Every magician has vices and addictions, or we wouldn’t be magicians at all. You don’t become a magician without developing ways to cope with all that comes with it. I drink sometimes, smoke a little. Right now it’s coffee. A simple walk into a coffee shop, a walk back out and Jay and I can be on our way from this town. As if magicians are allowed to have such simple things happen to them.
As if Jay isn’t very much Jay.
I hear someone scream the word, “Move,” and the sound of tires and horns. I put the lid on my coffee and the hot chocolate I got for Jay, walk to the door with one in either hand.
I leave the coffee shop to see a young woman across the street who is trying to sob and not ruin her mascara at the same time, shaking Jay wildly on the sidewalk. Two cars have collided in the street; that there seems to be little damage to have has not prevented the drivers from screaming shrill abuses at each other. I walk between them and the gathering crowd. People move aside for magicians in the same way they do for ambulance crews, though with less understanding of why.
Jay’s glasses and cane are scattered on the road like remnants of a fatal hopscotch, and Jay is lying on his back on pavement with his jeans torn. The girl is holding his head up, crying and asking if he is all right. A friend of hers is taking video with a camera, possibly because the iphone compels her to observe rather than help – if I’m being cynical about it.
“Talk to me,” I say, and I put only a hint of power in words, enough to loosen her from her own fear.
“The boy was waiting across the road for someone, and said hi to us and Emiline asked how he knew we were there and made she joke about him not being really blind and the boy said it was and ‘Honcho would agree’ – a friend, relative? No idea, but he began going across the road and cars were – were –.” The girl waves a shaking hand to the road. “Emi shouted for him to move, but he froze. She pulled him back but the prius clipped him. She was – she didn’t mean –.”
I take a moment to let the past overlay the present – sometimes it is so easy to do that seems as if some places only exist in their past – and then crouch down beside Emiline and Jay. I make a ward from the distance photos put the world at bay, keeping other people from getting close, set the coffee and hot chocolate down.
She raises her head at her name. “He – he –.”
“He was just stunned.” I resist the urge to tickle Jay. Or kick him. “Jay.”
Jay cracks open eyes filled with broken light, sitting up slowly. He looks to be about eleven: pale, entirely human, and being Jay he can’t help breaking into a huge grin when he smells the hot chocolate. And probably me. “Honcho? I’m all kinds of okay,” he says firmly.
“How Jaysome of you.”
Jay blinks, and some of the grin slips at what he hears in my voice and senses in the bindings between us.
“He’s just bruised; he will be fine,” I say to the girl, and weave power into the words, reassurance that shakes her from her fear.
Emiline nods jerkily, heading to her friend. There are sirens, distantly, but Jay is very, very good at hiding he’s from Outside the universe. So much so that he won’t show up on cameras or videos, so I reach out with the magic, wrap the confusion of events into the minds of everyone watching. Witnesses are confused anyway: I just add another layer to that.
Jay retrieves his cane and glasses, putting the latter back on and following me down the sidewalk. I hand him his hot chocolate, and wait until we’re two blocks away before looking over. “You terrified that girl.”
“It was only one car hitting me and I’m tough like a Jay and –.”
“She had no way of knowing you were tough.”
And Jay stops at that and turns toward me, raising his chin a little. “She didn’t have bindings in her for anyone but herself and I helped make some, Honcho.”
“By tricking her?”
“You magicians trick people all the time and!” he says, flinging out the word like a challenge, ‘she didn’t think I was blind because I’m all kinds of good with sensing bindings!”
“So you decided to make sure she realized you couldn’t see by letting a car hit you.”
“It made her see stuff, and she was probably more blind than me if she was being mean like that,” he snaps.
I sip my coffee. “So you did that to help her?”
Jay hesitates, then bites into his lower lip. “Nope,” he mumbles.
“I can do things like that, and the magic has a cost down the line. A balancing of a pendulum, in some ways. A restoration, an equilibrium. You don’t have that, Jay. You can simply act and do whatever you want with bindings.” I pause a beat. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost.”
“Even if there isn’t one?” he says slowly.
“Perhaps especially then.”
“Oh. I didn’t mean to make you mad at all. But I can’t see right now and people thinking I can makes me a little mad.”
“Just a little?”
I don’t point out that he liked shook two drivers badly, terrified at least one girl and her friend: Jay can sense bindings better than magicians can hope to. I make a note not to ask too much about what he’d consider more than a little mad, at least not right now. I reach over and gentle ruffle his hair. “All right. I think I understand that a little. Next time, just ask me to talk to them. Getting yourself hit by a car every time people think you aren’t really blind in order for them to realize you can’t see isn’t exactly a solution.”
“But it’s worked so far,” he says, radiating innocent pride.
I close my eyes. I count to ten. I decide not to ask how many times he’s felt the need to do that. “Other things can work as well,” I offer, and give him a light poke in the shoulder. “Take the next left to the car. We should probably leave town before the police try and find us.”
“Does that mean we’re going on an adventure?” he asks eagerly.
“You don’t think this counts?”
“Nope. This is just a morning,” he says, as if that explains everything.