1. – Monday Afternoon
“Jay. You have talked about nothing except dinosaurs for four days.”
Mostly, Jay is good at realizing when bindings are fraying between us. Also known as when I’m getting cranky with him. Right now he just offers up a huge grin from the other bed in the motel room. “I’m learning lots more, too! Like if lizards and birds all came from dinosaurs, then I bet some humans did too and that could ‘splain why some people think other people are humans in lizard skin suits!”
“I bet if we see the dinosaur movie today I can totally hear which actors are really reptilians,” he boasts.
I open my mouth to say that’s just a conspiracy theory, close it. I’ve seen too many weird things over the last two years for that, and Jay is one of the weirder ones often enough. Even if he does look like an ordinary-enough human boy of eleven. “And if none of them are?”
“We could visit Hollywood and I could ask if any of them want to be those,” he says.
I don’t even bother to ask if he’s joking. “I’m getting a coffee. You wait here in case the fae call us about work.”
Jay just nods to that and sits in the motel bed, humming the theme song from Jurassic World.
I remind myself that he wants to see the movie so often because he can’t actually see. I remind myself that, creature from Outside the universe or not, he is still a little kid. This time it’s not working. It’s not the movie. Not Jay. Not just that, too much and more besides.
I punch a number into my cell phone. “This is Charlie. I need a shield from Jay.”
“Very well,” the fae on the other end says, and we both hang up. There will be a price for this, but right now I don’t care.
I make another phone call, not caring that it goes to voicemail. “Magician. I’m taking a break. Find Jay and keep him company.” There are other words; I don’t say any of them. I hang up, I walk.
I try not to think about what Jay will make of this.
2. – Tuesday Afternoon
A man comes in smelling of old food and he opens the door to the motel room with a key. “Uh. Kid?”
“You have to leave this room. The rental was for one night.” He pauses. “You do have somewhere to go, right?”
“With Charlie, who went for coffee and is all coming back,” I say, and I’m totally firm as a Jay.
“Yes, but you can’t stay here. I have other customers –.”
“I’m waiting for Charlie,” I explain.
“Kid. It’s past soon. Rents expire at 11 am. I get that you can’t see and you’re alone; I could call the police or your family if –.”
“I am waiting for Charlie,” I kind of yell and the landlord runs back outside because I roar like more than a Jaysaurus for a second, but I’m all calm after. Yup. Calm as a Jay, even if I c an’t sense any of my bindings with Charlie because she left and she said she’s coming back and she’s my friend so she’s going to and we’re going to see a movie and have lots of fun together!!
(I think a light fell off the ceiling; I broke a few bindings in the room when I did the yelling. But that’s okay. Charlie will yell at me and I’ll fix it and everything will be tons of kinds of OK :D)
3. – Tuesday Evening
“Jay.” I enter the motel room carefully. No wards, no protections beyond those a magician carries with them because of what we are.
Jay turns his head toward me as if surprised. We’re bound together, on levels so deep I can barely sense some of them, and he almost didn’t sense me arriving. “Honcho? I’m all kinds of busy looking for Charlie,” he says. And there is nothing but trust or truth to that, because he’s Jay.
For a moment, almost, I stare into unseeing eyes filled with broken light behind dark glasses and consider lying. Not that I can, as other people do. Not that Jay wouldn’t sense the twisting of bindings and demand to know what was wrong. I left him and Charlie to travel alone because I didn’t want to use him anymore. Because I didn’t want to hurt him. And I didn’t consider, not deeply enough, how much I’d be hurting her. How hard dealing with Jay’s blindness must have been, to say nothing of Jay himself at times.
“Charlie called me. She’s – gone away.”
“Travelling. On her own.”
“But – but we were going to see a movie,” he wails.
“We could see it. Which movie?”
“Charlie knew and you don’t,” he flings out. “You went away with Dana and left us and Charlie’s left me and everyone leaves me,” and the last three words are screamed out.
No power comes with it. No unbinding that tears the building apart. Just rawness in his throat, the weight of reality pushing down on him.
“Jay,” I whisper.
“I’m waiting for Charlie,” he says, in a flat tone I’ve never heard from him in the almost two years since he entered the universe. “I’m waiting for my friend and and and you can go away!”
I don’t move. It’s not magic that keeps me from flinching; magic couldn’t stop Jay if he wanted me to move. He can do things with bindings that magicians like me can’t even grasp. I take the blow, lying that I’ve had worse flung at me, keeping still. “You really want me to go away, kiddo?”
“Yes,” he get outs, shaking all over. He can’t cry with his damaged eyes, but his voice is thick with ugly pain.
“I don’t go away, Jay. Even when I do. We’re bound too deeply together for that,” I say as softly as I can into his soft sobbed breaths.
“You go. It matters,” he says, and this is about us, and Charlie, and Jay, and there are undercurrents I don’t know anymore. Parts of Jay that go deeper than any root I can make.
“I know.” I step toward the motel bed. “I’m not as strong as you are, Jay. You’re strong enough to let me hurt you, let me use so much of what you are that it damages you. And you take that on you, accept it, because you’re Jay and I’m me. And I can’t do that. You keep doing things I can never pay back, and to a magician that is – it is – it is a terrible giving.” I sit on the edge of the bed gently.
Jay looks over, his knuckles as white as his cane as he holds it in shaking hands. “You’re my friend, and that balances everything and you never get that at all!”
“Charlie’s your friend too,” I say, and I don’t even attempt to thread power in it. “But she is scared of you getting hurt, or losing control and being unable to stop you since she knows how much that would hurt you.”
“But but but –.”
“You can be pretty scary,” I offer up as gently as I can.
“But I’m Jaysome!”
“And you don’t think that scares Charlie even a little bit?”
Jay is silent for almost a minute. “I don’t want it to,” he whispers.
“I know. She doesn’t either. Which is why she’s going away for a bit. Visiting family, perhaps, and you would be too jaysome for them.”
“I guess I would.” Jay moves beside me, not looking toward me at all. “Honcho?”
“Yes?” I say, bracing myself.
“I’m really bad at being Jaysome sometimes too.” He gulps. “Because – cuz I really missed you and travelling with you and that’s all kinds of hurting too!”
“Charlie knows your bindings with me are deeper than those with her.” And this time I draw up on my magic, and the bindings I have with Jay. “And that is not why she went,” I say, and Jay lets out a gasp as the truth of the words hammers on the air between us.
He lets out another small gasp, and a sobbed breath, and then slams his body hard against my side and shudders all over. I hold him until he stop, and for a few minutes after that.
“Now,” I say, “we deal with the fact that you terrified the owner of his motel, you work on customers actually coming back and then we do other things.”
“We could see a movie?” he says, as if he’s scared to make the offer.
I know he has a tumblr on the Internet; I’m starting to wish I’d taken the time to read it and not come here the moment I picked up Charlie’s message. “What movie?”
“Jurassic World. It has dinosaurs,” Jay says.
“I know that much. I haven’t seen it. Or the other movies in the series.”
“We could watch them?” And Jay sounds scared I’ll say no.
I wonder how he saw them since he can’t see. “Do you go to some special theatre for blind people?”
“Oh, sometimes. But mostly I listen to it anywhere,” he says, and is off the bed a moment later, tugging me toward the door, checking the hallway in a blur of movement.
I don’t point out I know how much he’s hurting, or that I know this is mostly an act. I just stand, and head into the hallway. And Jay is back beside me fast, even for him, terrified I’d leave him behind. And I have nothing in me for how much it hurts that he’s hurting so much, not when I’m the cause of too much of this pain. I reach over to ruffle his hair; he pulls away. I’m not sure which of us is more surprised.
Silence detonates; I fill it by asking what the movie is about, and Jay happily tells me the entire plot in the kind of detail that suggest he and Charlie have seen it many times before. And I keep silent and begin the long work of trying to fix our friendship without using bindings at all.