I find Jay sitting in a small park, feeding birdseed to birds. He can’t see, but he senses the bindings of their movement and hunger, the throws expertly leaving no seed wasted as breezes move seeds toward the birds that like them best. I could do that with magic; he’s doing it without even thinking about it. Being Jaysome, as he might phrase it most days. Today isn’t one of those.
I walk over and sit on the park bench beside him. “Kiddo.”
Jay turns his head and looks up, eyes filled with broken light wide behind dark glasses. He gulps loudly enough that some birds take flight, his face drained of colour. “H-Honcho,” he whispers. “I’m thorry.”
I blink. I didn’t even know Jay’s lisp remained in him at all. “Why?”
“You – you told me not to eat people and I ate the part of them that – that – that –. I hurt who they were, and changed it and made them into not-them a bit and I shouldn’t have done that but I was really mad and they tried to kill Charlie and would have hurt you and I lost my temper a lot and I can’t undo what I did cuz I don’t want to undo it enough and I’m scared,” he gets out in a rush.
“Jay.” I reach over, and pull him in for a hug. “It’s okay. People lose their tempers all the time.”
“But I’m not a people,” he whispers.
“Most creatures from Outside the universe have tempers, too,” I say dryly, letting go and giving him a light poke on the nose. “Would you do that again?”
Jay is quiet for several seconds. Then he nods. “They would have –.”
“Jay. A lot of things hurt me. Many try to kill me too, for one reason or another. The Border Patrol isn’t unique in wanting that.”
“But they want it lots,” he says firmly, sounding a little more like himself.
“You mean hurting me, or hurting in general?”
“Both?” he offers.
“You’ve met people from the Black Chamber too: did you want to hurt them?” Jay bites his lower lip between his teeth, then just nods. “But you didn’t.”
“Cuz you kinda did and we were busy but it’s the same kind of – of really bad bindings, Honcho!”
“Ah.” I take some seed, throwing it to the ducks, calling up magic to mimic what Jay was doing. He begins feeding them as well, head turned toward me, waiting in a nervous silence. “The Border Patrol help keep the world free from Outsiders to sneak in past the Cone and the Grave, Jay. The Black Chamber deals with the threat of monsters by breaking up breeding pairs – killing one of them, generally. They’re ordinary humans using technology, guts and desperation to do things I can do easily. Banishing Outsiders is what magicans are for: I don’t even need to try to do that, for things like vampires. The Border Patrol has lost whole units against lone vampires at times.”
“Really?” Jay says skeptically, since vampires tend to be the weakest form Outsiders take on entering the universe.
“Really. Magicians aren’t everywhere, the fae can’t be everywhere, nor other Outsiders helping protect the world and so forth. Sometimes it’s just them, with no backup, no hope. They know they’re outgunned, but they still fight. Some even do terrible rituals and are changed so that they can even the odds a little. Giving up their own humanity to defend the humanity they are fighting for.”
“They are monsters often enough, but they’re the monsters they need to be.” Jay says nothing. “Do you think humans could stop you from being Jaysome?”
Jay looks at me and blinks a few times. “Who would want to do that?” he demands, eyes widen in shock.
“Let’s say that got confused, and believed they had to. Could they, even if magicians helped them?”
“Nope,” he says without a pause, his grin wide and huge.
“Exactly. Now imagine it was a monster being very monstersome, and they couldn’t stop it either. They had to, but they couldn’t, so they go too far. Always and ever, desperate and determined. Because no matter how high the cost of victory, defeat is always worse. That’s what they’ve learned, those are the truths they know, Jay. Just think about it, next time. And try not to scare them too much?”
Jay frowns, then nods and begins throwing more bird seed. “I did a big ooops then?”
“You did, but I’ll talk to the Black Chamber and see what can be fixed. Undoing it would be even worse at this point.” I reach over and hug him again, tight as I can. “You protected Charlie, Jay, and that matters a lot too.”
I let go and Jay grins even wider at that. “I was pretty Jaysome,” he boasts.
“You were. They were doing what they thought was right, but so were you.”
“Only I was more right, cuz of being Jaysome.”
“Probably,” I say, since trying to explain he might not have been won’t lead anywhere good. I stand, and Jay throws the last of the bird seed and follows, asking about other government agencies and whether he can meet them too.
A small part of me wants to introduce Jay to the IRS, but I think he might run screaming from the bindings they do. I say we’ll look into it, since he did scare the Border Patrol a lot, but I add nothing to that and switch the conversation to other adventures he had when he was away.