There are problems to being the wandering magician of an age. Or at least to being me. I am very good at what I do, and sometimes magic is among the least of magic. Magic is what a magician does, a gift of the universe to help it, but banishing and binding creatures from Outside the universe: that is what we are, and it is my first and deepest talent. Add that to the fact that I can, in theory, draw on more power than any magician in their right mind would attempt, am possibly able to call on the even vaster power of the fae – though no one would ever want to pay the price I had for that – and that I have allies with powers at least as skilled and dangerous as my own, and my biggest problem is me.
I’ve faced down Emissaries of the Far Reaches, bound a Walker from such a place – though Moshe is loathe to admit it, have faced down armies of Outsiders to emerge alive at the other side. I have been things, and done things, and it’s easy to forget at the end of the day that I am only mostly human, and that everyone has limits.
The ward I’ve made around Charlie and myself is barely holding. Charlie eats gods – among her other talents, and the god inside her is a surge of power about her. Darkness inside closets, the scrape of nails under a bed as its claws manifest. Shielding her a little against something a void that isn’t formless. There are maws, and suckers, and tentacles, and it is very dangerous, and very hungry, and it does not want to leave the universe at all. I’m trying quite hard not to think about why, but given the stains in the warehouse I have some very good ideas.
It resisted being banished, and screams in fury, raw energies obliterating the rest of a brick and concrete warehouse about us, possibly without knowing they are there at all. Reality is shuddering about us, trying to accommodate something with more dimensions than reality can easily hold. My wards hold, possibly because of how pissed off I’d be if they didn’t.
“Charlie, can you disrupt some of its energies and distract it?” I ask and I turn toward Jay.
Who has marched right up to the howling void of suckers and fangs with the fearlessness of an eleven year old boy.
“Jay.” Charlie almost sounds calm, because this is Jay. “This is not the time to try and make a new friend.”
“You think being banished back Outside is hard?” Jay demands, and reaches into a pocket to produce a Ziploc bag with one piece of bread in it. “I’m trying to leave leftovers and that’s really hard you know, and I bet that’s lots harder than being banished!”
“….” Charlie buries her face in her hands. “Why us?”
The creature roars and lashes out. Jay is also from far Outside and tough – like a Jay, as he calls it – but the bag and sandwich are not and even Jay’s terrible strength with bindings doesn’t stop it from being snatched into one of the creature’s maws to vanish between moments. Jay eats foods like humans talk: often, and in huge quantities with a happy joy and no discrimination in what he eats.
Someone convinced him that trying to leave leftovers to eat on another day would be an adventure. And it took Jay at least four meals to manage to leave the piece of bread, which of course he is hideously proud about. And shares it, with an arrogant ignorance that is, even after three years of knowing Jay, breathtaking in its absurdity.
Even so, I have known Jay and I reach out, aiming to banish the living void while it is distracted by Jay – he may be from far Outside as well, but almost nothing can sense what he really us unless he wants to – and the moment’s opening I have would be enough.
Only the creature explodes instead.
“That was my leftovers,” Jay yells at the remains of it that are eating their way into the earth and bruising the air where they hang. If pollution could infect the air like acid rain, it would be doing what the remains of the creature are doing. “And you ate them, which is a really big oops and -.”
“I don’t think it can hear you,” I say carefully.
“Oh, it’s just way out of phase and all kinds of confusled,” Jay says.
“I imagine that being exploded does that.”
“Only sometimes and -.”
“Did you know it would?” I ask, and Jay turns back toward us at my tone.
“Honcho?” he asks, his term for me.
“You murdered it. Why?”
“I worked really hard to have leftovers,” he says, as if that makes all the sense in the world.
“Jay.” Charlie sounds shocked. I’m not; I’ll have time to be shocked later.
“I didn’t mean to do an oops and –.”
“This is not an oops. Did you know?” I ask, and hurl power into the question down the bindings between us.
Jay yelps in shock, staring wide-eyed up at me. “I was pretty sure, okay? I kinda got mad and –.”
“And nothing.” My voice is flat, even to my ears. “This is not an ooops. You fucked up.”
Jay’s jaw drops at that. He stares in shock; I hear Charlie hiss in surprise.
“But –. I didn’t –.”
I say nothing, but I hide nothing of my anger or fear in the bindings between us.
Jay’s pale face drains entirely of colour. “I didn’t mean you scare you! We’re friends,” he says, and to him the word means so much more than any human language can explain.
“Bring the Outsider back. Apologize. Banish it properly.”
“That – that’s all?” Jay asks, hesitant.
“If you think you should do more, the choice is yours.” I turn and walk away.
Jay is crying, trying to hide it. Scared, so very scared I’m almost worried it will break him, but I keep walking.
Charlie tells him that being jaysome isn’t a leftover be can discard and follows me. And Jay is silent at that. Terrified into silence, starting to understand why we were so scared, and how wrong that went. Not the why of it, but the how. Not the action, but the reason.
He calls the Outsider back, does bindings to return it. And even for Jay, it is a hard thing. He banishes it after, too. I feel that much from the motel we’re at, but Jay doesn’t return. I have no idea what he’s doing, only that he’s scared of coming near us. Scared of how we might feel, how we might see him.
And there is enough truth to that that I don’t send a message asking him to return. Charlie and I order pizza, and we put the leftovers into the bar fridge after.