IHOP and Jay thanks me for the food with a hug – not a huge one, but even so – and is simply gone a moment later.
I walk slowly back to the hotel the magician and I are staying at. I suspect the entity named Jay could fix his own vision, but the magician promised to do it so he waits for him to instead. That kind of trust is more than a little terrifying in itself and I begin to wonder how the magician engenders such things in others, but it is not for me to discover. I carry secrets that he must never learn, barriers that would stand between us and true friendship.
But for the first time, I find myself considering how they could be broken down.