I open my eyes to warmth pressed against my body. It’s 4:23 in the morning and Jay is curled up into my in my bedroom in the hotel suite, trembling and trying to seem asleep. He knows not to get into a bed with my or Charlie: no matter how far from Outside the universe he’s from, Jay appears to be eleven. A couple of incidents of people entering rooms and finding a boy curled up to sleep against an adult when there were two beds in a motel room and the like led to incidents. Enough that he doesn’t do it at all, hasn’t in over two years.
Most days bring new beginnings, when one deals with a very jaysome Jay who has more adventures than entire civilizations manage to do. Old beginnings repeating themselves are worrying; I try to hide that when I speak. “Jay.”
He opens his eyes, looks at me. There are no words. I remember the time he couldn’t see. The prices I paid that cost his vision and returned him. For a moment his eyes are unseeing as fear that threatens to spill out of him.
“Kitchen,” I say, the promise of food and drink a binding. I get out of the bed, throw on a shirt over my jeans – all magicians learn to sleep clothed early on – and Jay is wearing clothing as he pads out after me. His silence deafens the world. Most of the time getting Jay to be quiet takes effort.
The kitchen has a small table in it. I boil water, making myself instant coffee and him some hot chocolate. Jay sits, staring up at me, hands tight together on the table.
“Want to talk about it?” I offer as I sit across from him.
Jay blinks, starts, staring up wide-eyed at me. He licks his lips, the nervousness almost human. “I had dreams, Honcho,” he whispers.
I don’t drop my drink, but it takes an effort. Jay doesn’t dream often. When he does, it tends to be about the Far Reaches far beyond the universe, terrible threats that none of us can face. Messages more than dreams, I think. “About?” I ask.
“You. And – and Charlie. I did a binding so I’d have dreams, and I maybe kinda had your dreams by mistake?”
“Oh.” I drink my coffee slowly.
“They were bad dreams, Honcho. About when the fae put you into the first tree for – for lots of years – and about hurting me even if you didn’t?”
I blink. “Jay. You were blind for over a year because of me.”
“But that was an adventure,” he protests. Because I am Honcho, and I can do no wrong in his head.
“Then why did you crawl into my bed?”
“Cuz I was in Charlie’s dreams a bit too and she has dreams in which she doesn’t think I’m jaysome!” And Jay looks so utterly shocked and lost at that.
“Well, you do tend to blow up microwaves, kiddo.”
He sniffs. Loudly.
“Jay. The solution is to have your own dreams.”
“But but but –.”
“Which means facing why you won’t. Not can’t,” I add before he can protest. “Won’t.” Jay slumps visibly at that. “Which means going Outside the universe with me.”
He shakes his head even before I finish speaking.
“No!” And Jay cuts me off before I can say his real name, glaring up at me. “It’s not safe, Honcho!”
“We do have allies. And I am me,” I add dryly.
“No. I would be found if I’m Outside the universe and and and my mother would come. And eat me,” he adds, so quietly I barely hear him.
“Jay. We are bound together. I can protect you.”
“You can’t.” And I make a sound in my shock, because Jay looks up. His face is anguished, but he doesn’t look away. “She’s too big and she’d eat all of us and we’d be gone.”
I stare at Jay. Part of being Honcho to him means I can solve anything. Even if I can’t, his faith in me is unshakable. Or was until this morning. I take a deep breath and nod to him. “All right. We won’t do that.”
And he relaxes, and further into the hug I offer him, shuddering all over.
There are things I never mean to do. Lines I never wish to cross. Lies I never wished to tell even by omission. I hold it all inside, and quietly begin to make plans to deal with Jay’s mother. Sometimes the new only comes with the destruction of the old. And the least I owe to Jay is peace.