Major Dean Winchester was too well trained for his disappointment to show in his voice as he acknowledged the command from Houston to abort the mission. The last engine had fired, and he wasn’t going to make it to orbit.
Now his priorities were surviving and bringing the capsule back in one piece.
Calmly, though his teeth were grinding just a tad, which the doc would comment on later back at base, no doubt, Dean ran through the checklist. He quickly encountered his second problem: the location beacon wasn’t working right.
It wasn’t a huge issue, as he would be tracked all the way back to splashdown on radar, and there was nothing he could do about it now, so he reported the problem to Houston and went to the next item on the checklist.
When the ‘chutes deployed, he noticed the capsule was heavy on splashdown, and hitting the water was less than pleasant. Worse, he noted structural damage in the capsule. Was he going to have to blow the hatch and lose the capsule?
“Damnit,” he told no one in particular, going over his options. Through his portal, which was more for him to be seen in than for him to see anything, he spotted land—a very small island, in fact. With a little luck—Yes! The sea current was taking him that way.
In the end, he did have to blow the hatch and deploy a raft, but the capsule went down in shallow water, easily visible in the crystal sea. His suit got a bit singed from the electricals’ response to being flooded, but he was definitely walking away—or boating away—from this one.
With a smile of triumph, he got on the little sandy beach with his raft and life gear. By himself, it was damn hard to get out of his suit, and he was soaked with sweat in the tropical sun before he managed it. Then he checked his gear, set his personal locator beacon, and went about scraping an “SOS” into the sand.
Next, he grabbed some branches to line the letters.
Wait, the thing in his hand wasn’t a branch. Bemused, he looked at the long bottle he’d picked up. It was pretty, some sort of antique, really, and it looked Arabian or Oriental. With a laugh, he popped out the ornate stopper and peered inside. It was dark. He upended it, but nothing came out.
Thinking he could find a maker’s mark, he rubbed some sand from the side, and then watched in wonder as thick, sweet-smelling blue smoke poured from the bottle.
“Hey!” he shouted, throwing the thing to the sand. The smoke continued to pour out, and then it formed a column, long and straight and thick and—
“What the devil?!”
The smoke had cleared, and an extremely handsome man was standing there instead. Dean’s attention was caught by two of the bluest eyes he’d ever seen, set below a messy fringe of blackest hair, but his eyes couldn’t stay away long from the man’s outfit, which was straight out of a tale of the Arabian Nights .
He wore a dark blue sleeveless top that beautifully set off his broad shoulders and smooth, well-defined chest. The man’s arms were nicely tan with gracefully curved deltoids, triceps, and biceps. Dean’s eyes travelled down the length of them before being drawn to a flat stomach, the midnight fabric cropped just below where Dean imagined his belly button would be. The jut of his hip bones and the beginning of his pubic lines were nearly obscene as they disappeared at what seemed the absolute last chance into a pair of thin, almost not-there pants that flared at the hips but then narrowed to hug the man’s calves and ankles.
The whole outfit was soft. The wind played with the featherlight clothes, alternating between billowing it around and indecently hugging the man’s hard body. There was a strange glistening, hazy quality to the man, like he had stepped right out of a half-dream or was still part smoke as he took a calculated, determined step forward.
Looking all the way down, Dean saw he was barefoot.
He has cute toes , the astronaut thought, and then considered screaming and running away. Somehow, those bare toes were the most unacceptable part of the whole thing.
Instead, he just found himself repeating, “What the hell?”
The man told him, " ”
The impossible man who had appeared, no, emerged out of that bottle moved toward him with purposeful, confident strides. His blue eyes were fixed and unblinking as he stalked ever closer. Dean was suddenly struck with the strangest idea: he was looking at an angel. He blinked and realized the illusion was really a thin shimmering veil that wrapped around his shoulders and trailed behind him, a hint of iridescence haloing as he walked, spreading out behind him like wings. Dean’s heart was pounding in his chest in a way that even the crash landing hadn’t triggered. He’d had training to deal with the crash landing, but where was the training to deal with this? It had to be a hallucination.
The impossible man spoke again as he stopped, barely a handbreadth away, so close Dean could feel the warmth of the sun on his skin radiating out and caressing him like a lover’s embrace. He was hypnotized by those eyes that were so large and unwavering. He looked down at his mouth, coherent thought impossible though a single clear pang of yearning rushed through him. This had to be the most vivid dream he’d ever had, he thought as the man leaned forward and pressed his lips to his. No harm in a dream. Dean yielded to the feel of the man’s lips on his as he closed his eyes.
“I must’ve hit my head on the way down,” Dean said gruffly, as the press on his lips subsided and he opened his eyes once more. Blue was all he could see until he looked down to the man’s relaxed mouth. His lips parted, and Dean could feel the urge to kiss him again growing inside of him from the deep, dark recesses of his usually repressed instincts. He nearly gave in too, his hand reaching out to the man’s near-naked hip, but the feel of taut, warm skin under his fingers made him pull back like he had accidentally stuck his hand into a spider’s web or an electrical outlet.
“Wait, are you really real?” he asked, his heart rate spiking again.
The man’s arms came up toward Dean’s face like he wanted to embrace him, those foreign, unintelligible syllables coming out of his mouth once more, and Dean dodged him quickly before putting his hands on his bare shoulders and guiding him to sit down on the nearby rock jutting out of the sandy beach. Then Dean took a good five steps back and tried to regain his bearings. His toe nudged something on the ground, and he bent down to look at the bottle the man had come out of more closely. It was made of an ornate, opaque glass and had a very long neck with a flared lip at the top. The base was rounded and decorated with delicate golden filigree. Dean couldn’t help but notice that the jewels encrusted there were the exact same shade of blue as the man’s eyes.
A thought struck him. It was so ridiculous he batted it away, but as his attention went from the bottle in his hands to the man watching him attentively, almost expectantly, from where he sat, it just came back and poked at him again.
“That’s impossible,” Dean muttered, trying to dismiss the outrageous thought that felt like it was equal parts fantasy and memory of a childhood story. But hadn’t he read somewhere that there was some truth to the old legends and stories from deep in the Arabian culture about such things?
“Are you a genie?”
“Dude, seriously, I wish you spoke English, or I spoke what you’re--”
“I asked how I can serve you, Master,” the man said, smiling just a little.
As the syllables transformed from babble to English, so did the timbre of his voice change. It was deeper, rougher, and it made Dean’s pelvic muscles twitch.
The man moved closer again, hands going for Dean’s belt buckle. “I can speak any language you like, in fact, including--”
“Hey!” Dean said, irritated at his current inability to say anything clearly. “What the hell, buddy? That’s not happening.”
“Why not?” the man asked, blue eyes wide and guileless.
Dean shook his head. “Look, you’re a genie, right?”
“Oh, yes, Master.”
“OK, none of that master stuff. I set you free, OK? No more genie enslavement for you.”
The man looked at him in an evident daze. “What?”
“‘I’m not going to demand three wishes, OK? Besides, I used up one wishing you could speak English, right?” Dean smiled, feeling on top of things for the first time in this conversation. “So there you go. I spend my second wish on setting you free.” A horrible realization struck him with the force of bad gin. “Oh, damn it!”
“What is it, Master?” the man asked with desperate concern.
“Nothing, just...well, could I have something else for my second wish, and then set you free on the third wish?”
The man looked equal parts delighted and sly. “Of course, Master.”
Before Dean could ask another question, he heard a helicopter and looked up at the sky in deep relief. “Over here!” he shouted, waving his arms. “Over here.”
“I do believe they see you, Master.”
With a little shake, Dean turned back to his savior. “OK, so I have everything I want, and you’re free, and we’re all good, OK? Except.” He looked around. This place was more a sandbar with a couple trees on it than an island. “They can’t see you, all right? Get back in your bottle until they’re gone, would you?”
The man smiled again, and there was something oddly sweet about it. “Of course, Master.”
“No, no. No more master stuff. Just, this is a favor, OK? Hide in your bottle until they’re gone, then, you know, have a great life.” Dean smiled broadly even as the sound of the ‘copter grew louder.
“As you wish.”
The man turned into a pillar of blue smoke, which then went into the bottle. Dean smiled and gathered his gear for his rescue, not noticing when the bottle rolled itself into the middle of his liferaft.
A few minutes later, the ‘copter had landed, and after a few heartfelt slaps to the shoulders, Dean was off, heading back to the Cape where he would have no time to ponder the hallucination he couldn’t quite put out of his mind.