The hotel suite doesn’t have much in the way of a living room or kitchen, but I enter what passes for both to find the wandering magician drinking coffee and skimming a newspaper; there is no sign of Jay, who is no doubt out having adventures. “It’s late,” I say.
“Mmm.” The magician doesn’t look up.
I pour myself coffee; I justify getting up late because most gods sleep in so a god-eater can as well. Also because I like doing it, but Jay is always up early and the magician often up and abroad in whatever town we’re in long before I get out of bed. I sit across from him at the small island. “Talk.”
He looks up. Seeming ordinary is one of his tricks, but I’ve known him for three years running. His coffee only has a lot of cream in it when he’s worried about something. Not that he shares. Magicians don’t, as a rule. “The town is mostly quiet right now; I did a few wards, undid some minor harm last night.”
“And you haven’t left the hotel anyway?”
“It snowed. Jay is making snowballs outside.”
One doesn’t have to be a magician to know that. And some days it would explain enough, but not today. “You’ve been acting off ever since you went into that meditative trance for a few hours a couple of nights ago. I don’t know what you learned, but it has you worried. Distracted. Off your game. I don’t need to be the one to tell you that such things are dangerous, do I?”
He smiles strangely at that, pours himself some more coffee and sits back down. “You know how Christmas affects magicians?”
“People’s needs and desires gone haywire so most run away and hide. Things like that. I know Jay can do bindings to stop that from bothering you.”
“He hasn’t.” He pauses. “Or not near as many as he thinks.”
I drink coffee. “That was an important pause, wasn’t it?”
That wins no smile at all. “The magic isn’t pulling me toward things as it used to.”
“You’re still a magician though.” That much I’m sure of, no matter what was done to him by the fae.
“And other things. I don’t know what those are yet.” He drinks his coffee slowly. “I don’t know what I will be in the end, Charlie. Where I am going, what path I’m walking down. I don’t even know if I am walking down it or being pulled.”
“You’re still human though.”
“For the moment.” He sets his coffee down, his fingers trembling a little for a moment. Someone else would be screaming, but magicians learn to control themselves quickly. “I’ve done many impossible things in my time. Because of necessity, or you, or Jay, or simply having no other choice I could find or make. And the price of that seems to be that I may well become something impossible.”
“You don’t think being Honcho to jay counts as that?”
His laugh is soft, startled out him. “It might at that. But I don’t know. Part of being a magician is that you know things: yourself, where you are, that the universe allows knowledge you’d otherwise not have.” I know all that, or near enough, but I say nothing and wait for him to continue. “Right now it feels like I could walk by myself in the street and not recognize that person at all, and I am scared.”
“Scared,” I repeat, almost evenly.
“The world is littered with monsters, and many of them were human once. I have no desire to become one of those.”
“You think it is that easy?”
“You’d tell me it is.”
“I would be lying.”
I snort at that. “You don’t lie. And if you don’t think that’s a scary thing about you, then I’m worried for you already.” That wins a faint smile. “You’re not telling Jay, then?”
“I think he already knows, but to him I’m always me.” He stands, putting his coffee cup in the sink.
I follow suite, eyeing the door to the hotel room. “You told me once that most magicians can’t teleport often because cars exist. That magic is a cheat code to the universe, but only when one needs those codes: otherwise it is very hard to teleport or doesn’t work at all. Does that still apply to you?”
“I have no idea.”
“I’d like you to find out, because Jay has had at least two hours to build snowballs and a fort and I’d rather not try and brave it if we can avoid doing so. There are benefits to becoming something more than you were,” I add when he just looks at me.
We share a slow grin, and we’re outside a mall moments later.
I head inside, and I’m starting to feel rather pleased we pulled this off when the local news reports a police standoff in the park outside a hotel. A standoff with a kid in a snowball fort who is holding off an entire SWAT team. With snowballs.
I’m starting to wish I hadn’t got up at all.