A/N: The second but actually first Bartimaeus Trilogy fic I've written, seeing as how I actually wrote it first. Set at some particular point in the second book, but I can't remember exactly where, so sorry. You should pick it up in the text though.
08 SEP, 2010: Revised a little bit. I changed the shitty writing to slightly less shitty writing. Is it better?
Disclaimer: I didn't write the books. I didn't characterize the characters. I only did so further, and in a rather opposite direction.
What would have normally taken thirty minutes for Nathaniel to walk with his hurried, important 'I have somewhere else to be' stride, took nearly an hour with Bartimaeus. Nathaniel tried his best to scowl and look annoyed, but being in such an alien place, without any familiar elements around was robbing him of his sense of importance. The unpleasant discussion of work had been dropped, and Bartimaeus simply talked about whatever seemed to come to mind, in a rambling over-dramatic fashion, while the magician felt content to simply listen. His haughty facade dropped, he ambled the streets next to Bartimaeus and surveyed the sights, letting the demon's voice wash over him like a warm breeze. He was in Prague, after all, with no one but Czech citizens to see him. Bartimaeus, however cheeky he may have been, would still protect him in case of emergency.
"Well, anyway, here I was, flying over by Big Ben, and this afrit comes flying at me out of nowhere! I was completely minding my own business, and he just sends a Detonation flying my way, no provocation on my part at all – oy, Mandrake, you listening?" the boy-demon glanced over at his companion, who had stopped and was watching something intently, feet and face stationary.
Bartimaeus thought about waving a hand in his face, but decided instead to follow his gaze. It pointed (metaphorically, of course) to a couple hidden in the shadows of an alleyway, a detail in the background that Bartimaeus had noticed and dismissed as a threat. Normally, Nathaniel would have flushed and walked past, trying not to let his embarrassment and curiosity show, but now in the safety of anonymity he studied them, tilting his head to the side as if confused.
"Disgusted or fantasizing, Mandrake?" he asked, watching Nathaniel watch the couple.
Normally, Nathaniel would have sputtered, indignant, and made up an excuse before stalking off, the picture of a boy trying to act like a man. Once again, though, he surprised Bartimaeus, furrowing his brow as if in deep thought.
"Neither…it's just…" he started, running his hand through his hair.
"This, this…love…thing. What point does it serve? What purpose does it have?" he asked, flapping a hand at the couple, who were kissing passionately, unaware of the pair examining them.
Bartimaeus opened his mouth, then bit down on his insulting comment. This man was not John Mandrake, cocky magician, speaking. This question came from Nathaniel, the curious teenager deprived of a normal life by his own ambition.
"Well, not ever having been in love myself…" Bartimaeus lied, "I really couldn't tell you. I suppose it is used for happiness. Normally, it also leads to successful reproduction and evolution of the race, but not always. Other than that, I don't see what purpose it serves at all." He tried not to sound bitter, but a wisp of it struggled through and slipped into his words. Luckily, Nathaniel didn't seem to catch on.
The teen took one last look and walked off, looking much disturbed. Without thinking, he had switched back to his hurried pace, Bartimaeus trailing along behind.
The couple had stopped the flow of normal conversation, and neither said anything on the last ten minutes walking back to the hotel, or on the stairway up to Nathaniel's room. Nathaniel normally at this point would be planning his next move and laying out directions for the work to be done in his hotel room, unwilling to waste a single minute of his precious time to frivolity. Today, he just seemed to be trying to escape from something, trying and failing.
He stopped again in the middle of opening his hotel room door for seemingly no reason.
"You know, Bartimaeus," he said abruptly staring at the whorls in the door, "there are times I really enjoy your company." The other boy halted in surprise at this outburst. The boy Nathaniel had struck again. John Mandrake usually kept a better lid on him.
Nathaniel stood facing the door quietly, hand resting on the doorknob, key forgotten in the lock. After a moment of pure silence, he turned the knob and walked into the room, leaving the door ajar.
"You're dismissed." He called back.
Instead of immediately disappearing, like Bartimaeus normally would have, he slid through the gap between the door and the frame, eyes trained on his master unblinkingly. He couldn't help but feel that such a progression in character (no matter how Nathaniel might have felt about it) deserved a reward of some type. John Mandrake was an annoying prick of a human being, but with a little work, Nathaniel could have been likeable. Maybe there was still a chance.
The aforementioned had slumped onto the edge of the bed, fiddling with his wrist cuff. His normally unreadable body language now pointed to confusion and thoughtfulness. Bartimaeus had not seen him so undignified in years.
"Hey, Nat." at this, the boy looked up, mouth open slightly. Nathaniel had always complained about his thin, pale face, and his lanky body, plus the dozens of other small nuances that plagued his figure, but he had the straightest, whitest teeth Bartimaeus had ever seen, and never even noticed it.
"I thought I –" he started.
"I refuse to call you by that poncy, stuck up name you took for yourself in private." Bartimaeus told him matter-of-factly, crossing his arms.
"No, no, it's just… why are you still here? I dismissed you." Nathaniel said, frowning.
Bartimaeus coughed into his fist and scuffed his bare foot across the floor.
"Oh, yes. About that."
"I just ...wanted to say that when you're not trying to be important and classy, you're not so bad either. Makes me want to main you less." He said softly, sitting on the bed next to Nathaniel. The boy blinked and turned to Bartimaeus.
"I'm a magician, I'm not supposed to be likeable." He said flatly, not knowing exactly what was going on and unsure if he liked the direction of the conversation. But he squashed the Mandrake response back and waited for Bartimaeus to finish talking.
But instead of a snide remark, Bartimaeus looked at him for a minute, then tilted his head back and laughed loudly, unable to stop for several moments.
"Ain't-that-that-truth," he stammered out finally, still snickering shamelessly at Nathaniel. Nathaniel smiled just because Bartimaeus was, even though he didn't quite understand what was so humourous. It was a fact, magicians just weren't likeable people. That was the way it was supposed to be.
"Nathaniel." Bartimaeus said, sounding suddenly serious. His name sounded so odd coming from Bartimaeus's lips, in a way he couldn't place. He said it differently from everyone else, somehow. Mrs. Lutyens, the art teacher, had sometimes said it like that, before she was fired. But Bartimaeus never talked that way. Something odd was going on here, and normally he would have been uncomfortable.
The two were both silent for a few seconds.
"I'm gonna do something, but don't go through the roof on me, okay?" the magician looked at Bartimaeus suspiciously, then nodded cautiously, body alert to any foul play.
Slowly, but surely, Bartimaeus's hand crept up Nathaniel's chest, stopping to rest just below his collarbone, where the gaudy oversized red handkerchief that he hated so much lay. Bartimaeus tugged it out and tossed it to the floor, shooting it a look of distaste. He turned back to Nathaniel, and with surprising strength, pushed him flat on his back. His overly tight trousers and button-up shirt gave a sigh of relief, not having to stretch in ways they weren't made to stretch anymore, and slid in opposite directions, shirt pulling up over his stomach and trousers riding low across his hips.
Bartimaeus crawled onto the bed and slung a leg over Nathaniel's waist, settling himself quite comfortable on the boy's waist.
"You know, you have really nice teeth." He remarked, looking at Nathaniel as if they were continuing the conversation side-by-side. Nathaniel knew, knew that this situation was awkward and wrong and that he should be stopping it instantly, but there was an aura of ridiculousness about the whole event in general that had him half-convinced he was dreaming and fully convinced that he should play it out and see what happened, that this crazy circumstance in this place far away from Britain was removed from real life and would not affect anything beyond the here and now.
"What use are good teeth to me?" he replied, wiggling uncomfortably. Bartimaeus rolled his eyes and leaned down.
"Smile for me." He whispered, sliding his hand through the magician's hair.
Nathaniel blinked, but forced a smile, making Bartimaeus scoff.
"Tut, tut. You're useless. That'll never do." He reprimanded, running soft fingers up Nathaniel's side. Nathaniel tried and failed to hold back a laugh, closing his eyes as he reached for the wandering hand. Bartimaeus slid it out of his reach and instead rubbed the back of his knee, causing Nathaniel to snort and writhe again, trying to reach his hand.
"W-what are you… you doing? Keep your extremities to yourself!" he demanded. The demon stopped and cocked an eyebrow, and Nathaniel looked up, still grinning.
"There. They make you handsome, if you'd bloody smile."
Nathaniel gave the demon a strange look and there was silence for a moment.
"So… is that what you were going to do?" Nathaniel asked eventually, blinking up at the spirit.
Bartimaeus shook his head, amused by the other's naivety. Surely Nathaniel knew there were only so many reasons that people sat on other people in empty rooms and complimented their features.
He leaned down again, his black hair brushing Nathaniel's forehead, but didn't answer the question.
"Bartimaeus…? You're a little close." Nathaniel commented. His tone was calm and inquisitive; he really didn't get it, did he?
His breath smelled like the cinnamon roll he'd eaten earlier that afternoon, with a bit of spice from the sausage.
Finally, Bartimaeus closed the last inch between them, his lips and Nathaniel's just brushing in a prolonged butterfly kiss. He expected a shove, or a withdrawal, or some sort of response, but Nathaniel just lay there, lips unmoving. When he pulled away and looked at the boy expectantly, Nathaniel ignore d him and reached up to feel his lips, frowning.
"You…!…that's…" he stopped, struggling for words. His mouth twisted and his eyebrows furrowed. "That's just like you, Bartimaeus. To steal my first kiss."
Bartimaeus hadn't expected this response. Full cooperation he was prepared for, though it was unlikely, and violent reprimand was a possibility he'd expected too, but he had no idea what to do while Nathaniel was prattling like an idiot.
"I figured I'd be more prepared if it happened, when it happened." Nathaniel muttered to himself. He was over-analyzing it and trying to fit it into a little niche. Like a magician.
Somehow, that made it a lot worse.
"I…I think I'll go now." He mumbled, trying to slide off of Nathaniel.
The magician looked indignant. "Oh, no you don't, Bartimaeus. You can't kiss me and expect to go on your merry way! That's not how it works."his thin, pale hands grabbed Bartimaeus's hips, and though the demon knew he could easily slide away, he stayed where he was, stubbornly refusing to look at the other.
Bartimaeus had been so sure about what was going on. The looks, the way Nathaniel spoke to him, the sudden temper flares and defensive comments. It was so obvious, he thought. But, for once in his confident, apparently complacent life, he was wrong.
Look at him. Now he was rambling. Stupid Nathaniel.
"Bartimaeus?" The djinni turned around sullenly, shooting Nathaniel a biting glare. How dare he treat this like a... well, Bartimaeus didn't know how he was treating it, but all that meant was that he didn't know how to react. Or what to say.
"Why not? Why can't that be the way it works? I kiss you, you get angry, you get rid of me. It's all very simple! Why, why, why must you make it complicated?" he exclaimed, throwing his hands up into the air. Nathaniel looked up at him, face going red with anger.
"Get rid of you?" he snarled loudly, sitting up on his elbows so they were on more even ground. "This was a ploy to make me break contract with you?"
Bartimaeus opened his mouth to speak, but Nathaniel cut him off before he could get a word in edgeways.
"Of course! That's what I'd expect from you. Of course that what this is about. But I thought…maybe…well, either way, it's not going to work. You know why?"
He sat completely up quickly before Bartimaeus could answer the rhetorical question and threw an arm around the dark-haired boy-demon's neck, crashing their mouths together with amazing ferocity. He thrust his tongue in through Bartimaeus's lips, and desperately fumbled to use what little knowledge he had of kissing. Bartimaeus would not win this fight, not even if he kissed well and tasted like coffee and was definitely taking control of the situation from Nathaniel without much effort...
Realizing he was losing the battle, he stopped and backed away, trying to look less flushed and more indignant. He would not think about how much he had enjoyed the kiss. He would not think about how willing he was to let Bartimaeus have complete control of him. He would not think about how he would rather be kissing him again than engaging in stupid arguments.
"Kissing me will not make me break contract, as you can see. I will not be one-upped in this relationship."
"If there's going to be a man in this relationship, it's going to be me." Bartimaeus snarled, tapping the boy's chest. Nathaniel narrowed his eyes and shook his head.
"Did you forget, Bartimaeus? I'm the magician here, so my word is law." He shot back in the same tone of voice, gesturing to himself grandly.
Bartimaeus raised an eyebrow, amused.
"Oh, but Nat. Even you should know that love knows no rules. Magicians have no say-so in romance. Besides, you're a horrid kisser." He purred, trailing a fingernail up the side of Nathaniel's leg. Nathaniel turned his head, trying to hide his flush, and let himself fall back on the dusty bed.
Love, he said? So this wasn't just a ploy to separate the two of them. Could Bartimaeus have done it because he wanted to, and not as a means to an end? Or was it just a choice of words?
"Bartimaeus… is this love?" he asked, lifting his arm to tangle in the djinni's hair.
He grimaced as he noticed the slip of the tongue and tried to think of some way to right it. "I hope not, Nat. You and I don't get along well enough for that." He replied, resettling himself and leaning over Nathaniel so they could talk eye-to-eye.. "And, well… we're stuck in a lose-lose situation. At worst, you'll be corrupted by those nasty magicians in the government, which is likely. At best, that Makepeace fellow will find out and write another hideous play about us." he thought Nathaniel would object to this, but he simply closed his eyes and ruffled Bartimaeus's hair, and the demon wondered what this had changed and why it felt more natural instead of less.
"I won't back out now. Normally, I would say we should cut this off here…but… it'll be fun while it lasts." He smiled and turned his head, and Bartimaeus leaned down for another, softer kiss, for once willing to forget 'normally' and live in the moment, as short as it was.
A/N: Typing Bartimaeus over and over again kicks my ass.
Review, ya'll. Thanks for reading.