Okay, this is it. The technical portion. It’s easy to lose the newly initiated during this part of the discussion. Over the centuries, Jensen has tweaked and honed his tutorial. Too fast or too high level and there are the inevitable misunderstandings and problems. Too slow or preachy and it all just gets tuned out as boring drivel. He’s found that analogies work best as a way to help his new masters grasp the long forgotten concept that is true magic.
“Magic originates in the cosmic plane and is infinite. However, your ability to access it is not. Each owner of the lamp is allotted an indeterminate amount of magic for making wishes. Think of it as your own personal well with magic down at the bottom. You can dip your bucket into the well as many times as you like, but at some point the bucket will come up empty and that will be the end. No more wishes.”
This is usually a good place to stop, check in to make sure he’s hitting the right tone, backtrack a little if he’s left his master behind.
Into the expectant silence, Jared pipes up with, “Are you the bucket in this scenario?” lips quirked mischievously.
“Bucket? No, of course not,” Jensen sputters. A moment’s hesitation has him rethinking his answer though because, if the analogy is taken to the next logical step, Jared is right. Not only is Jared keeping up with the explanation, he has skipped several pages ahead. Jensen points at his master. “Wait a second, you’re right. As the conduit between you and the magic, I am the bucket. Very astute.” His new master is quick. One more reason Jensen will need to stay on his toes this time around. “When you rub the lamp with intent and make a wish, your magic flows from the true source, through me, and I am then able to grant your wish.”
Jared’s thumb absently caresses the bronze lamp in his lap. “What happens when the magic runs out?”
“When the magic runs out, the lamp becomes nothing more than an interesting knick-knack for your coffee table until the next person claims it.” An uneasy sliver of dread trickles down Jensen’s spine. The emotion isn’t one with which he has much experience. He puts it aside to examine later, and focuses on his current responsibility which is to make sure his master has all the relevant information. “Oh, and you can’t tell anyone about it, that’s part of the lamp’s defensive magic.”
“So, no passing the lamp from one family member to the next? Essentially hoarding it,” Jared muses thoughtfully.
“Exactly.” Jensen beams, proud for some unknown reason at how insightful Jared is. It’s strange since he has no reason to be proud, not yet anyway. Jared’s intelligence is not a product of the very short time they have spent together, after all. Still, the feelings of pride, of kinship and undeniable affinity, run deep. The strong connection he feels to Jared cannot be explained by his djinn nature, nor can it be assigned to the cosmic magic that now binds them. This is something else, something he’s never felt before, and Jensen is beginning to have his suspicions as to what. If he’s right, his days are numbered and Jared will be his final master. Best not to dwell on it until he’s sure.
“And you?” What happens to you when my magic runs out?” Jared’s question mimics his own thoughts in a way that’s uncanny, but also (maybe) easily explained. If…
Jensen answers automatically, voice gone flat. “My time in the material plane will come to an end and I will be returned to the ethereal plane.” At least that is what has always happened in the past. This time…he’s not sure what will happen to him. Jensen’s gaze wanders outside to the sidewalk where pedestrians are hurrying past, some in business attire and others in jeans and t-shirts. The shop keeper from the antique store flips the sign in the window to CLOSED and locks the door. Other businesses up and down the busy street are also shutting down for the day, some pulling gates across the thresholds, others drawing the blinds.
“Yikes and dagum! It’s getting late. I need to get home. Mom, Dad and Meghan are coming over for dinner tonight.”
Turning around, he sees Jared looking at his watch. “Yikes and dagum?” he asks, amused in spite of himself. He hasn’t been in the material plane for over forty years and even he knows those curse words are outdated.
Jared blushes and lowers his head until his long bangs fall into his face. “My mama doesn’t like swear words.” Broad shoulders rise and fall in a bashful shrug. “I know I sound ridiculous, but I just got into the habit of using less offensive ones.”
An intense urge to reach out and sift his fingers through Jared’s hair hits him from out of nowhere. For the first time in his very long life, Jensen regrets the shortcomings of his insubstantial form.
“Anyway,” Jared’s head comes up and soulful, blue-green eyes transfix him. “I’ve gotta go home and start cooking. Will you come with me? I’m afraid if you don’t, I’ll start believing this whole crazy thing was my imagination getting caught up in finding a lamp that looks exactly like the one from Aladdin.” He gives the lamp a little pat.
“Yeah, about that.” Jensen’s insides squirm a bit. This part is not always well received and can be extremely awkward. “You’re kind of stuck with me for the duration. I can only get so far away while the lamp is bound to you. Where you go, I go.” Jensen doesn’t have any breath to hold, but he goes stock still, waiting to hear what his master will say.
“Terrific!” Jared bobs his head as he fishes his keys out of a pocket. “My sanity is saved and you can fill me in on the rest of it while we drive.”
Hmm, that was easy. As easy as if they were…meant to be together.
Jensen orders his thoughts, relegates that niggling voice to the farthest corner of his mind. Consorts among djinn and their masters are rarer than rare. Chances are he’s wrong and, even if he’s not, there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it. No use in obsessing over the possibility.
The frantic pace and crowded streets of L.A. during rush hour fall away behind them as they drive, making way for suburban landscapes comprised of housing developments and shopping malls, and eventually to the low, rolling hills at the outskirts of the city. As the scenery changes, Jensen tells his master about the vagaries of magic, how to phrase his wishes to get the best outcomes, and how wishes can be distorted, subverted, and twisted into a mockery of their original intent. He also explains that his role is that of an advisor, a sounding board. Jared can take as much time as necessary to decide on what he truly wants and Jensen will be there to guide him.
Conversation flows with an ease Jensen has never experienced, one topic flowing effortlessly into the next. Jared asks about some of the wishes he’s granted and he gladly retells some of his favorites – the talent he’d conferred upon a woman who became one of the most notable sculptors of her time, the beautiful estate he’d created for a young Baron whose family fortune had been squandered by previous generations, and, of course, the Fuzzies. He also tells stories about some of the more sinister masters he’s had and how he dealt with them.
“The worst was a bitter man named Cyrus who was tired of waiting for his father to die.” Jensen grimaces at the memory. “His father was only in his early fifties and was showing no signs of being ready to turn the business he’d built from scratch over to his only son. Cyrus felt his father was unfairly withholding his birthright.”
Jared white-knuckles the steering wheel. “Sounds like a self-entitled jerk.”
“That he was, as well as being a coward. You see, he’d been plotting and scheming his father’s demise for years, but he never put any of his nefarious plans into motion for fear of being discovered and imprisoned. The day he found my lamp, all that changed. For on that day, he saw a way to kill his father that couldn’t be traced back to him.”
“He made you kill his father!?” The muscles bunching in Jared’s jaw display his outrage just as clearly as his angry exclamation.
“Now, now, give me a little credit. I’m not a mindless automaton, after all. I have resources of my own.” Jensen is gratified to see Jared’s jaw unclench as though his words alone were assurance enough that he would never let anything bad happen. Jared’s trust in him makes him smile.
Eyes alight with interest, Jared says, “Okay, so what happened?”
“Every few days he would ask my advice on one newly-hatched scheme or another and, in the guise of being a helpful ally, I would point out real or imaginary flaws, playing into his cowardice. Instead of using his wishes to commit fratricide, he used them to order me around. I became his glorified servant, teleporting him to meetings and appointments, giving him exotic meals and fancy clothes, that kind of thing. This went on for a long time as he waited for the perfect opportunity.”
Jared frowns. “He treated you like a slave.”
“I didn’t mind.” Jensen angles a sly grin in Jared’s direction. “After months of having his every command obeyed, Cyrus got lazy. He stopped using precise wording when he made his wishes, often leaving much room for interpretation. Then, one day, his impatience got the better of him and he said, ‘I wish for you to cause my father’s premature death, right now. I don’t care how you do it.’”
“What did you do?”
“Well, as I already told you, wishes are tricky things and almost any wish, no matter how meticulously worded, can be undermined in some way. The word prematurely, for instance, isn’t nearly specific enough, and the phrase right now could apply to his father’s death or the timing of my granting his wish. I used his magic to shave a fraction of a second off his father’s life. I then told him his wish had been fulfilled. He had no reason to doubt me and so, without waiting for confirmation, he took his girlfriend to his father’s office where they both loudly declared themselves the new owners. Long story short, his father returned to the office, discovered his son in the midst of celebrating his death, and disowned him. His girlfriend left him soon after. And his father lived to the ripe old age of ninety-six. I don’t think he ever missed that fraction of a second.”
“Wasn’t Cyrus angry when he found out what you had done?”
“He was furious. But here’s the other thing about djinn magic that you already know. Each owner of the lamp only gets a certain amount and that amount can’t be predicted. Cyrus had been using up his magic on all the little wishes for expensive caviar, cufflinks, and teleportation. All small things, but they add up over time, and he’d been using up his wishes for weeks. When his father disowned him, he flew into a rage and demanded that I have his father run over by a runaway horse and buggy – this was before automobiles, you understand – and killed that very day. Unbeknownst to him, there was only a dribble of his magic left. The wish fizzled, the lamp was rendered inert, and I vanished from the material plane.”
Jared exhales a relieved breath as if he’d been so caught up in the tale he’d relived it right along with Jensen. Slanting a look full of admiration his way, he says, “You are amazingly clever. I’ll be sure to think my wishes out very carefully before I make my next one.”
If Jensen could blush, he’s almost certain his cheeks would be flaming right now. His gaze travels from his own hands resting on his knees up to Jared’s face. A never before felt warmth wells up inside him. “Something tells me such underhanded tactics won’t be necessary with you.”
The fondness he’s feeling must show on his face because Jared’s expression softens to mirror it.
After a beat of companionable silence, Jared asks whether Jensen was responsible for the careers of any famous people and Jensen sheepishly admits to his involvement in the lives of several historic figures, although he won’t say which ones, claiming he doesn’t want to tarnish their achievements in Jared’s eyes. Somewhere along the line, conversation turns to Justin Bieber and Jared’s newfound belief that the singer must have a genie’s lamp stashed away in his Beverly Hills mansion, saying, “At least that would explain his unlikely rise in fame.”
“It’s possible,” Jensen admits. “He wasn’t one of mine, though. I’d at least have given him the talent to go along with the fame.” He wonders where that slight came from and feels a little bit guilty for a judgement he’s not sure is completely justified, that is until Jared laughs and his shame turns into pleasure at having been the cause of his master’s mirth. Jared’s laughter, unrestrained and joyous, fills an emptiness inside him Jensen didn’t even know was there.
Forty-five of the most enjoyable minutes Jensen can ever remember spending in the company of a human pass before Jared pulls his car into a long driveway. The smallish house set back from the road is white with blue trim and has a wrap-around porch. A swing hangs from the porch roof just to the left of the front door. Neatly trimmed rose bushes, the blossoms in shades of yellow and pink, adorn the path leading up to the stairs. Jared’s home is modest, but nonetheless cherished for all that. It’s plain to see Jared is a man who takes good care of the things that belong to him.
“It’s a long commute, but I don’t mind it. City living just isn’t for me,” Jared says, hands in his pockets and gaze riveted to Jensen’s face as though Jensen’s opinion on the matter is of the utmost importance.
Jensen takes in the expansive lawn, the fluffy, white clouds in the pale blue sky, the freshly-painted house, and says with genuine admiration, “It’s beautiful out here. It fits you.”
The smile Jared graces him with is blinding, literally. Jensen’s vision whites out. He doesn’t remember putting both hands up to cover his eyes or hunching over, but that’s how he finds himself sometime later, Jared hovering nearby like he desperately wants to help but doesn’t know how. All Jensen can think is, this has got to stop happening. He’s an all-powerful genie; how can a simple smile from his master disable him so completely? Then, he recalls a piece of obscure legend about consorts, something about an acknowledgment of the portent being required. Okay, fine. Under his breath, he growls, “I get it. He’s the one. You can stop now.”
Nothing happens, no breeze stirs the trees, and the sun doesn’t suddenly shine brighter. The only thing that changes is that the doubt Jensen was feeling dispels, leaving only a crushing certainty in its wake.
Then, Jared is in front of him, hands reaching for him before he seems to remember he can’t touch and drops them uselessly to his sides. “Jensen? What’s wrong? What can I do?”
Jensen straightens, squares his shoulders, and searches for his center. He can do this. “I’m fine. Please, don’t concern yourself. It won’t happen again.” His smile is meant to reassure and it must work because Jared nods, gesturing toward the house.
“We should go in then. My family will be here soon.”
They’ve only just gotten in the door when another car pulls into the driveway.
“Fiddlesticks! They’re here.” Jared stares at Jensen, wide-eyed. “I promised them the dessert would be ready by the time they got here.” He jogs into the kitchen and looks around at the bare counters as though a dessert might magically appear. As if by magic.
When Jared’s panicked gaze slides his way, Jensen contents himself with a raised eyebrow and waits for the moment of realization. He doesn’t have to wait long.
“My wishes...should I? I mean, you don’t think this is too trivial, do you?”
“A wish like this one will hardly use any magic at all. And it’s a good test. It’ll give you a sense of how the wishes work.”
Jared holds the lamp in both hands at chest level. “Okay, what do I do?”
“Rub the lamp, think hard about what you want, and say your wish out loud.”
“I wish I had an apple pie hot from the oven.”
“Your wish is my command.” Like water from a faucet that has only barely been turned on, magic trickles along the pathways forged of old. Jensen refines the mystical energy, focuses it, and on the kitchen island appears a streusel-topped apple pie, steam rising in fragrant plumes.
“Holy moly, it’s perfect,” Jared whispers, awed, just as there’s a knock on the door.
“Wait until you taste it,” Jensen replies with a wink, pleased with himself. Now go open the door and don’t worry. I’ll stay out the way. Just pretend I’m not here. We can talk more after they’re gone.” Jensen makes a point of stationing himself in an out of the way corner of the kitchen. This will give him an opportunity to learn more about Jared through his interactions with his family. Any insights he gleans can be used to help Jared in determining the best use of his wishes.
Jared gives Jensen one last backward glance over his shoulder before he goes to great his family who have let themselves in after the cursory knock on the door. Warm hugs all around suggest this family is close knit and also the touchy-feeley type, confirmation of what Jensen had already surmised from Jared’s earlier attempts to offer him comfort during his...episodes. They all come into the kitchen, and the noise level in the house rises exponentially as they all try to talk over one another.
Jared’s mother is the shortest, but she somehow has the most commanding presence. Her hair, which is tied back at the nape of her neck, shows some signs of grey. Jared’s father stands about four inches shorter than his son, but he doesn’t seem at all bothered by the height difference, easily putting Jared in his place with a gruff but affectionate punch to the shoulder when Jared laughingly suggests he might feel more at home on the couch in front of the TV.
That just leaves Jared’s younger sister, Megan. It’s obvious they come from the same good gene pool. She’s slender and tall with long dark hair and a vivacious personality.
All four family members jostle and tease each other good-naturedly as they move around the kitchen island, preparing the meal. From the easy familiarity, Jensen gets the distinct impression that this is a fairly common occurrence, meals prepared together here in Jared’s cozy home. Each person is assigned a job; Megan chops the onions and peppers, Mom seasons and cooks the chicken, and Jared goes outside to pick tomatoes and cilantro for the homemade salsa from his tiny garden. Dad combines all the ingredients inside flour tortillas with copious amounts of cheese and grills them on the griddle. Before long, the pungent smell of Tex-Mex cooking fills the air, and a plate full of quesadillas sits on the counter next to a bowl of sour cream, another brimming with extra salsa.
During the meal, Jensen listens carefully while, true to his word, he stays still and quiet so as not to distract his master. Even still, every so often, Jared will glance his way, whether to check to see if he’s still there or to gauge his reaction to the current conversation topic, Jensen isn’t sure.
Mom’s entertaining story about the high school students in her summer English class and how thrilled/not thrilled they all were when she assigned a five page paper on what they wanted to be when they grew up gets an eyebrow raise and a smirk out of him. Megan’s rendition of the children’s book she wrote gets a round of silent, yet earnest, applause. To Dad’s enthusiastic explanation of all things related to the accounting for leases, Jensen stifles a yawn.
Jared has lots to say about everyone else’s description of the goings-on in their daily lives, yet remains strangely silent as to his own. This perplexes Jensen – not that he expects his master to wax poetic about the genie lamp or the invisible djinn hovering in the corner, but surly there are other things about his life Jared can relate to his family. His omission doesn’t go unnoticed by the others seated around the table either.
After swallowing a bite of cheesy quesadilla and wiping her chin with a napkin, Megan says, “Jared, we’ve been here over an hour and you haven’t said a single word about your boyfriend. Usually, you won’t shut up about how talented Stephen is, how expressive Stephen’s face is, what a great actor Stephen is, what great hair Stephen has, yada, yada, yada. You haven’t even mentioned your date last weekend. Didn’t you say he was taking you to his beach house?”
Boyfriend? Jensen’s thoughts come to a stuttering halt. The sunlight streaming in through the windows suddenly seems to dim, or maybe he’s just slowly going blind by degrees. Gravity, which has no effect on Jensen whatsoever, seems to latch onto him, pulling him down through the floor, through the layers of dirt and rock, into the very depths of the earth. Everything Jensen knows about who and what he is gets turned upside down, becomes meaningless, because now he has no hope. None. He’s too late. Jared already has a boyfriend.
Jared’s startled gaze whiplashes over to him and then back to his family who are all looking at him with amused expressions like this is a joke of which they never tire.
Only, Jared isn’t smiling. “I…uh…yeah. We went to his beach house. I came back Sunday morning since I had to be on set early today. He stayed until this morning and was on set by noon. He didn’t have any scenes to film until 3pm, so I guess he...”
The rest of the conversation is lost to Jensen as he shuts down. Miraculously, he doesn’t actually get pulled into the earth’s fiery core, although he feels as though he’s heavy enough for it. He aches in ways he could never even imagine. His inner contemplation gets dark until he mentally kicks himself out of his despondency.
He has lost a future he never even knew was a possibility until today, but nothing has changed. Not really. Jared is still his master and Jensen will do everything in his power to ensure that Jared’s wishes make him happy. Even if that means Jared’s - his consort’s - happiness lies with another.
He really should be listening to the chatter still going on between Jared and his family, learn as much as possible so he can do his job to the best of his abilities. Jared deserves that much from him. He pulls out of his reverie to see Jared’s parents and sisters already at the door, saying their good-byes. Diner is over, even the pie has been eaten. The dishes have been washed and put away, the counters cleaned. He’s missed a large chunk of time having his little mental freak out. It’s time to get his head back in the game.
The door closes and Jared returns to the kitchen. Jensen pastes on an unaffected smile. “Your family is wonderful, Jared.”
“They are. I’m lucky to have them.” Jared swipes a hand through his shaggy hair, seeming more subdued than such a sentiment usually warrants. “So...I’ve been thinking about the whole wish thing and I’ve decided on my first real one. After that though, I probably need your advice.”
Jensen inclines his head. “That’s what I’m here for, Jared. I know the story I told you in the car might make it sound like you have to be ultra careful about how you word your wishes, but I swear to you that I won’t try to twist them around on you. Your wish is my command, and I mean that with everything I am. I give you my word.” The truth of that sentiment sends a shiver through him.
“I trust you.” Jared puts a hand in the air above where Jensen’s forearm is crossed over his chest and holds it suspended there even though neither of them can feel the contact at all. “Barnacles, I wish I could touch you,” he mumbles.
Ignoring the wish that wasn’t made properly and of which Jared didn’t understand the implications, Jensen says, “Why don’t you get the lamp and tell me about the wish you’ve already decided on? The more you can tell me about your desired outcome, the more successful the wish will be.”
Jared walks into the living room, retrieves the lamp from the alcove where he’d stashed it when he first got home, then goes to sit on the couch. “Will you sit with me?” he asks, patting the seat cushion. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to stand on ceremony.”
Jensen arranges himself on Jared’s left, casually propping his right arm on the sofa back and bringing his right leg up onto the cushion so he can fully face him. “Is this okay?”
Jared nods and smiles, still subdued, not one of the dazzling smiles Jensen has already grown to expect from him. “I want my first wish to be for my sister.” Brushing a hand over his jean-clad knee, he adjusts the bronze lamp that is once again in his lap. “You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but she has epilepsy. It was diagnosed three years ago, right before she graduated from college. The doctors haven’t been able to find the right combination of medications to control her seizures. She can have as many as three in a week or none at all; they’re completely random. She can’t drive and needs someone nearby just in case. That’s why she still lives with my parents.” Jared’s breath hitches. “I want to use a wish to cure her.”
It’s a good wish, a selfless wish. “That’s…that’s really good, Jared. You’d be surprised how few people use their wishes to help other people.” Jensen buffs his hands together, concentrating. There are usually several ways to obtain the desired effect of any wish. This one is fairly straight forward though, unless... “Do you want her cured as of right now? Or do you want to alter her past so that she never developed epilepsy in the first place. I’ve got to warn you, I don’t know what butterfly effects of changing her past will bring about.”
Jared scrunches up his face, deep in thought. “This magic stuff is more complicated than they make it seem in the movies,” he grumbles quietly. “I don’t want to accidentally change any of the good things that have happened to her over the last three years, like getting her book published, so let’s just cure her as of now.”
“Okay, remember, rub the lamp with the intention of calling forth your magic and speak your wish out loud.”
Buffing the tarnished bronze surface with a flat palm, Jared says, “I wish my sister was cured of epilepsy as of right now.”
“Your wish is my command,” Jensen intones.
Magic flows from the source in the ethereal plane, powerful and strong, expanding inside him like a nebula. Eyes closed, Jensen channels it, molds it, gives it purpose, infuses it with Jared’s wish and releases it into the material plane. The magic bursts forth like a psychic wave, expanding outward. As the last of the magic dissipates, he opens his eyes. “It is done.”
The awe-filled expression Jared turns on him is reminiscent of when he first laid eyes on Jensen in the antique store. “That was…I felt it. I felt the magic. Jensen, that was amazing. You are amazing. Will Megan know she’s not sick anymore? Should I call her?” He starts to get up from the couch, but at the shake of Jensen’s head, he slowly sinks back down into the cushions.
“She won’t feel the magic like you did. She won’t feel any differently. But I can guarantee you this, she will never have another seizure.” Jensen pauses to let this sink in, wanting Jared to feel the enormity of having his wish fulfilled since it isn’t something tangible he can see. In a voice both calm yet abiding no uncertainty, no doubt, he says, “Jared, she’s cured.”
Jared’s eyes well up. “She can start living her life for real now. No more limitations. No more holding back. She’s free to do whatever she wants. This is fantastic! Thank you, Jensen.” Jared’s eyes are brimming when he leans in, arms outstretched, for what Jensen assumes is meant to be physical contact of some kind. A hug maybe? With a sheepish look, the hug is aborted. “Shucks, this no touching thing is becoming a real problem.”
Jensen chuckles. “That’s okay. I appreciate the gesture.”
“So…was that it? Is all my magic used up?”
Jensen extends his awareness, following the magical flow back to the source. It laps at his senses, almost as if it were a living thing, vibrant with potential. How much magic is left? He can’t determine exactly. Such is always the way. “Your magic well isn’t empty, that much I know for sure. I wish I could give you an estimate of how many wishes you had left, but there’s no way of knowing. My best advice to you is to make each wish as though it were your last, because it may be.”
Nodding along with the explanation, Jared taps the lamp with his index finger. “That brings me to my next question. Based on some of the things you’ve already said and the state of the world today, I think I already know the answer. I’m still going to ask you anyway, just in case.”
Intrigued, Jensen cocks his head and makes a go ahead gesture.
“Has anyone ever used a wish to improve the human condition? And more importantly, can I?”
Not only has no one ever used a wish in the way Jared is proposing, but no one has even asked him about it before. When people hear the word ‘wishes’, they automatically start pondering ways to make their own lives better. On some rare occasions, they seek to improve the lives of loved ones, children or spouses being the most common. The question has him at a rare loss for words as Jensen tries to puzzle out any hidden meanings. He can’t find any. “Are you asking me if you can wish for an end to world hunger? World peace? The reversal of climate change?”
A smile tugs at Jared’s lips as it he’s not sure whether he should be embarrassed by his question or not. “Yes? Any one of those. I mean, it’s probably a stupid question, right? If it could be done, someone else would already have done it.”
Solemnly, Jensen says, “Jared. It’s not a stupid question. Not at all. It’s a lovely question. One of the best questions anyone has ever asked me, and believe me, I’ve heard a lot of questions concerning magical wishes. The problem is, the size of a wish like that – the scope – it’s just too big. Take world hunger, for example. If you wish that no one would ever be hungry again, then you would need to magically produce food constantly for millions of people. It would drain your magic supply within the first couple seconds. It’s simply not sustainable.”
“Yeah, I figured it was something like that.” A small shrug. “Somehow, it just feels wrong, using wishes that only benefit myself.” Jared’s eyes won’t meet his.
The urge to hug Jared, to reassure him, takes Jensen by surprise. Touching a human, or any being, has never been a desire of his. He feels inadequate when all he can offer is, “If I could do it for you, I would. You know that, don’t you?”
At Jensen’s heartfelt murmur, Jared’s head jerks up. “Of course. This isn’t on you. I don’t mean to make you feel bad. You’ve done nothing to feel bad about. Kriminy Jensen! What you’ve already given me is more than I could have dreamed possible. I’d be happy with just that one wish. One wish is more than the vast majority of people ever get. You’ve made me extremely happy. But…what about you.”
“What do you mean?” Confusion seems to be Jensen’s default setting now. Jared is so unlike any master he’s ever had.
“Are you happy? You know, being a genie?”
Jared’s clarification has him no less stumped. His thoughts and, therefore, his answer to the question come out as a wandering stream of consciousness. “Being djinn is all I’ve ever known. My life is rewarding, fulfilling. I came into being during the age of enlightenment and have granted more wishes than there are solar systems in the Milky Way Galaxy. I get enjoyment from seeing other’s attain their dreams and being a part of my masters’ happiness. It makes me happy that you are happy. Is that not enough?”
Jared’s express turns inscrutable. “Let me ask my question in another way. Do you want to be free? Do you want me to use a wish to free you?”
Oh, so that’s what this is about. That ridiculous cartoon with the blue blob. Jensen looks down at the cuffs on his arms, bronze like his lamp, symbols of his identity and purpose. The movie got that much right, if not much else. The idea of losing the cuffs and his magical affinity, of never again feeling the energy flow through him, is frightening. “No!” The word bursts out before he can stop it. With an effort, he modulates his voice. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so harsh. It’s just that…for a genie, being freed means being disconnected from the source of magic. My ability to grant wishes, to travel to the cosmic plane, to channel any magic at all, would be gone. I’d be stuck here. I’d be…human.”
Human and alone is what he doesn’t say. Alone because Jared is his consort, there’s no denying it any longer, but Jared is in love with another. Being relegated to the material plane to live out a short, uneventful life by himself doesn’t appeal to him. On the other hand, returning to the ethereal plane once Jared’s magic is gone will leave him bereft. He will have to continue on, knowing what he has lost, and the rest of his long life will be an empty, excruciating existence. Neither choice holds much promise.
It’s all beginning to make sense now. In djinn legends, consort pairs are companions, beings perfectly suited to one another and complimentary in every way. Akin to soulmates. It is said that for a djinn to encounter their consort is to meet their death. Jensen now knows why.
And it terrifies him.
Jared’s long bangs fall into his eyes as he looks away and down. In a barely audible voice, he says, “Yeah, I guess that would be pretty terrible.” Louder and faster, he continues, “I need to think some more about how to use my wishes. I’m going to bed now. Make yourself comfortable, okay? I suppose you don’t sleep, but you’re welcome to anything I have. My house is your house. I’ll see you in the morning.” Head hanging, he propels himself off the couch, long legs taking him down the hall before Jensen knows what happened.
“Jared? What’s wrong?” Sifting quickly back through what he just said, Jensen realizes his monumental blunder. “Wait, Jared. I didn’t mean it like that.”
The sound of a door closing is his only answer.
Great, now on top of everything else, he’s insulted his master. Way to go, Jensen.
He spends the night thinking of ways to make amends. He discards an outright apology once he practices one aloud and discovers how lame it sounds. “Good morning, Jared. I’m sorry I told you I thought being human sucked last night. Please forgive me for being an elitist genie.” Yeah, that would go over real well.
A better idea will be simply showing Jared he’s sorry, he decides. Actions speak louder than words as they say. Jared still has wishes to make and wishes are Jensen’s forte. He’ll make sure Jared gets the most out of his wishes as possible and afterwards…well, the future will sort itself out. Jensen has never been much for worrying and he isn’t going to start now.
There’s also one other thing he can do that he thinks will make Jared happy, something with which he’s not strictly comfortable as it makes him more vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. He’ll have to dip into his own personal magical reserves more than he likes, but this is for Jared and that’s all that matters.
Continue to Chapter 3