“Restraint is important,” I say as we cross the road to the Breakfast Buffet. The exterior doesn’t look like much: basic sign over the door, no folding sign outside advertising specials, one window filled with signs for various local services. Someone had swept out the small parking lot recently and the place looked clean. It was more than could be said for many people, and a magician tries as hard as possible to not just on external appearances.
If only because in my case the judgement would probably be ‘bland’. Beside me, Jay twists his head toward me, his left hand firm in my right as he uses his white cane on the pavement with his over hand. “I know that,” he says. “I restrain myself all the time,” he adds proudly.
I would laugh, but Jay is probably being serious. And in his own strange way he definitely does so. “Which means you’re not eating the entire buffet?” I ask.
“But that’s what a buffet is for, right? It might be sad if I don’t eat it all!”
“Trust me, it will cope. Just like Charlie happily coped with you not making your coffee, tea, and pepsi morning drink for her again this morning.”
“Okay.” Jay nods to that and tugs at me as we cross the street. “We can order from a menu them? That way you can tell me all the neat things on it.”
The door opens easily under my touch, the place having no wards at all. The interior feels warm and friendly, air conditioning meeting the smell of cooking potatoes. The restaurant is half-full with one waitress taking orders and another, one of the owners from the description Charlie gave, is at the till, making change and then taking coffee to one table.
I find a table and sit with Jay, who is craning his head about as he listens to conversations and sensing bindings happily. The owner gestures the waitress away, quick and subtle, then walks over to our table herself. “You'd be the magician, then.”
I nod. “I am. This is Jay.”
“Hi,” Jay says and offers up a huge grin. The owner blinks, offers up her own name, and asks what we want since Jay using the buffet would be awkward. I tell Jay the items on the menu and he picks half the food, saying all of page two sounds really nummy. Because Jay.
Brenda just circles items on a menu to save time and heads to the back to give the staff the order. I relax, letting the magic in me out gently. There are no wards, not as a magician would make them, not even the kind people make about their own identities or the chains they wrap about their desires. But there is a subtle pressure, a quiet whispering of power. Strength enough that Brenda resisted the unconscious force of friendship behind one of Jay’s grins. A strength that has deep roots and is definitely aware of us.
“Honcho,” Jay says. “I think you’re kinda scaring the god?”
I blink. “I don’t mean to. You can sense him?”
“Uh-huh. He feels nice.” And that’s all he offers up as the owner brings over coffee for me and a hot chocolate for Jay. Almost everyone is making use of the buffet so our food comes quickly and Jay happily inhales it back with more hot chocolate; it is quite good, and I eat mine as the cook comes out of the kitchen briefly. He’s a tall, solid bald man – why his parents named him Kiwi is probably something I’ll never learn. Beside and half-behind is a shorter, thin young man. The god named James, wearing an apron and, along with the cook, watching Jay eat in bemused astonishment.
Jay, at least, does not belch as he finishes his meals and I ignore his hints about the buffet. “Have more hot chocolate. Let the food digest,” I say and head to the kitchen. Both the cook and god have gone back through the doors but no one tries to prevent me from entering. The god is doing dishes and washes off his hands.
“Do you mind if I take a break?” he asks softly.
The cook starts, tries to hide that. “You need anything?”
“I’ll be fine,” James says, and I follow him out behind the building. Even the small area for staff parking is clean, as is their dumpster. The god reaches into a pocket and produces a small pack of cigarettes and a lighter. I feel the world shift a little, like an instrument being tuned.
“I offer these without binding, implicit or explicit,” he says softly, holding out the pack.
I grin at that, accept a cigarette, light both of ours. “You use miracles to make cigarettes often?”
The god blushes at that. “Few people ever notice when I do miracles. Like magicians with magic, I think?”
“If we do it properly, yes. I don’t know much about gods, all told: I imagine magicians who are bound to their city learn more, but I wander.” I take a deep drag. “Charlie told me about you, of course, but you were careful to use none of your power I think. I suspect that shielding Brenda, Kiwi and the waitress –.”
“I didn’t catch her name, but you are shielding them from Jay being, well, Jay. That takes a fair bit of power, I imagine?”
“You never shield people against Jay?”
“He would probably sulk if I tried,” I say dryly.
James blinks. “It’s not that hard. Mostly because he is unconscious about it, and most of it isn’t any kind of power, just his nature. If it occurred to him to force the issue, I am not sure I could work a miracle strong enough to stop it. In a sense, my power runs deeper than yours I think, but Jay is far, far deeper than that?”
“He is.” I pause, and the god goes cross-eyed for a moment as Jay uses power at a conscious level, no doubt prodded by a text message from Charlie. “You should be protected against other gods trying to consume you to prevent this restaurant from expanding, so long as you don’t abuse that protection.”
“I am.” He shakes his head to clear it. “You could have done this.”
“I could have, but Jay quite likes being useful. Much like some gods in that respect?”
James grins at that, a bit sheepish. “Thank you. I did not expect –.” He shakes his head.
“Yes. I found what you expected from meeting a god-eater to be curious. Not that most gods know about Charlie, but that you are all scared without reason.”
His eyes narrow. He’s quick, though that hardly surprises me. “You think the godnet website encourages this?”
“I don’t know; I would think it is worth looking into though. There are some terrible magicians, but I run into few who think that applies to all magicians.”
“I’ll see what I can find out.” He finishes his cigarette. “That is why you wished to speak to me?”
“In part. I’d also like to know if god-energy – used by a god or otherwise – could help a fae and I restore Jay’s sight. I don’t need to know now, or even from you: I’m just thinking of the future.”
James nods; there is nothing I can read in his expression, and I do him the courtesy of not trying.
“I ask without binding, implicit or explicit,” I say, and that wins a grin from the god that I return.
“I – ah,” James says.
“He’s got someone to help him with the buffet, hasn’t he?” I say, resigned.
The god nods. “He can eat a lot,” and I think there is something he wants me to know in that, but I’m not sure what.
I walk back into the restaurant and to the front, watching the one waitress help Jay load up food on a plate. The owner looks at me, I look back.
“You’ll be wanting more coffee then?” Brenda asks.
“Oh, yes,” I say, and she laughs at my tone as Jay sits back down with a huge, shameless grin and begins eating. A few people in the restaurant are staring in astonishment.
I drink coffee, considering gods and friendship and wondering just how far a god could carry a miracle in order to save themselves. But I voice none of it aloud and we leave without having any adventure at all – at least according to Jay, who remains oblivious that a lot of other people definitely had an adventure watching him eat that much food. I think about the future, and the limits of power, and I keep the thoughts entirely to myself.