Even Harry's nights off seem to attract more trouble than can be reasonably expected. Minor White Night spoilers.
There are a lot of things I missed because I was a wizard. Television wasn't one of them. I never had it growing up -- I only caught a bit of with with my father, and having Justin, myself and Elaine under one roof meant that the old rabbit-ear black and white set barely worked for emergencies.
Movies, on the other hand, were another matter. I was far enough away from the projector that I could go to the movie theater without my magic scrambling the electronics. And, even with the crazy hikes in ticket prices, I could usually afford to see them. The only problem was, once they went to video, I was out of luck.
Which was why Thomas's offer of a movie night at his place was so appealing, once I had figured out what he was doing to have such a nice apartment.
"So, what do you got?" I said, sitting down on his couch, Mouse setting at my feet.
"Did you have to bring him?" Thomas gestured to Mouse, who looked up.
"He jumped in the car as soon as I opened the door," I said.
"Well, he's probably less likely to mess up the place than you," Thomas replied.
I rolled my eyes. "I'll apologize to your housekeeper later, Thomas. So, what do you got?"
"Well, Sergeant Murphy recommended RENT." Thomas grinned at me when I said something under my breath about Murph's sense of humor.
"She's never going to let that go," I said. One invented story to get me out of trouble with the building's security, and suddenly half of SI thinks I'm the new butt of jokes. Well, at least, until someone else did something as funny.
"Your own fault," Thomas said. "The new Harry Potter movie?"
"Do you have any serious suggestions, Thomas, or do we have to see if we can find a reality TV program that's better than staring at the wall?"
"Okay, okay." Thomas held up another DVD box. "Batman Begins?"
"Good. Now, don't get any of your wizard germs on the equipment," Thomas said.
"Fine, fine," I said. "It's not like I meant to erase your hard drive."
See what I mean about electronics? Thomas's home entertainment setup was state-of-the-art enough that I probably couldn't touch it, without suppressing my magic. I'd handled movies before without breaking them, but it was mostly Billy and Georgia's old college-student stuff, purchased used from several generations of students. At that point, it was the home entertainment version of the Blue Beetle -- having survived life with college students, a little magic wouldn't do more than make it a bit more temperamental.
Thomas pressed a button on the front of the DVD player. It whirred at him, and refused to open. Mouse and Thomas gave me a look.
"All right. I'll get some pizza until you get the DVD running." I stood up, heading to the kitchen. Mouse stood up as well to let me pass. "You can have pizza later," I told him. "I don't want you having to get up during the movie." He gave me a reproachful look.
The pizza was still hot and I grabbed a slice, and a paper plate to put it on, and a beer from the fridge. I could hear swearing coming from the other room. Not a good sign. "How's it going, Thomas?"
"Harry, I swear, if you broke my DVD player..."
"I didn't touch your DVD player, Thomas," I said.
"What about when you snuck into my apartment last month?"
"I wasn't here to watch movies," I said. "Besides, I didn't /sneak in/. You gave me a key, remember?" I looked back into the other room to see he had tugged the entertainment center away from the wall, and was crouched behind it, holding several cables. For once, his supernaturally good looks might actually have looked a bit mussed.
"One of these cables looked like it was chewed on," Thomas held up something, which I couldn't see from the other side of the room. "Are you sure Mouse-"
"Mouse has more sense than that -- he's a dog, not a gerbil. Trust me, I'd notice."
Mouse had stood up, and had gone over to where Thomas was, as if inspecting the repair work. He gave a short bark, which surprised the hell out of me, then lunged forward. I nearly dropped the plate of pizza onto the carpet, trying to get over there. "Thomas?"
"He's got something in his mouth," Thomas said. "Something alive. Remind me to have a word with the exterminator."
"Hang on," I said. "Thomas, do you have any salt, or is it all that no-sodium healthy stuff?"
"Try the table, Harry."
I found the salt shaker -- rock salt, with some kind of grinder, and finally managed to get the damn thing open. It wouldn't be grinding any salt any time soon, but I could buy Thomas another one. I spread the salt in a circle on the kitchen floor. "Okay, Mouse. Come here and drop it."
My dog trotted over, and inspected the circle, then sat down and spat out whatever it was in his mouth. Quickly, I put a bit of power into the circle to close it.
It could have almost been one of the smaller wyldfae. It was about the size of my outstretched hand, with silvery skin, a very tiny pair of curly goat horns on its head, and a bit of fair hair barely visible under a small hat made of tin foil, bits of glass and cassette tape ribbon. It crossed his arms and glared at me. "I have no business with you, wizard."
Thomas was looking at it from over my shoulder where I crouched on the floor. "Harry. What is that and what is it doing in my living room?"
"I think it's a gremlin," I said, wishing Bob was hear to confirm it. Bob, however, was banned from movie nights until he learned to keep quiet. "I haven't seen one before. They don't really bother wizards. About the only thing I own that they'd like is the Beetle."
"Wizards don't have anything we want," the gremlin said. "Not unless they ask for us."
"Gremlins..." Thomas said. "You mean those things that would down planes in Bugs Bunny cartoons?"
"Yeah. You know what magic does to electronics? These guys feed off of that." Gremlins were weird like that. Most spirits of the Nevernever were technologically illiterate, or were like the fae and couldn't tolerate the iron that went hand in hand with modern technology. Usually technology was reserved for things that lived in the mortal world, like vampires. My brother being a case in point.
"That's great, Harry. Can you send it off back where it came from?" Thomas said.
"Have any CDs or something you don't mind being erased?" I asked. If I had known there would be gremlins, I would have brought my collection of free CDs, that sat in an isolated shelf in my lab.
He ducked into his study and brought out a disk. "Free internet trial. I get about five of them a month."
"So do I." I turned back to the gremlin. "Listen you. I have a deal for you. You leave this apartment-"
"-and my car," Thomas added.
"-and the cars parked in the parking lot alone," I continued, "and we'll give you that CD."
"DVD," Thomas said.
"Cheapskate," the gremlin said. It folded its arms. "One DVD per month. That's my price."
I looked at Thomas. "Fine," he said. "I get enough of those."
I drew in another circle, adjacent to the gremlin's, in salt, then motioned for Thomas to put the DVD into the circle. Then I broke the boundary between them. The gremlin grabbed the DVD and, balancing it on his finger, began to spin it, tracing the other hand over it. A loud staticy sound filled the apartment. Both Thomas and Mouse covered their ears. I would have done so as well, if I wasn't ready to cast another spell if the gremlin didn't leave as asked. Most things in the Nevernever obey their agreements, but I'd never worked with gremlins before.
But, after about two minutes of the noise, it set the DVD down, then nodded to me. "Undo the circle."
"Fine. But we have a deal, remember."
I took the power out of the circle, and the gremlin nodded to me, then vanished, leaving the DVD behind on the floor.
"Life never gets easy with you," Thomas said. "Just promise me one thing."
I took another slice of pizza out for Mouse as a reward and put the plate on the kitchen floor. He started wolfing it down. "Which is?"
"If you ever have to tell Murphy she has to sacrifice a CD a month to keep the gremlins away from her computer, I want to be in the room."
This was done for the Yuletide Treasures rare-fandom 2007 ficathon for WhiteCat.