The house we stay in was lonely before we arrived, the family gone somewhere far warmer for the holidays. The doors opened for the wandering magician, and not only because doors do so. We decorated the inside a bit because this was Jay’s first Christmas with both me and the magician, and because Nathen was able to function at this time of year at all. It’s a bad time for magicians, all told: this year it wasn’t as bad for him, something Jay figured as a Christmas spirit-event and never questioned.
Innocence seldom asks questions like that; it’s part of Jay’s power but also his armour. Christmas Eve involved finding a decorated tree in the living room and Jay beaming with pride. I could feel the power inside the tree, deep and wild and more than a little confused. Until today I hadn’t even known Christmas trees had a god. I had to promise on my power as a god-eater that I was not going to eat the tree and it remained to store presents Jay pulled out of the air from places he’d hidden them, piling them up and singing off-key carols to himself.
Which most kids do, but Jay is from far Outside the universe and tends to get very, very enthusiastic about things with little provocation – and sometimes even less reason. I’ve at least managed to talk him out of a snowball fort though we had a few small wars. Jay vanishes sideways from the world with some gifts he’s taking to other people, and both myself and the magician are wise enough not to ask where. Or who. Or what the gifts are.
The magician raises one eyebrow as a box comes into existence: magic answers need and desire, and sometimes that is even those of the magician. “You know I don’t like my name being used, Charlie.”
“Well, yes, but it’s Christmas. And I figured it was a good in to asking what you got Jay. I got him some new clothes, a few dinosaur toys and gift cards for his phone. All of which he’ll love, being Jay, but it’s a bit – normal.”
“I wrapped up Schrödinger's Cat.”
I blink. “What?”
“As a gift: it’s neither real nor not-real, but the act of opening will make it so.”
“You made Jay a gift he can’t even open.”
The magician’s smile is positively wicked. “His reaction will count as a present to us. I’ve also arranged for running with dinosaurs.”
“Not when they’re real. Different dimension, some favours owed and cashed in. It will definitely make him quite happy, as will the resulting bindings. You looked into the god of Christmas?”
“A real Santa?” I shrug. “I asked about and tried to sense one, but without any luck. They might be hiding from me.”
“We’ll work on that later,” he says, and it’s a mark of how much he’s perhaps changing that he’s willing to casually combine gods and magic together.
I don’t mention it, as a gift of my own, and we drink eggnog, add alcohol, and listen to Jay’s adventures giving ‘huggings’ to tumblr followers when he comes back, play charades, watch some Christmas movies and sleep.
I think things might actually be sane until I wake up in the morning and find out that the god inside me is wearing a Christmas hat. A god who was the nightmare of my childhood, a creature of dark closets and shadows under the bed is now festooned in lights. “Uh,” I say aloud.
A Christmas present. The god’s voice is a low rumble inside my head. From Jay. Who thought I should celebrate.
“Of course he did.” I let out a sigh, almost consider going back to sleep, and then realize that if Jay somehow arranged a gift for the god inside me, he might try one for the magician’s magic.
I’m out of bed and running down the hallway so fast I almost make it.
There is an explosion. It is thankfully that of a Christmas cracker as the magician is staring at Jay thoughtfully, destructive force having been earthed into the toy. Even I can feel wards humming in the air, not quite going off. Jay is Jay, but the magician’s magic defends itself against anything at all.
“But it’s a Christmas hat,” Jay sulks, holding shimmering energies in the air in front of him.
“Did you ask if the magic that I am would want that?”
Jay looks shocked at that. “Who wouldn’t want one?”
And I almost laugh as the magician closes his eyes for a moment, then reaches over and takes something hat-shaped from Jay’s hands and puts it on Jay’s head. “You can have one instead.”
“Oh! Okay,” Jay says, and hugs him tightly and then comes bouncing over to inform me that he has a hat for me too.
It looks normal. It turns out to be normal. Sometimes, even with Jay, Christmas miracles do happen.
And always take turns I didn’t expect, because Santa Claus turns up later wanting his hat back and the god of Christmas is entirely unamused to find a god-eater wearing it.