The next morning, Jared is up before the sun. Hair sticking out from the sides of his head in comical clumps, he comes bounding out of his bedroom and right into what would have been Jensen’s personal space, if personal space had any real meaning for him. “You’re still here! I almost convinced myself you were a dream when I woke up this morning.” The previous night’s misunderstanding seems forgotten as Jared grins. It’s infectious in the way a big, goofy golden retriever’s tail-wagging-rapturous-delight-at-seeing-t
Telling Jared he reminds him of a dog probably isn’t going to win him any points though, so instead Jensen says, “Not a dream. And I can prove it.” He reaches out a hand and does something he never thought he’d do to anyone; he touches him, cupping his cheek then slowly moving his hand to tuck an unruly strand of hair behind his ear. Jared’s skin is warm, his hair soft. The skin on skin contact sends shockwaves of sensation through his newly formed nerve endings. He closes his eyes, overwhelmed by the experience.
Voice husky and breathless, Jared says, “Jensen, I can feel you. What did you do?”
At the slightly anxious tone, Jensen’s eyes pop open, his hand falls to his side. Did he read the signals wrong? “I thought if you could touch me, I would be more real to you. I gave myself substance. I didn’t use any of your magic, if that’s what is bothering you. Is this not what you wanted? Did I do the wrong thing?”
The timbre of Jared’s voice softens. “I couldn’t care less about the magic. I just don’t want you putting yourself in jeopardy for me. Can other people see you now?”
“No, I’m still invisible to everyone except you.”
A smile slowly forms, lighting Jared’s face. “I better not do this in front of anyone then.” And his arms come up, engulfing Jensen. Jensen melts into the warmth, resting his head on Jared’s shoulder. The scent of Jared’s cologne wafts over him as his own arms come up to wrap around Jared’s back. All his senses come alive. It’s utterly overwhelming.
“Your first hug, huh?” Jared murmurs into his hair.
Jensen nods and realizes that he’s trembling. He had no idea a hug could be this powerful. Does having substance make him more prone to human reactions? He doesn’t think it should. It’s not like he gave himself a beating heart or working lungs. There must be something to having a physical form though that is playing havoc with his mental state. Either that or it’s just being in Jared’s presence.
He doesn’t want the contact to end, but after a while pulls away, self-conscious. “Weird how a being as old as I am still has so much to learn and experience for the first time.”
“Hey, experiencing new things is what makes life interesting. And you’re not the only one facing a learning curve here. Look at me.” Jared points to himself and then the lamp on the coffee table with a smug smirk. “First time ever owning a magic lamp and I think I’m nailing it.”
Jensen appreciates Jared’s attempt to lighten the mood. “Like a pro,” he teasingly agrees. “Have you decided on your next wish, now that you’re such an expert?”
“Not yet.” Jared sobers. “I know most people dream of wealth and quitting their job, spending all their time traveling, but honestly, I love my job. And how would I explain it? Wouldn’t my all of a sudden coming into exorbitant wealth set off all kinds of red flags with, oh I don’t know, law enforcement or something?”
“Those are the kinds of things I normally have to counsel my masters against. You do seem to have nailed the whole lamp ownership and wishes thing, oh enlightened one.” Jensen bows and gives Jared a jaunty wink. All kidding aside, Jensen is beginning to think his master is uncommonly bright. Either that or the stars aligned perfectly to bring him and Jared together. Yeah...
Jared’s eyes crinkle adorably as he huffs a laugh. “So anyway, I figured I’d just go to work as normal. I’m sure something will come to me eventually. You don’t mind hanging out until I make up my mind do you?”
“Of course not. Hanging out is what I do best. It’s all part and parcel of the whole genie gig.” Truth be told, Jensen is glad Jared has decided not to rush his wishes, for a couple reasons. First and foremost, the longer he takes, the better Jensen will understand how to help him get the most from his wishes. Secondarily, the longer he takes, the more time Jensen will get to spend with his consort. He’s not above taking a little happiness for himself while it’s available. His happiness as well as his time will be cut short all too soon.
Jared snags a hand out and ruffles Jensen’s hair as though he can’t get enough of touching him now that he can. “Are you quoting Aladdin now? I thought you didn’t approve.”
Jensen arches into the touch like a cat demanding more attention and he isn’t embarrassed at all when he nearly starts purring. “Yeah well…it seemed appropriate. Besides, it’s not that bad a movie. It’s just not completely accurate.”
Jared runs his fingers through Jensen’s hair again, lightly scratching at his scalp, and chuckles when Jensen hums happily. “Feels good, doesn’t it? Alright, now that’s settled, I’ll go get ready. We have to leave early because of the long commute.” Jared pauses on his way back toward his bedroom. “You are coming with me, aren’t you? To work?”
“You remember when I said you were stuck with me, right?”
“Well, I wasn’t exaggerating. I literally have to be within one hundred yards of you for as long as your magic binds you to the lamp. By the way, you’ll want to take the lamp with you as well. You never know when you’ll need it.”
“Gotcha, I’ll be ready in ten,” Jared says as he ducks into his room. Before he closes the door he turns back around and says, “Hey Jensen...thanks.”
It’s still dark outside when they both climb into the car. Jensen nearly brains himself getting in since he’s not used to having physical mass to deal with, but once he figures out he has to duck it’s not a problem.
The drive into the city is pleasant despite the traffic congestion. Jensen asks what Jared does for a living, and Jared launches into a long and enthusiastic description of his job as the second assistant director on the set of a television show called Dr. Sexy, MD which has been on the air for two years so far. He chatters away happily about his responsibilities for shepherding the cast to wherever they need to be, whether that be make up, wardrobe or on set. It’s his dream job. The cast is large and changes frequently with the exception of a few principle actors. He loves interacting with the cast and crew, creating the daily call sheets, and dealing with the extras. Strangely enough, he doesn’t seem inclined to mention his boyfriend even though Jensen gleaned from dinner conversation the night before that he is an actor on the same show.
He’s loath to be the one to broach the subject, but if he’s important to Jared then, as his genie, Jensen needs to know about him. When they pull into a parking spot in front of a large building inside the production lot, he reluctantly asks, “Which character does your boyfriend play? One of the leads?”
Jared’s eyebrows go up in what looks like surprise. “Oh, uh, you mean Stephen? Um, well yeah, he has the role of a doctor. Not Dr. Sexy, but another... uh doctor. Dr. Sexy’s best friend.”
The stuttered explanation peters off, and Jensen waits for more information, but Jared is too busy opening his car door to offer anything more on the subject, apparently.
There’s no one around, so Jensen opens his car door and gets out.
It’s going to take some getting used to, this invisible, physical form. No need to freak anyone out by pulling a Casper and moving things around when only Jared can see the source. Speaking of that…
“Don’t forget, you can’t talk to me when other people are nearby,” he says as he comes around the car to where Jared is reaching into the backseat for his messenger bag, the lamp tucked safely inside.
Jared nods. “I’ll remember. I did good last night, didn’t I? My family didn’t suspect a thing.”
“You did. And I’ll try to keep out of the way as much as possible.”
Jared gives him a small smile and starts walking across the lot. Jensen falls into step beside him, close enough that their arms occasionally brush. They pass several trailers on their way to a single-story building large enough to take up an entire city block.
It’s still early, the sky only just beginning to lighten at the horizon. The lot is mostly deserted.
“I like to get here early and go over the daily call sheets before most of the cast arrive.” Jared doesn’t look at him as he speaks and his lips barely move, like he’s practicing a ventriloquism routine.
They make it to a door at the side of the building before they have their first encounter. A good looking guy driving a golf cart headed toward one of the trailers waves excitedly at seeing Jared, a broad smile on his clean shaven face. “Hey Jare, good to see you, my man!”
Jensen thinks this must be the boyfriend until Jared calls back, “Gil! How’s Sylvia doing?”
Okay, not the boyfriend despite an overly enthusiastic greeting.
“Oh you know, cute as a button. She even let us get a whole four hours of sleep last night. I’ll tell you what though, when she smiles, it makes all those late night feedings and diaper changes worthwhile.” Gil grins and his eyes shine as if the love he feels for his baby can’t be contained.
Jared chortles. “You are so wrapped. Better get used to it, I hear the sleep deprivation may last a while.” Voice pitched a little lower, more sincere, he says, “Seriously man, fatherhood agrees with you. I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks, Jare. I’m heading over to props. Apparently, they’re short a heart monitor for the first scene. I’ll see you around.” Gil waves again and continues on his way.
Shaking his head, Jared does his ventriloquism act again. “Set design is constantly short something. I swear, Gil makes more trips to the prop department every day than I can count on both hands.”
Jensen smirks. “Sounds like he could use a genie of his own. One little wish to always have anything he needed on hand and he’d be all set. Not that I’m volunteering or anything,” he hastens to add.
They walk through the narrow doorway, Jensen keeping close on Jared’s heels. The inside of the studio building is made up of large open spaces. Many of them have walls on rolling tracks that can be moved around to make the room larger or smaller. Lighting equipment is everywhere. Jared turns down a side corridor and opens a door to a room full of desks and computer monitors. A petite, brunette woman looks up from the footage she’s viewing on one of the screens. Upon seeing Jared, she squeals and jumps up, launching herself into Jared’s open arms. She’s so tiny, the top of her head barely reaches his chin. He laughs and twirls her around.
“How’re you doing, Sands? Did your sister pass her nursing boards?” Jared gently places the woman back on her feet.
She gazes up at him with what Jensen would swear were hearts in her eyes. “I’m doing great, just going over yesterday’s dailies for Julian.” She motions over her shoulder at the monitor she’d been hunched over when they came in. “Kelly won’t find out about her boards for another two months. She’s cautiously optimistic though. It’s so sweet of you to remember. I’ll tell her you asked about her.”
The way Jared’s brows furrow makes Jensen think his master is making a mental note to ask this woman about her sister’s successful completion of her nursing boards again in two months. He’s beginning to see a trend here and he wonders if it’ll continue.
Sure enough, as the morning progresses and more people arrive at work, Jared stops whatever he’s doing and makes a point to talk with each and every one. No one escapes his notice, from the middle-aged woman manning the catering tables, to the paunchy man operating camera A, to the two grips setting up the equipment, to the people in the wardrobe and makeup trailers, Jared knows all their names and asks specific questions about their families or personal interests. He knows that Beth, one of the PAs, has a cousin attending the University of California at Berkley, and that Nicholas, the young actor who plays the part of Dr. Tieu’s son, loves Pokémon.
Jared’s genuine interest in the people around him and his happy-go-lucky demeanor make him a crew favorite. At one point, a line actually forms of people waiting their turn for a friendly back slap, handshake, high five or hug. And yeah, Jensen has to rein in his jealousy on more than one occasion. Jealousy – another emotion to add to his growing list of firsts.
If he’s jealous, he wonders how Jared’s boyfriend feels about Jared, the human teddy bear. Jensen keeps a lookout for the elusive Stephen, but almost misses him when the man walks casually onto set around mid-morning saying only, “Jared, will you send a PA to my trailer with one of those muffins I like and a cup of coffee?” Then, he reverses direction and walks back out without even a smile for his boyfriend or a word of greeting for anyone else.
Nonplussed, Jared turns to the young lady standing right next to him with an apologetic shrug. “Nikki, would you mind taking Stephen his muffin and coffee?”
Jensen wasn’t sure what he was expecting from Jared’s boyfriend, but that was definitely not it. The guy is unsurprisingly good looking, there’s really no disputing that. What else would one expect from an actor on a show called Dr. Sexy MD? The surprising bit is the way he treated Jared, as though he was no one important. No one special.
Nikki rolls her eyes. “He has no idea I’m a PA, does he?”
“If it’s any consolation, I don’t think he means to be rude. He’s just shy, is all. Don’t take it personally.” Jared pats her on the back in that gentle way he seems to treat all women, like he’s afraid he might accidentally break them.
Nikki shakes her head with a rueful smile that tugs up her mouth on one side. “It doesn’t bother me. I’ll take him his breakfast and be back in a jiffy to help you gather the extras for the next shot.”
“That would be great. Thanks, Nikki.”
The morning wears on, and Jensen follows close by as Jared shepherds the cast through makeup and wardrobe, getting everyone where they need to be, when they need to be there. He makes sure all the guest stars feel welcome while also joking around with the regulars. The set is fun, efficient, and well-run. From what Jensen can see, that’s all down to Jared.
There is no break in the production schedule for lunch, so craft services offers a wide variety of choices all day long. The large cast and multiple story lines being filmed for Dr. Sexy MD each day usually means actors are only needed on set for a couple hours at a time, giving them plenty of opportunities to hit up the catering tent. The crew are less fortunate in the number of breaks they get, however, they do manage to get away from their responsibilities in order to eat or rest from time to time.
It’s during one such break for Jared that he’s approached again by Stephen.
Observing carefully from a short distance away, where he can be privy to Jared’s activities without fear of being run into by someone who cannot see him, Jensen notices the casual way Stephen saunters up. He’s not quite whistling nonchalantly, but it’s a close thing. He meanders through the tables set up under the tent until his path, quite coincidently or so it appears, intersects with the table occupied by Jared who just happens to be alone for the first time that day. Jared’s boyfriend doesn’t sit down.
“Oh Jared, I’m glad I ran into you. I was wondering if you could help me out.”
Jared’s gaze flicks quickly to Jensen then back to Stephen. “Sure Stephen. What do you need?”
Stephen lowers his voice. “I have a conflict with next week’s production schedule and I was hoping you could come by my trailer after filming today to see if we can get it resolved.”
Jensen watches as Jared’s normally vibrant eyes go void of emotion and his shoulders slump. The surge of protectiveness that jolts through him at the sight is startling in its intensity. His instincts scream for him to go to his consort, find out what’s wrong. Only an act of willpower enables him to stay put while glaring daggers at Stephen.
Although Stephen can’t see Jensen’s murderous expression, Jared can. The tight lines around his mouth smooth out. His posture straightens. “No problem. We should wrap by six o’clock today. I’ll see you then.”
Stephen nods and leaves the tent, oblivious to the speculative stare that follows him.
Jensen learns a lot about his master - his consort - that day. Maybe more than he wanted to know. Especially when six o’clock rolls around and filming does indeed wrap as scheduled. He hasn’t gotten the chance to talk to Jared much, too many people around. So, at the appointed time, he follows Jared to Stephen’s trailer, all the while wondering what the deal with Jared’s boyfriend is. They certainly don’t act like they’re together. In fact, when around other people, they barely act as though they know each other. How will they act when it’s just the two (three) of them?
Jared bumps shoulders with him as they walk, affectionate and familiar. He’s been doing that all day. A little friendly contact just to acknowledge he’s there, Jensen supposes. This time the contact is accompanied by a lopsided grin as Jared mouths, “Wait for me here,” before taking the two steps up to the trailer in one long stride.
Stephen opens the door at Jared’s discreet tap and the two of them disappear inside, leaving Jensen to chafe outside by himself.
Jared comes back out sometime later looking slightly ruffled and combing a hand through his hair. His eyes don’t quite meet Jensen’s and that’s really all the clue he needs as to what exactly was going on inside Stephen’s trailer. Something beyond mere jealousy heats his skin, makes him feel flushed despite the fact that his physical form has no blood supply.
He’s angry, he realizes. And isn’t that absurd. He has no right to be angry, no claim on Jared whatsoever. Jared can do whatever he pleases with whomever he wants.
Stephen is Jared’s boyfriend. Of course, they’re intimate with one another. Stephen - the man who barely acknowledges Jared’s existence when they’re in public. The man who summons him to his trailer for sex like he’s a common... Jensen’s non-existent blood begins to boil again. Jared deserves better.
He gives himself a mental shake. Jealousy? Anger? Where are these emotions coming from? They aren’t in his nature. Maybe they come from proximity to his consort or maybe from his physical body. It doesn’t really matter where, they have no place here.
Inappropriate emotions aside, anything that isn’t perfect in Jared’s life is exactly the kind of thing he needs to know about. Jared’s relationship with his boyfriend is totally fixable. There are many ways Jared can use his wishes to fix this and it’s Jensen’s job to offer the best solution. He just needs to screw his head on straight and do his job. Easy. Nothing to it.
As they walk back toward the production studio, Jared slants him a glance. “It’s not what you think,” he whispers sotto voce.
“Jared, it’s okay. I may not understand, but I can help. Let’s just talk about it on the way home. You are done here for today, are you not?”
The summer sun is still high in the sky even though most of the cast and crew have already left. A man and a woman wave to Jared from the far side of the parking lot, calling out a cheery “Good night,” and a “See you tomorrow.”
Jared waves at the duo, but Jensen can tell the nod is for him. A quick trip inside to get his messenger bag from the locker room, and they’re in the car. Neither of them speaks right away, both lost in their own thoughts. Jared is the one who breaks the silence.
“I was blown away...the first time he asked me out. I mean, he’s this amazingly talented actor and I’m...just me.” Jared bulldozes through Jensen’s attempt to contradict him. “No, it’s true. I had a huge crush on him, and he could have had anyone he wanted.” Jared looks straight ahead through the windshield, gaze distant. His hand clenches around his thigh. “He swore me to secrecy first thing. Told me I couldn’t tell anyone we were dating. No one knows he’s bi. Not even his own family.”
Jensen takes in this information silently, cataloging and storing it, locking his feelings away to deal with later when Jared is no longer his master. Plans and solutions begin to form as he listens, each one weighed against possible outcomes and the amount of magic required for ultimate success.
“He’s afraid if anyone finds out, his career will be over.” Jared scrubs a hand over his face, then back through his hair. “That’s why he’s so standoffish with everyone on set, why we don’t ever go on a date where anyone can see us. He’s afraid someone will figure out his secret. Heck, the only places we’ve ever gone together are his apartment here in L.A. or his beach house in Santa Monica.”
Jared is going to get bruises from how tightly his hand is gripping his thigh.
“Hey Jared,” Jensen cuts into the monotone explanation. Because he’s seen how much comfort humans, and his consort in particular, take from physical contact, he puts his hand on top of Jared’s. Tendons and muscles flex before slowly relaxing under his touch. “I have some ideas for how to make this better, but first I need to know something. Is he hurting you?”
“Hurting me? What do you mean?”
Jared seems genuinely bewildered.
“Today when he asked you to come to his trailer, you shut down. I could tell you were upset, and I just need to know if he’s hurting you.” Because if he is, Jensen’s about to use his magic in some very creative and heretofore unimagined ways.
The confusion clears from Jared’s face, his eyebrows arching in understanding. “No. Holy moly no, Jensen. I was upset because when we were at his beach house last weekend, Stephen told me we would eat lunch together today. It was a big step for him. I was hoping he would see it was no big deal for people to see us socializing. I guess he decided he wasn’t ready.”
Jensen thinks about the explanation, watching his consort intently. Jared stares back at him, expression open. Satisfied, Jensen says, “Okay, I have another question for you then. Does he make you happy? Are you in love with him?”
Jared’s soulful eyes turn inwards, his expression unreadable. His lips part on a sigh that seems to come from deep in his soul. “I don’t know. I think maybe I could, if he was willing to make some changes, get past his fear, take a chance on us.”
Now that the tension has drained out of Jared’s body and he’s no longer in danger of brutalizing his own leg, Jensen gives his hand a pat and reluctantly pulls away. “Okay, I’ve got three possibilities for you to think about. One - you could wish for Stephen to fall madly in love with you, so much so that he didn’t care about any damage his career might suffer. Of course, there are ethical ramifications to that particular wish and you would need to decide whether you were comfortable with them.” At a grimace and head shake from Jared, Jensen says, “Yeah, I didn’t think you’d go for that one. Two - you could wish for all sexual orientation bias in the world to disappear, making Stephen’s fear obsolete. I strongly discourage you from trying this one no matter how tempting it might be.”
The excitement blooming on Jared’s face withers. “Why? That one sounds perfect.”
Jensen sighs and wonders why he even brought up that futile prospect, knowing his kind-hearted consort the way he now does. Of course that’s the one Jared would pick. “For basically the same reason wishing for the end to world hunger would fail. The wish would need to change the opinions and mindsets of nearly every person on earth. Everyone has a certain bias, even if they say they don’t, even if they don’t think they do. Also, human biases change depending on circumstances and experiences. Your magic wouldn’t last long enough to make a difference to worldwide views. I guess, I only mentioned it because I wanted to be completely honest with you about the possibilities. You could try it if you really wanted to, but based on my experience there’s no way it would work.”
In a surprise move, at least surprising to Jensen, Jared reclaims his hand, twining their fingers together. Also surprising is how nice it feels, warm and secure. “It would be great to be able to make a wish that would change the whole world for the better. It seems selfish, using my wishes only for my own benefit. I trust your judgement though. If you say it won’t work, then I won’t try it. What’s the third possibility?”
“Three - take things slowly, one small wish at a time, working to change Stephen’s attitudes in a more natural fashion while giving you both time to decide whether this relationship is worth the sacrifices you might be called on to make. You could start with a wish that Stephen would ask you out on a real date, take you someplace out in public where he could gauge people’s reactions for himself. It would be up to him how far he took the PDAs so he would still be in control of how far it went.”
Jared does that thing he sometimes does where he stares so deeply into Jensen’s eyes that he feels bared down to the very essence of his being. “Yeah, okay. Slowly sounds good.” He lets go of Jensen’s hand to reach into the backseat, grabbing the messenger bag with the lamp inside. Lamp settled on his lap, palm rubbing, and face a mask of concentration, he says, “I wish Stephen would take me on a date where we can be seen out together in public.”
Jensen feels a little cold and tells himself its nothing more than a reaction to losing the warmth of Jared’s hand.
“Your wish is my command.”
Magic courses along the ancient pathways. The energy crackles and sparks to life inside him. Jensen sculpts it into the proper shape, using as a blueprint Jared’s intent, his desire, then releases it. Sparks jump from his fingertips as he directs the magic on its route. “It’s done.”
Jared takes a deep breath. On the back half of the exhale, he asks, “When do you think he’ll ask me?”
Holding up a finger, Jensen just smiles. A countdown image appears in the air over the dashboard. The number three flashes, changes into a two, and then, on the one, Jared’s phone rings.
Jerkily, like he’s not sure he wants this or perhaps like he doesn’t believe it’s happening, Jared pulls his phone from his pocket, looks at the screen, and thumbs it on. “Hello Stephen.” The expression on Jared’s face doesn’t waver as he agrees to the date Stephen proposes.
Not needing to watch or even really listen to know how the conversation is going, Jensen turns to look out the passenger side window. Palm trees line the sides of the parking lot, a slight breeze making them sway lazily. He places one hand on the smooth glass. His fingers tap a rhythm, and after a few beats he recognizes the cadence as that made by the pulsing stars in the Andromeda Galaxy. It’s beautiful up there among the stars. He wonders if he’ll find the same happiness there as he used to once all this is over.
“He’s taking me to dinner at Cecconi’s next weekend.”
The statement breaks through Jensen’s reverie. He looks over and can’t help notice that Jared doesn’t seem as thrilled as he probably should. He seems happy, yes, but not overjoyed. Certainly not as happy as after his wish to cure his sister. Not even as happy as after wishing for an apple pie.
“Is that not what you wanted?”
“No, it is.” Jared takes his hand again. Gives it a brief squeeze. “Thank you. You’re amazing.”
Jensen accepts the compliment with a smile. “I think you said that once before.”
“And I’m going to keep on saying it because it’s true. Now, let’s go home. I was thinking we could watch a movie tonight. Have you watched many movies?” The car engine sputters before it catches, and Jared pats the dashboard. “Atta girl.”
“No, I generally don’t get asked to watch movies with my masters. I know the basic plots to most popular movies and can recite lines from movies that have pop culture references. It’s all part of the information I absorb upon entering the material plane each time. I’d be a pretty useless genie if I didn’t have a current frame of reference. You’d be surprised at how important such things are to effectively interpret wishes.”
Jared pulls out of the parking lot, joining the throng of rush hour traffic. “Pop culture references, huh? I’m a bit of a movie buff myself. Bet I can stump you. What movie is this from? I feel the need - the need for speed!”
“Top Gun. You’ll have to do better than that if you want to stump me.” Jensen smirks.
“I was trying to go easy on you to start off. You want a harder one?” Jared purses his lips, thinking. “Okay, how about this? Are you Crying? There’s no crying in baseball!”
“A League of Their Own. What else have you got?”
Continue to Chapter 4