I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face
Tony Nelson was silently fuming as he drove down the avenue. This time Jeannie had simply gone too far. When he had left for work that morning Jeannie was nothing if not supportive of him going to the moon. She had her reservations, sure. She was worried about his safety, of course, but what American wasn't worried for their astronauts' first mission to the moon? And she certainly hadn't given him any reason to believe she was going to try to stop him.
That morning she was proud of him. She kissed him, with extra warmth, and reminded him to be careful. He closed the door quite content, only to find that she had blinked herself out beside him. She threw her arms around him and kissed him again, this time with more passion than warmth, and he left feeling especially giddy. But somehow, before even lunchtime came around, she had all but ruined his chances of getting to the moon.
What bothered him the most was how quickly his seemingly perfect world had come crashing down around him.
The past year or so with Jeannie had been nothing if not wonderful. He had given up on trying to get over her. He had stopped trying to find someone else. He had stopped going out with other girls. Instead, he devoted as much of his time as he could to her and the results were better than he had ever imagined. Without Jeannie worrying about losing him to someone else, Tony's life had considerably less stress.
Really, the only time Jeannie had worried about keeping him to herself within the past year was when he purposefully talked about other women to get her to change her plans. When she tried to sell their house (even when he was angry, Tony loved the thought of "their house") he let her believe that an apartment would only cause him to lose interest in her because of all the beautiful women walking about. And when she started the campaign to get him elected as governor, he told her the only way he would marry the girl in the stereopticon machine was if he became governor.
Honestly, Tony wasn't interested in either the woman in the machine or the women in the apartment complex. He was only interested in Jeannie.
It hadn't even been a struggle to forget about other women. He stopped watching as they passed, and found himself rolling his eyes when Roger would direct his attention to a softly swaying, beautifully formed female behind. All he saw was how straight their figures were compared to Jeannie's. Even his most wild, dark, sexual fantasies only contained images of her.
But Tony's passion for Jeannie went much deeper than just the physical. If that had been all there was to it, Tony could have found dozens of girls ready to satisfy him. No, he genuinely cared for Jeannie. He remembered how easy it had been to let Suzie think that he and Jeannie were going together. When the General's annoyingly intrusive daughter just assumed that Jeannie was his girlfriend, he let her believe it, not only because it was the only safe explanation, but also because he loved the idea.
He loved her. He told her now and again, but not nearly often enough, and only when he could no longer hold it back.
Tony loved her.
Sometimes it felt like the words were bubbling up inside his chest, threatening to explode unless he could just scream that he loved her.
But Tony couldn't do that to her. He couldn't keep telling her how much she meant to him and then not do anything about it. So rather than attacking her with affection or bombarding her with confessions of love, he just tried to show her.
When their third anniversary came around, Tony took that as the prime opportunity to show Jeannie how much he cared. He spent weeks thinking and carefully planning their day together. He asked for the day off well in advance, reserved tickets to the play she most wanted to see, reserved a table at her favorite restaurant, and even found a carnival that was going to be in town. The most difficult part of planning was simply finding a present for her. And when the morning finally arrived and he first greeted her, he gave her the first present he had planned to give her. But then Dr. Bellows had called and sent him on that secret mission and ruined the whole thing.
Later, after the whole ordeal was over and Tony was finally alone with his genie once more, he was able to give her the present he had really gotten for her: a large, framed map of the world. The frame was adorned with the Air Force symbol as well as the clusters that designated his rank as major. Tony had pinned the map itself with different colors. On Baghdad, Cocoa Beach, and the island where he found her bottle, he placed a red pin to signify the places she had called home. He covered the places he knew she had visited in blue pins and highlighted some of those places with yellow pins to represent her favorite spots.
When Jeannie saw the map, she had been floored. She loved it, more than any other gift he had given her. Tony mentally patted himself on the back as he saw her wipe away a tear before it shed. That night had been especially wonderful, he remembered. She had popped them both into her bottle so she could find the perfect place to hang her map. Then they sat across from it, holding each other, and enjoying one another's company. She showed him a lot of affection that night. Her kisses were extra long. Her grip on him was extra tight. Her smiles were extra warm. And he knew that he had been successful when they had become so comfortable that they unknowingly fell asleep in each other's arms.
With the goal of simply showing her how much he cared in focus, his attitude toward her changed drastically. He seemed unable to deny her smallest wish and found himself more patient and understanding than ever. And really, just rolling with the punches she threw at him was much easier than trying to stop them.
So he gave into her whims. He let her keep Djinn-Djinn, despite the fact that he hated uniforms. He even helped her get Djinn-Djinn back after she accidentally turned him into porcelain. He would have given her anything, done anything to keep her happy, to keep her around. Jeannie had become a constant in his life.
More than anything, Tony hated when they had to part. The week he had to spend with Roger while she was away would have been hard enough even if he and Roger had gotten along perfectly. Instead, he spent that whole week eager for her return. Even worse than that long week was the week and a half he spent completely cut off from the outside world while working on the modifications on the Apollo 12 capsule.
He had entered Dr. Bellows office one day expecting a normal, routine meeting, and was whisked away in a cabinet. He hadn't even been able to call Jeannie and let her know where he was going. And what was worse, the double that NASA security had cooked up for him was going to go to his house and worry her to death.
Luckily, Tony happened to be on the closed circuit TV when Roger came looking for Dr. Bellows. But that only seemed to make things worse when he came back home. Sometimes at night he still heard her screaming, "Don't you touch me!" and remembered that helpless, horrible feeling of quick and sudden rejection. A simple touch, something that was so easy and familiar between them had suddenly become offensive. When he thought of that moment, he was always reminded what a privilege it was to be able to touch her, to hold her. How something so natural and wonderful as a kiss was an indulgence that she could easily deny him.
Tony's mind paused at the thought. How things had changed! Almost four years ago, kisses were something he loathed to give her. Now they were a gift she gave him, something that he could never turn down.
Something he never wanted her to give anyone else.
It wasn't as if she was interested in anyone else. No, she had stopped trying to purposefully make him jealous. But that didn't mean that Tony had become immune to jealousy. Mrs. Bellows' cousin Homer had certainly been very forward, and Tony found himself wanting to strangle the man until he left Jeannie alone. Wild Bill Barrows had tried on his patience as well. The colossal gall he exhibited by roping her, spinning her around. Tony couldn't help himself when had a chance to save Jeannie from an evening trying to fend off that ape.
Tony's jealousy surprised even himself when he heard that Jeannie was quickly becoming one of the most talked-of stars in Hollywood, without even having made an appearance. He was angry enough that Roger had the nerve to contract her out. It only made matters worse when he couldn't even get anywhere near her. She was his genie, after all. How dare anyone keep her from him! He didn't want anyone to know of her charms, of how inviting her smile was. The caveman inside of him was screaming, telling him to take her away and hide her from the rest of the world. She was his. He didn't want anyone else to go after her. He wanted to build his life with her, to have children with her, to grow old with her.
The thought of children brought a smile to his face despite his determination to remain angry with her.
He remembered the night that Jeannie had agreed to take care of her nephew, Abdullah. They had spent the evening in quiet satisfaction, playing with Abdullah and generally enjoying each other's company. Tony knew, that very moment, that he would never trust anyone else to raise his kids. He wanted Jeannie. And he was determined from then on to find some way to make it work.
Which, of course, eventually meant marriage.
Marriage had been a big issue since the very beginning. The word was since then seldom brought up. Jeannie knew his stance. Or at least, the stance he wanted her to know. But about four or five months ago it had once again become a very hot issue.
Tony had been completely surprised when Roger walked into his house and announced his engagement to Jeannie's sister. His first instinct was that it was all a plot somehow. Which turned out to be true. So he did everything he could to try and persuade Roger that marrying Jeannie's sister would be a big mistake. But Roger, the impulsive man that he was, wouldn't be swayed.
When Tony finally had a chance to speak to Jeannie about the matter and confront her about any tricks, he was equally surprised when she denied the whole thing. He knew Jeannie wouldn't lie to his about that. But what surprised him most during the course of that discussion was how Jeannie despaired over him. He wasn't prepared for her to start crying. He had started the conversation with a steely resolve and found himself weakening at the sight of her tears. When she blinked into her bottle Tony had been ready to explain everything to her. He was ready to let the cat out of the bag and confess how much he loved her. How he wanted to marry her but just couldn't figure out how. How he need her, more than anything else in the world.
But Jeannie had been too upset. And later, he was thankful that she had stopped him. He knew they weren't quite ready to cross that line. He wanted to marry her eventually, but he was in no hurry. If he were to marry Jeannie, he would undoubtedly have to leave the space program. And that was something he wasn't yet prepared to do. Especially now with the moon shot coming up so soon. Before he had ever met Jeannie, his only goal had been to make a moon shot, and now, no matter what, he wasn't going to let her screw that up.
When he finally reached home, Tony jumped from his car. He ran to the front door and flung it open.
"It is for your own good." Jeannie had assaulted him before he even knew she was there.
"Oh, thanks. Thanks a lot," he said as sarcastically as possible, taking off his hat and throwing it to the side.
"But it is for your own good," she insisted again, following him as he walked to the couch.
"I'm not going to the moon. They've replaced me." It was explanation enough.
"Yes, Master, for your own good." He threw his briefcase on the opposite side of the couch and stood there.
"General Schaffer thinks I'm a ding-a-ling. They're thinking of putting me in the statistics section," he said, sitting down.
"Yes, Master, for your own good."
"Don't say that again!" Tony exclaimed, raising himself in his seat. She put a hand over her mouth.
"I'm sorry, Jeannie. This time you've gone too far. Too far. It's over, finished." He said it without thought and only after the words hung there, heavy in the air, did he realize the full truth of them. It was over. And Jeannie was simply going to have to right this wrong or leave. He didn't want it to come to that, but he couldn't keep doing this with her. "How could you do a thing like this to me?" he asked as he stood up, letting his thoughts continue to flow out of him. He started to walk to the opposite end of the couch. "Ever since I got in the Air Force I've been dreaming of making a moon shot. And why?" he exclaimed, turning to point his finger at her. "That's –"
"But, Master –" Jeannie said from behind him, startling him and causing him to scream. "It was for your own –"
"Don't you say it," Tony rounded on her, closing the distance between them and pointed his finger directly in her face. She clamped a hand over her mouth once more. "Don't you ever say that again," he reminded her. "Not ever. Ever."
"It is too dangerous," she said softly, raising her shoulders like a shy and frightened child.
"You're protecting me now," he said simply, frustrated. "She's protecting me…" He turned pace.
"Do not thank me, Master. It was a labor of love."
Tony stopped dead in his tracks.
He turned back to see her smiling with a hand placed over her heart. "Well, I appreciate your concern, but I want you to understand that I can't go on with this any more, Jeannie!" he declared, walking away.
"No, Master!" she responded. "You must understand." Tony sat down, clearly not getting through to her. "If you go to the moon you must expect searing heat, freezing cold, dust craters thousands of miles deep!"
"Well, your chances of coming back alive are only vetch in vetchnaci!"
"Vetch in vetchnaci?" Tony said, his voice raised.
"That is Persian for one in a thousand," she explained.
Tony chuckled nervously. "Look, Jeannie," he said, getting up, "don't you understand that everything you're thinking of, all the dangers and everything, that NASA has taken these things into account?"
"Oh, yes, Master," she said by his side, "but they are only mortals. I am a genie and I cannot protect you –"
"It's called technology!" Tony called over her. When she fell silent he repeated, "Technology!" and walked away again.
"Technology?" she asked thoughtfully.
"Mm-hmmm," Tony murmured in affirmative. Sensing a slight hesitation, and therefore a small glimmer of hope, Tony turned back to look at her.
"Is that a new kind of magic?"
Tony guffawed. "Jeannie, will you help me?" he asked softly, taking a step closer to her. He waited for an answer and heard her tisk. "Please?" he asked, taking another step closer, yearning for her to come back to him.
"Well, I do not know…"
"Please, please help me," he pleaded, closing the gap between them, placing his hands on her arms, and pressing his cheek against hers. He knew the closeness was a rotten persuasive technique. But he also knew it could be his last chance to hold her if things went bad. After a second Jeannie asked:
"May I blink you an extra pair of long underwear?"
He chuckled at her motherly instinct and wrapped his arms around her, relieved that she seemed to be giving in and answered, "Yeah, two if you want." She laughed softly and leaned back into him, rubbing her cheek against his.
"And will you promise not to step in any dust craters?"
"I promise, cross my heart," he confirmed smiling and felt her settling back into his embrace once more.
"Alright, I will help you," she said softly. Tony sighed.
"Good." He held her there for just a second before saying, "Let's go," and dragging her out of the door by her arm.
While Tony sped down the street he did his best to explain to Jeannie what they were going to have to do. She listened closely, and Tony mentally applauded her for her quick adaptation to his militant ways. They entered the base and made it into the experimental room where Jeannie disguised herself as a mechanic. After they went over the plan once more, Jeannie urged him to sit down and relax. Really, all Jeannie wanted was to sit herself on his lap and pepper his face with kisses. And honestly, Tony had no problem with that.
Until Dr. Bellows came in, anyway, at which point he quickly threw her off of his lap and wiped away her kisses. She dutifully walked back into a corner of the room where she pretended to be working on the speakers. After two hours of loud crashes and booms playing in the room, Dr. Bellows declared Tony fully recovered. After he left the room Jeannie turned off the noise and jumped back on his lap, kissing him in congratulations. Tony let her stay there for a while. He loved how proud she was of him, how happy she was that things had worked out for him. But eventually, Tony had to send her home. He kissed her once more, said "Thanks a million, Jeannie" again, and watched as she folded her arms, blinked, and disappeared.
It had been Jeannie's happiness before she left that later tipped him off that the woman who looked like Jeannie and was causing all the mischief must have been her sister. Luckily, he and Roger had been able to diffuse the situation with relative ease. Of course, there were always complications when it came to these matters, but no more so than usual. They had been able to get rid of Jeannie's sister. Now all they had to do was get Jeannie to fix Roger.
So they left the base as quickly and discretely as possible and arrived home a bit earlier than usual. When they got to the door, Jeannie was standing there waiting for them. After she saw Roger in his condition, she quickly set it right with a bat of her eyes. Tony told Jeannie the whole situation and after a bit of friendly conversation, Roger turned down an invitation to dinner because of a date and left the two of them alone. It was then that Tony was able to address her.
"Jeannie," Tony began, looking at her seriously from across the couch, "why didn't you tell me that your sister was responsible for all of this?"
"Well, Master, she did not want any of the credit. And besides, I did not want you to go where you would be in danger," she said, ducking her head.
"Jeannie," he said, taking her hand, "there will always be dangers to being an astronaut. But NASA would never send us on a mission without being as sure as they can that we're gonna come back in one piece." Jeannie looked up.
"Master, I cannot allow you –"
"Jeannie, darling, please," Tony said softly, interrupting her. "My job is important. I love being an astronaut. And I'm good at it."
"You are good at everything, Master," she told him sweetly.
"Well, thank you very much, Jeannie. But it doesn't mean anything unless you let me do it. Now, I won't lie to you about the dangers, but I want you to know that I fully intend to make it back okay. You trust me, don't you?"
"Oh, yes, Master!" He smiled.
"Then trust me on this, okay?" He squeezed her hand.
"Yes, Master," she consented, and rested her head against his chest. Tony responded by putting his arms around her.
"When I get back," he began, speaking softly into her ear, "we'll go out and celebrate. How does that sound?"
"That sounds wonderful, Master," she said excitedly, pulling back to look at him. Then, more gently she added, "I am sorry about my sister."
"Well, it's alright, Jeannie. It's all over now. Just don't keep anything like that from me again," he said, raising his eyebrows at her.
"No, Master. Never." And she kissed him.
His lips answered hers as he pulled her closer to him until their bodies molded together. Right before he lost all conscious thought, Tony was glad that his perfect world had been rebuilt.