Notes: This is not what I planned for it to be. It was supposed to just be Will and Cyrus being goofs about Genie 101. And then I got off on a tangent based around the fact that Will was literally physically compelled to wait. Then I got off on another about Genie research that I did. Then another minor one in which my love for the whole Con Artist!Cyrus thing shows terribly. So yeah. Not what I planned. Now it's time to go the hell to sleep because I'm going to Boston later and nobody's stopping me.
Genieing for Dummies
"Oh bloody hell," he murmured upon noticing the extra shadow on the ground before him. He'd been dreading this moment since Alice warned him about Cyrus' intentions to, "Make sure he fully understood the responsibilities of being a genie." The problem was that it sounded more like, "Watch out, Sunshine's going to explain to you in condescending detail everything you've done wrong."
All he wanted was a few moments this afternoon with nothing to worry about. He'd slipped away from camp under the guise of finding firewood, what he'd really wanted was a bit of time away from the happy couple and the other one. No matter what she said about it, no matter what he'd said about it in that sickening, chipper tone, she was not his mistress. No matter how he had to obey when she said, "Wait," "Stop that," or, "Chew with your mouth closed," he wasn't about to just go along with it and if mucking about in the woods for a few hours would get him a little relief, he'd take it.
He'd just wanted a little time alone, but no. Mr. Wonderful just had to follow him. He'd only known Cyrus a few days and he'd already been tempted to throw something at him. The former genie was a bit sappy for Will's taste and while he knew that Alice needed somebody like that in her life, Will certainly didn't need somebody like that in his. When he also took into account the slightly disapproving looks that Cyrus occasionally gave him and the fact that he'd decided that the Queen was trustworthy, Cyrus was not one of his favorite people right now.
"Will, you can't pretend that this isn't happening," Cyrus said as Will turned to face him. "Would you rather have somebody teach you how it all works or learn the hard way?" He suspected Cyrus wouldn't like his answer.
"I get what you're tryin' to do, stop pussyfootin' around it and there's no way you can tell me that it would be easier to do anything the Queen wants with a smile," he said, shaking his head and leaning up against a tree.
"You're not happy about this, and I understand why, but that's no excuse for what could happen if…" Cyrus was talking as if the Queen was his first master. It was enough that every time she mentioned being his master, he went back to holding a dying friend in his arms, begging for her to take back the wish, he didn't want to hear it from Cyrus.
"What did happen," he said, biting the edge of his tongue to hold back memories, still too fresh to really be memories.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that, but Will, you can't ignore that you have no idea what you're doing and you owe it to Elizabeth to…" He didn't even know who he was talking about. Nobody called her Elizabeth, if it wasn't Lizard, it was Liz or Lizzy.
"Lizard. Her name was Lizard," he said. "And don't think you can win me over with this whole, "do the right thing," thing because I'm not like you."
Cyrus paused for a moment, hands folded in front of him back and shoulders straight, still the perfect picture of a genie. He had a thoughtful look on his face. It was enough to make Will nervous. He'd seen Alice make the same face. Right before she did something that ended with him stuck in an unhappy situation.
"People have tried for years to tell me who I am and if you want to be right about that, it would be easier to hear me out first. Besides, I think we might have more in common than you think," he said. His voice was slow and halting. Will almost grinned, he'd finally found something that could almost shut the chatterbox up. Although he couldn't imagine anything that they would have in common.
"You remember that story you told last night?" Not this again. Cyrus had been giving him dirty looks all last night over it. He'd wanted to take his mind off feeling nothing as he watched his friend die and a story about a failed get rich quick scheme was a welcome distraction.
"Your plan failed because you tried an Anakra shuffle with a poor mark, an unreliable shill, the person you set up to take the fall suspected you were up to something before you even did anything, and the fiddle you were trying to flip was too valuable. I'm surprised you made it as far as you did, you were doomed from the start." That was not what he expected to hear from Sunshine.
"Now that I've got your attention, give me your hand." Will was still thinking about the unexpected analysis of a con gone wrong that he almost didn't react. Still, he managed to do as he was asked and Cyrus handed him something red and silver and glittery. The next thing he knew, his palm was burning.
"The bloody hell was that for?" he said, dropping the pin and clutching at his hand.
"I'm sorry. It wasn't my first choice of how to teach you. Like I told Anastasia, I've learned to read people. If told you that silver was toxic, how long do you think it would be until you touched it yourself, just to see what it would do?" he said, picking up the pin. He'd known Cyrus' weird friendship with the Queen would be no good for anybody, even if he did have a point. "Do you want to know more about being a genie now? If you don't, I can leave you to figure things out on your own, which I can tell you, is not pleasant."
"Alright, fine." Cyrus was determined to teach him how to be a genie, and evidently he was going to learn to be a genie whether he liked it or not. "What's on the lesson plan?"
"Like I just showed you, silver is rather unpleasant. Iron affects any magical being and I'm not giving you firsthand experience. Silver burns. Iron is death. You're going to have to be careful about that, there's a lot of iron or silver goods that get painted or decorated and look nothing like iron or silver so be careful about metal. If you don't know for certain what it is, don't handle anything metallic if you can afford it," Cyrus said. Will was pretty sure he could remember that. Don't touch silver, don't touch iron.
"Never had the money for silver anyway," he said, still rubbing the burn.
"That's only going to make it worse. Here, allow me," he said, taking a vial out of his pocket. Upon noting the face Will made at him, Cyrus added, "That was cruel and I'm sorry, but it was a last resort to get you to listen. Try this, trust me, it helps."
Will took the vial as though it were a bomb and tested a bit of the pale blue salve on a patch of unhurt skin and upon noting that nothing terrible happened, rubbed the rest of it onto the burn.
"Stuff's amazing," he said as the blisters cooled.
"It won't do anything for long term exposure or large wounds, but for the little things, it's practically magic," Cyrus said, not without a bit of smile. "Back when I was looking for an engagement ring for Alice, I went through it like water. I think Mrs. Rabbit was sick of me by the time I asked her how to make it. I can show you if you like."
"If it's all the same, let's skip that." Learning how to take care of common Genie injuries implied that he would be a Genie for longer than he would like. "Can't make microwave soup, don't think potions wouldn't go well."
"I'll explain later." It would be like explaining the flashlight to Alice all over again and he at least had a vague idea of how a flashlight worked. "Let's just leave it at, I'm a shit cook."
"I'm sure you're not that bad, but we should be moving on, time is of the essence, and speaking of essence, djinn are beings of…"
"Genies, just a different word, but no matter." Cyrus began to pace as he spoke, Will had to admire how he could move across the dead leaves with barely a sound. "Djinn are beings of fire. You are, for the most part, immune to temperature changes, fire, anything of that sort. It's the only thing that I'm going to miss if I'm being honest. I never realized how cold Wonderland is," he said, tugging his coat a little closer, in spite of the fact that in Will's opinion, it was perfectly warm.
"Alright, so fire can't hurt me, iron and silver can, anything else to worry about?" If there was, he figured he'd find out quickly without Cyrus' help because the Universe worked in mysterious ways, most of which conspired to hurt him.
"You can be beheaded, but that will kill just about anything and from what Ana's," Will grimaced upon hearing that name, "told me, beheading doesn't work normally in Wonderland, so for all intents and purposes, you're otherwise immortal. You're likely to develop claustrophobia, and I'd warn you that it is very difficult to ignore a direct order from your master, but you've already found out about that and made it difficult for …"
"I can't help it," he said, rubbing at one of the gold bindings. "I don't wanna do what she's tellin' me and I'm not goin' to just stand there and do what she's sayin' with a smile. I know you can tell me how to get out of that, so don't tell me to just listen to her."
"Will, I don't think that…"
"I know you know how, because Alice would get annoyed with that real fast, so please? You may like Ana, but frankly, if I never see her after this whole thing is over I'd be happier than I've been in my whole life."
Cyrus stopped pacing and sighed before speaking. "Alice could get rather frustrated with me when she thought I was blindly obeying her, but you're just going to be contrary for the sake of being contrary." He couldn't miss the dark look in the former genie's eyes. "My brothers are in Jafar's possession and Wonderland's in danger. I can't risk you putting either of those things in jeopardy to spite Anastasia."
Will took a step towards Cyrus, straightened up a little, grateful that if this ended badly, there was nothing that Cyrus could do to hurt him. "I don't think you understand, because of what she did to me, I let the only person in Wonderland madder than the Hatter take out my heart. I want nothing to do with Anastasia, but I'm not about to let Alice down. I've lied to a lot of people about a lot of things. I wouldn't lie to you about that"
For a moment, the only sound was the wind through the leaves and the beating of his heart. Then Cyrus shook his head, shrugged, and said, "Do you think you can avoid doing anything that would put anybody else in jeopardy for the sake of doing what you want?"
"I'm insulted that you trust the judgment of somebody who until very recently planned to use you to break the rules of magic and let people suffer for years while she played with a crown over somebody who helped you and Alice get back together."
"Fine. How are you at thinking in metaphor?"
"Good as gold." Will took a step back, putting the comfortable distance between them again.
"I see." Cyrus gave him an appraising look. "Well, practice makes perfect. If you can think of some way, even in the most bizarre and completely unrelated way, that you are doing as you're told, then you can get out of doing it entirely. You can learn to ignore orders, anything other than a direct order you can just say no, it's quite freeing actually, but wishes are a different matter entirely. You know the rules about wishes right?"
"Um…I can't make anybody fall in love and…um…" Alice had explained them to him at one point, but he didn't remember much what she said, beyond that rule. While that was very useful, given who was currently calling herself his master, he didn't think it was anything other than a fluke that he remembered that in the first place.
"Impressive," Cyrus said. Will wasn't sure if he was being sincere or not. Normally when people said that something was impressive, they weren't all that impressed, but this was Sunshine. "Better than some of my masters. There are four rules to genie magic, you already know that I…you, sorry force of habit, can't make anybody fall in love. You can't bring anybody back from the dead, you can't change the past, and you can't kill…"
Will didn't hear what Cyrus said after that, didn't see Cyrus anymore either. Lizard was falling all over again. He caught her before she hit the ground, felt her heart beating too fast, her breath catching. Then he was back in the bottle, trying to get to her, but trapped. She was alone, feeling unloved, dying on the floor because of a slip of the tongue.
"I just wish you could at least feel something for me."
When he was able to speak again, he said, "Didn't think you had lying in you." Will shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and leaned against the tree again, forcing the rough bark into the back of his neck. At least the bark felt like something. When he'd cut his forehead on the bottle's grating, he'd hoped that the pain would be enough, but it wasn't. Feeling nothing about Anastasia, was one thing. Lizard didn't deserve that.
"Will, I'm sorry, those are the rules, Ana can't just wish for Jafar to die…"
"Don't tell me that this magic can't kill. I've seen it kill," he said, his nails digging into the palms of his hands, trying to force down images of her on the floor with glassy eyes. She'd died feeling like nobody cared, like she wasn't worth it. "It shouldn't have happened to her. It was just a slip of the tongue. You don't think of how often you say wish. Just before the rabbit showed up to get me, I wished for a cup of coffee that wasn't burnt."
He stepped away from the tree, started pacing, he knew he was rambling, but he stopped talking, he'd start thinking. "I've wished that my table would go away when I stubbed my toe. I've wished Alice would stop dragging me into stuff. Hell, when you showed up here, I wished you would go away. Nobody thinks they're going to get everything they wish for, so people just say they wish for things without thinking about it. I wish Lizard never found that bottle, and that's one wish I mean every word of."
"Will, calm down. You're not going to help anything acting that way. Jafar has people looking for us and you're going to attract attention…" He could barely hear Cyrus, just gasping, dying breaths.
"I don't know how Alice kept from sayin' it, but she's Alice and she had you to explain everything to her 'stead of me. You were a better genie than I could ever hope to be. You're teachin' me all this stuff and I could barely remember one of the rules and I'm probably going to forget everything you've told me once we get back to camp. She deserved better than me. She should have had someone who could make all of her wildest dreams come true and I killed her because I..."
"Will." Cyrus grabbed his arm as he paced by, stopped him in his tracks. His voice was low, level, the same tone he'd heard people taking with panicked animals. "Stop. You need to calm down. What happened happened and you can't change that and you couldn't have done anything to stop it."
"I should have…"
"The third wish almost never ends well for the person making it and you know that better than anybody." The silence following Cyrus' words was deafening. When he spoke again, his voice was far gentler. "Whenever it does, it's because the person making the wishes won't live long enough to enjoy it. The only reason I tried to talk Alice into it was because she was dying. I've granted a lot of wishes that I've regretted. It does no good to dwell on them. I'm not telling you to forget your friend, but if we want to defeat Jafar, we need to focus on the things we can fix."
"I still wish I could have told her she was fine just as she was," he said, staring at the ground. He could remember her smile as she ducked out of a crowd, somebody else's wallet in her hands, her hat tipped at a jaunty angle. She'd loved that hat. He should have told her it was a nice hat.
They were both silent for a time, then Cyrus said, "We all have things we wish we could change Will." His voice sounded a bit more strained than it should have. The worst thing Cyrus had probably done of his own accord was trip over a kitten. "I had a mistress a long time ago, she was sadistic and creative. I never wanted to grant another wish after that."
He sounded tired, but he'd been playing the genie game for who knows how long. Will knew that if he had three wishes of his own and didn't know the whole thing about the simple wishes being more reliable thing, he'd wish for a private island, a pile of money, and nobody to bother him, and he was only a cowardly, selfish thief. Cyrus had seen people with their hearts desires at their fingertips and he was probably happy to never do it again.
"I bet meeting your next master was fun. Having to go through the whole, "Mistress Mine," song and dance routine with that stupid smile on your face." He could barely get through the Queen without wanting to gag.
"I thought I was going to be sick." There was something about the way he was speaking, measured, carefully choosing his words, that led Will to suspect that he wasn't hearing the whole story. "But that look you had when you told Anastasia that she is your mistress, I never did that."
"What?" The stupid grin was not in any way, shape, or form voluntary.
"That's not normal. It could just be the bottle getting used to a new inhabitant, but I've never seen another genie do that." It was official, the Universe hated him.
"Wonderful. Great to be unique." He rolled his eyes and looked at the fading light filtering through the leaves. "We should probably head back. It's getting late and sleeping tonight's something I'm looking forward to."
"Good. That will give me enough time to explain wishbones, falling stars, wishing wells, Solomon's Seals…" Cyrus said as they started walking back towards camp. Will had to admit, as annoying as Sunshine could be, there was something about the good hearted energy with which he picked apart human stories, and the way he firmly believed that Will could remember any of it, that made him perhaps a little less annoying than he was earlier.