Cecil and Khoshekh stay at the hospital through dinner, picking at their takeout noodles. Carlos, whose post-surgery diet has been upgraded to jello and protein shakes, diligently swallows everything he's been given before reaching for his boyfriend's hand. "Cecil. He needs his daemon."
Cecil doesn't answer.
"He could get his daemon." It happened to Will Parry, whose Kirjava was internal until he went through a separation ordeal. "The witches would probably tolerate it. Serafina Pekkala would back you up, I think, if you asked. And he needs...he deserves...."
"I know," says Cecil miserably. His chair creaks as if he's sinking lower into it. "I could see her. She was so sad, Carlos. She needs to be held so badly."
If Carlos had working eyes, he'd be staring. "You can see internal daemons?"
"Not automatically. You have to relax into a certain frame of mind, focus in a certain way — half-close your eyes, if you see through your eyes — I think anyone with vision could learn it. I don't remember when I did, or why, but it came back very easily, when I thought to try it." Cecil swallows. "His daemon isn't autonomous right now, obviously. They have the same consciousness. It's like seeing a shadow. She moves when he moves, trails after him, reflects the things he feels."
"Oh, wow," says Carlos softly. "Does that mean she was human-shaped...?" (Isaña shivers at the creepy idea and leans against his side.)
Cecil's hand twitches in his. "Canine. She's an African painted dog...did you know, they're one of the few predators where the adults let the little ones eat first? And if one of the adults is hurt and can't hunt, the others will bring it food. And all of them will take care of the puppies, even the ones that aren't parents."
Every word of this is clawing Carlos right in the heart. "Can you tell him tonight? I don't have another walk in me right now, and they probably wouldn't let me in after hours anyway, but you're the Voice, you have some pull. Unless you want to ask some witch authority for permission first...either way, can you get started now? I'll be fine on my own." He twists his free hand in the bedsheets, fighting the instinct to scratch at his stitches, which wouldn't exactly help his case. "And he should know as soon —"
"It's not that easy!"
"The ordeal," clarifies Cecil. "You're talking about it like it's some kind of routine spell, or a simple test, or a common everyday duel. It's not like that. It kills people! And even if it doesn't, it might make you wish — it hurts, Carlos...."
Twelve-year-old Emmanuel Palmero is doing his Modified Sumerian homework in the living room when the screen door bangs open. He can hear Aunt Josie snapping something from the back porch, and there's the unmistakable whoosh of air that means Bekhorei has landed nearby, sail-sized wings folding closed.
He flips to the next page, stylus poised over the tablet where he's been etching the answers. Ugh, more conjugations....
Josie's falcon daemon soars into the room and flaps to a landing on the back of the couch. "Go to your room, Manny."
"What? How come?"
"Don't argue. Get your homework and go."
Emmanuel scoops up the textbook and his stylus, points his feet toward the hall, starts walking...then spins on his heel and ducks toward the kitchen door. He doesn't have his range yet, but with Neharah insubstantial, Ojansi can't drag him back by the daemon.
He gets a glimpse of Mom, of the stroller even Cecil no longer fits in, of what must be Cecil's feet hanging awkwardly over the edge. Then Aunt Josie herself gets between them, moving unfairly fast for someone who walks with a limp, and swings her cane so fast it clips Emmanuel upside the head. "What did I say, child? You can help most by staying out of the way."
Is something wrong? Is Cecil sick? "Why didn't they just say so," mutters Manny, trudging off to his room with his daemon perched lacewing-formed on his shoulder. His brother is a pain and a tagalong and an insufferable brat, but that doesn't mean Emmanuel would ever do anything to hurt him.
A half hour later, Ojansi lets himself into Manny's room, carrying a duffel bag in his claws. "You're staying with me for a few days. Pack some clothes."
He packs. But he's not happy about it. Mom has a bigger TV than Aunt Josie does, and also Josie has a habit of calling him these girly endearments, which seems like a mean way of teasing. He can't help that he was born with a hormone imbalance. When he started taking shots for it last year he thought she might lay off, but she didn't.
"Is Cecil contagious?" he asks as Josie herds him out the front door.
"Not in the way you think," mutters Josie.
Neharah says what Emmanuel is afraid to voice: "Is he okay?"
Mom and Cecil can see Emmanuel's daemon all the time, easy, but Josie has to squint and look for them. "Your brother is a strong, brave, hardy little boy," she says, which isn't exactly an answer. "And your mother would never do anything that she knew he wouldn't recover from."
That doesn't make Manny feel better. People can recover from a lot.
Señora Harlan starts bringing Earl over after school. At first Cecil doesn't have the energy to do much more than sit up and watch cartoons, so Emmanuel uses a notice-me-not spell to sneak into the library and check out lots of video tapes. Kiddie fare like Looney Tunes and Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, and more sophisticated works like Candle Cove and My Little Pony.
(Obviously Glory is the best pony. Earl is under the mistaken impression that Moondancer is the best, and Cecil has a childish fascination with Slenderpony, but they'll understand when they're older.)