“Remind me to learn how to kill a fae in ways both violent and slow.” Jay starts beside me: sometimes he knows when I’m joking, sometimes not at all. Possibly because I’m never sure either when seriously pissed off. Merryweather & Associates is one of those giant companies with more fingers in the pie than there are pies and fingers; the fae had told us a monster was holed up in their HR offices, disguised as a human woman and draining the life out of staff: we were to explain that draining humans violated the arrangement it had made with the fae for glamour
I’d assumed the fae were joking even if I should’ve known better. They don’t like getting directly involved in fixing their own screw-ups – deals made with monsters and creatures from Outside the universe to hide them from human perception – so they farm out the work. It’s good money, and normally not difficult. When you’re a god-eater with a god inside you and the creature beside you is from far Outside the universe and definitely scarier than he looks, normally the assignments the fae offers are at least not that dangerous.
Merryweather – whatever the hell that even is – has genuine trolls for security. They look like large, hulking humans but are too strong, too tough, and scarily fast for what they were. Four of them behind us is like the Indiana Jones boulder scene, only worse. I skid around a corner, Jay hot on my heels, smash the lock off to an office and dive in, shoving it closed behind us.
The door shudders as a troll bounces off of it. The frame and wall around it crack apart but hold together as Jay binds the door to the air, the boy’s frown almost a scowl of concentration. The god inside me is a roiling mass of fury manifesting as rusty claws and darkness-under-the-bed fur. The gods only knew what the staff had made of our running through the hallways. I work on catching my breath and look about us. Cheap office affair: window, desk, computer. Not even a phone, since everyone here probably used cell phones.
“Charlie,” Jay says, grabbing my hand and tugging me back to the door. He looks to be about eleven and human, though he has dark glasses on and his white cane is somehow still in his right hand despite our running like mad down two hallways. Jay is tough, and quick, and good with bindings. Which is why the door and walls are holding but they won’t hold much longer; the air where the walls had been is shuddering under blows.
Trolls get confused with stone but they’re a lot stronger than that. There’s almost nothing about them for a god-eater to eat: I’d eaten their momentum to slow them a little, and that had pretty much been the only trick in my bag. I flex the claws of the god inside me: they are sharp and nasty as claws go, but I’d need to be faster than I am and get all their eyes in one go for us to get away from here.
I swear softly. I’d managed to deliver the message of the fae to the siren working in HR – shape up your actions, stop trying to break your deal with the fae or else – and then the trolls had burst in and come at us. I glance down at Jay, who is squeezing my hand tight and waiting. Trusting me to figure a way out of this. He could get away: he can move fast, and even move in some place – some space – only be can enter, but the odds are very good I wouldn’t survive if he took me with him. It doesn’t even occur to Jay to run, because we’re friends.
I pull my hand free of his gently; the claws of the god have gently pressed his skin, not breaking it. “Can you bind them?”
“Kind of? They’re really solid and strong and I think they maybe used to be mountains? So I could stop them, but not without doing bad things to them, and they might get really heavy and fall through the floor and it would break this building and maybe them too!”
“Oh.” I have no idea how expensive troll security guards are, but I’m damn sure it was enough that Merryweather would not take kindly to us killing them even if we had no choice. I have no idea what Merryweather truly is, and no desire to find out right now. I consider trolls, weak points, claws. I might not be fast, but Jay could be fast and strong enough if we worked it out.
“Can you –,” I begin only for Jay to let out an indignant yelp of surprise.
The remnants of the door and walls explode inward at us, though Jay keeps them from hitting us. I register one of the trolls coming up through the floor and another dropping from the ceiling, springing onto the cheap desk with what I hope sounds like a menacing snarl. They ignore me, judging Jay the true threat. By the time I realize that, one of them has already hurled him through the outer wall, ignoring the window entirely.
It’s a twenty story drop. Jay is tough. I don’t know how tough.
The troll by the hole in the outer wall turned toward me. The one who came up through the floor is beside me, the other two in the hallway. I’m not angry. I’m not even terrified. I have no idea what I am, but the trolls hesitate at whatever they see in my smile. The god inside me isn’t anger, isn’t rage: just focused energy, will, power. What had been fur is now millions of spikes like jagged glass and the air hummed like a thousand angry bees where claws had been. Power, shaped to need.
There are four of them and one of me. The troll in front of me rumbles, and her voice seems almost human, somehow apologetic in tone. “Merryweather prides itself in security services: being infiltrated for any reason is not acceptable to us.”
Which explains some things. They’d probably kill the siren in HR too, once they realized it she was. If they hadn’t already known and just let it slide. It explained much, but I’m seldom in the mood for forgiveness. “Let’s dance,” I whispered, and my voice comes out like something purring, like a naked blade I don’t recognize as me.
“Nope!” Jay’s voice is pure Jay, cheerful and utterly happy as he skids back in the room in a blur to land on the desk beside me. “I decided not to fall so everything is OK!”
“You decided not to fall.”
“Uh-huh.” He grins, radiating delighted pride and unquenchable happiness. “I figured out I don’t need wings to fly, Charlie!”
Suddenly four trolls aren’t quite that scary anymore.
And my idea crystallizes into more than that. “Jay. Here,” I say, and offer up the bindings to the god inside me.
He blinks, eyes wide, then his cane snaps into my hand, bound to me by his power. His speed, his toughness, the strength of a god. My anger. The four trolls don’t have a chance against that, falling with ugly wounds torn into their hides and small savage blows aimed at troll pressure points. I don’t even see Jay move, just watch the trolls fall and he is beside me moments later, panting, the god not burning with fire in his eyes. His eyes remain his, the claws that are manifested close to what I imagine an angel’s fingernails would be.
“This is weird,” he says, and then the god within me is wholly mine again, the power cutting off as the entity inside me slinks deep inside like a wounded thing.
I say nothing, because I have too much to say.
I ruffle his hair and return his cane. “You did good, kiddo.” And today has been a day, so I add: “You think you can fly us both away from here?”
He grins and grabs my hand, doing something with bindings and we are out the window in a leap on his part, the flight a blur of movement that takes us to the top of a building two blocks away. Jay drops me onto the roof and lands beside me, panting for air and grinning so wide that it must hurt even him. I don’t point out that we almost missed the roof: he can’t see at present, but he can sense bindings. Sometimes it leads to problems, but in this case it was only a near problem.
“Next time, when people aren’t around, we need to do that again. Only slower, okay?”
He presses in against me for a hug. “Okay! It was fun, right?”
“It was.” I return the hug, then gently push him back and go to the roof access, reaching within for the part of me that eats gods, eating the state of the lock being open. We head down the stairs to the ground level and outside in a companionable silence. Between holes in walls and flying people, Merryweather will have a lot of explaining and covering up to do. I can’t find it in me to give a crap about what that will cost them.
And I’m definitely looking forward to calling the magician and telling him that Jay knows how to fly.