His stare becomes slowly vulnerable, the words I'm saying reaching the thing inside which has always seen him labelled the 'black sheep', the thing that has radios uttering bizarre noises when he's close, TVs turning to static and glasses sometimes smashing when he's angry. We had laughed about this, linking it to his dad, both of them claiming they just didn't have any luck…
"Oh God, Marion," he chokes out, those eyes I like so much flooding with tears, and my big tough friend breaks down and cries. Low, raw sobs force their way out from inbetween his lips, his delicate face framed by the shivering fringe that hangs over one eye.
I have never, ever, seen him this disturbed and upset before. I had thought that having power would make him happy, make him closer to the stories we'd written together, the films we'd watched. Make him closer to me…
I'm shocked when Gloria squirms her way off my lap and over to Josh, putting her soft small hand on his cheek and looking at him intensely.
"Don't cry, brother," she says, little and sweet and intelligent. "You get a chance to fight the bad guys now. Plus, my Marion is like you- she can help you."
Damn me if the kid doesn't snuggle into his lap and give his the world's loveliest smile as she does so.
Josh reacts- his hands go round her tiny back, and he kisses the top of her head, protective as a father, loving as a brother. I sit there, utterly speechless, and then begin to smile as Josh stops crying and lets Gloria fall back to sleep.
We sit there for a while, I watching them, Gloria back to snoring again, and Josh just stroking her hair. What a weird – I catch the time on the radio alarm and do a double take – couple of days it's been. How is it that both me and Josh have this power? How is it that we've never noticed it before?
He looks up. I take a good long time inspecting his face, hoping that the almost delicate set of his lips won't grow thin with pain again, that those large brown eyes don't fill with tears. Nothing of the sort- he's fine, his face seems more worried and confused again than frightened.
"What you looking at?" he playfully asks, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I know Josh is fine if he's back to quipping at me.
"Another mage or somethin'. Didn't really pay attention during 'classification of magical weirdos' class," I say offhandedly, and Josh starts to chuckle, shifting Gloria carefully to the bed.
I have all of one second before he flies at me, ninja-style, and we hit the end of the mattress, beginning a furious but silent poke-fight. He's not my best friend for nothing, and most of the tension my body had been holding onto flops away as he pokes my ribs and I try and fail not to squeal. Gloria shifts in sleep, and we both freeze, but when she doesn't wake I take the advantage and go for his side. That's too much: he collapses in a laughing heap and I follow, rolling onto my side and trying to catch my breath.
We lie there, just getting our breath, and surprisingly he's the first to speak.
"So, I've got it too, huh?" he asks.
I nod, letting him see it, and he suddenly grins.
"Before… I was shocked, and the fact that I've suddenly turned out to be totally different frightened me- it seemed like too much had just changed. But we haven't, and that's important to me."
I smile, and my cheeks go bright pillarbox red with his words. Josh is the sort of person who just does, because talking doesn't come very naturally to him. hearing him say these things out loud is like the Queen's just come and knighted us both, or we've won infinite access to all the awesome films at the cinema. Something like that, but better, because Josh is telling me how much he appreciates my friendship.
He goes on, flicking the fringe away from his eyes. "I want to help you. I want to learn about this power we've got, and I want to help get Gloria home. Moreover- that thing that ate the cat and scared the crap out of us-" his face got steely, and his eyes flashed with more than just light at me- "I want it dead. My parents loved that cat, and I-"
Suddenly he breaks off, his expression unreadable as he looks at me. I can tell whatever he was going to say next wasn't at all about the cat.
My mind and heart start to do funny things. Josh has never fixed me with that look before, and I want to know, desperately, what he was going to say. Unnamed emotions run round my head, and it is much later, as we sleep and dawn cracks the sky, that I have the dream that will leave me so confused in the morning.