Witch, 26

Rain Is Good for Trapping People Together and Making Them Talk

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“Where did all this rain come from?”

“The sky.”

“I know that.”

“Then why did you ask? Rain always comes from the sky, Ron. That’s how rain works.”

“I know.” Ron frowned at James. They had been working in the garden when this downpour had driven them indoors. He hoped Spike wasn’t out there drowning in a leaf or something. “I just meant it wasn’t even cloudy half an hour ago.”

“Oh, that.” James shrugged, looking down at his sodden clothes with minor annoyance. “Thunderstorms often come in because of a change in air pressure, which means that there’s a lot of wind.”

That sounded pretty smart to Ron, so it was probably right. “How do you know all of this stuff?”


“You don’t have a book about thunderstorms.”

“I have one about weather,” James said, a little defensive.

Ron narrowed his eyes. “You knew this storm was coming, didn’t you?”

“I’m not very good at predicting the weather.” James paused, a little red around the ears. “But yes. The plants told me. I misjudged how quickly it would blow in.” He sighed, started working at getting out of his wet shirt.

“You could just magic them dry,” Ron suggested, once again wondering why James didn’t ever think of that as a solution.

“That’s a waste of power. I don’t want to use magic to solve every little problem in the world—that would make the earth mad.”

Ron nodded, though that didn’t make any sense. He helped James get the shirt over his head. “Is the earth alive like that? It gets mad when you do stupid shit?”

“Language. And no, but sort of. The earth isn’t sentient in the way that you and I are, but it’s a system, just like a body. And when you do stupid things with your body you get in trouble—it’s the same with the earth.”

“Huh.” Ron thought about that as he hung James’s shirt on the back of a chair. By the time he’d turned around, James had undone his shorts and let them fall to the ground, leaving himself naked. “I never thought about that before.”

“I can give you a book to read if you’d like to know more about it,” James offered, wandering over to the single bookshelf that was overflowing with all of the books that he had. Ron needed to build him a new one. But first he needed to learn how carpentry worked, and he wasn’t sure he had time to do that before the end of the summer.

“I’d like that.” He wanted to know more about the things that James knew about. “Thank you.”

“You don’t need to thank me—you can always read any of the books that are here if you like. I just assumed you weren’t that interested.”

“I’m not much of a reader,” Ron admitted, putting the shorts on the back of another chair. “I was never great at it as a kid. My mom was really strict about making sure that I learned. She said that…” He was interrupted by a sudden knock on the door, which was followed by the door opening without ceremony.

“Fuck it, I’m not giving him the chance to leave us out here in the rain.” It was Jay, bursting into the house with Tana just behind him. Both were soaked through. “James, we’re coming in and we’re not asking, it’s fucking pouring out here, and…oh, hi.”

“Hello.” James sighed, shaking his head at the two of them. It was pretty clear to Ron that he was contemplating throwing them out in the rain. “Ron, could you make some tea while I go get dressed?”

“Sure.” Ron wasn’t that fussed about his own state of undress, which had become completely natural to him at this point, but he was a little annoyed with them for invading James’s privacy like that. James went into the bedroom and Ron filled the kettle.

“We interrupt something?” Jay asked, showing some of his teeth at Ron.

Tana smacked him. “Don’t be a jerk. Sorry for barging in, Ron.”

“It’s fine,” Ron told them, sticking the kettle in the fire. “I don’t blame you in this rain.”

“It’s a bit crazy.” Tana nodded, and she was eyeing Ron a little mischievously. “So…did we interrupt something?”

“We were talking about the weather.” Ron coloured a little, even though they hadn’t been doing anything. Why did everyone always assume that he and James were just about to jump into bed?

“Cute. Very domestic of you.”

“Well, I’m glad you approve.”

“We do,” Jay told him. “We like you. We’ve been meaning to tell you that—we’ve decided you’re allowed to stay.”


“Stop teasing Ron,” James said, coming back in the room. He had put on another pair of shorts—a dirty one—and was fitting a shirt over his head as he walked, bumping into the counter as he did.

“We weren’t,” Tana protested.

“Of course you were. That’s what you both always do.”

“You didn’t even hear us, did you?”

“I didn’t need to,” James muttered, fixing the shirt and sitting down at the table. “What are you two doing here?”

“Well.” Jay shrugged, taking another chair. “You never come visit us, so we thought we’d pull your weight on the family responsibilities front.”

“I never visit you because I don’t see the point in dropping in on people unannounced when they might have plans,” James grumbled, reaching up and patting Ron’s hand as Ron walked by.

“Your plans involved talking about the weather naked,” Tana pointed out, moving James’s shirt to the coatrack so she could sit as well. “You’re obviously not that busy.”

“I might have had that planned for weeks. Maybe it was important to me.”

“And there’s also such a thing as sending messages or using the focus to let us know you’d be coming,” Jay reminded him.

“Which you didn’t do.”

“It’s called fairplay.” Jay pointed at James. “And you’d have come up with an excuse to get away from us if we did.”

James didn’t have an answer for that, obviously, as he just turned away and watched Ron prepare the tea.

When it was ready, Ron poured it for the three of them and made to get out of the way, sitting at the table only when James pulled him into a chair and pushed the fourth teacup in front of him. “Tell me what you actually want,” he told his cousins.

They looked at each other. “To spend time with you, strange as that may sound,” Tana said, but then she sighed. “But also we want to talk about the spells of protection.”

“What about them?”

Ron had no idea what spells they were talking about, so he just kept quiet and drank some tea.

“We think it’s a good idea to repower them, don’t you? We haven’t in a while and the world doesn’t get less dangerous. I hear there’s a would-be centaur chief who threatened you.”

James frowned, pausing after his fourth spoon of sugar into his teacup. “Who told you about that?”

“Where do you think Spike goes when he’s not here?” Jay demanded. “And also—the fuck, James? You just weren’t going to tell anyone that the centaurs might have declared war on us?”

“They won’t declare war. Esteban’s just a jerk.”

“Who pulled a knife on you.”

“You also didn’t tell us you were going to the banquet,” Tana added.

“I assumed you didn’t want to go.”

“We didn’t—that’s not the point. What if something had happened to you?”

“I had Ron with me.”

Suddenly both of them were looking at Ron, who wasn’t sure what to do. “Fine,” Tana conceded. “But I still think it’s a good idea to repower the spells. Just in case.”

James just sighed.

Looking between the three of them, Ron asked, “What do they do? The spells?”

“They’re protection spells on our half of the forest, to make sure nothing hurts the clan.” Jay told him. “They’re always there, but they need to be maintained. Preferably by the person who cast half of them.”

James just made a little noise at that, looking away with his expression a bit distant.

“Spike said he told you about his parents,” Jay went on. “It turned out afterwards that Aunt Jocelyn had corrupted the protection spells. James fixed them that night, all at once. And he won’ t tell anyone what he did, so none of us know how they work anymore.”

“Because I don’t know,” James said quietly, looking at the floor.


“I don’t know what I did. I don’t remember anything after they left. I passed out.”

A long silence fell at that. Ron took James’s hand and James squeezed it, still looking down.

“You could have said that five years ago.”

James didn’t say anything.

Ron looked over at them. “You can’t repower these spells without him?”

“We could,” Tana said, looking at James with a worried expression. “But it would be better if he helped.”

Ron nodded, turned back to James. “James. I think you should help them. It sounds pretty important that these protection spells work properly.” Ron wasn’t going to be here to protect James forever.

James was silent for a long moment, before nodding. “Okay.”

“What, just like that?” Tana asked, frowning. “Just, okay?”

“I said I’d help,” James told her, finally looking up. “What else do you want?”

Jay was looking at Ron in a way that made Ron a little self conscious. “You’re a good influence on him. We should be nicer to you.”

“You should be nicer to him anyway,” James said, still holding Ron’s hand, which felt very nice. “Ron hasn’t done anything to deserve you being mean to him.”

“Neither have you,” Jay told James in a way that sounded pretty pointed to Ron.

James looked away. “We’ll go out and cast the spells when the rain stops. It will take all afternoon.” He looked up at Ron, then at them, then sighed. “You can stay for supper after. Ron can make soup.”

“Please marry him,” Tana said, looking right at Ron, who just coloured to the roots of his hair and started to splutter something incoherent.

He was interrupted by a knock on the window, which he got up to open to let Spike in. “Damn, what’d we do to the damn sky to earn this round of cloud vomit?” he demanded, doing a little dance on the windowsill to dry off before looking up. “Hey, it’s my second and third favourite witches.”

“Oh, nice.” Jay crossed his arms. “See if I let you sleep in my hat ever again.”

“Just for that you get bumped down to fourth, kid.”

They ended up having a very lively time waiting for the storm to pass. James was a lot less quiet than usual, and by the time the rain stopped he was even smiling at his cousins for real. He kept reaching out every few minutes and squeezing Ron’s hand for comfort, as if to remind himself that Ron was still there.

Ron was still there.

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