Cesare stalks around the storage unit. Since the implosion of his friendship with Vittorio, Ce had taken to doing these burglary jobs. They didn’t normally pay well, but there was little security and risk. Now that Ce was pulling jobs by himself, he couldn’t handle the better-paying ones.
Plus Cesare had to admit that his brain wasn’t working as well as it used to.
He could admit that he was using more now that Vittorio had left him. What did it matter? He had nothing left in his life anymore. No family. No friends. No future.
All he had was the next job, the next fix, and the crazy, probably useless, hope that something, anything, might happen to make his life just a little better.
He poked around the dusty boxes aimlessly. He’d been hired to steal some antique jewelry from this unit but kept getting distracted. Whoever owned this place had an eclectic collection of crap. Maybe they owned a thrift store. Or a bordello, Cesare thinks as he unearths a box of feather boas. He almost tosses the box away, but he hears something shift along the bottom of the box.
Placing the box down, he digs beneath the feathers until he finds a weird metal object. It kind of looks like a flattened and stretched metal teapot, covered in dirt and grime. It’s probably worthless, but Ce is strangely captivated. He isn’t sure how long he stares at the strange object before his sluggish mind reminds him that he is currently breaking the law and should probably get back to the job he was hired for. Shaking his head, Ce tosses it in his bag to check out later.
The metal object slips from Ce’s mind as he continues digging around the storage unit. It takes some time, but he eventually finds all the items his employer had hired him to collect, as well as a few other items for himself.
It is almost morning by the time Ce meets his contact to hand over the jewelry and collect his paltry fee. He immediately finds a dealer on his way home and spends most of the money on an assortment of pills. Tossing a handful into his mouth, Ce climbs into the abandoned building where he has been squatting. Collapsing on the stained and dirty mattress, Ce drops his bag onto the floor next to his bed. He stops wrapping the dingy blanket around himself when the movement tips over the bag and it clatters to the floor.
Remembering the strange item, Ce reaches into the bag. The object feels a little warm to the touch in the cold room and Ce holds it a little closer, letting the warmth flow up his arms. He rubs it a little between his frozen hands when it starts to smoke.
Startled, Cesare drops the teapot. Red smoke continues to pour out of the tip and Ce watches stunned. He wonders dimly if he should run, but the smoke is slowly forming a body.
“Who dares to disturb my slumber?” The red smoke has coalesced to form… a man? The creature looked like a man, with a smoky tail turning to legs as he began to walk around the room. Despite the red skin, the man looked attractive. He wore silky, loose black pants the hung low on his hips, but no shirt to cover his toned chest. The only other thing he wore were bracelets and a collar.
“Are you the one that summoned me?” the man asked.
“I…” Cesare stuttered, “I don’t know. Who are you?”
“My name is Jafar and I am the genie of the lamp,” he responds, lip curling in disgust. “You rubbed the lamp?”
Ce’s eyes widen, “Lamp? I thought it was a teapot…” Jafar’s jaw tightens and he looks annoyed and disgusted. Cesare flinches, he recognizes that look. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you. I found the lamp… My name is Cesare.”
Jafar sighs heavily and folds his arms, “Since you have summoned me, You are master of the lamp and I shall grant you three wishes.” He stalks closely to Cesare, his eyes glowing with power, “Your wish is my command.”
Ce’s brain stops for a moment, thinking about all he could wish for. “I can wish for anything?” he asks excitedly.
“Almost,” Jafar adds. “You cannot wish for me to kill someone.” Ce shrugs at this. There’s no one that he wants dead. “I cannot make someone love you.” This makes Ce pause, but as much as he loves Vittorio, he wouldn’t want to force his friend to love him. “And I cannot bring anyone back from the dead.”
This makes Cesare’s shoulders slump. His first thought had been to bring back little Debora, his poor niece taken from him too soon. Maybe even his sister. Perhaps they could have been a family again. But it seemed that Cesare was destined to be alone.
“This makes you upset?” Jafar asks.
Cesare nods, “I had hoped… It doesn’t matter. I’m used to being alone.”
Jafar looks at Cesare appraisingly, but changes the subject, “So, you don’t know about genies?”
“No…” Cesare admits, his brain still spinning, “I think I remember a story about them when I was growing up, but it was just a story, a fairy tale to tell children.”
“It seems that I have slept a very long time,” Jafar murmurs, “What about sorcerers? Do you have those?”
Cesare shakes his head, “No.”
Jafar tilts his head, “What do you call your magic wielders?”
“Magic?” Cesare ogles Jafar, “Magic doesn’t exist here.”
Jafar smiles and regards Cesare carefully, “Hmmm… You said that you were used to being alone. Maybe I could help with that.”
Cesare looks up, “But you said that you couldn’t bring anyone back from the dead…”
“But maybe I could stay with you?” Jafar kneels down in front of Cesare, cradling his face in his hands, “Normally I would need to leave as soon as you finish the three wishes, but if you free me I could stay…”
Ce feels a strange feeling rush through his body, hope. He smiles gratefully and reaches up to wrap his hand around Jafar’s wrist.
“You would stay here with me?” Cesare asks happily.
Jafar smiles and pets Cesare’s face affectionately, “I would and you know what? If you use your first wish for it, you could wish for me to retain my sorcerer’s powers. I could take care of you.” Jafar swings an arm out and the room transforms.
A fireplace appears out of nowhere and the chill of the room immediately disappears. The trash and broken furniture of the room dissolve, being replaced by lush furniture. Jafar even conjures a table laden with a feast.
Cesare ogles at the sumptuous room before he returns his attention to the beautiful man in front of him. “And-and you want to stay with me? I don’t want to force you...” he asks hesitantly. He’d be happy to free Jafar but doesn’t want him to feel like he wants to stay with him.
“I do,” Jafar says sweetly, “You are the man that rescued me.”
Cesare breaks out in a smile, “What do I need to say?”
Jafar smiles, “Just wish that I was no longer a genie and would return to being a sorcerer.”
“Okay,” Cesare agrees, taking a deep breath before starting, “I wish that you were not a genie anymore and would go back to being a sorcerer instead. Did I do that right?”
Jafar nods and stands. Swirls of red smoke fill the room, wrapping around Jafar’s body. When they disperse, the red of Jafar’s skin has changed to a light mocha color. He’s still wearing the loose black pants but the collar and bracelets have melted away.
Jafar is laughing happily, examining his skin. He snaps his fingers and a loose shirt appears on his chest. He strolls to the table and pops a date in his mouth, groaning happily. “It has been centuries since I have tasted food.”
“So it worked,” Ce says happily.
Jafar glances toward Ce as if remembering he was there. He smiles a little cruelly before moving to kneel in front of him. “It did, sweet Cesare.”
Cesare breaks into a big smile, reaching out to touch Jafar’s arm. “That’s wonderful, w-what do you want to do now?”
“I am going to go see this new world,” Jafar reaches down and peels Cesare’s hand off of him, “You can stay here.”
“Are you coming back?” Cesare asks, the happiness in him turning to dread.
Jafar laughs a little and stands, “No, sweet Cesare. Thank you for releasing me though.”
“But you said…” Cesare starts, tears starting to gather in his eyes.
Jafar tilts his head and looks pitifully at Ce, “And you believed me.”
“I would have released you,” Cesare whispers, “You didn’t need to lie to me.”
This makes Jafar pause. He shifts a little before responding, “I’ve heard that before. I couldn’t take that chance.” He begins to walk out, pausing only to say, “Enjoy the food and the new furnishings.”
When the door closes behind him, Cesare’s tears begin to fall. He felt so stupid. He had thought that someone else would finally care about him, finally stay. He should have known better. Nobody ever stays with him.
He wraps the blanket around him, the dirty rag having changed to plush velvet. Despite the fire in the room, Cesare feels cold and more alone than he’s ever felt in his entire life. He thinks briefly about standing up to eat some food, he can’t remember the last time he had a real meal, but when his feet shift, they hit his bag.
He reaches down and grabs his bag, pulling it onto his lap. His tears slowly drip onto the bag as he roots around, finally pulling out the pills. Cesare hiccups slightly as he starts dry swallowing pills. He’s never felt so alone. That bright ray of happiness and hope had left him feeling even more despondent.
Sweet little Deborah.
Now even Jafar.
It felt so silly to be this upset over someone that he just met, Cesare thinks, swallowing another pill. Jafar was probably some figment of his imagination.
Even imaginary creatures wouldn’t stay with Cesare.
He keeps swallowing pills between hiccups and sobs, finally watching the empty baggie flutter to the floor. He lets his bag slide off his lap as well, ignoring the clanging and clattering from the various items crashing to the floor.
He slowly tips to into the bed. He cries into the bed, soaking the lush fabric with the tears until the pills begin to take effect.
His brain gets fuzzy.
His tears slow.
His sobs cease.
His breathing becomes more shallow.
His eyes close and he begins to dream of a happier life.
His sister is alive and there with a laughing, smiling Deborah. Vittorio is his friend again, there with his family. He isn’t even upset seeing him kiss Linda though.
Because Jafar is there.
Jafar is happy and smiling down at him as he wraps his arms around Cesare. He feels so happy and warm snuggled up in Jafar’s arms. His strong hand wraps around Ce’s face, tilting it up. Jafar leans down and presses his lips to Cesare’s. He lets himself sway there even as the dream gets blurry and starts to slide away.