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Smokeless Flame of Fire

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PART ONE

 

"You're going to turn into an ifreet if you're not careful," Mikey said.

Gerard shrugged it off. He liked the ruined palace he lived in. He liked being alone, he liked the silence, and the stillness, and he liked being able to do whatever he pleased all day. Not that he wanted to be evil and harass humans, or whatever the ifreet gig was nowadays. "Ifreets aren't so bad," Gerard said.

Not like Mikey had any room to talk. He was dating an ifreet.

Mikey raised an eyebrow at him. Gerard hunched his shoulders and tried to hide behind his book. "Please yourself," Mikey said. "I'm going to meet Pete. I'll see you tomorrow."

*

Gerard wasn't sure how long he'd lived in this particular ruin; human conceptions of time were fluid and fuzzy to him. Gerard and Mikey were the sort of djinn that wandered around, and one day they'd wandered up here, where it was much quieter than their old home. Gerard had liked it, and he'd liked it even more when he realized humans never came there anymore, so he'd decided to stay. Mikey lived nearby and came to visit Gerard most days. He'd been pretty happy, too, after meeting Pete. Gerard didn't entirely approve of Pete, but Mikey seemed to think that because Gerard wanted to retreat from both djinn and human worlds, his opinions on social situations and relationships weren't entirely valid.

So Gerard mostly lived by himself, drifting from ruined room to ruined room (they were much nicer in the djinn world, of course, but Gerard liked the way the ruins looked), and reading, or drawing, and keeping very much to himself. He wasn't lonely, or bored, no matter that the years passed like sand in an hourglass. The further away humans stayed from him, the better. He had no use for their world and no desire for their things, and Mikey had long since learned to stop trying to get Gerard to come out and play in the human world with him. Gerard was done with that. Done with everything. He was just… passing time.


When Frank's mom had first told him her rich new boyfriend was taking them to Spain for three weeks, Frank was over the moon. He'd pictured Barcelona and Madrid, night clubs where no one would know he was only sixteen, underage drinking, and just getting out of fucking Jersey for three weeks. He didn't even mind being the really awkward third wheel. David was going to Spain on business and he wanted Linda to come and, well, Frank had better come too, then. It was summer, and Frank had no reason to be anywhere else.

They had gone to Madrid for three days, and Barcelona for four, and it had been the best week of Frank's life so far. But now they were out in the middle of Frank didn't even know where, so David could work with some factory. All Frank knew was that they'd driven for a really long time, and they were staying in this tiny village. His mom kept cooing and taking pictures like a total tourist. The village had been fun for about two hours. They'd been here three days, and Frank had seriously not bargained on this. There was nothing to do. He couldn't even speak to the few other kids he saw around. He didn't speak Spanish, but even if he had, these people didn't sound like they were speaking anything like the Spanish Frank heard back home.

He'd read everything he'd brought with him. His DS had died, because no one had told Frank the plugs would be different. He could charge his iPod off David's laptop, but that was starting to get old, too.

"Frank," his mom groaned, for about the 50th time today, "can't you just relax?"

"I tried," he groaned back at her. "I'm just bored."

His mom sighed. "Just don't complain when David can hear you, all right?"

"Whatever," Frank muttered. He resisted the urge to kick the wall. He was totally on good behavior.

"Why don't you go explore—"

"—The town?" Frank snapped. "Mom, it takes ten minutes to walk from end to end!"

"Then keep going," she snapped back. She turned back to her book. "Just be back before it gets dark, okay?"

Frank snorted. He couldn't imagine there was anything out there to keep him out that long.

But he went downstairs and stood in front of the tiny hotel, considering. Going left got him out of the village more quickly, so that was the way he went.

The tiny village was set in the middle of low hills covered in golden brown grass. Ahead of him, the road wound away to more exciting places. There wasn't a sidewalk but there wasn't any traffic, either.

It was just as boring as Frank thought it would be. But at least walking used up energy; maybe he'd wear himself out enough he could take a nap when he got back.

Cheered by that thought, Frank left the road and ran up a nearby hill. It was steeper than he'd thought, and he was panting and his chest ached by the time he reached the top. Frank looked around; the view was much better. There was a dark smudge peeping out from behind a hill; Frank could reach it if he kept going away from the road. The only other thing was the village, and Frank had seen more than enough of that.

He started down the hill, away from the road. The grass looked soft but was actually sharp and brittle, and there were lots of rocks hidden in it. Once he'd reached the foot of the hill, the air seemed a lot hotter. There were cicadas, or something, in a deafening chorus all around him. Sometimes they flew out from under his feet as he walked.

He was sweaty and thirsty and definitely tired enough for a nap now, thank you. Frank was thinking about just turning around— although it seemed lame to come so far for nothing— when he skirted the base of another hill and saw it.

It was a building— no, it used to be a building— now it was a large sprawl. Grey stone was tumbled around, spilling out of one side. One side looked in pretty fair shape. "Cool," Frank whispered to the cicadas. Reenergized, he ran across the remaining ground. He realized he'd forgotten his camera, which sucked. Well, maybe he'd come back in a couple days, maybe bring his mom. Maybe not— she wouldn't like that he'd wandered off the road.

The closer Frank got, the bigger the house became. It wasn't just a house, he thought. It was much too big for that. The only sound was his own heavy breathing as Frank stood up on tiptoes to look through a window. The room inside was bare, of course, and the air thick with dust and sunlight, but there weren't any weeds and the ceiling hadn't collapsed.

The stones were only slightly warm under Frank's hand. He looked over his shoulder, but couldn't see the road or village from here. He walked along the front wall, trailing a hand over the smooth stones, looking for a way in.

There was a surprising lack of doors for such a big building, but Frank at last found a gap in the wall wide enough for him to squeeze through. Inside it was much cooler, even with half the roof gone. Frank was feeling pretty smugly Indiana Jones about the whole thing. Maybe he'd even find something worth keeping.

He wandered from empty room to empty room. The further he got in the— palace? It might as well be a palace— the nicer the rooms looked. Not that there was anything in them, but they looked intact and not like vital pieces of architecture were about to come down on Frank's head. The floor was stone, large paving slabs so that seemed safe.

There was a courtyard, with columns lining it, traces of paint still hiding in the eaves. There was a dried up fountain in the middle. It had the sad, naked look of all empty fountains, but it looked like it had just been turned off for the winter, not for hundreds of years. The rooms on the other side of the courtyard were in even better condition. There was a mosaic on the floor in one of the rooms, white with three shades of blue; Frank didn't step on it.

Most of the windows had once had stone grills on them, although a lot of them were broken now. They looked pretty but it kept things dark. All the lintels and arches were carved; even the ceilings were carved in a lot of the rooms, row upon rows of little arches like stalactites.

He wandered from room to room, loosing sight of the courtyard and basically lost. He had no idea how long he'd been there, but Frank was getting tired and hungry and was way past thirsty. And he still had that long walk back.

He ducked his head into one last room, a round one with a high, high ceiling, and that's when he saw the man.

"Oh!" Frank said, and his voice echoed everywhere.

The man jumped— he'd been sitting on the floor, concentrating on something in his lap— and stared at Frank like he'd never seen a real living teenager before.

"I'm sorry," Frank said. "I was just looking around."

The man continued to stare at him. He didn't look that much older than Frank, really, maybe college age, and Frank felt a little better. "Sorry," he said. "I didn't know anyone was here. Do you speak English? Ingles?"

The man— boy— whatever continued to stare at Frank and didn't move. Frank shuffled into the room, even though there was a voice in the back of his head that sounded an awful lot like his mom telling him to get out. The dude was rocking some guyliner, so Frank didn't know why he was gawping at Frank like that. He was also really pale— so pale he seemed to be reflecting sunlight— and he had stringy black hair hanging around his face. Frank couldn't really see what he was wearing, other than that it was black. The dude had a notebook or something in his lap.

He must have seen Frank looking at it, because he suddenly held it to his chest and then put it on the ground behind him. "What are you doing here?" The dude's voice was rusty, and he cleared it a little. "What do you want here?" He didn't sound like Frank thought he would, somehow. And he didn't have an accent at all. He stood up, and Frank took a little step back. The dude didn't move, though, just held weirdly still. And for the record, his clothes were totally weird. He had on a long black tunic over billowy black pants, and despite the heat he was wearing some kind of embroidered jacket. Like a goth hippy.

"Uh, nothing. I was just exploring," Frank remembered to answer.

"Exploring?"

"We're staying in the village and... I was bored." Frank shrugged.

The dude stared off at nothing for a second, before sliding his eyes back to Frank. Frank didn't take his eyes off the dude. He didn't dare, although he couldn't think why. The guy was only a little taller than him, and Frank could probably take him in a fight. Still, there was… something. Something crazy, maybe.

"You don't want anything?"

"Not unless you have some water."

The dude's face twisted and he turned and moved, kind of awkwardly, over to a far wall. For a second, Frank's eyes felt like they blurred, or maybe his attention wandered. The guy was standing at a tall jug, taller than the guy's waist, that Frank hadn't noticed before. It was clay, and full to the brim and Frank could suddenly smell the water. There was the rattle of metal, and the dude pulled on a metal chain to bring up a silver cup. He fiddled with it to detach the chain. He brought the cup over to Frank, cautiously. Frank could see it was filled right to the brim. There were droplets slowly siding down the side of the cup, and suddenly Frank had never felt so thirsty in his life.

He held out his hand eagerly, though he tried not to be impatient. "Thank you so much, dude," he said. "I didn't bring any water with me and I'm dying."

The guy hesitated, looking a little startled. Frank bit back something rude and tried to smile. The guy walked the rest of the way to Frank, and offered the cup with a little bow.

Frank grinned his thanks and drank. The water was shockingly cold, considering it had been sitting in a vase, and clear and fresh and sweet. It was, in short, delicious. The little cup felt soothingly cold against his hand and lips. Frank drained the cup without stopping. "That was amazing, thanks. Can I, uh, have some more?"

"Of course," the dude said, and held out his hand.

"I can get it," Frank said, taking a step toward the water jug. "You don't have to—"

"Please, allow me." The dude was in front of Frank again somehow, hand still out. Frank shrugged and gave him the cup. The dude brought him another cupful. Frank drank half of it and dumped the rest of it over his head.

"Awesome."

"Why did you do that?" the guy looked upset. "You just dumped it all over my floor!"

"I—I'm sorry?" Frank hastily gave the cup back. "I just— I mean, it'll evaporate." It wasn't like the floor was some fragile material. Or clean, for that matter. It could probably use a wash.

"That's not the point," the dude said. He was frowning at the cup, and carefully reattached it to the chain before dropping it back into the jug. "You can't just come into my house and throw water around."

"Your house?" Frank glanced around. "You can't live here."

"Yes I can! And do."

"But…" Frank made a sweeping gesture to indicate the lack of electricity and running water. "It's a ruin?"

"So?"

"Do you own it?" Frank asked, feeling crafty.

Sure enough, the dude's mouth opened and nothing came out. He had an interesting mouth, Frank thought. Kind of crooked but still nice. The guy was actually kind of pretty, now that Frank was used to him. And huh, was it the heat exhaustion making Frank 10% more gay suddenly? Frank shook his head a little to clear it.

"So it's not really your ruin, is it?" Frank continued.

"It is my ruin," the guy said, this time with a growl in his voice. It reminded Frank that he didn't actually know this dude and he was probably crazy and possibly dangerous.

"Okay, fine," Frank said quickly. "It's not like it's anyone else's ruin, is it?"

"No," the dude said, slowly. "No, that's true."

Frank put his hands in his pockets. He should leave. But he didn't really want to. "So, how do you live here?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean… there's no electricity or running water, dude. That's some serious camping you've got going on."

The guy was silent for a while, long enough for Frank to feel awkward. Finally, the dude said "I don't need those things."

Frank nodded. "Okay. Right on. No carbon footprint, huh?"

The dude stared at him blankly. "I don't know what that is," he said.

Now it was Frank's turn for the confused staring. "Okay. Way off the grid. Are you— I mean, what are you? You're not Spanish, right?"

"No," the dude answered slowly. "I'm not Spanish."

Frank nodded like a savvy traveler. "I didn't think so. So. Where are you from?"

"East."

"East. O-kay. How long have you lived here?"

"A very long time."

"How long?" Frank pressed, because he didn't have anything better to do.

"Centuries."

Frank snorted. "Dude, I hear you. I've been here for three days and it's felt like a century."

"No," he said, a note of impatience in his voice. "I've lived here for centuries. I'm not like you, little human boy."

Frank raised his eyebrows. Little human boy? "Little human boy?"

The guy shifted and folded his arms defensively. "Stop asking questions. It's rude, and I'm bound to tell you the truth."

So, definitely crazy then. Frank… didn't care. "So what are you, if you're not a little human boy like me?"

He looked sulky and the words looked unwilling. "I'm a djinni."

The words rang a little in the air, like they were Important. Frank worked hard to stifle a laugh.

"A djinni? You mean, like, a genie?" The self-proclaimed djinni shrugged, but a moment later nodded. Frank grinned. "Prove it."

The dude looked at Frank for a long moment, and he held so still he seemed less real. It felt like a movie. And then the guy sighed and rolled his eyes, and they were just two dudes in an empty room.

Mostly empty. The guy waved his hand at the wall— it was hardly a wave at all, more a flick of his fingers. Frank's vision got a little weird for a second— or maybe it was his head— but when he looked at the wall, the water jug had gone.

"Um," Frank said. He looked all around the room, even at the ceiling, but there was no sign of it. He ran across the room to look at where he knew the jug had just been standing. There wasn't even a wet spot on the floor. He could still taste the water in his mouth.

He looked back at the guy, who was ostentatiously examining his nails. "Did you make that vanish?"

"Of course."

"And you made it appear in the first place?" Frank suddenly remembered the way he'd felt when he first saw the jug. How strange it had seemed that he hadn't noticed it before.

"Okay," Frank said. "So you're a genie. Holy shit."

"A djinni."

"Okay. Hey," he walked back over to the djinni, though he kept his distance, "Do I get wishes? Do you have a lamp?"

The djinni looked around. "It's day. Why do you want a lamp?"

"Never mind," Frank said quickly. "But seriously, dude, do I get three wishes or what?"

The djinni looked out at Frank from under his hair. He pursed his lips for a moment as he studied Frank, and then said "I wouldn't recommend it," in this total doom voice.

Frank was thrilled. "Even if I was really, really careful what I wished for?"

The djinni didn't answer, just continued to look up at Frank from under lowered eyelids all serious and dangerous looking. On most people, it would have looked like a ridiculous pose. The hair on the back of Frank's neck was standing on end. "You could wish," he said. "But I would not be bound to grant it." Damn.

"I'm Frank," he said, because why not? "What's your name?"

The djinni stopped looking doomy and went back to looking startled. "Gerard," he said.

Frank blinked. "What kind of name for a genie is Gerard?"

"What kind of name is Frank? I mean, how unoriginal!"

Frank glared. "It's my dad's name, okay?"

Gerard looked skeptical. "It's still a bad name. Are all the humans now called things like Frank and English and Hun?"

Frank boggled. "I don't what the hell you are talking about, crazy dude." He was starting to think that maybe this whole genie thing was just plain old crazy.

Gerard looked uncertain, and shifted his weight around a few times before replying. "Why don't you just go back to France and leave me alone?"

"I'm not from France!"

Now Gerard looked annoyed, like he thought Frank was just fucking with him. "Then why is your name Frank, huh, if you're not from France?"

Frank couldn't help it. He cracked up. "You're speaking to me in English right now. That should have been your first clue."

"Why should I know that?" Gerard said. "I speak to you in whatever language you'll understand. I'm djinni, I'm not bound by silly human rules. And so you're English? That explains why you're always getting into places and things that don't concern you." He nodded, as if he'd irrefutably won the argument.

"I'm not English," Frank rolled his eyes, because seriously, how was this real? "I'm from America. New Jersey, actually, which is about as American as you can get. Although that other thing you said still applies, I guess."

Gerard was silent for a long time, and Frank suddenly realized Gerard was trying not to look totally blank and lost.

"Dude," he said. "How long have you been in this ruin?"

Gerard crossed his arms and scowled in an attempt to hide his pout. "I've been here awhile. Not long enough."

"Yeah, but," Frank waved an arm around. "You're in Spain. The year 1492 mean anything to you?"

Gerard sniffed. "Human years don't mean anything to me."

"Okay," Frank said. He ran a hand through his hair. He didn't know what he was doing, standing here and talking to the crazy man. His mother would be appalled. Which was probably why he was doing it, instead of obeying the urge whispering in the back of his mind to get out, run away. "Just so you know," he said, "there are two big ass continents on the other side of the world. And Australia."

Gerard waved a dismissive hand. "Everyone knows about Australia."

"Okay," Frank said, because he didn't know what to say to that.

"It's where the worlds are thinest," Gerard added, as some kind of explanation, maybe.

"I'll take your word for it."

They stood around in awkward silence for awhile. Finally Frank summoned all his courage and asked "Can you do more magic?"

"Of course." There was a long pause.

"No, I mean, that I can see."

Gerard looked— not startled, but surprised. "Like what?"

"Um, like…" Frank thought wildly for a few seconds, then decided to go for broke. "Can you fly on a broomstick? Can I fly on a broomstick?"

Gerard frowned. "Why would you do that?"

Quidditch was probably too much to explain right now. "Never mind," Frank said quickly. "Can you make an apple?"

Gerard held up a fist, palm up, and slowly unfolded his fingers. As he did, a red-green apple just sort of grew or appeared in his hand— it was hard for Frank to follow, his eyes kept going fuzzy.

"Sweet," Frank whispered. He took the apple from Gerard's hand. The apple was cool and moist. He took a bite. It was sweet and crunchy and perfectly ripe. Frank gave Gerard a thumbs-up (Gerard stared at Frank's hand curiously) and swallowed. "That's amazing. Dude, you're amazing."

Gerard blinked, opened his mouth, shut it, opened it again, and said "Thank you." He looked away from Frank and shuffled in place awkwardly. Frank ate the apple quickly, suddenly starving.

"Oh man," he said. "That doesn't count as a wish, right?"

Gerard licked his lips and turned back to Frank. "No," he said. "This is just hospitality."

Frank grinned and finished off the apple. He held the core afterward, wondering what to do with it, when it just vanished from his hand. "Dude," he said, awestruck. "This is the coolest thing that's ever happened to me."

Gerard gave him an unsure, tiny smile, like he wasn't sure he was supposed to be doing that. Frank beamed at him.

The apple, though, had started his stomach rumbling. "I'm sorry," he said. "I guess I'm hungry. And I've totally been gone for hours. Oh shit, I have a long-ass walk back, too. I better go. Um. How do I get out?"

Gerard led him out through the maze of rooms— it actually wasn't far, Frank must have come a really roundabout way— and stopped in front of the hole Frank had come in. "There you go."

"Thanks." He met Gerard's eyes. "It was really nice to meet you, Gerard," he said, and offered his hand.

"It… was nice to meet you too, Frank." Gerard put his hand in Frank's but didn't really shake it, just rested there a moment before withdrawing it. "Have a safe journey back."

"Thanks!" Frank grinned. "And don't worry, I won't tell anyone about you!"

Gerard smiled an odd, private kind of smile. "No, you won't," he said. "Farewell, Frank, son of Frank."

Frank slipped out the hole and turned back to wave at Gerard. "Bye!"

He could only just see a flicker of white from inside the palace, but Frank felt Gerard's eyes on him until he'd gone around the hill.

*

It actually wasn't so far back as he'd thought; it seemed to go faster, anyway. The last of the sun was slipping away as Frank re-entered the village. He allowed himself a leisurely pace back to the hotel and up the stairs.

"There you are!" his mother cried when she answered his knock. "Where have you been?"

Frank widened his eyes innocently. "Out walking? Just like you said." She grumbled at him, but Frank ran for the shower, and by the time he got out David was back and Linda was distracted.

*

Frank woke up the next day by coming fully awake all at once. He wasn't usually a morning person, but he was looking forward to today. He scarfed down breakfast and was heading for the door when his mom called him back.

"Where are you going?"

"Out."

"What do you mean 'out'?"

Frank sighed and rolled his eyes, totally without meaning to. "Mom, I'm going out. Like yesterday. For a walk. With lots of fresh air and sunshine." He widened his eyes to look all innocent and earnest. Health was always a good angle to play up.

"Okay," she said. "Will you be back for lunch?"

"I dunno," he said.

She sighed. "Well, be careful, okay?"

"Of course." Frank started edging toward the door again. "See you later, bye."

He ran before she could do anything embarrassing like say she loved him. This time, Frank was armed with a bottle of water and his iPod. He was pretty sure Gerard had never seen an iPod before.

The walk didn't seem as strenuous as yesterday, but Frank was more impatient this time. He cut around the hills, which helped, although he briefly lost track of where he was and thought he might have to climb one to get his bearings. But then he went around the right hill and got straightened out, and starting running once he was in site of the ruined palace.

He stuck his head through the entrance and shouted hello, then scrambled through. "Gerard! Hello! I'm back!"

Frank realized he had no idea where in the sprawl Gerard might be, so he decided to just hang around and shout.

"GERARD!"

"What?" A cranky answer finally reached Frank. He grinned.

Gerard shuffled into view, looking exactly the same as yesterday. "Are you back already?"

Frank bounced a little. He wanted to hug Gerard, but he wasn't sure on the protocol for human-genie interaction.

"Did you sleep well?" he asked.

Gerard frowned and scratched his head. "I don't think I did. Did you sleep well, Frank?"

Frank bit his lip to stop his laugh. "I did, thank you. What were you doing?"

Gerard talked about the book he was reading as they walked through the ruins. Frank couldn't really follow what the book was about, but he was happy enough just walking next to Gerard. They ended up back in the round room, sitting on the floor.

Frank showed Gerard his iPod, and was super pleased by his response. Gerard was astonished and couldn't get enough, especially once Frank showed him how to work the click wheel. He seemed to like the music, too, which left Frank preening quietly.

"I guess," Gerard said reluctantly, handing the headphones back to Frank, "I guess humans have managed to make something interesting."

"Ha," Frank said, tucking the iPod in his pocket.

"Took you long enough," Gerard said smugly.

"Hey!" Frank said, trying not to laugh. "We've done some other good stuff, too. You should see the internet."

"The what?"

"I'll show you someday," Frank promised, although he had no idea how that would happen. He smiled at Gerard, and for the first time, Gerard gave him a real smile in return. Overall, Frank was pretty impressed with himself.

Gerard turned away and picked up his book. "Thank you for showing that to me. Now go away."

"What?" Frank was still smiling, sure it was a joke.

"Go away now," Gerard said. "I'm busy."

Frank blinked at him. Gerard turned his back and read his book with a lot of concentration.

Frank, disbelieving, snorted and got up. He didn't leave, though, except just the room. He wandered through the ruins— he'd forgotten to bring his camera again— and looked at the mosaics and the traces of paint.

It wasn't that interesting, though, and he when his stomach rumbled he went back to Gerard.

"Could you maybe do some more magic?" Frank asked as politely as he could from the doorway.

Gerard startled and looked over his shoulder at Frank. "You're still here?" he frowned.

Frank decided to give Gerard the benefit of the doubt and ignored him. "It's lunchtime?" he said hopefully.

Gerard blinked at him, sighed, and put his book down.

 

Gerard's food was weird but good; Frank ate everything that wasn't meat. As they ate, Frank asked questions about the ruined palace, most of which Gerard couldn't answer.

"Who lived here?"

"I don't know."

"Was it empty when you got here?"

"Yes."

"How long have you lived here, again?"

"I'm not sure."

And on and on.

"You're weird," Frank said, "but I like you."

"You're weird, too."

Frank wasn't bothered that Gerard didn't qualify his statement. Gerard, after all, wasn't like anyone else, and he clearly wasn't used to having other people around.

Frank finally left in the late afternoon. "I'll come back tomorrow."

"You don't have to."

"Don't be crazy," Frank grinned. "Of course I'll come back. What else do I have to do?"

Gerard grunted and didn't smile.

"Okay, bye!" Frank squeezed out the break in the wall and ran off, leaving Gerard in the dark.


"Ger-arrrrd!"

Gerard flinched before he realized it wasn't Frank, it was Mikey.

He set down his sketchpad and got to his feet. "I'm in here, Mikey." He hoped Pete wasn't with him.

Mikey was alone, thankfully, and Gerard hugged him hello. "Where have you been?"

Mikey shrugged. "Here, there."

Gerard nodded in understanding.

He made them some coffee and then, against his own intentions, found himself telling Mikey about Frank. "He just… wandered in here. And he keeps coming back!" He ended up ranting on the subject for quite some time, while Mikey nodded along.

"You bound his tongue, though, didn't you?"

"Of course! I'm not an idiot or a child. But he could bring someone back, Mikey."

"Is that what you're worried about? A parade of humans in here?"

Gerard shuddered. Mikey leaned against his shoulder. "Of course that's what I'm worried about," Gerard said, although as he spoke he felt it wasn't quite true. Or, it was true, but it wasn't all the truth.

"So tell him not to bring anyone, either."

"I hope he doesn't come back. He's not from here, he'll have to go home eventually."

Mikey stayed the night and left early in the morning. Gerard sat in his favorite room, drawing. He was so focused on the sketch he was making that he was rather badly startled when he looked up and Frank was standing in front of him.

Gerard jumped, knocking over his inkwell.

"Oops!" Frank said, eyes wide.

"It doesn't matter," Gerard said, though he was still irritated as he waved the ink back in its bottle.

"Wow," Frank whispered. He sat down, without invitation, in front of Gerard. "What are you drawing?"

Gerard looked down at the paper like he hadn't been staring at it all morning. "Where we used to live."

"We?" Frank asked quietly.

Gerard had had no intention of telling Frank about Mikey; it was like his mouth opened of its own accord and the words poured forth like the ink had spread across the floor a moment before. Gerard really loved Mikey, of course, and he never got to talk about him, because the only being he ever talked to was Mikey. Gerard had quite a lot to say.

"That's nice," Frank said, when Gerard had finished. "I'm glad you're not as alone as you seem."

Gerard blinked at him, surprised. "But I like being alone."

"But you like talking, too," Frank's smile was sly. "And it's hard to do both."

Gerard glared at him. "I suppose you'll be wanting some lunch, now."

Frank turned another of his blinding smiles on Gerard. "Yes, please."

This time, Gerard didn't bother to make any meat. Frank hadn't eaten any the day before. He noticed Frank noticing.

"You're pretty good at cooking," Frank said. "Or… whatever this is."

"Thank you," Gerard said stiffly. He wasn't offended, but he didn't want to encourage the boy, either.

Gerard ate, too, and this occupied his attention for awhile. Then he noticed Frank craning his neck. "What is it?"

"You draw really well," Frank said, and Gerard realized Frank was looking at his picture. He moved it out of the way, behind him. Frank's face fell in disappointment, and Gerard felt a little thrill.

"Thank you," he was moved to say. "I've had a lot of practice."

"I guess." Frank went back to pestering him with questions about what it was like to be a djinni. Gerard tried to answer them as vaguely as possible, which wasn't hard— humans had some very strange ideas.

No, he didn't live in a lamp. "Where do I sleep?" Gerard repeated, baffled as to why Frank would want to know. "I sleep here."

"Do you make a bed out of magic?"

"Sometimes." If he was very tired, or drunk. "Usually I go to the djinn world."

"The djinn world? What's that?"

Gerard shifted uneasily— he shouldn't tell Frank too much. "It's a world alongside this one. Humans can't see it, or go there, not if they want to get back to their own world."

"Oh, it's a parallel world," Frank nodded knowledgeably. Gerard really had no idea what was going on.

"Can you die?" Frank asked.

"Yes."

"How?"

"By dying."

"Gerard!"

*

The next day Gerard tried to avoid Frank by being invisible, but Frank just talked at him until Gerard gave up and made himself visible again.

"Can you make me invisible?"

"No."

"Hey," Frank said, eventually. He pulled out a little black metal rectangle. "I remembered my camera today! Can I take your picture?"

"Can you what?" Gerard was intrigued. He'd liked that pod thing; he'd actually been hoping Frank would bring it again.

"Take your picture. Never mind, I don't know why I thought you'd know that. Here, I'll show you."

Frank turned the camera around and held it out at an awkward angle, as far away from himself as his arm would allow. He pressed on the top and the camera made a noise. "Look." Frank did something to the back of the camera, and gave it to Gerard.

On the back was a glowing rectangle, like the iPod had had, but this time, Frank was in it. Gerard was horrified. "But you're in there! There's a… a picture… oh, I see." He couldn't give it back to Frank fast enough.

"Neat, right? So can I?"

Gerard didn't want to take his eyes off the camera. "Can you what?"

"Take your picture?"

"No!" Gerard finally tore his eyes off the camera and looked at Frank. "Get it away from me!"

Frank had disappointment all over his face, and something that might be hurt. "It doesn't hurt. It doesn't do anything to you."

"You don't know that," Gerard pointed out. "You don't know what it will do to me."

Frank opened his mouth and then shut it without speaking. For once.

"Why do you want to have a picture of me at all?"

Frank looked down at the camera and made the screen go dark. He shrugged. He looked sulky. "I don't know. It's what people do. Take pictures of their friends."

"We're not friends."

That was definitely hurt on Frank's face, and Gerard tried to ignore the pang of guilt and remorse that stole through him. What did he care about some obnoxious human boy? Didn't he want to be left alone? He'd never asked Frank to come visit him; quite the opposite.

"Then can I at least take pictures of the palace? My mom wants to see where I've been going. Then I'll get out of your way."

Gerard felt bad, so he agreed. Frank got up, thankfully taking his camera, and left the room without looking at Gerard.

Gerard looked at his drawing, but he didn't want to finish it anymore. He got out a book and read, very definitely not thinking of Frank wandering the empty halls and rooms on his own, taking his pictures.

The words on the page refused to transfer themselves to Gerard's head. He'd never had a friend, except for Mikey. It had never occurred to him that Frank might think of him that way. They hardly knew each other and they were two different things and it just... Gerard just wanted to be left alone.

After some time, Gerard eventually gave up even pretending to read. Frank's words were bothering him, and he didn't know why. He could have behaved better, of course, and guilt was part of it, but there was something else. What had Frank said? About taking the pictures to... to show his mother.

Gerard went pale, and leapt to his feet. "Frank?" He called and ran through the ruin, but of course Frank was long gone. Gerard had forgotten to forbid Frank bringing anyone else. He felt sick and anxious.

The shadows grew long and the day disappeared, and Gerard's anxiety grew into anger. Frank was going to bring humans here, humans who couldn't be trusted. Gerard had never asked for Frank to come here, disturb him, with his questions and his human magics. And now Gerard might lose everything— Frank seemed like the sort of boy who was careless (weren't all boys careless?) and he didn't think things through. Gerard wished he'd never met him.

Gerard fumed. This little mud boy, this tiny blip in existence, was driving him mad. He was not going to be driven out of his home by a Frank. Not again.

Gerard did not sleep well. He finally got up well before his usual hour, and waited for Frank.

Frank did not come.

Gerard waited all day, vacillating between nerves and anger, and Frank never showed up. Gerard even took to standing at a window, watching in the direction Frank usually came, to no avail.

No one else came, either, but Frank did not come, and if it hadn't been happening to Gerard, he wouldn't have believed it could happen. Another day sunk into the west, and Gerard was as alone as he'd ever wanted.


"Not going out again?" his mom asked.

"No." Frank didn't turn away from the window. He wasn't looking at anything in particular, but it seemed like too much effort to turn around.

"Suit yourself," she said.

Frank hadn't taken any pictures of the palace. He hadn't wanted to linger where he wasn't wanted. Not once he'd known he wasn't wanted. Gerard should have said something earlier, if Frank was bugging him so much. And he didn't have to be so mean about it. Fuck Gerard, anyway.

He couldn't help wondering what Gerard was doing, though.

Frank spent all day inside, which made his mother fret he was getting sick (he wasn't). She made him go to bed early. The next day was Saturday, and since David wouldn't have to work they were taking a day trip. Frank tossed and turned in his room. He couldn't sleep and he couldn't stop thinking about Gerard, and everything sucked.

He finally fell asleep some time around three. It felt like his mom was knocking on his door a moment later. She eyed him suspiciously when he answered the door all groggy, felt his forehead, hmmed at him, but he insisted he was fine, just tired, and finally she consented that the day trip was still on.

Frank fell asleep in the car, which was fine by him, and he felt better when he woke up. They were sight-seeing at the Alhambra. Frank wandered around, not really listening to the tour but just looking at things on his own. It made him think of Gerard, although he didn't know why.

He took lots of pictures, and agreed it was a pretty good trip. On the ride back he flipped through the pictures he'd taken, thinking about what he'd tell Gerard, until he realized what he was doing.

Frank slept better and the next day got up, his mind made up. He didn't rush through breakfast but he didn't linger, either. "I'm going out for a walk again," he told his mom and David, and left.

It was Sunday so the entire town was all shut up, except for the church, which was at the other end, anyway. Frank took his time walking to the ruined palace.

He feel cool and confident until he was standing at the crack in the wall, when butterflies attacked his stomach and his palms felt clammy, as hot as it was.

"Hello?" his voice cracked. What a great start. "Gerard? It's Frank."

He squeezed through and headed for Gerard's favorite room. Gerard met him in the courtyard. He looked even crazier than normal, so Frank stopped and waited.

"Hi," Frank said quietly.

"Hi," Gerard said, just as quietly. Gerard was staring at his feet, and shuffled closer to Frank slowly. "I thought maybe you'd gone home."

"No," Frank said. "Not yet."

"Oh, good."

"Really?" Frank asked quickly.

"I'm sorry," Gerard said. He still wouldn't look at Frank's face, but he was looking at Frank's chest, which was better. He was messing his hair up with one hand. It stuck out at some pretty terrific angles. "For the way I acted... before. I shouldn't have... it was very rude, and I didn't mean it. I'm sorry. We can be friends, if you still want."

Frank stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Gerard. Gerard squeaked and held still and stiff, like he didn't know what was going on. Frank grinned into Gerard's shoulder and squeezed him tight. Gerard was warm and smelled good — like dust and ink and old books, and underneath that like incense from church or something.

Frank realized he'd been hugging Gerard for kind of a while now, and Gerard still didn't seem to be able to figure out what to do about it. Frank backed off and smiled at Gerard, and Gerard smiled back.

Frank felt happy for the first time in days. "Come on," Frank said. "I have something to show you."

Gerard didn't lead them back to his favorite room; instead they ended up in a large room Frank had thought once held an indoor pool. There was a large sunken square in the middle of it, anyway, with a ledge along all sides.

When he asked if it was a pool, Gerard laughed. Frank hadn't heard him laugh before. "It's a sitting room," he said. "Come on." He stepped down so that he was standing on the bench, and held out a hand. Frank carefully put his hand in Gerard's and let himself be helped down.

Not that he really needed it; it was clearly meant to be easy for people to get into. They sat on the ledge, and it was pretty nice, although Frank still thought it would a sweet pool.

When he took out his camera Gerard shied away. "It's okay," Frank reassured him. "I'm not going to take your picture. We went to the Alhambra yesterday, and I wanted to show you the pictures I took."

"It's not 'the Al-Hambra,'" Gerard said, like he was a teacher and couldn't help correcting Frank. "You don't say 'the' twice."

"...Okay," Frank said, and turned the camera on. "Have you ever been there?"

"I have," Gerard said. Frank was very disappointed— he wanted to show Gerard something new. "But not for a long time," Gerard continued, concentrating on the screen. "Show me. Ooh, the Court of the Lions!"

Frank cheered up as he showed Gerard the pictures. Gerard was genuinely very interested, and asked Frank questions, and even though Frank didn't know most of the answers, he told Gerard what he knew.

Gerard made a nice meal, too, and coffee, and they ate it in the sunken living room. Frank went back nearly at sunset, almost running the whole way, light on his feet and driven on by a tingling in his fingertips.

*

"Why did you leave your other home?" Frank asked. Stone was kind of comfortable to lay on when you got used to it. It was hot outside and the shade of the palace felt nice, the coolness of the stone bench even better. They were back in the sunken sitting room. Frank lay on his back with his head in a corner.

Gerard sat on the other bench, by Frank's head. "It got too noisy," he said.

"Noisy?"

Gerard slowly lay down on his bench. "It was too noisy and busy and crowded. We couldn't stay."

They lay with their heads almost touching, and Frank slowly coaxed details out of Gerard. He spoke of the oasis he and his brother had lived at, well out of the way of all but a few trade routes. The few people who stopped there were polite and respectful and knew the way of things, and Gerard and his brother were happy.

"Then the Franks came," Gerard murmured.

"Really?" Frank craned his neck to look at Gerard. He thought it was a joke, or something kind of funny anyway, but Gerard looked so sad Frank felt all amusement drop away. "What happened?" he asked, subdued.

It took Frank an embarrassingly long time to realize Gerard was talking about the crusades. And God, Frank thought, how old must he be?

"It wasn't the same at the oasis anymore," Gerard was saying. "They messed it all up. They killed all the other humans and when they were done with that, they fouled the water and burnt everything else. There was nothing left."

"I'm sorry," Frank said.

"It wasn't you," Gerard murmured.

Frank propped himself up on an elbow and looked at Gerard, who was lying on his back with his eyes closed. His lashes were long and dark, even though his eyes were rimmed in black (Gerard had called it kohl, when Frank had asked). He almost looked like a girl right now, though Frank never forgot what he was.

Sometimes Gerard still did things that made the hair on the back of Frank's neck rise, even though Frank had gotten used to the way reality fuzzed when Gerard did magic. He hadn't yet figured out a way to bring a broomstick so Gerard could make it fly, but he was working on it.

During the day, they played games or listened to music or Gerard read to him from his books. They didn't make much sense but they were pretty; it was similar to Frank's experience with Shakespeare. As long as Gerard was saying it, Frank found it interesting.

Gerard drew him, too, and that was kind of weird because Frank kept thinking about Titanic. It made him giggle and fidget and Gerard grumbled at him. In the end, Frank had a collection of pictures he took back and carefully hid in his suitcase.

*

Frank was strongly tempted to sneak out at night, too. He thought he would like the look of the palace at night, and it would be a much cooler walk. And it seemed like a long time to go without seeing Gerard.

He resisted the urge, though, because he already spent all day there. Their days were running out, but Frank did his best not to think about that. Had he ever been bored?


It took twenty unintentional drawings of Frank, but Gerard figured out why he'd wanted Frank to go away so badly: unconscious self-preservation.

Gerard was an idiot. He was useless and a fool, because he'd done the very worst thing a djinni could do: he'd fallen in love with a human. Gerard thought of all the things Mikey would say when he found out, and winced just thinking about them. He deserved it all, and worse. What sort of djinni fell in love with a human? A dead one, that's what. It never ended well, not for the djinn. There was always some outraged father or wily would-be-vizier, ready with a big sword. Gerard would lose his head, chasing after this beautiful boy like some Persian nobleman with a new wine bearer, and then he would get caught and lose his head, or whatever it was they did nowadays. Firing squads? Something like that.

'Love will spoil all pleasure with pain,' Gerard thought, then said it out-loud to hear the wail of it echoing around his ruins. Drastic action might be called for here.

Alcohol was one of the few things djinn could not make out of air; it had to be bought. Gold was another, which was why the banking revolution had been the best thing to happen to the djinn in a very long time. Gold they could not make, but copper and tin and paper and ink they could.

Gerard had seen euros because Mikey and Pete used them all the time, so he made some like that and dressed himself in clothes like Frank's, and went in to the town. Dusk was ending, very late in the evening, and it was the beginning of dinner time.

The villagers were a little curious but knew better than to stare or ask questions. Their families had lived here a very long time. So had Gerard.

There was a new restaurant in the village— established 1950, it said. Gerard thought he might as well give it a chance. He ordered the house red and set to drinking it. They did not, he thought, make wine like they used to. Gerard should have laid in a better stock. Or he shouldn't have drunk it so quickly.

He was through two bottles and starting to feel a bit fuzzy. He had just received a third when Frank came into the restaurant. Gerard froze. For some reason, he hadn't thought that he might meet Frank out here, although of course if he'd thought about it at all he would have realized it was practically inevitable.


Frank already knew the restaurant's menu off by heart, and was contemplating which of three things he wanted for dinner. He was looking around idly, just to see who was in tonight, when he saw Gerard sitting at a table by himself.

Frank actually had to rub his eyes before he'd believe it. Gerard was staring at him, too, though.

"Hey mom," he said quickly. "I see someone I know. I'm just gonna go say hi real fast, okay?" He took off before she could say anything.

Frank threaded through the tables with purpose and sat down at Gerard's table without waiting to be asked. "What are you doing here?"

"Drinking," Gerard replied. His eyes looked a little unfocused. "We can't... I can't make alcohol, so. I have to buy it."

Frank was trying to decide which of his approximately eight million questions to ask first when Gerard continued.

"Do you want some wine?" he asked Frank, offering the bottle.

Frank was torn. On the one hand, yes, of course, and on the other… "Dude, my mom's right there."

"Is it illegal?"

"No, but… she's gonna see an older man offering me alcohol. It doesn't look good, okay?"

Gerard looked stricken, and set the bottle down.

"Hey," Frank nudged his foot against Gerard's, under the table. "It's okay. I'll come see you tomorrow and you can give me wine then, how's that?" He grinned.

Gerard kept his eyes focused on the table. "I don't think you should come see me anymore, Frank. It's not good for either of us."

Frank felt like he'd been punched. He could feel panic bubbling up in his stomach. "Are you—" he cut himself off; he had the oddest feeling he'd been about to say "breaking up with me."

"Why?" he whispered instead.

Gerard smoothed the table cloth between his hands. He was clearly trying to be flat and unemotional when he spoke, but Gerard didn't really do flat and unemotional. "You're going home soon anyways, aren't you? What's the point?" Frank heard something almost like a carefully contained wail in the last few words.

Without thinking, Frank reached out and placed his hand over Gerard's. He didn't know what to say. Gerard was staring at their hands. Frank took his back and put his hands in his lap, feeling clumsy and stupid.

"Why did you come out here tonight?"

Gerard poured himself another glass of wine. "To drink. I told you."

"But why? Why tonight? You haven't—"

"Frank!" his mother called across the restaurant. Frank and Gerard both jumped guiltily.

"I guess I better go," Frank said unhappily.

"I guess so, Frank son of Frank."

Frank left him, with more than a few backward glances, and sat down at their table.

"Who's that?" David asked.

Frank wasn't going to answer because it was none of his fucking business, but his mom was glaring. "Just some guy I know."

"Where did you meet him?" his mom asked.

Frank shrugged. When she hissed his name, Frank grudgingly answered "Walking. He... likes walking, too."

"What's his name?"

"Gerard."

"What—"

"I don't really know him, okay? I was just saying hi."

"That's not what it looked like."

"I don't know what it looked like, okay? I was just saying hi. Making friends. Jesus Christ. I was just being polite."

Dinner was awkward and painful. Frank tried to angle his water glass so he could see Gerard in the reflection, but it didn't really work. Frank could keep an eye on the door, so he did see when Gerard left, not long after they came in. Gerard didn't look back at Frank at all. Frank knew that was sensible, but he still felt resentful and a tiny bit crushed.

*

His mom, totally unreasonably, refused to allow Frank to go off by himself the next day. Frank was going crazy. He wondered what Gerard thought. Did he think Frank had actually taken him seriously? He didn't even know if Gerard had made it back okay that night. He probably had, Frank calmed himself, because Gerard was a fucking thousand-year-old djinni and could take care of himself.

Still, if his mom was going to be so arbitrary and ridiculous, Frank was going to have to take drastic action. He bided his time— barely— until it was dark and the light had gone out in the room his mom was sharing with David. Frank tried to pay as little attention to that as possible, but he was desperate tonight.

He had a little pocket flashlight; he took that and his room key. Once he was outside, though, the moon was full enough the flashlight was useless. It was beautiful, walking through the night. The hills were silver instead of golden, and it was kind of chilly. Frank stumbled a lot more once he left the road, but by this point, he'd worn a little track in the grass, so it wasn't so bad.

The ruined palace was all silver on the outside and pitch black inside. Frank suddenly remembered that Gerard didn't usually sleep in the palace proper, but in the djinn world. Fuck, he thought. He'd probably came out here for nothing.

He turned on his flashlight anyway and crawled in. The palace looked changed; familiar rooms were all different in the dark. He finally found the courtyard, where everything was glowing silver again.

"Gerard?" he called loudly, because there was no one else to hear him. "Gerard, are you here?"

There was a shuffling sound off to his left, and out of the corner of his eye Frank saw something dark move in the blackness.

"Hello? Who's there?" It could be anything, Frank thought, heart pounding in his throat. It could be anything... things he'd never even heard of.

"Frank?"

But it was Gerard, only Gerard, and Frank ran across the courtyard and threw himself at Gerard.

"Thank God," Frank said. "I just..." he pulled away, embarrassed. "Never mind. I don't suppose this place is haunted?"

"Of course it is," Gerard said. "By me. What are you doing here? Is everything all right?"

"I'm sorry I couldn't come today," Frank blurted out. "My mom… she wouldn't let me. I was just… I wanted to see you. Were you asleep?"

"I wasn't asleep," Gerard said quietly. "Come this way."

They went into the sunken sitting room. Gerard did, indeed, have a bottle of wine. He made Frank another glass and poured him some. The wine was sour on his tongue but good after his hike. He sprawled on the bench next to Gerard. Moonlight was coming into the room, enough to sort of see by.

This was definitely the best night of Frank's life. Sneaking out, alcohol, Gerard… the only thing missing was some really loud music. Although really, Frank thought as he drank his wine, this was nice too, quiet like this, with the wind and the sound of their breathing.

"Do you like your wine, little mud boy?" Gerard asked.

"What did you call me? Have you been reading Harry Potter behind my back?"

"Have I been reading what?"

"Never mind. Why did you call me mud boy?"

"We say humans were made from dried clay of black smooth mud," Gerard's voice was dreaming, wandering, his head tipped back.

"What are you made of then, Mr. Djinni?"

Gerard turned and looked at Frank; he could just see the glitter of his eyes. "Djinn were created before you, from the smokeless flame of fire."

"Sure," Frank tipped his head back, looking up at the ceiling he couldn't see. "You give yourselves the good one."

Gerard huffed the ghost of a laugh. The silence settled around them again.

"I've got three days till we leave," Frank said, out of nowhere.

He heard Gerard suck in a breath.

"Yeah," Frank said, and drained his glass.

*

Frank opened his eyes. Gerard's face was hovering over his. Frank was surprised but not startled. "Hi," he whispered. Gerard moved his head away, and Frank realized he was laying down with his head in Gerard's lap.

He sat up quickly. "Sorry. Shit, did I fall asleep?"

Gerard nodded. "It's going to be morning soon," he whispered.

Frank looked at the windows at the top of the room. It looked like morning already, or dawn.

"I am fucked," Frank whispered.

"No, it's okay," Gerard said. "Stand up."

Frank felt a little unsteady when he got to his feet. Sleep was warring with panic, although Gerard had said it would be okay, and Frank trusted Gerard.

"Hold on tight," Gerard said. He opened his arms and a bit awkwardly put them around Frank. Frank wrapped his arms around Gerard, fisting his hands into the back of Gerard's shirt, holding on tight. Gerard was holding him tight, too, pressing them together, one arm around Frank's waist, one resting on the back of his head. "Close your eyes," Gerard said.

Frank did, burying his face in Gerard's shoulder. He could smell the incense smell more strongly now. He felt Gerard's fingers brush down his hair, once, before cupping the back of Frank's head.

Everything went fuzzy— not just his eyes, but everything, and there was a cold whoosh that went through him as much as it went by him. Gerard felt like the only solid thing, solid and warm, and Frank automatically clung as tightly as he could. He barely had time to gasp before the whooshing stopped. Frank stumbled, although he didn't remember moving his feet.

Gerard caught him, though, or at least didn't let go. "It's okay," Gerard murmured. "You can let go now." Before Frank had time to consider whether or not he wanted to let go, he'd obeyed.

When he looked around, Frank found they were in front of the hotel. He turned wide, adoring eyes on Gerard. "Seriously?"

Gerard nodded.

"Did we just fly?"

"Not... exactly. Not like you're thinking."

"But you can fly. You... you can come visit me!"

Gerard looked anxious; somewhere, someone opened a shop by throwing up a large metal grill. It rattled loudly in the early morning quiet. They sprang apart. "I'd better go to bed," Frank murmured. He touched Gerard's shoulder. "Thank you. So much. I'll come see you as soon as I can, okay?"

Gerard nodded but remained mute. Frank unlocked the hotel door, as quietly as possible. By the time he had the door open, Gerard had vanished.

Frank skipped up to bed. He may or may not have been humming "A Whole New World."


Frank returned the day before he was going to leave. "We're leaving really early tomorrow morning, so... I won't be able to come then."

"Right," Gerard said. He felt lost already.

"Gerard," Frank looked solemn, unusual for him, and surprisingly self-contained. "If I wanted to make a wish now, could I? If I phrased it very carefully?"

Frank didn't know, Gerard reminded himself, couldn't know, that djinn were only compelled to grant wishes when the wisher had some power over the djinn.

Gerard met his eyes, and answered, "Yes."

Frank nodded. "Then this is my wish: I wish you to come to me, as fast as you can, whenever I call you with real intent and need." His solemn facade broke and he smiled. "How was that?" He looked like a puppy eager for praise.

"That's good," Gerard said. "That will work. It's granted." And he nodded his head, because that seemed to be the sort of thing Frank was expecting.

Frank was incandescent. "Really? Awesome! I spent a while on it, you know, so." He bounced a little in place. "So you have to come when I call."

"Yes," Gerard said.

"I'm so glad I met you," Frank said. "You're definitely the coolest, best thing that's ever happened to me. Thanks. For everything."

Gerard couldn't possibly tell Frank what their meeting had done to him. "Yes," he said again, instead.

Frank laughed, and Gerard wished he could capture the sound to keep.

"This isn't goodbye-goodbye, then. I'd better see you again soon."

"Frank," Gerard started, but he didn't know where to go from there. Frank hugged him, hard, and for a long time. This time, Gerard put his arms around Frank. He didn't hold him tight like he had the night before, to fly him. He just held him.

When Frank pulled away at last his hands lingered as much as Gerard's did, until they were just joined at the hands. "I'd better go," Frank said.

"Goodbye then, Frank, son of Frank of the Ieros."

"Bye, Gerard." He squeezed Gerard's hands. "Don't forget about my wish."

"I can't."

Gerard walked with him to the entrance, and Gerard stood there, watching Frank disappear around the hill, and remained standing there for a long time after.

PART 2

It hadn't worked.

Frank had tried calling Gerard every day since he'd been home, and Gerard had never come. Frank was devastated. Gerard had said it would work, that his wish was granted. He was starting to wonder if Gerard was a djinni at all— he'd done magic, but maybe he was something else.

Frank had gone home and read up on djinn. It seemed like a prudent thing to at least google them if he was going to have one. He found the "smokeless flame of fire" thing, and one place that said there five types of djinn and one that said three.

Gerard could fly, he reminded himself. He was magic. So why wasn't it working?

His mom had noticed he was bummed out about something, but Frank just had to deny it when she asked him about it. What could he say? The genie that he'd met on summer vacation wasn't returning his calls?

"I just don't want to go back to school," he said with a wry face and a shrug. "You know, the usual end of summer blahs."

His mom didn't seem convinced, but she didn't bug him about it either.

*

School started, and at least it kept Frank from wandering around uselessly all day, and he got to see Ray and Bob every day again, and that was always good.

At lunch, Bob was mocking him for not accomplishing more worth bragging about in Spain. "Did you even talk to a girl? Jesus, you're like Ray."

"Hey!" Ray protested, but Frank and Bob ignored him.

"Fuck you man, it was the middle of fucking nowhere and anyway, I met a—" Frank forgot the word. It was there, a second before— it was a word he knew— and now it was just gone.

"A..?"

"A... you know. Starts with a-- a g? Or a j?"

"Gigolo? No fuckin' clue, man," Bob shrugged. "How much did your brain rot this summer?"

"Fuck," Frank was kind of weirded out. How the fuck had he just forgotten..?

Ray started talking about the new chemistry teacher, and Frank got pulled into the conversation and completely forgot.

It wasn't until he got home again and to his room, where he'd hung the drawings Gerard had given him, that he remembered he'd briefly been unable to remember the word "djinni."

*

Frank got his usual back-to-school sickness a week and a half later. He huddled in bed, drinking miso soup and trying to get up the energy to look at the books he'd checked out from the library. The Thousand and One Nights even had pictures of topless girls in it, but Frank couldn't get too worked up after all the internet porn. Not while he was sick, anyway.

He also had a book on the crusades, but that just put him to sleep and sometimes gave him nightmares. No wonder Gerard and his brother had left; it turned out most of the crusaders were enormous assholes who killed everyone they met, unless they were Jewish; then they burned them alive.

Seriously, Frank thought, shoving the book off his bed. What the fuck?

He looked at one of the other drawings Gerard had given him. There were a few palm trees and a camel and a pool, sitting in the midst of a huge stretch of sand (probably; it was just a line drawing), under the moon and a few stars. Frank had been too shy at the time to ask if it was Gerard's oasis back in Syria or wherever. Frank wasn't usually shy but sometimes Gerard seemed very old and very powerful, and that did make Frank shy.

"Gerard," he called, as loudly as he could, since his mom was at work. He just ended up doubled over, coughing, and still quite alone.

"Why don't you come?" he whispered. "You said you'd come." He hadn't given up yet, but he was losing hope. If there was a way to make Gerard show up, he hadn't found it yet.


Gerard spent a lot of time in the djinn world. In the djinn version of his palace, the building glowed with color. The walls were covered in tiles from Tabriz and Isfahan, delicately painted in every color, and gold mosaics in the Syrian style. The glass lamps, painted and gilded and hung from the ceiling, came from Egypt, as did the silk wall hangings and the luster painted ceramics. He had wooden furniture carved in Aleppo and heavily worked brass drinking vessels from the Levant, and quite a number of scrolls and leather-bound books he'd quietly taken out of Babylon when it looked like no one would be needing them anymore. The carved marble door jambs and ivory caskets were local work from al-Andalus. He even had a sword or two of Damascened steel. The floors were thick with Persian carpets, and the cushions made from silk or velvet, from the Persians or the Turks respectively.

The ceilings were lofty and well-lit; water played sweetly in all the fountains, or pooled cool and still in the basins. Plants grew each according to their kind, offering up riots of color or fragrance in eternal blooms, the trees always full with ripe fruit.

Every surface had its decoration, flowering vines or endless patterns. The floating, empty villages in the mosaics were populated only by birds, and everywhere was gold and silver and ivory, pearls and rubies and emeralds. This was how the djinn lived when they were at home.

It was impossible Frank should be there, so harder to miss him.

That didn't stop Gerard from moping about reading poetry, however. He was halfway through his fifth rereading of Bayad and Riyad (a manuscript with miniatures, because Gerard liked pictures) when Mikey showed up, trailed by Pete.

"What happened?" Mikey asked, sitting on Gerard.

"Hey!" he protested, waving his book in the air to protect it. Pete snatched it out of his hand. Gerard watched sadly as Pete took it to a nearby sofa and started flipping through it.

"Are they naked at all in this?" Pete asked.

"No," Gerard said, shoving at Mikey, who could be bizarrely heavy when he had a mind to be. "It's courtly love, they never actually end up together..."

"Boring," Pete tossed the book aside. Gerard made a wounded sound. Pete looked a little guilty, and he carefully put the book on an end table.

Mikey petted Gerard's hair. "Why are you sulking in here? You're never here. Has that Frank brought his people in?"

Gerard at last shoved Mikey off him. He hoped he wasn't blushing. "No. He went home. I just... I'm just tired of the ruins, that's all."

He knew without looking that Mikey was buying this not at all.

"Pete," Mikey said. "Go away for a while."

Gerard looked up long enough to see Mikey and Pete having a silent conversation. Then Pete sighed and left the room. A little while later they heard Pete playing with an oud. Gerard made a move to get up and stop him, but Mikey pulled him back down.

"He's fine. Now talk."

"I miss him," Gerard admitted, then pulled his knees up to his chin and tried to hide behind them.

"Miss him or miss him miss him."

"Yeah, miss him miss him."

Mikey sighed. "Ger-ard."

"I know, Mikey. I know."

"What are you going to do?"

Gerard shrugged, was silent for a moment, then answered "Nothing. What is there to do? He's gone, and I should forget about him."

"You really should."

"I know."

Mikey leaned against him and Gerard leaned into him. "I wish I'd met him now," Mikey said.

Gerard shrugged. Mikey put his arm across Gerard's shoulders, and Gerard curled into Mikey a bit more. They listened to the distant splash of water and Pete strumming the oud.

"Actually, he's not bad," Gerard said, after a few moments. Mikey made a pleased hum. "He's not good," Gerard added quickly, "but he's not bad, either."


Frank couldn't wait for the day to be over. It was Friday and he was going to Ray's house after school to spend the night, and those two facts were the only thing keeping today from being a colossal waste of Frank's life.

He'd gotten out of PE today because he was still suffering the effects of his usual post-birthday cold, and every time he moved faster than a walk his chest rattled and it actually freaked out the teacher, so Frank had taken himself off behind the gym to read his new Wolverine in peace.

He had his iPod on, too, and so he didn't hear four members of the lacrosse team encroaching on his space until it was too late. The comic was snatched out of his hand. Frank tore out the earbuds immediately. They were standing right next to him, surrounding him like fucking trees.

Frank tried to jump to his feet but a hand on his shoulder shoved him back down. Someone said something ending in "— faggot?" that Frank ignored. He couldn't help curling in on himself. His palms were sweaty and he was shaking with adrenaline, and Frank was so fucking over this shit.

"For the last time, Drexler," Frank said, "no, I will not go to the prom with you. And tell your mom to stop asking me, too." He was kind of impressed with how steady his voice was.

Drexler and his friends didn't like it. This time, they pulled him up, and Frank got a very hard fist in the stomach. He gasped, his breath rattling in his chest again. They were keeping him pinned up against the wall, and someone else came up and boxed his ears, leaving his head ringing.

Frank spit in the nearest face. He was fucked, anyway.

They all took turns hitting him— not the eye or the nose, not where it would show, but he tasted blood in his mouth. Frank spit again.

They let him drop, and at first Frank thought they'd had enough. Then the first kick came, and another, and another, until Frank had just curled up into a tight ball, and there wasn't anything that didn't hurt.

He couldn't breathe. His throat felt swollen and his chest felt full of something heavier than air, like when he had pneumonia. He couldn't catch his breath to call out for help, for them to stop, for anything.

Someone's foot connected with his head, bouncing it into the wall, and he saw stars. They were gonna fucking kill him, and he hadn't been doing anything.

There was no one to come, everyone was still in class and he couldn't call out. Gerard, he thought desperately, grasping for anything, even though it had been months and months, Gerard, I need you. You're supposed to be here when I need you. Gerard, come. Come. Gerard...


Gerard was sitting in his tower room, sketching by lamplight, when he felt a huge pull somewhere in the vicinity of his stomach. He froze for a second, then looked around. "Hello?"

He was quite alone. The tug around his stomach was joined by one somewhere around his heart, and he suddenly realized he was losing control, dissolving out of his assumed human form. The book and pen fell from his hands and the room vanished around him. Gerard was flying, flying fast. It took him a few moments to sort out that he was heading West, even. A few moments longer to realize what had happened.

Frank.

It must be Frank. He'd found some way to work the wish after all.

Gerard only just had time to work all this out when the ground came up and caught him. He stayed invisible, so no one saw him flail around when he landed. He looked around, curious. He was outside, in a sort of alley between close set buildings, and it was still daylight.

He heard muffled thumps and other odd noises. He peered around a corner, and saw a group of boys, kicking at something on the ground. Alarmed, Gerard moved forward silently until he saw what they were kicking. It was another boy, curled up with his back toward Gerard.

Gerard's heart fluttered, and he ran forward until he was looking over the shoulders of the standing boys. They had stopped their assault and seemed to be unsure what to do next.

The boy on the floor twitched, and moaned, and Gerard realized that yes, it was Frank.

His first impulse was to simply kill everything between him and Frank. He raised his hand, then reconsidered, as one of the boys said "Should we get the nurse?"

One of the other boys rounded on him with a snarl. They were like animals, Gerard could just put them down. It would be fast.

Which was not necessarily a point in its favor. Gerard stood just behind the boy who had snarled, the lead boy, and put a hand on his shoulder. Deep in the boy's mind, a man was shouting at him, red-faced and huge, the boy— very little— cowering in front of him, desperate for approval, for love, for kindness.

For a moment, Gerard felt pity, but through the haze of the boy's memories, he saw Frank, curled on the ground. Gerard took that shouting man, and all the dark fear and pain that came with him, and put him at the front of the boy's mind.

The boy recoiled, almost falling into Gerard, gasping, shaking, sweating, pale. "No, no, stop, please," he groaned. The other boys tried to call to him, reach for him, but the boy ran away, tears in his eyes.

One down.

Gerard touched all the boys who were standing, pulling up their nightmares and putting them in front of their eyes. They would find them difficult to get rid of. Gerard was very fast, and none of them had time to get away.

One by one they ran away, hiding their faces or frantic, panicked. Gerard stepped over a bag laying on the ground and knelt next to Frank.

Frank was still curled tight, wheezing. Bleeding. Gerard touched his cheek gently. Frank flinched. Gerard reconsidered killing, but he could do that later. Frank came first.

"Frank," he whispered. He touched Frank's cheek again, lightly as a breeze, then wiped the blood off his lips. "Frank," he said again, a little louder.

Frank slowly opened his eyes, blinking rapidly. He started to uncurl, but Gerard put his hands on him to keep him still. "Careful," he said.

"Gerard?" Frank's lips formed the word but no sound issued forth.

"Here, now, precious one." Gerard slipped an arm beneath Frank's shoulders and raised him up slowly, keeping him close to his chest. "Where does it hurt?" Humans were very breakable, he remembered.

"Everywhere." Frank had a bit more of a voice now, though his breath still rattled in his chest in a way that Gerard could not help find terrifying.

Frank was staring at him like he didn't believe he wasn't dreaming. "Are you really here? Where did— where did they go?" Frank ended up gasping, still trying to get his breath back.

"They are gone," Gerard said dismissively. "They shall not bother you again, I should think."

Frank was still staring at him. His pupils were not the same size. "What did— how— where—"

"Shh," Gerard said kindly.

"But they saw you?" Frank whispered. "Do they know—"

"They didn't see me. I'm invisible."

"But I can see you."

"Because I'm yours." Gerard smiled. "Now hush." He secured his grip around Frank's shoulders, and slid his other arm under Frank's knees. Gerard slowly got to his feet, lifting Frank in his arms. Gerard watched Frank's face closely, for signs marking where the pain was worst.

Frank was trembling a little in his arms, and Gerard felt a great many complex things at once. "It will be just fine," he murmured, hoping he was soothing Frank. "We'll be gone now. Hold on tight. Remember?"

"Tight," Frank murmured.

Gerard held him close, letting Frank tuck his head into Gerard's neck. "We'll go someplace nice," he said. "Someplace Away."

Frank wrapped his hands in Gerard's shirt. Gerard could feel Frank's breath on his neck. Where they were going, Frank's head would settle and his breath come easy. Some place nice, and safe, and far from here.

They went.


The whole world was spinning, but it had been spinning for a while, even when Frank was laying on the ground. It spun, and Frank spun, in and out of darkness.

Where he was now was black but still. He made a little inquisitive noise.

"Frank?" Something called him; Frank wanted to answer. He tried, but the noise never reached the surface, and Frank fell away with it.

The next time Frank surfaced, he remembered to open his eyes.

The ceiling above was tan, a single dome high above him. A black lamp like wrought iron hung straight down from the center of the dome. It was no place Frank had ever seen before.

He remembered being in pain but he wasn't now. It was strange to be stiff but not sore. "Hello?" his voice was hoarse. He took a deep breath. There was still a weight on his chest. Frank looked down.

"Frank? Are you awake now?" It was Gerard, Frank could tell from the messy black hair. Gerard's head on his chest. Gerard turned his head and looked at Frank intently, then turned his head back to the side. "You are awake now."

"Yes," Frank said. "Gerard." He felt like he was shaking.

"You have a rabbit heart," Gerard murmured, his head still on Frank's chest.

Were those Frank's hands in Gerard's hair? They must be; how strange.

Gerard moved, pulling away against Frank's protesting whimper. Frank's hands slid through Gerard's hair, down his face, his neck, onto his shoulders. Frank needed to hold on.

Gerard slid next to Frank but no further away. He lay down next to Frank instead, sharing the same large pillow. Frank's relief was almost overwhelming. Frank realized they were actually laying on a lot of pillows, and there were blankets, and possibly this counted as a bed.

Oh.

He kept his hands on Gerard's shoulders and looked into his eyes. They were such a strange color… or combination of colors. And they were never the same twice, and yet Frank knew he would know them anywhere. He could feel Gerard's breath puffing on his mouth. Gerard looked… like he was in pain.

Oh.

Frank suddenly had a lot of answers to questions he didn't know he'd been asking. He felt relief, mostly. He wasn't afraid. Nervous, yes, and buzzy, but it was like stage jitters, not stage fright. It was good. It was helpful, even.

"Gerard," he said. He lifted one hand off Gerard's shoulder and touched his cheek, his mouth.

Gerard wrapped his arms around him, almost violently, holding him tight, pulling him as close as he could. Frank could feel Gerard's fingers digging into his back, like Frank wasn't close enough. Frank knew the feeling exactly.

It wasn't enough, and Frank shifted so he could kiss Gerard, pressing his mouth against Gerard's and just hoping...

Kissing Gerard was like the first taste of that cold, sweet water back in Andalusia. And now Frank could see that this was where they'd been heading all along, and it didn't matter that he hadn't consciously spent hours and hours thinking about this, or that this made him more than just a little gay. After all, he'd been desperate to see Gerard again, and not because he wanted two more wishes or because he wanted to see magic; he was just desperate to see Gerard.

Gerard, who was kissing him so carefully, the new sum of Frank's existence. His hand was still on Gerard's face, and Frank slid his hand across Gerard's cheek, into his hair, where he let his fingers curl, trying to get Gerard closer.

Frank was still in his school uniform, still wearing his tie, and suddenly it was suffocating him. He pulled it off with jerky movements, annoyed he had to pull away from Gerard, but he finally got it free and tossed it over his shoulder.

Gerard pulled him back at once, and Frank was only too happy to go. Frank grew bold and slid a leg over Gerard's; in response Gerard kissed him a little less carefully. Next went Frank's stiff blazer, and he kicked off his shoes. Gerard's hand slid up under Frank's untucked shirt to rest on his lower back, and still they kissed and kissed and kissed.

Gerard didn't seem to be in any hurry and Frank tried to be like that, but then he'd forget himself and press closer, press for more. He managed to take Gerard by surprise and roll him onto his back. Frank broke away to sit up. He could feel Gerard hard beneath him, and Frank couldn't resist grinding down, making Gerard gasp.

Frank kept his eyes on Gerard's face as he fingers fumbled with his shirt buttons. Gerard's eyes, though, followed Frank's progress down his shirt. Frank felt a little self-conscious because he was kind of scrawny, but the look on Gerard's face (and the bulge in his pants, and his hands on Frank's thighs) gave him courage.

Frank finally pulled the fucking shirt away and Gerard sucked in a sharp breath. No wonder; he was already starting to bruise. The very tips of Gerard's fingers brushed the worst of them.

"It doesn't hurt," Frank kept his voice hushed. He wasn't lying, either; it really didn't hurt.

"Not yet, no," Gerard said, just as quietly.

Frank didn't want to think about why they were here. He'd much rather focus on the being here part. He pulled off his shirt and tossed it into a corner. Gerard was still focused on the bruising, so Frank wrapped his hands around Gerard's wrists and pushed them into the cushion by Gerard's head. Gerard's eyes widened. Frank was pretty surprised himself.

A bit hesitant, Frank sat up again and began pushing up Gerard's shirt or tunic or whatever it was. Underneath Gerard's skin was seriously white and looked really soft. Frank leaned down and licked up Gerard's stomach, just to see what would happen. Gerard gasped and twitched underneath him. It really wasn't helping the part of Frank that just wanted to grind into Gerard until he came. He was pretty sure coming in your pants disqualified you from losing your virginity.

Gerard put his hands on Frank's shoulders and pushed him up. Gerard sat up, rearranging Frank in his lap, so they were face to face. The new position was doing interesting things for Frank, and he rocked against Gerard. Gerard, a hand on either side of Frank's face, pulled him in for a kiss.

It was sloppy instead of careful now. Frank was just as happy about it, though. He worked on shoving Gerard's shirt up until they had to break off kissing to get the shirt over Gerard's head. Frank felt Gerard's hands at his waistband, and then Gerard hesitated. Frank groaned in frustration and slid off Gerard. There was just no other way to get his pants off, but at least he wasn't wearing tight jeans. The school pants came off pretty easily, and it was definitely time to take his socks off. Frank snuck a glance at Gerard, also wiggling out of his pants, and Frank decided to just pull his boxers off now, too. Sex was totally happening. No reason to be shy.

Gerard sort of pounced and rolled once everyone was naked. All that skin together felt amazing, no wonder people went crazy over this. Under his hands he could feel Gerard's bone and muscle and skin, and something else, something that made his hair stand on end. Power. Age. Magic. One of those or all three.

And Gerard's skin was hot, which Frank had known about objectively, because he'd touched Gerard before, but it was different to feel it everywhere, all at once. Smokeless flame of fire.

Frank grinned, really amazingly happy, and light and buzzing. Gerard held him close and kissed him. Everything was kind of a hazy blur, with a few moments left in crystal clear isolation in Frank's memory: the scrape of teeth along his throat, the feel of their cocks sliding together.

Gerard talked the whole time, surprising Frank not at all. His words were a constant low murmur, mostly in a language Frank couldn't understand; the first time he'd heard Gerard speak anything other than English.

Frank didn't last long, at all, spilling all over Gerard's hand, but it didn't matter. There was Gerard's fast heartbeat and ragged breath, and Frank trying to figure out how to do this from the other side, and Gerard wasn't long behind him.

Then everything really was a haze, with Frank floating along comfortably as Gerard cleaned them up a little and pulled a cool, silky blanket over them. Frank curled up as close to Gerard as he would fit. He was warm and felt really good and Gerard was here and they'd totally just had sex and it was AMAZING and everything was fun and awesome and Frank was falling asleep.

*

Frank drifted awake slowly. He was warm, especially his back, and it smelled familiar and safe. He cracked his eyes open and was immediately disoriented. He wasn't in his room at his mom's or his dad's. He remembered everything with a sudden jolt, half sitting up— school and bullies and Gerard— and oh yeah, that's why he was totally naked.

He's shaken Gerard awake, of course. Gerard was much less disturbed than Frank, stretching and yawning and pulling Frank back next to him.

"How do you feel?" Gerard murmured, speaking into the back of Frank's neck.

"Uh, pretty good, I think."

Gerard hummed, pleased. Frank wiggled onto his back. It felt weird talking to Gerard over his shoulder. Not bad weird, necessarily, but still weird.

Gerard sighed a little and pulled back so he could look Frank in the eye.

"Where are we?" Frank asked.

"The Caravanserai," Gerard said.

"Oh," Frank was silent for a moment. "The what now?"

"The Caravanserai. It's... like an inn, between our world and your world. This is as far into my world as I can take you if you want to be able to return to your world."

"Oh," Frank said. "Okay. That's cool, I guess."

"This one's only for djinn," Gerard seemed to be stuck on that babbling explanation thing he did sometimes. Frank didn't mind. "There are other places where the worlds are thin, for more general use, like the Inn at the End of the World, but that can be hard to get away from. There's the Way Station under London but that can be so crowded. This seemed... the best choice."

"Sure," Frank said. It's not like he had any room to argue. "It's nice," he added, in case Gerard was worried. "Are we in Australia?" He remembered what Gerard had said about the worlds being thin. It would be pretty cool to be in Australia.

"No," Gerard snorted. "Isfahan."

Frank spent a few moments wondering whether he should admit he still had no idea where they were. He finally decided Gerard seemed to like him a lot so he probably wouldn't care that Frank's geography sucked. "So... where is Isfahan, again?"

Gerard frowned, like he was trying to work something out. "Would you call it Persia?"

"Okay," Frank said slowly, like he wasn't freaking out. "That seems… safe."

Gerard didn't get it, though, because he just hummed in agreement and snuggled in.

Frank wondered what his mom would do if he called her and told her he was calling from Iran. Probably wouldn't believe him. Would his phone even work from the djinn world? Probably not, he decided, because magic interfered with technology. Well, it did in Harry Potter, so Frank thought it seemed likely. He really, really hoped Gerard had some magical way of getting them out of freaking Iran, by the way.


At some point it felt like morning, so they got up and dressed. Gerard got increasingly anxious the closer they got to venturing into the rest of the Caravanserai. He wrapped Frank in a large shawl to hide his odd clothes, but there was nothing he could do about Frank's obvious human-ness. He would just have to make sure everyone knew Frank belonged to him.

He stopped with his hand on the door and spoke to Frank as seriously as he could. "Don't speak to anyone unless they ask you a direct question. Be polite. Stay close to me, don't wander off. Eat only what I make you and drink only water."

"Okay," Frank said. "But mostly, you know, I just have to go to the bathroom right now."

Gerard flailed a little and opened the door. "Have everything? I don't know if we'll be able to find our way back."

"I couldn't find my tie," Frank said, "but it doesn't matter." Frank seemed insistent, and Gerard couldn't put it off any more. There was a bathroom not far down the hall, and they met no one else.

Frank was endearingly impressed with the fountains and huge pools in the bathroom, and spent a while running around playing in the water. Gerard kept an eye on the door. Eventually Frank's stomach rumbled audibly.

"Okay, I guess I'm starving," he said, pulling his shoes back on and joining Gerard by the door. "Breakfast?"

It was always mealtime in the courtyard of the Caravanserai. There were long tables and benches filled with djinn of all ranks and stations, eating or gambling or preparing to fight. Gerard took Frank's hand and pulled him close. "Don't stare, don't make eye contact," he hissed at Frank. Frank squeezed his hand.

Gerard made for a fairly empty corner of table on the far side. Frank craned his neck around, looking at the djinn and at the courtyard, with its thick walls and arches covered in tiles and mosaics and the wooden screens on the windows. It was fine work but not, Gerard thought, as nice as his house.

Frank tugged on his hand and pointed. "Is that a dog?"

Gerard snatched down the pointing hand. "Don't point, it's rude. And no. Not really."

Their progress was blocked when a huge ifreet, skin much redder than any human shade, rose to his feet in front of them. He looked at Frank consideringly, and sneered at Gerard. "You have a permit for that?"

Gerard glared at him. "He's mine. And it's none of your business."

The ifreet snorted but walked away. Gerard did not relax until he had Frank seated on a bench.

"What did he say?" Frank demanded.

"Nothing that matters," Gerard said. "What do you want for breakfast?"

Frank requested pancakes and Gerard did the best he could. He was getting worn out though, and needed to eat real food, something he hadn't made himself. There was coffee on the table and he started there, stirring various white powders into it. He saw Frank looking longingly at the coffee but shook his head. "Absolutely not."

Frank craned his neck to look into the bowls of white powders and Gerard quickly moved them away. "What are those?"

"Sugar," Gerard answered. He figured out which white powder was which, and added in more from one particular bowl. Thankfully, Frank didn't ask about it and resumed eating his pancakes. Gerard did not want to have the "eats bones" discussion with Frank yet. He didn't particularly like eating bones but it had to be done once in a while. It was better if you didn't have to know that was what you were eating.

Gerard drank a cup quickly, and started feeling better as soon as he'd finished it. He got himself another cup, still heavy on powdered bone and sugar to disguise the taste, and sat with one hand on the back of Frank's neck, observing those around them out of the corner of his eye. They were all doing the same. It had probably been a very long time since a human had come to the Caravanserai, though once they had been common.

The call to prayer sounded, making Gerard jump as it echoed off the walls. Frank looked up, curious. When the last notes faded, the volume in the courtyard rose as the djinn were spurred into conversation, bidding each other farewell.

"Excuse me, brother," Gerard leaned across the table to speak to a djinni who had risen to his feet, "what time is this?"

"Maghrib, brother," he replied.

"Thank you," Gerard said politely. He waited until it looked like all those who were leaving had left, and the courtyard had settled down again. He leaned over to whisper to Frank. "I need to check on something. I'll be right back. You must stay right here, please, and don't get up for anything or anyone."

"But—"

"I'll be right back." Gerard climbed to his feet, still holding his coffee cup, and walked as quickly as he could for the Caravanserai's main office.

"Office" was perhaps a misnomer; it was more a loose collection of things in a couple of rooms, with a couple of djinn who would assist you if they felt like it and were able. There was a very young djinni in there today. She must have been very bored, because she visibly perked up when Gerard came in.

"I need some help with time zones," he said. "Do you have a map?"

Technically, the Caravanserai was outside of time and therefore had no time. The sky above the courtyard was always dusk, a marbling of pale blue and bright rose. For the convenience of travelers, however, the hours were counted. Although the Caravanserai was in Persia, it ran on Mecca time.

The office assistant laid out a large map on a table for Gerard. He searched until he found New Jersey where Frank was from, and counted the hours. If it was six in the evening in Mecca, it was… ten in the morning in New Jersey. That seemed… rather late in the morning.

"Thank you," Gerard said, and rushed back to Frank.

Frank was, thankfully, right where Gerard had left him. A few more djinn had gathered around to stare at him though, and Frank in his turn was staring at an invisible djinni, watching with wide eyes as food rose in mid-air and disappeared.

Gerard ran the last few steps and put his hands on Frank's shoulders. Frank jumped, but leaned into him when he saw it was Gerard.

Gerard bent down to speak in his ear. "We'd better go. It's time for you to go home."

Frank looked disappointed but climbed to his feet. He gave a dubious wave at the djinn around the table. Gerard seized his wrist and pulled him away.

"Your mother will miss you, I think," Gerard said, pulling him toward the main gate. "It's ten in the morning. Will you be in trouble?"

"Ten? Um. No, I was supposed to be at Ray's house!" he grinned.

"Ray?"

"My friend. I was gonna spend the night at his house, so mom will never know I wasn't. I better text Ray though. I'll tell him I was sick. Oh shit, Gerard!"

Gerard stopped and turned to Frank. "What's wrong?"

"I left my backpack at school! My phone's in it. I'll be in a fuck-ton of trouble if my mom notices."

Gerard rubbed his eyes. "We can go and get it. What time is your mother expecting you home?"

"I don't usually make it back until noon, so we're fine."

Gerard relaxed. Frank should have said that in the first place.

"Can't you control time at all?" Frank asked. "Return me right after we left or something?"

Gerard rolled his eyes. "Of course not. Once time has passed it's gone forever." He turned and tried to tug Frank along, but Frank had dug in his heels. When Gerard turned to look at him again, Frank looked stubborn.

"Before we go back we need to talk," he said. "About you not coming when I called you."

Gerard sighed. He turned away from the gate and pulled Frank after him down a hallway until they found an empty room. It wasn't a sleeping room but a diwan sort of room, with couches along all the walls. Gerard shut the door behind them and led Frank to a couch.

As soon as they sat down, a tea set appeared on a nearby table. "Don't touch that," Gerard warned.

"I know," Frank sulked, slumping on the sofa.

"It wasn't me," Gerard sighed. "It was the wish. You said…" he closed his eyes and recited "'I wish you to come to me, as fast as you can, whenever I call you with real intent and need.'" He opened his eyes and looked at Frank. "It was the 'real intent and need' part that caused you trouble."

Frank scuffed his foot on the floor. "I just didn't want you to come… accidentally, or whatever."

"I know," Gerard said calmly. "That's why it was a good wish." He pursed his lips, considering, but it wasn't like he could pretend he didn't care for Frank after last night. "I may have... interpreted it a bit strictly."

"What do you mean?" Frank asked.

Gerard didn't meet his eye. "I mean... I didn't want to come, so I only came when I absolutely had to." He felt sick just saying it, remembering how he had found Frank. "What would have happened if I hadn't come yesterday?"

"Why didn't you want to come?"

"Frank—"

But Frank was pulling away from him, frowning. "You didn't want to see me?"

Gerard was not in his house, but Frank was still his guest here and Frank had a stronger power over him than that, anyway. Gerard was bound to tell him the truth. "I had no intention of seeing you again," he admitted.

Frank flinched like Gerard had struck him, and he moved to the far end of the sofa. "Then why... last night..." he swallowed, hard. "Was it just..."

Gerard got up and sat at Frank's feet, trying to force him to look at him. "Frank, Frank, please listen. It doesn't... it's not right, this, it's dangerous. For both of us."

Frank clenched his fists but was otherwise very still. "What do you mean, dangerous?"

"I mean djinn end up dead when they fall in love with humans, and the humans don't end up much better. It's for your own protection."

"Um," said Frank, and then "in love?" His voice was high and squeaky, and he was not focusing on the important part. Gerard sighed and rested his forehead on Frank's knee.

After a moment, Frank lay his hand on Gerard's head. "So," he said conversationally, "should I smack you around now or later?"

"What?" Gerard lifted his head to stare at Frank.

"Fuck that 'end up dead' blah blah blah shit," Frank said. "Last time I checked, everyone ends up dead. Even djinn. So what's the point?"

"There are better ways to end up dead than with your head cut off," Gerard snapped.

Frank snorted. "No one cuts off heads anymore. Look, Gerard—" he waved his hand in Gerard's face to make Gerard shut his mouth. "What were you planning on doing, just being sad and miserable and lonely the rest of your life?"

Gerard tried to say "Yes," but it turned out to be a rhetorical question.

"Because that's the worst idea I've ever heard. And I'm not the captain of great ideas myself, okay? Seriously, Gerard, you can go invisible, you can teleport or fly or whatever anywhere instantaneously— and you can take me with you. I'm pretty sure you could stop bullets too, or whatever you're worried about. And you know, since you can just appear in my room any time day or night, I'm pretty sure that makes you the best boyfriend ever. As long as you just show the fuck up." After a moment of ringing silence, Frank continued. "No one believes in djinn anymore."

"I know," Gerard replied, stung. There was no reason to rub it in like that.

"I just mean— they're going to assume you're a human, you know? No one's going to look at you and go 'Oh, a djinni, I better cut his head off' or whatever you think they will."

Gerard didn't know what to say to this, so he crossed his arms and glared at the floor while he thought about it.

"And," Frank continued smugly, "I have another wish."

Gerard looked up, wary. "What is it?"

"I wish for a certain, sure, fool-proof way of contacting you. One that will work. Any time and every time. How about that?"

Gerard grumbled to himself, then grumbled at Frank. "I can bring you something. But it will have to be tomorrow."

"Okay," Frank agreed, like Gerard was the one begging favors from Frank.

"We'd better go," Gerard sighed. "Time is growing short." He got to his feet, but Frank remained sitting, frowning. "Frank?"

"I was really unhappy when you didn't show up," Frank mumbled, so low Gerard had trouble making out the words.

Oh. "So was I," Gerard admitted.

A smile played at the corners of Frank's mouth, but then he tucked it away. "I don't just sleep with anyone, you know."

"Oh?" said Gerard, nonplussed. "Good? Neither do I."

"I mean," Frank swallowed. He was still looking down, instead of up at Gerard. "I like you a lot too. You know…like…" He put his foot on top of Gerard's. They both looked down. Frank tapped his foot lightly. "Okay?"

"Okay," said Gerard, who didn't feel in control of anything at all. He held out a hand to Frank. "Shall we go?"

This time, Frank put his hand in Gerard's and let Gerard pull him to his feet. "You're lucky you're pretty," Frank said. "And also that whole phenomenal cosmic powers thing." Before Gerard could protest that Mikey was the pretty one, Frank was tugging Gerard out the door.

They stood under the lofty dome of the gate. This time, Gerard didn't need to remind Frank to hold on tight. Frank stepped close and wrapped his arms around Gerard, pressing his face into Gerard's shoulder. He nodded to show he was ready.

Gerard took a deep breath to focus, and then had to take another. Frank was newly distracting now, with memories from last night trying to push their way forward. Gerard took one last deep breath, focused, and took them away.


School wasn't entirely deserted on Saturdays, but it was still creepy being there. The administration hallway was empty, at least. "My bag should be in the lost and found, through there." Frank felt like he should whisper. They were kind of breaking in, after all.

"All right," Gerard said, and vanished.

It was a little disconcerting. Frank leaned against the Main Office door and tried to look like he had an authority-approved reason for being there. He rearranged his shawl so it looked like a scarf. Gerard came back less than a minute later.

"Is this it?"

"Yes," Frank grinned in relief. He pulled out his phone— he was lucky it was still there— and slung his backpack on. "Thanks," he said, already texting Ray to explain he'd gotten really sick yesterday and gone home. Had it really just been yesterday afternoon? It felt like a lifetime ago. He also texted his mom to let her know he was on his way home.

"Um," Gerard said. "Should we..?" he held out his arms uncertainly.

Frank grinned and leaned in to kiss him.

"That wasn't what I meant." Gerard looked like he was trying and failing to be annoyed.

"Too bad," Frank said, tucking his phone into his pocket and kissing Gerard again. He pulled Gerard close, although Gerard wasn't actually trying to get away. Gerard kissed him back with enthusiasm, until he grunted in annoyance because he'd tried to put his arms around Frank and hit his backpack.

"We probably shouldn't be making out in the middle of a school hallway, even if it is Saturday," Frank sighed. "You can walk me home, though. It's not far."

They'd barely left the school grounds before Frank's ribs started to ache. He hadn't exactly forgotten about getting his ass kicked yesterday, but since nothing had hurt, he hadn't been giving it a whole lot of thought. But he hurt now.

"Fuck," he gasped. He pushed his backpack off, and even that twisted and pulled him in a painful way.

Gerard winced. "You didn't feel any pain in the djinn world, but it's all come back on you now that the magic's wearing off. I'm sorry."

"Not your fault," Frank said through gritted teeth. It was easing; it was just the shock of it, all hitting at once. Frank had broken a rib before, and it didn't hurt to breath now like it had then.

"Anything very bad will be fixed," Gerard said, wringing his hands next to Frank. "Like the concussion and fractures. But the bruises and soreness, I'm afraid, will linger."

"You djinn are kind of hit or miss with this magic stuff, aren't you?" Frank said. "Okay, let's keep going. If maybe you could—"

Gerard had already reached around him and picked up his bag. He ushered Frank along with an arm around his back. It wasn't really necessary, but it felt nice, so Frank didn't say anything about it.

Gerard's arm didn't fall away until they were in front of Frank's house. Frank took his backpack back— he just had to get it up the stairs now— and stood facing Gerard in front of the gate.

"You better come back tomorrow," Frank said. "You promise?"

"Yes, I promise," Gerard said solemnly.

Frank would have liked to kiss him again, but didn't want to press his luck with his mom looking out the window or something. Not that she'd totally freak out, but he would definitely have to explain. And Frank had no idea how to begin explaining Gerard.

"See you tomorrow," he murmured, and brushed his fingers across Gerard's.

"Yes, tomorrow," Gerard said, a little yeah, yeah about it.

Gerard waited on the sidewalk as Frank carefully went up the steps. He unlocked the door and shouted "Mom, I'm back!" When he looked back, Gerard was gone.

*

Frank slept most of Saturday. It helped to hide how fucked up he was from his mom. His chest had turned mottled purple. It was both disturbing and kind of awesome. Late Saturday night, he was curled up in his desk chair watching a downloaded copy of Drag Me to Hell, wrapped in the shawl he'd taken from the Caravanserai.

He had his headphones on, and so when a hand came down on his shoulder, Frank of course jumped and gasped. He only just managed not to scream, and that was only because he could smell the incense smell Gerard always smelled like, combined with a little bit of smoke.

He turned to Gerard and ripped his headphones out of his ears, hissing "Fucking motherfucking hell, Gerard, what the fuck!"

Gerard looked like Frank was the one going around sneaking up on people and giving them heart attacks.

"You wanted me to come by…"

"Shh! And yes, just... Fuck." Frank couldn't help putting a hand over his still-pounding heart. "Make some fucking noise or something."

"But isn't your mother home?"

"Yeah, yeah, okay." He stopped the video from playing and stared at Gerard. "Hi."

"Hi."

Frank sprang out of his chair and threw himself at Gerard, who caught Frank and kissed him. Once in a while, Gerard was actually a smooth motherfucker. Too bad Frank had been put through the meat grinder and everything still hurt. He eased out of Gerard's arms while trying to keep them attached at the mouth.

Gerard seemed to remember; he rested his hands on Frank's hips lightly. Frank pulled Gerard close by the front of his shirt. He ground against Gerard until Gerard's hands tightened on his hips, and then Frank had to break away with a whimper. His right hip had taken a solid kick or two and was bruised all over.

"Sorry," Gerard whispered.

"It's okay," Frank sighed. "Fuck this shit, man." Gerard kissed the side of his face.

"I brought you something," Gerard said.

Frank bounced in excitement as Gerard dug through his coat pockets. "Here."

Frank held up his cupped hands, and into them Gerard lowered a heavy gold locket on a long chain. The locket was square and carved all over. Frank fumbled it open. The inside was empty, and didn't seem like it was meant to hold pictures. On one side was a diamond-shaped engraving, all of lines and curves. Frank tilted it, trying to catch the engraving in the light, to see if he could make it make sense.

"It's my name," Gerard said quietly. "Not in— well, you won't be able to read it."

"Thanks."

"If you— when you want to summon me, just look at my name in the locket and say my name outloud. I'll hear you."

Frank grinned and hugged Gerard, bruises be damned. He put the locket around his neck and tucked it under his shirt.

"I should let you get some sleep," Gerard said.

Frank started to protest but he really wasn't in the shape for anything else. "You know you don't have to wait until I call you," Frank said. "You can come by whenever you want."

Gerard looked at Frank like he was wonderful, which was so backwards Frank had to laugh. Gerard took Frank's hand and kissed the back of it. "I hope you feel better soon," he said.

"I still have a wish," Frank said quickly, because he wanted to give Gerard every reason he could think of to come back. "So you have to stick around. In case I want to use it."

Gerard frowned and pressed a kiss to Frank's forehead. "I'll come when you call, Frank. I'll see you again soon."

Frank nodded. He did want to believe him. "Goodnight," Gerard said.

"Goodnight," Frank echoed, and Gerard was gone, replaced with a fading curl of smoke.

*

"What the hell is that?" Bob asked at lunch on Monday.

"What?"

"On your neck, asswipe."

"Is that a hickey?" Ray's eyes were huge, and Frank couldn't help cracking up.

"No..." But when he looked in the back of the spoon he saw that, yes, yes it was. When the hell had he even gotten that? He didn't remember that. Fucking Gerard, man.

Frank giggled again because, fuck yeah, he'd had awesome sex and now everyone knew. He stopped giggling when he realized how lucky he was his mom hadn't seen it.

"So?" Bob said.

"So?" Frank echoed.

"Are you gonna tell your best friends how a little creep like you started scoring? And when, and with who?"

"Fuck you, Bryar. I'm a gentleman."

"Right." Bob punched Frank in the shoulder. Frank had to slide away because Bob punched like serious business. "You are not. What's the deal, Iero? You're not doing your cousin or something, right? So spill."

"Ew!" Ray looked at Frank in horror.

"What the— fuck you, seriously. I'm not doing my cousin!" he hissed at Ray, because Ray seemed to genuinely think that might be a concern. Why was Frank friends with these freaks, anyway?

"You don't know who it is," Frank said. He knew that wouldn't put them off, but he had to try.

"Well, no," Bob said, "because we only know sane human beings, and none of them would make out with you."

Frank couldn't help the crazy giggle that slipped out. Bob was so right and he had no idea.

Bob gave him a suspicious look. "Do we need to tell an adult or something?"

Oh for fuck's sake. "His name is Gerard," Frank said, and stared at his lunch really hard. He didn't dare look at Ray and Bob; he barely dared breathe.

"Well," Ray said after a what seemed like a long, silent year, "now I feel better. I knew you couldn't get a girlfriend before me."

"Fuck off, Toro," Frank said quickly. He was starting to breathe again. He snuck a look at Bob. Bob caught him.

"So..." Frank said, with no idea how to continue.

Bob picked up his sandwich. "If you ask us some stupid fucking question about whether or not we're giant assholes, I will punch you in the stomach so hard you won't be able to eat for a week."

Frank beamed. "So who did their chemistry homework? Because it wasn't me." Ray groaned and reached for his backpack to pull out his chemistry homework, and Frank kicked Bob under the table and Bob kicked back, and Frank's friends were seriously the best.


"Where have you been?" Mikey asked, eyes narrowed. "I was worried."

"Were you?" Gerard said vaguely.

Mikey folded his arms. He didn't even need to glare. Gerard squirmed.

"I had a— a situation."

"A Frank-shaped situation?"

Gerard glared at the floor. "Kind of."

"I heard from Leila that you took a human to the Caravanserai."

"Who's Leila?"

"She works in the office—"

Gerard boggled. "How do you know everyone?"

"I leave the house more than once a century, Gee," Mikey said dryly.

"That has nothing to do with it, I met her and I still—"

"It helps if you talk to people at the same time, really. Look, did you take that Frank to the Caravanserai?"

Gerard rubbed at a scuff mark on the floor with his shoe. It made it worse. "Yes," he said, when he couldn't stand Mikey's staring anymore.

"Why?"

Gerard, in his own defense, told the whole story to Mikey, leaving out the sex bits.

"So now what?" Mikey said. "Now you're an answering service?" he seemed disappointed.

"No! It's not like that. All his wishes... have been about me."

Mikey looked at him closely. "He likes you back, I guess, because you totally got laid."

Gerard opened his mouth but nothing came out. He flailed his hands at Mikey, and finally worked out a squeaky "What?"

"I'm your brother, I can tell," Mikey said authoritatively.

Gerard glared at the floor, because he wasn't actually capable of glaring of Mikey. "Yes, all right. I confess."

"I guess he's not all bad," Mikey said, although he still didn't sound very impressed.

*

Frank called him the next day. Gerard heard his voice, soft and persistent in his head: Gerard, Gerard, Gerard. His first impulse was to resist— that was just in the nature of djinn. But he reminded himself that this was Frank, that he loved Frank and should want to see him. He probably wouldn't regret going. And he'd promised.

He followed the sound and the tug of Frank's wish. It was much gentler than the first time, because Frank's wish had been for contact, not summoning. Gerard appeared in Frank's room with the customary little poof of smoke. Frank was kneeling on the floor, the locket held in front of him, whispering Gerard's name.

Frank stopped and looked up at Gerard. Gerard was glad he'd come.

"There you are," Frank said.

"Here I am," Gerard agreed.

Frank shut the locket and slipped it back around his neck. He got to his feet and then didn't seem to know what to do. "I'm glad you came," he blurted.

"I promised," Gerard reminded him.

"So... my mom's not home."

"No?"

"Nope. She's out on a date." Frank wrinkled his nose a little, probably without realizing he was doing it. Then Frank grinned, big and bright. "Wanna babysit me?"

 

Gerard didn't know what "babysitting" was, but this was probably not conforming to the generally accepted definition.

They were entwined on Frank's narrow bed, and it felt like they'd been kissing for hours. Gerard didn't mind. It was so good. All that mattered was Frank's slim form, twisting in his arms, and the wet heat of his mouth, with his tongue sliding against Gerard's, now tickling, now pushy, newly thrilling each time.

Gerard slid his hands under Frank's shirt, and Frank arched into his touch. Frank pulled back a little, just far enough to gasp "At least you never have cold hands." Gerard laughed softly, nibbling along Frank's jaw.

Frank tugged on Gerard's shirt as a question, and they pulled apart to pull their clothes off. Frank's bruises looked worse and Gerard fussed over him. He kissed the spots that didn't look too painful, then very gently guided Frank to lay on his back. He kissed the tip of Frank's cock and felt him shudder. Gerard took Frank's cock into his mouth slowly, in stages, getting used to the feel and taste and smell. He could feel the blood pounding in the vein against his tongue, hear Frank's gasps and whimpers as he tried to hold himself back. Gerard stroked a hand along Frank's hip, soothing.

When it seemed like Frank was on the verge of losing control, Gerard pulled off, ignoring Frank's groan. He turned Frank on his side and slid in behind him. Frank wiggled in closely, his ass rubbing right against Gerard's dick. Gerard groaned and grabbed Frank's hip to hold him still. "Just... hang on a second."

"Um," Frank said, nervous and tense. "Are we..?"

Gerard kissed him. "Don't worry." He slid his hand along Frank's thigh, stroking up and down until Frank relaxed and pushed back against him. Gerard kissed Frank's jaw, his neck, his shoulder, and slipped his hand under Frank's leg, raising it just enough for Gerard to push his cock between Frank's legs. It was hot and tight and there was just enough sweat to make the friction just right. He thrust a couple times before he could stop himself, but managed to wrap a hand around Frank's cock.

He found a rhythm quickly, matching his thrusts between Frank's thighs to the movement of his hand. The Greeks had a word for this, but Gerard couldn't remember it right now. He could barely remember his own name. Frank tried to grind into Gerard's lap and thrust into his hand at the same time, gasping "Okay, this is... yeah, this works." Gerard smiled and licked Frank's shoulder, tasting salt and water and human, which was really much more appealing than it had any right to be.

Gerard was starting to feel like he was going to come apart when Frank cried out and shuddered. Gerard kept up his rhythm, stroking Frank through it. When Frank slumped against him, limp, Gerard moved his hand to Frank's hip. He held Frank in place and thrust a few more times. His hand kept slipping on Frank's hip, and it was very warm, and his own breathing sounded very loud, but Frank's heartbeat was at least as loud, and Gerard was so close nothing else mattered. There was always the temptation to really come apart but he thought that might freak Frank out, so Gerard did the mental equivalent of gritting his teeth and managed to fall apart without actually losing his convenient human shape.

"Diamerizein!" Gerard said once his brain started working again.

"What?" Frank laughed.

"That's what it's... the Greek word for—" Gerard waved a very messy hand around. He frowned at the mess and pulled a cloth from the air. He used the cloth to clean them up and then vanished it again.

"That's so awesome." Frank still sounded slightly out of breath and very happy. He wiggled around until he could kiss Gerard. Gerard hummed happily as Frank kissed him slowly and ran his hand through Gerard's hair, nails scraping on his scalp. He pulled Frank close, as close as they could get, and Gerard noted, amused, that they were back where they started.

Frank pulled away and grinned hazily at him. "Isn't this better than staying lonely and miserable for the rest of your life?"

Gerard tried out a word he'd picked up from Frank. "Whatever," he said, and pressed his face into Frank's neck, so he could feel Frank's pulse against his lips.


"I just don't see the point," Gerard said.

"No, it'll be awesome!" Frank had Gerard and the house to himself for the afternoon. And there was one thing he really had to try.

They were in the backyard, and Frank had a broom. "No, see, just make it fly. You can do that right? You said you could."

"Yeah," Gerard sighed. "If you really want to."

"Fuck yeah I want to!" Frank straddled the broom, then had second thoughts and just put it on the ground. "Go for it."

Gerard waved his hand over the broom, which, as promised, rose and hovered in the air.

"Sweet!" Frank bounced over and wrapped his hands around the handle, then cautiously swung a leg over. The broom was still floating in midair, but Frank was just realizing he had another problem.

"Um." He shifted his weight around, but seriously, how the hell did you sit on a broomstick?

"Didn't think it out all the way, did you?" Gerard said smugly.

"There's supposed to be a seat," Frank called over his shoulder.

"You didn't say anything about a seat," Gerard responded.

Whatever. Frank had a flying broom. It wasn't exactly a Firebolt, more like his mom's broom from the kitchen, but beggars can't be choosers, and all that. Frank did his best to balance, trying to grip with his legs. He tottered a bit but managed to lock himself into position. He wasn't looking forward to falling off. His bruises had gone green and yellow, and he didn't want to add any fresh ones.

Frank leaned forward, but the broom didn't move. "How does this thing go?" Frank said.

"How should I know? It's your broom."

Frank stuck his tongue out. Carefully, slowly, with a lot of wobbling, Frank reached a leg down to the ground and pushed off. For one glorious moment, Frank was flying on a broomstick.

Then he fell off. He rolled on the ground, and the broom glided to a halt almost immediately. Gerard ran to pick him up.

"I'm fine," Frank said. "I fell, like, a foot."

"Like a yard," Gerard fussed.

"I'm fine," Frank said. "You won't even be able to tell, under all the other bruises." Gerard didn't seem to find that funny.

"That's enough broom flying, I think," Gerard said.

"Yeah," Frank sighed. "For now." He grabbed Gerard's hand and tugged him toward the house. "We'll watch some Harry Potter movies and you can figure out how the broomstick should work. We have to start updating your pop culture, anyway."

"Why?" Gerard asked suspiciously.

"It'll be pretty embarrassing if I introduce you to people and you don't get anyone's jokes." He grinned, to show he was teasing, but Gerard stopped walking entirely.

"You want to introduce me to people?"

"Well... yeah. Like, my friends. And my mom, eventually, I mean."

Gerard was doing that startled blinking Frank recognized from when they'd first met. "Should I not?" he asked anxiously.

"No, I… just wasn't expecting it." Gerard finally started walking again.

"Well you don't have to," Frank said. "It's just what people do."

"Like take pictures?" Gerard asked, a little frown line appeared on his forehead.

"I know no pictures," Frank said quickly. "But I do have to have some way to explain the hickeys." He smiled uncertainly at Gerard. Gerard was just staring at him, but he tended to do that a lot. Frank was nervous, and when he was nervous, he talked a lot. "And I'd like to meet Mikey sometime, you know. I mean, that would be cool, if you wanted. If you don't mind."

"Oh!" Gerard's face went all round, and it would be pretty funny if Frank wasn't so confused right now. "I didn't know you wanted… okay."

"Yeah?" Frank grinned.

"Of course." Gerard grinned and Frank beamed back and squeezed Gerard's hand.

"Well," Frank said. "We don't have all day. You know what they say about time. Once it's gone, it's gone forever."

Gerard rolled his eyes but he was still grinning, and he linked their fingers together as Frank pulled them into the house.