Eric and Jayne couldn’t be more different – he came from a small town in Aztlan, she from the pre-bug glory of Chicago – but it was a good arrangement. They paid rent on time, largely kept out of each other’s space, and made sure the neighbors never had to complain about strange smells or loud noises late at night.
He felt natural lighting was healthy and good, she only felt alive under the pulsating glow of neon fluorescents. He felt magic came from a relationship with the spirits, she believed it was a force that could be controlled through specific formulae. He loaded the dishwasher with silverware tines up, she with tines down.
With all their differences, both philosophical and preferential, what made them such a good pair was trust. They kept work strictly separate from platonic home life, and never discussed business. They ran with very different crowds, with very different styles, but each understood the life and the needs of the other. He usually cooked some extra dinner for her to eat when she woke up, even if she didn’t appreciate his “all organic” approach to food, and she usually brought home extra servings from Nuke-It Burger on her drunken return home, even if he turned his nose up at the ingredients.
The only time work had come up, it actually brought them closer, trust being a rare and delicate thing in the shadows. Eric was resting after spending near-continual weekend vigil over his new sweat lodge when Jayne called him in a blind panic. It was three in the afternoon, far outside her normal operating hours, and as the line connected Eric could hear gunshots ring out, impacting near enough to make her flinch.
A run had gone bad, very bad. Whether it was poor intel, unforeseen complications, or inadequate planning, it didn’t matter. Jayne needed help and Eric was on the move, praying to his totem that he could find her in time. The rest of her team had split as agreed upon, but she hadn’t been able to shake her pursuers and they were closing in, fast.
Crouched among the abandoned plastisteel and rusted shipping containers of the industrial junk yard, Jayne could hear them moving through the aisles with military precision, hunting the tired runner. Blood streamed from beneath a now-useless trauma patch at her side, the old guard’s blade having nicked something important. Her mind fogged with pain and medication, she couldn’t bring the will necessary for spellcasting to bear. It was all she could do to call Eric, and then only as a last resort. They would find her, she knew.
Heart racing with adrenaline, Eric leapt from his sedan and sprinted into the waste yard, lips twisting around strange syllables, pleading with the spirits for protection. While a “nature-loving hippie” as his roommate had countlessly called him, he wasn’t a stranger to violence, or its need when specific occasion arose. Defense of friends certainly qualified.
Ghostly forms shimmered at the edge of his vision as spirits of nature heeded his call, scouring the property for Jayne at the speed of thought, pointing him directly to her. With legs aching and chest heaving he sprinted, praying the spirits could keep her safe.
Her eyes opened as a new warmth began pulsing from her broken ribs, the mental exhaustion and physical aches ebbing with each wave. The military cops had stopped, assaulted by a force their bullets couldn’t touch. One of Eric’s spirits had manifested and was throwing the guards around like chocolate from an antique piñata.
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth she started to crawl, almost dragging herself, out from behind the pile of scrap, toward the back entrance that, spirits willing, hadn’t yet been cordoned off. Newfound thoughts of escape drove her to action.
Her plan dramatically changed when she heard a new order issuing from an unconscious guard’s helmet. “We’ve found him. Kill the wizard to kill the spirits. Lethal force authorized.”
In the months that passed neither of them brought up how a barely-breathing and bullet-riddled Jayne had been dragged back home, patched up by a pre-med student paid in novacoke, or the news reports detailing that an “unusual chemical event” caused the whole of the waste yard to suddenly combust, tragically killing eight experienced guards from the local private naval base.
They didn’t talk about it because nothing needed to be said – when they needed each other, they were there. A unique bond formed from saving each others’ lives, just when both had thought they were finished.
She may have been a leather-clad party mage, and he a salt-of-the-Earth homebody shaman, but they trusted each other. Though both knew their phone would ring in only the most dire of emergencies, each knew the other would answer the call.
A friendship and respect not born out of convenience, intimacy, or professional courtesy, but one of character and understanding. Actions, not words.
Even in a world of flying dragons and nano-scale technology, trust like that was a magical find.