Author's note: Thanks for reading! Please review.
This is set after the end of Ptolemy's Gate. A few conversations between our favorite djinni and magician as they adjust to their new, and strange, circumstances. Based on the idea that after joining their minds the way they did, their souls created a link that dragged Nathaniel to the Other Place along with Bartimaeus after his dismissal.
Their minds had melded. They could hear one another's thoughts. Their individual actions affected the same body. They were two in one, one and together. They were made stronger by their bond. It was not a bond to be easily severed either: their souls had linked in a way that neither magician nor djinni had predicted.
That is why, when Nathaniel made his last gallant move and dismissed Bartimaeus—saving his servant from his own gruesome fate—Bartimaeus' soul was not the only one to go. There was a second soul, a kindred soul, that decided to tag along for the ride. Quicker than either of them could think, they found themselves submerged together in the pool of essences of the Other Place. They retained their separate identities, but they shared the same substance: somehow they were still one being but made of two conjoined souls with individual powers and memories. Neither was sure how much time had passed—time was rather ambiguous in the Other Place—before Bartimaeus snapped the stunned string of silence suspended between them.
"Those were some very nice words down there, Natty boy. I started to choke up a bit. No really! I was getting all weepy at the end there. Especially the part where you insulted me like usual. It really warmed my heart. Though, if you'll pardon my saying so, in light of the current situation in which we find ourselves, I'd say that the dramatic sentimental speech was a bit unnecessary."
"Just a tad bit."
"Just a teeny weeny tiny tad bit."
"I said shut it! I'm going mad enough in this... place as it is, without you babbling away at me." It was true. The strange atmosphere was already making Nathaniel highly uncomfortable. The essences were kind of itchy, and he felt woozy just looking at the swirls of blue gaseous liquid. "Why'd you pull me into this chaotic mess anyways?"
"Excuse me? Well isn't someone being a bit ungrateful. Might I point out, Mister High and Mighty, that if you were not here right now you wouldn't exist anywhere at all. You'd be dead. Dead as a doornail and six feet under (metaphorically of course, since your body would have been blown to smithereens first). Probably no yellow flowers planted on your grave either- don't expect that much of anyone would mourn you-"
"Alright, alright! You're... right. I'm sorry. I'm... grateful for your rescue. But really, how'd you do it?"
"What, bring you here? Uh, yes, well, that... was a result of my erm... highly skilled and clever maneuver to... erm..."
"You didn't do it intentionally, did you?" he stated dryly.
"Well now that... is all in the eye of the beholder, Nathaniel," was Bartimaeus' grand and romantic reply.
"Thank you, I thought it was rather poetic myself."
"No, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not... whatever you were talking about."
"Ah. Is that why you look like a balding three-headed squid to me then?"
"Shut up." If he'd had eyes, Nathaniel would have been glaring at the cheeky djinni.
"Oh, no I see, you're just struggling with the concept of formlessness, aren't you? That's just a pitifully sad attempt... Kitty did much better on her first go at it. She had a perfectly shaped blob of herself created quicker than you can say 'Parliament has fallen and a commoner girl saved my life'."
"She did?" he exclaimed, envy coursing through his... goo... (Goo=the essence equivalent of veins in a human body? Nathaniel pondered momentarily, becoming queasy all over again.)
"Oh yeah. Cross my swirls and hope to be summoned. Now, I could assist you with that... beast you're making, if you like. Kitty didn't need any help, but I understand if you're less capable than she is-"
"I am not any less capable than her!"
"Ouch. Those are some very fiery words, you know. Take a deep breath. Really inhale some good, clean essence. It'll help cool you down."
"Shut up. I don't need your help."
"If you say so," he replied in a singsong voice.
"...How're you doing that?"
"What, this thing? This feeble, pathetic, poorly-formed imitation of your ugly face?"
"It's perfect and you know it is-" Bartimaeus continued speaking over top of Nathaniel's words, ignoring him completely:
"Focus and skill, two little things that you magicians seem to be in short supply of nowadays I'm afraid. Now back in the good old days, Solomon would have already created a fortress of essence, with a big statue of himself out front, and a big throne for his perfectly formed image to sit on. Gladstone too, that fella you're so fond of, I'll bet he would've mastered this silly, wibbly-wobbly spludgy-wudgy essencey stuff in no time at all."
"Speaking of which, how do you measure time here?"
"Measure it? Why would we measure it?"
"You have no way to measure time passing?"
"Sorry Nat, but you aren't in London anymore. You gotta wake up. Get used to how things work here, because if we're lucky we'll be spending a long period of rest and relaxation here before getting called back down to your world and chained in shackles. So look around you! Feel the essences flowing and mingling. And for the love of God give up on that hideous creation you're making. What is that supposed to be, an arm?"
"It's the mouth!" cried Nathaniel angrily, his pride wounded.
"Right, well... You'll soon learn to ditch that piece of earth-junk, once you start to understand the way we coexist as one entity here. It's a bit different than earth, if you hadn't noticed yet."
"Yeah, I had noticed, thanks. Fat lot of help you are."
"...On the bright side... we won! How about that!" exclaimed the djinni.
"What? Won what?"
"Oh, right, yes. I imagine so. With both of our souls lifting off at the same time, the staff should have released at just the right moment to have maximum impact. No way Nouda could survive that blast."
"Yeah. ... He was fat."
"Yes he was."
"Ugh! What is that?" Nathaniel cried. He had only just begun to get used to the feeling of the Other Place, and now something strange was happening. There was some uncomfortable prickling sensation, as if he was repeatedly getting jabbed in the stomach by an electric fence. But no, he needed to stop thinking in terms of having a stomach, like in a human body. There were no forms here, only essence. Never-ending essences... So what on earth was that horrible feeling?
"Oh, you would be talking about the summoning."
"We're getting summoned."
"...What do you mean we're getting summoned? I'm not even a djinni- OW!"
"You and I are one and the same now, buddy. Better get used to it. And yeah, it gets more painful the longer we stay here. I'll admit, it's starting to bother me too even though I'm used to it. Can we go now?"
"YES! Why haven't we left yet?"
"...You're holding us back, you arrogant little pipsqueak!- Ow. Shoot shoot shoot. Nathaniel! Listen up. Clear your mind. Let go of this world- Ouch! Open your senses—ow—to the ability to—criminy!—leave this place!"
"Alright, alright, I'm trying! Ow ow OW. Is it—God flubbing dang it—working?"
"Just... one more... second..."
With a flurry of new (for Nathaniel) sensations, the two souls were transported from the Other Place to Earth, where they emerged as smoke in the middle of a pentacle. Taking less than a second, Bartimaeus created a simple form for them both.
In order to make the transition easier for Nat, he created two bodies so that their souls could keep separate. One was in the shape of Ptolemy (occupied by Bartimaeus' soul) and one was in the shape of Nathaniel himself (which, of course, was occupied by Nathaniel's soul). Blinking to orient himself, Nathaniel looked straight at Ptolemy's form.
"Alright now, take it easy there. It'll take you a bit of time to adjust."
"I feel wooozy..."
"Yeah, and you sound like you've been smoking," mocked the djinni dryly. "Just shut up for a bit, will ya?"
"Hey! I thought that djinni's were supposed to be able to see more planes than humans?"
"Well I can't!" he crowed triumphantly. "All of that was just baloney then, wasn't it!"
"Look here, you ingrate. I did that for your benefit! Trust me when I say that it would have taken you much more time to adjust if I'd given you my sight. And you'd be retching all over the place, something that I personally have no interest in watching, sorry."
"I don't trust you."
"Don't try my patience, kid. I'm growing all too fond of the idea of making you into a clunky minotaur with two noses and perfect sight. Then we'll see how you get on."
"Alright, fine. I'll just take your word for it. Well... how'd you make us two separate bodies? I thought that djinni could only take one shape at a time?" Ptolemy shrugged.
"Our separate souls help. Besides, ahem, we aren't entirely separate bodies..."
"What the hell is THAT thing?" cried Nathaniel, looking down in horror.
"It's just a minor link, that's all!"
"It looks like we're connected by an umbilical cord!"
"What, and like you can do any better? Would you rather I pull your soul over here and shove us into one mind again?"
"No. That's what I thought. ...Hey, you know, the magician who summoned us had been strangely quiet until now. Why would-"
Their heads turning simultaneously, Bartimaeus and Nathaniel stared at the body in the other pentacle. Or rather- the female body lying on the ground, half in and half out of the pentacle. Her gender was easy enough to see, but she had fallen in a way that they could see only her back, nothing of her face.
"Amateur. That's pathetic, fainting away like that. We weren't even frightening," he said, completely oblivious to the wicked grin that had formed on Ptolemy's face. The Egyptian boy licked his lips slowly and began to crouch, preparing to leap. Finally, Nathaniel turned and noticed with wide eyes what his partner was aiming to do.
"NO! Look, don't just kill her automatically! Don't you have any decency?" Ptolemy stood up straight, shocked, the tension from his crouch fading away. After a moment, he crossed his arms dully.
"... See, you must be kidding and that's why I'll let it slide, but really Nat, you should lay off the jokes. Magicians have never been proficients in the realm of humor. Something about it seems to ruffle their petticoats the wrong way, and trust me: it ain't much nicer on those of us with the ears who gotta listen to your poor excuses for jokes."
"I don't wear petticoats," growled Nathaniel through clenched teeth.
"You don't? And here I was thinking that you had an excuse for all that scowling you do. Now I have no choice but to hold you accountable. You're a dreadful person."
"I'm a dreadful-? No. I'm not having this argument with you. You're not even a person, you're a de-"
The atmosphere dropped a few degrees and Nathaniel could have sworn that he could see ice crystals beginning to form on the walls of the room. Gulping nervously, he realized that if he wanted to survive for long in tow with Bartimaeus, he'd have to master these tricks also. But for now, sweet talking was the only option.
"I'm a what?" threatened the demon darkly.
"A... djinni of... considerable power and prestige..."
"And what about my smarts?"
"Oh, fantastically smart! Really! Clever, and brilliant. I mean, I'll bet you could have toppled the whole British government if you'd wanted, even without Nouda's help."
"Of course I could have!"
"Alright, knock it off. Just watch it. You may be part of me now, but once a magician always a magician, and let me promise you something... I don't have any sympathy for magicians."
"Good. I'm glad you see things my way."
"Well, it would be kind of hard not to, considering the fact that I can only see through the eyes you deign to give me."
"Yeah, and don't you be forgetting it. With a snap of my fingers, I can make you go blind if I want to. Like that!" he proclaimed, snapping his fingers loudly.
"Oops. Wrong finger. I made you a girl instead didn't I. An honest mistake, really. This finger, that finger. One of them controls sight and one of them controls gender. Any self-respecting djinni could have flubbed that one."
"You turn me back into a man right now or I swear I'll make you pay," growled the girl.
"Now that's an interesting point you bring up, Nat. How would one define a man? Is it determined by his age? Or by his maturity? Or by the number of women he's had? Because if it's either of those last two, you definitely don't qualify-"
"JUST TURN ME BACK."
"Sheesh! Alright, alright. Keep your petticoats on, eh? No need to get your pantyhose in a knot. ... There. Better?"
"Oh now, don't be sulky. You know, you actually looked pretty good as a girl."
"Shut up." Bartimaeus winked and licked his lips mockingly.
"Hey, I'm just saying. It's an admirable trait to have. I myself happen to make one fffferocious feline."