Disclaimer: Mmmm, possibilities… Think Jonathan Stroud would surrender Barty to me for a while? No…?

Author's Note: I liiiiiiiiive! XD And as long as I live, I shalt always be full of fun-fun ideas. :3

Warnings: Slash! BartyxNathaniel. Language. Crude jokes and sexual innuendo. Possible OOCness. Takes place juuuuust before the beginning of Ptolemy's Gate.

Dedication: For Unknown Fool, whom I love! (By the way, sorry about the touching scene in Thorn. As much as I'd have loved to add more, this IS you know? Best be careful. In any case, I hope you enjoy this one! XD)




John Mandrake prided himself on many things: his skills as a magician, first and foremost, followed closely by his masterful handling of both high-leveled jobs and djinn. Then there was his relationship with the commoners, his personal appearance, and charm—all of which he made sure remained in the best possible condition. He was also pleased with how he handed himself socially; or, more specifically, the precise way he scheduled all his daily activities: down to the last detail. Everything was decided at least a week in advanced, double-checked, and put smoothly into action. Spontaneity was, if at all possible, avoided, because it was something that he hated—along with drama, meaningless jokes, sarcasm, and disrespect.

Or, in more concise terms, every "charming" quirk of his servant Bartimaeus. Rather, of Ms Piper, as he was supposed to be at the moment.

Speaking of…

With gritted teeth and a furrowed brow, John shot his djinn a bitter sideways glance. In his tightly gripped fingers, he could feel his pen bend in a dangerous, unnatural way. "Really, Bartimaeus!" the teenager ground out, forcing his twitching eyes back upon the documents strewn across his desk. "Is that all together necessary?"

Beside John's straight-backed chair, Bartimaeus—in the guise of Ms Piper— studied himself in his master's scyring glass: pouting his lips, flipping his hair, and admiring his exaggerated curves. After a short pause, the djinn rolled his puppet's shoulders back, puffed out his feminine chest, and watched with amusement as his bosom grew. It was like watching balloons fill with air. "Necessary?" he replied coolly, assessing his expansion in the mirror-smooth surface of the bronze disk. "Don't be thick! Of course it is. Just as your puny little athletes train to run or play, we djinn must keep ourselves in top-shifting shape. Think about it! What if, by chance, some vengeful commoner came bursting through that door. Had I not warmed up first, would I have been able to knock the poor sap out with a pair of bazookas?"

Ms Piper rolled back and forth on her delicate feet, jiggling dramatically.

In response, the young man wrinkled his nose, spinning in his chair to face the djinn with disapproving arms crossed over his chest. "Now that's just vulgar!" he snapped. "Not to mention I know you're lying through your teeth! You're just trying to be a pain…and you might want to readjust your suit coat. Your 'bazookas' have just… 'exploded.'"

Bartimaeus glanced down, snorted, and struck a defiant pose. "Obviously you haven't been around much artillery," he retorted with a petty sort of sniff. "That's what bazookas do—they explode."


"Please tell me you're not being serious."

"Me? Serious? Certainly not!" Regardless, the djinn sucked the extra anatomy back into his chest… which was good, considering their growing proximity. John had been critically considering scooting backwards a few feet. "Really, Johnny. For as long as we've worked together, you don't seem to know me at all."

"If only…" Mandrake muttered under his breath, returning to his unfinished work with a muffled sigh. In the back of his mind, he began praying fervently for Ms Piper to recover from her bout of the flu: he couldn't take much more of this. "Now, why don't you try the serious shtick for a change and bring me the most recent war report from America. It's in the file cabinet."

"If you know where it is, why don't you get off your lazy bum?" Bartimaeus asked cheerfully, settling his own behind on the edge of John's desk. As he did so, he shifted appearances: Kitty Jones appeared in Ms Piper's place, examining her long nails and weighing her breasts in each palm. "What do you think?" he added in afterthought, frowning in a scrutinizing sort of way. "Do these look even to you?"

Again, he thrust his chest out; again, John pushed away with an indigent yelp. "Bartimaeus!" he roared, face hot and fists clenched, "Your juvenile attempts at distracting me are not helping your case! I gave you this job because you said you've felt peaky—but I will not hesitate to send you to war if you keep up this charade!"

Kitty's face sneered at him, pink lips carefully glossed. "I don't think I'm the one who has to worry about keeping things 'up,'" the djinn purred, crossing the girl's long, nearly naked legs. For some reason, he had decided to dress his puppet in a red and white striped bikini. It was a pattern that, in some distant portion of Mandrake's brain, reminded him of peppermint candies. "Oh, don't look at me like that—I know perfectly well how you humans work. And let me tell you, I've seen foliots with more class."

John's scarlet face darkened further. "I'll have you know," he growled, moving back to his desk with short, clipped movements. Within seconds, he had returned to mulling over paperwork, "that I am not in the least bit… aroused… by your crude jokes. I am nothing but annoyed. Now, I'm going to finish this report even if it kills me, so you'll have to try much harder if your plan is to distract me until I dismiss you from pure irritation."

With that, he plucked a new pen from the pen pot on his desk and poured over his papers, forehead furrowed in concentration.

Bartimaeus, for his part, did not speak as his master ranted, deciding instead to fume in silent rage. Kitty's pretty face darkened considerably, her bosom ballooning in fury.

But strangely, when the demon next spoke, there was no anger in his voice.

"Distracting?" the girl repeated, in something very close (ironically) to a purr. She shifted a little, so that her weight rested on a curved hip. Slim fingers toyed with a discarded—and dangerously bent—ballpoint pen, tapping it pointedly against her full lips. "You think I'm trying to distract you with this guise?"

In an instant, the djinn had flopped backwards, arranging Kitty's toned body and long, dark hair in a sexy, sprawling mess on the top of his master's cherry wood desk. "Why?" she pressed in a near-whisper—voice husky with suggestion. "Do you find this… distracting?"

A pause.

John wordlessly frowned, flipping through three pages of documentation. A finger skimmed down the handwritten letter; he hummed, nodded, and continued reading without having heard a word of what Bartimaeus had said.

Bartimaeus scowled. Apparently he doesn't.

Never having been one to run away from a challenge (unless the situation was particularly dire) the djinn tried again—this time in the body of a voluptuous Grecian princess he had met during his stay in Egypt. Her tanned body, nearly naked in a wrap of sheer azure gauze, arched and writhed on the desk; she cast the Information Minister an inviting look from underneath charcoal-black lashes.

But once again, John was unimpressed: both by her golden curls and her ocean-blue eyes. The way her legs flexed, the way her manicured feet ruffled his hair, seemed to bore him, too. Rather, he simply pushed her limbs away, too busy penning the rough draft of his next report to notice them.

In an instant, the princess had bolted upright and shot the teenager a furious glare, a scowl marring her beautiful face. "Do you know who I am?" she demanded, sounding sullen. Her skillful feet kicked, pounded, and flailed until each and every distracting paper had fluttered to the floor.

Mandrake didn't even blink: he pulled an extra copy of the documents from the first drawer of his desk. "An excruciating pain of a demon?" he offered in response, only half paying attention as he crossed a few t's and dotted an i.

A knee connected with the bottom of the boy's chin, jerking it upright with surprising force. John stared blandly at the puppet before him. "This is the form of the magician Medea," Bartimaeus explained in a tart tone. As he spoke, he ran the puppet's hands up and down the woman's body, making a living display of her. "And had you treated her like this when she was alive, she would have set fire to your skinny little arse."

"Only if I cheated on her with another woman," John said dismissively, pulling away with a roll of his eyes. "Now would you mind moving your thigh? I need the paper you're crushing beneath it."

Medea gasped, a hand leaping to her heart. "Are you saying I have fat thighs?!" she shrieked, her voice a furious falsetto—and then Bartimaeus was speaking again, tut-tutting his young master. "The nerve! No wonder you're so unpopular with the ladies."

Apparently that goad didn't merit a reply; John had stopped speaking again.

Medea glowered. "Well, you're no fun," she complained, hitching up her gauze a bit and playing with the ends. "Really, is this no distraction at all? Or is it just that you wouldn't know sex if it danced up naked and kicked you in the shins?"

Still nothing. And Bartimaeus, unused to his clever taunts being ignored, was starting to get annoyed. In his irritation, he reverted back to his preferred form: Ptolemy, wearing nothing but a tunic. Well, if it wasn't going to matter anyway

But even as he was thinking it, Bartimaeus noticed a slight change in his master: the dark eyes that had had no problem with a woman's bare thigh were now wide and flustered; the red face was darker than before, and not from pent up frustration. The sure hands faltered; the teenager swallowed.

All of this happened in less than a second. Then it was over, and John's regular demeanor was restored.

It was already much, much too late.

"Ooooooh!" Bartimaeus sang, Ptolemy's night-black eyes sparkling with impish delight. "Now I understand! Johnny boy, I had no idea—and to think, I had been about to soil my essence by masquerading as that Jane Farrar I hear so many wonderful things about!"

John did not speak—but his stiff body was screaming. Nothing very polite, either: his gaze crackled like a ferocious inferno; his already pale hands were ghost-white and trembling as he clenched them into fists. His glare would have sent a lesser djinn scampering.

But not Bartimaeus. No, not Bartimaeus, Necho of Jerusalem, Sakhr al-Jinn of al-Arish, N'gorso the Mighty, Serpent of the Silver Plumes, Wakonda of the Algonquin, Rekhyt of Alexandria! He who had spoken with Solomon, built the walls of Prague, and defeated greater spirits with his sharp tongue alone!

He was much too cheeky for that.

"Hey, now, don't be like that," Ptolemy consoled perkily, twisting to lay stomach-first on the desk. He propped his head up in his hands, offering the magician a winning smile. "You're not the first of my masters to prefer the magic wand to the enchanted well, if you get my meaning. Why, back in Rome, I had this one master who—!"

"Shut. Up."

The command was a sharp whisper—dangerous and cold. It even gave Bartimaeus a slight shock: Ptolemy's round face tilted in surprise, lashes batting impassively.

Then the djinn smirked.

"Oh, so now I'm worthy of your attention?" he drawled, still as pleasant as could be. His legs bounced lightly to an unheard beat, chin in his palm. "Lovely! And to think, I only had to extract a second deep, dark secret from you. You'd think in this crazy business your birth name would be enough! But no, now I've got your preference in my bag of tricks, as well. Kooky little world, ain't it? Tell me, if our favorite Kitten were alive today, how do you think she'd react to knowing you'd rather yowl at the moon with a Tom Cat?"

John's stony face snapped upon him, eyes alive with the frost of malice as his nails pierced the desk. "I said—!"

"No, wait, here's a pick up line for you!" Bartimaeus continued wickedly, clearly enjoying himself. "'I see great things for us—I've got crystal balls!'" The djinn howled with laughter, sides shaking with mirth.

It was too much.

"Shut up!" With a holler of rage, John leapt to his feet—only just managing to stop himself from the demeaning act of slapping the demon across the face. Still, he had to struggle with the urge to strangle his slave… an act that would certainly do more harm than good.

Bartimaeus—knowing this— fashioned Ptolemy's pretty face into a horrible leer. He then proceeded to blow a loud, wet raspberry in response to Mandrake's temper. "Maybe I don't want to shut up. Watcha gonna do about them apples, Johnny-pooh?" the djinn mocked, batting his eyelashes in a show of fake innocence. "I'm not in a pentacle, and if you even try a spell, I'll reverse it on you! Face it, there's no way you can shut me up! No wa—!"

It was at that point that Bartimaeus was successfully shut up. Not willingly, of course, but it appeared that— despite his self-proclaimed genius— the impudent demon had forgotten a few other tricks one could use to silence another. More juvenile tricks. In this case, John had opted to cover Ptolemy's mouth with something:

His mouth.

Bartimaeus froze—from surprise, from disgust, from noiselessly boiling fury, Mandrake didn't know which. But, whatever the reason, he was still… and silent. John took the opportunity to grab the boy's stiff shoulders and pull him closer, forcing him to his knees. The djinn, for whatever reason, complied to this—his body still limp from stunned disbelief.

In fact, it wasn't until a full minute later—after some delightful tongue exercise on both sides—that Bartimaeus seemed to snap back to life, blinking twice as John pulled smugly away.


They stood there for the briefest of instants: noses touching, breaths mingling, eyes locking and full of words that neither understood or wanted to understand. And then, quite suddenly, Mandrake released Bartimaeus' shoulders. The shell-shocked demon tipped a drunken inch to the left… then to the right. In the harsh lights of the study, the poor sod looked a bit peaky: pale, despite his tanned skin. Maybe even a little green.

John, on the other hand, felt surprisingly chipper. He returned immediately to his paperwork, and found that he was free from all further distractions.