“What is your wish, master?”
John gaped. Part of his brain was slowly and carefully telling the other part (the one that was screaming rather loudly about gettingthefuckoutofhere) that, yes, here was a genie, and yes, he had just billowed out of that tiny little opening from that battered old lamp when he had STUPIDLY rubbed it, and... wait, had he just called him ‘master’?
The tone of voice had not however been particularly servile or even vaguely polite. If anything, he would have described it as irritated condescension with a particularly generous dollop of utter contempt on that last word. Memories of childhood stories flooded in about genies and their unpredictability, the care to be taken when negotiating with them, the inherent hatred they had for their captivity. Anyone actually asking for wishes was pushing his luck. The screaming part of his brain had calmed down now, and was merely counselling a tactical retreat, albeit with some alacrity. John’s body however seemed unable to move.
The genie was looking at him, well visually dissecting him might be more precise, tilting his head fractionally on his left and arching an elegant eyebrow as if to say “I’m still waiting, I haven’t got all millennia”. And how do you tell a genie that, sorry, you just noticed the interesting design and was just buffing the thing up in order to see it better, and would you mind terribly just popping back in? But then again, a cautious approach to life had not ended him here in Afghanistan.
And John was still staring. He couldn’t look anywhere else, really. Even if the genie hadn’t been gorgeous, in an angular skinny sort of way, all black wavy hair sensuously drifting in the mild breeze, blue eyes blazing and assessing him. And clearly noticing John’s frank admiration. The eyebrow lifted a fraction higher, and a smug little smirk appeared on the plush lips. John mentally kicked his own butt for being so transparent, and attempted to fill in the now (for him) rather awkward silence.
“I’m John.” – he said before realising that giving out your name to a powerful magical being probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do. The old stories always claimed there was power in names. Well, too bloody late now.
“I’d like to know your name, and, no,” – he added quickly – “that is not an official wish.”
“I am Sherlock, master.” Oh, god, that voice was doing things to him, wonderful warm meltingly good things.
“Uhm, how many wishes am I allowed?”
John’s mind skipped delightfully to some very specific scenarios involving those startling eyes and luscious lips, before dragging itself contritely to more non-libidinous thoughts. They were in a war, and he wanted everyone to get back home. But he knew the risks of making a wish without checking out the small print.
“Ok, if I were to wish for the return home, and in one piece, of everyone here in this war, what would actually happen?”
“I would fulfil your desire, master.”
Uh, oh, he fervently wished with all his lust addled heart that the genie would not phrase things quite that way, and utter them in that voice.
“I mean, is that what would actually happen, or would there be strange unforeseen consequences?”
“There would be no unforeseen consequences, I assure you.”
“I mean unforeseen by me, rather than you.”
The genie looked a bit put out, and subjected John to a scouring scrutiny. Clearly the man was not as simple as he had first surmised. He was under no obligation to volunteer information, but when phrased properly, he felt compelled to do so. Anyway, the opportunity to be smugly gleeful in scuppering the wishes of one of his ‘masters’ was not to be overlooked.
“Well, in that case... Your wish for ‘everyone’ would include the enemy side as well. You did not specify unharmed, so a bad injury could incapacitate someone for the rest of their lives. Also, you said nothing about being actually alive – a body can be returned home and in one piece. Even if you addressed these issues, there would be no injuries, no deaths, and the end result would likely be the dragging out of this conflict. Your fellow soldiers could end up spending years rather than months in this war.”
Sherlock metaphorically sat back, ready to be amused. Not that humans were all that entertaining when thwarted in their desires, just predictably aggressive or pathetically whiny. Still, he got his ya-yas where he could.
John had reeled from the quick fire of Sherlock’s speech, then merely sighed with disappointment. What was the use of wishes if they came with all these caveats? He looked sad and a little lost, not angry and shouting and demanding.
There was no delight in seeing the sorrowful look on John’s face, and particularly in his expressive beautiful dark blue eyes. The genie mentally shook himself, and attempted to stare at John with his usual detached haughtiness. Too late he realised that staring at John was inducing very different feelings. He suffered an extremely rare and unexpected bout of generosity and surprised himself by blurting out –
“However, you could amend your wish and reduce its scale, and that would not affect the war as a whole. You could just involve your unit, wish for no deaths from this war for them, and their return home alive, in one piece and with no major injuries.”
He was rewarded by a hopeful smile that lit up John’s whole being and he felt himself ridiculously pleased to be the cause of it. He wanted to see that smile again, and directed solely at himself.
“And there would be no other consequences that you could see?”
“Well, then, yes, please, I make that my wish.”
“It is done, o master.”
“I need to think carefully about the other two wishes. So, could you go back” – gesturing in a general way towards the lamp – “and I’ll rub you... I mean, I’ll rub the lamp when I want you... when I’m ready to make the next wish, yes?” Really, John shouldn’t look so enticing when blushing.
The genie’s gaze rested on the hated object for a second, but the look did not escape John. Before he could comment Sherlock was no more than a wisp of smoke quickly disappearing inside it.
Sherlock was intrigued. John had been taking him out of the lamp whenever he could, simply because he understood the genie’s hatred for his confinement. He was being kind, and kindness was for Sherlock a new experience. These excursions were so much more than just a temporary relief from his imprisonment, a pleasant chance at not entirely idiotic conversation, and even laughter. John simply enjoyed his company, and that was ... new. As was the even more surprising realisation that the feeling was mutual.
They were lying together, effectively hidden by the genie from the outside world, while remaining aware of it. John had made it clear he needed to be available all the time, much to Sherlock’s annoyance. His time with John was precious. Everyone else should just naff off.
“So, what do people generally ask for, then?”
“Oh, the usual things humans crave. Immense riches, unlimited power, immortality, irresistible sex appeal and stamina.” He noticed John perking up at that last one, and obviously giving it a quick trial run in his imagination before dismissing it.
“And did you grant any of these?”
“It is my duty to grant the prescribed wishes, o master.”
John gave him the look, the slightly frustrated but affectionate one that Sherlock knew translated roughly as ‘you git’. It had already been decided between them that the term ‘master’ gave John the mental equivalent of hives, especially when delivered dripping in sarcasm.
“I’d rather not discuss past masters. Professional confidentiality, you understand.”
“Oh? So, nothing to do with said people getting rather more than they bargained for?” John enquired jokingly.
“They got exactly what they asked for.”
Ok, it was not John’s imagination, the atmosphere had definitely taken a turn for the arctic. He did not want to think of his genie being cruel, no matter how provoked. Before the silence got awkward, duty called and he was off.
He woke up in the hospital. He was told he had been in and out of consciousness for a few days, but was now stable. John asked after the rest of his unit. No fatalities, a few minor injuries. When he enquired about returning to his duties, the nurse paused and said he’d get the doctor. John fought against a sinking feeling. He turned when he sensed someone approaching him, and saw Sherlock.
“What are you doing here?”
“You ran off, and forgot to order me back into the lamp.”
John sighed. “When do I ever order you to do anything?”
“Fine. Kindly requested if I wouldn’t mind...” – the genie gestured vaguely towards an imaginary lamp.
“Look, you probably should leave before someone sees you.”
“John, I’m dressed in appropriate clothing and have been visiting you since your admittance. Trust me, no one is going to question me. And I already know they are sending you back home.”
He was rewarded with a narrowed glare, and the novel experience of seeing a seriously pissed off John.
“Gee, thanks for breaking that gently to me. And by the way, I am a doctor, and I know I would call this a major injury. So, was that deal I made with you utter bollocks?”
“I suppose we never discussed the definition of ‘major injuries’. Technically, your injury is severe, but with time you should get almost full use of your arm again. Therefore, still within the ‘no major injuries’ part of the wish.”
“If I had use of my arm right now, I would kill you.”
“That would be tremendously ambitious of you, my master.”
Sherlock thought John’s angry stare really brought out the blue in his eyes.
The doctor arrived soon afterwards, looking surprisingly jovial, considering the news he was bringing, but then John realised the man had to see much worse every day, and he was after all alive and on the mend, and therefore a success story. He was accompanied by the nurse John had met before, who nodded to Sherlock in recognition. Once the doctor had left, he approached a disconsolate John.
“I know it’s tough, but at least you have your fiancé with you. All the others here could really do with their loved ones right now.” He smiled sympathetically and walked away.
It took John a couple of seconds to make sense of that. Then his eyes swivelled to his genie.
“So have we set a date for the happy event? You must forgive me, my darling, what with being shot and all, that little detail must have slipped my mind.”
Sherlock had the decency to look a little sheepish. “Well, it seemed the best way to have access to you.”
“And no one asked how...”
“Really, John, I am a genie, and quite capable of fooling mere humans.”
He was pretty sure that that being the case there had been no need for Sherlock to pretend to be his fiancé, but he was too tired to argue, and if he was honest a part of him was doing a happy little jig in his head at the thought. But he also knew that there would be questions once his friends...
“Wait, you’ve been here a few days. Did I have any visitors?”
“It’s hardly my fault that you are such a popular man, John.” Sherlock huffed a little defensively.
John sank into the pillows, and rubbed his face with his hand.
“Oh, god! What did you do?”
“Really John, you should have more faith in me. I was the perfect doting fiancé. There was ... some surprise” – Sherlock related with uncharacteristic understatement – “although the one called Murray was very disappointed as well.” There was a smug proprietary tone that made John eye him suspiciously.
Once the words themselves registered, John looked confused “Disappointed?”
“You are aware that he has a major crush on you?”
“What? Bill?” John was stunned.
“Really, John, you are a very attractive man, with a personality to match. And when we get to England, I can foresee I will have to keep a close eye on you.”
“England? You ... me?”
The conversation, and indeed reality, seemed to be slipping away from him. Before he could engage his brain in any meaningful way, Sherlock was seizing the advantage.
“Yes, I can see you have grasped the basics, John. We can discuss the details another time, after you are rested.”
“Don’t worry, I will take care of everything.”
And as Sherlock smiled down at him, John thought that, yeah, actually he could work with that.
“BORED! Entertain me, John.”
John mumbles and stirs among the sheets. “Shut up. Need sleep.”
“You’ve been asleep for a whole hour. I want sex.”
“Christ on a bicycle! We’ve just... look, give me a minute, I’m not twenty anymore.”
“If you had gone with that other wish...”
“No! I think it was a tad more important to wish for the perfect job for the both of us” – Sherlock yawns dramatically, then glowers pointedly at John – “or you’d be even more bored. Admit it, you love your work.”
Sherlock mutters something that could be a concession if you aurally squint really hard. After an eternity of wasted time, he is eager to explore and experience. And he still sometimes cannot believe how lucky he is. If he had had a genie of his own, he could not have wished for more. Freedom, John and a life of puzzles and adventures.
“Well, I have no cases on at the moment, and I need more sex.”
“God, you’re insatiable!”
John stretches and smiles beatifically at Sherlock, in what is clearly not a complaint. He languidly wraps his arms around his genius and plants a tender kiss on his lips. And as Sherlock returns the warm embrace, his chest defiantly does not tighten just a little bit and he most certainly does not get a warm feeling anywhere at all.