I open my eyes to silence. For most people, silence would be safe. For someone who has spent four years dealing with Jay, silence generally means he’s hiding and did an ooops, or had an adventure. Or both at once. I form a ward from excited kids in the rest of the hotel and leave the bedroom, knocking on the door of Charlie’s bedroom and wrapping the ward about her as well.
“We can’t avoid coffee forever,” I say, half-joking.
“Yes, but we’re dealing with Jay. He’ll have – gifts.” Charlie pauses. Jay is eleven. He is also from far, far Outside the universe and terribly enthusiastic almost all the time. The concept of restraint is often lost on a creature who can do bindings at levels magicians can’t operate at.
I squeeze her hand and walk into the kitchen even as I hear the microwave go off. I almost stop, force myself to keep going and stop dead as Jay pulls out bacon and puts it on the dining room table in the hotel suite.
“I’ve been keeping the food warm for hours,” he snaps.
And there is food, because Jay likes eating. I’m not about to ask where he got it all from, really hoping he didn’t try and make it all. “Ah, Jay –.”
“It’s Christmas morning and I’ve been doing my present for you and Charlie for hours and waiting and waiting like a Jay can wait!”
The microwave didn’t explode. Nothing absurd has emerge from it. And there is a strain in Jay’s voice. I look at him in the way of magicians and also the way of a friend, and then step forward and hug him hard.
“Honcho! You’re not supposed to guess the gift,” he protests.
“What?” Charlie says. She looks about the kitchen, then at Jay. “What?” she says again.
“I made breakfast and and and found some of it,” Jay says happily, “but the real gift isn’t jaysome at all but I’ve done it and it will be a whole day without any adventures that’s all about relaxing!!”
Charlie blinks. Stares at Jay. She looks about to ask if he can even do that, catches herself. We eat a breakfast made by various chefs all over the world that Jay has done favours and helpings for all week to get this food and he’s beaming with pride at the end of it. Doing dishes without Jay doing any bindings on them is an experience at least.
“This takes so long,” Jay protests, because he normally cleans dishes with bindings so that there is more time to have adventures.
“Lots of jaysome things do,” Charlie says. We had gifts in mind for him. I was going to work out a way for Jay to enter the Grey Lands just to see how ghosts live. Charlie had found apps for his phone she was certain Jay would enjoy.
We set them aside without talking about it and have a snowball fight outside with other people who join in. No bindings, no magic, no tricks by Charlie and the god inside her. Just friends drawing other friends into it. Two forts have been built within the hour and Jay hurries over to me as I’m making snowballs, looking worried.
“Everyone is being jaysome, you know!”
“They are. Jaysome is something you are, Jay, not something you do. You can’t not be you, even if you’re trying to avoid adventures.” I ruffle his hair. “And you draw people to you because you’re you.”
“Oh!” He grins, and the snowball fight lasts until people are tired, kids have to go inside and we’ve used up a lot of snow in the area.
Afterwards, Charlie informs Jay that she and I are going to have an adventure and he gets to come along.
“But but but –,” he protests.
“The rule is that you don’t have adventures. Not that we don’t,” I say.
“But you’re cheating,” he wails.
“No. We’re being jaysome to you,” Charlie says. “A Jay without adventures is a gift to others sometimes, but not to yourself at all. So you’re coming with us and having an adventure. Or else.”
Jay giggles at the idea of being threatened to an adventure and bounds out the hotel after us.
We turn every piece of graffiti in the town into a kindness. It’s fun, tiring, and I use the time to gently undo some of the bindings Jay has done on himself against having adventures. If only to make the world far safer at midnight when this binding he has done drops entirely. Sometimes the best gift we can give is understanding, and jaysome at least can always be given.
The second snowball fight involves cheating on Charlie’s part.