Nearly a month passed, Petrov musing as he stared out the window at the moon and stars from his study. He had been busy with the running of his kingdom but had not forgotten what Nikolai had told him. How the genie had known what was going on but then how would he not? Many believed that genies were all knowing creatures and maybe in this case… it was truth. He was intrigued by the idea of this creature and yet…
"My dearest… are you so busy you can't come to sleep?"
Eliza was dressed in a short gauzy gown of teal and green that brought out the blue of her eyes. She had a matching robe over the sleeping gown hinting at her feminine shape beneath as she wrapped her arms around him and leaned her chin onto his shoulder. Her lips brushed his ear and cheek as he hugged her back. A sigh escaped her lips.
"It's the genie… is it not? You were talking about it just yesterday, that same look on your face."
Her tone was teasingly annoyed but he knew she was tired of hearing about the genie. He couldn't help but think about the creature, something in the way Nikolai had given in to him making him realize this was no ordinary genie.
"He could have run, Eliza. He gave himself up willingly because of a woman… because of Katarina. It makes little sense to me to be so foolish."
He wasn't angry but a hint of it bore through, his wife pulling away to sit beside him, blue eyes examining his.
"How is it foolish to be in love, my lord? Would you not give everything for me to be your wife again if you were in his place?"
Her words were sudden, biting almost but he realized she was smiling and in that smile he saw his answer. The genie wanted to see him… perhaps he should make that overdue visit tomorrow. Nikolai had been locked up without reprieve long enough.
Nikolai had been in a kind of stasis, a no where place roaming the confines of the bottle but mostly dreaming of his lost Katarina and the freedom and power he once held to make things as he liked. He sensed a presence as his dreams faded and he was back inside the bottle again, the false room within only a minor comfort.
Genie come forth and greet thy master.
The voice was compelling and more so familiar as Nikolai complied but then what choice did he have, tied to the bottle as he was. It was a strange sensation, one he had never grown used to as he became a kind of nothingness, his body tingling and numb as if it had fallen into a hot spring. Everything was gray with a sensation of weightlessness before his body again solidified outside the body and all senses returned. He bowed his head slightly, arms crossed over his chest but looking at the Caliph as he spoke.
"You called me… Caliph? What is it you wish?"
He wanted to complain that the man had not kept his promise to see him within a week, the past month a lonely one but now he felt relieved to see someone, anyone even this man who had captured him. He held no malice towards him but seemed almost grateful someone had managed to tame him when nobody else could. A force of nature he was and this mortal had found a means to contain his wildness. He was intrigued by that and the fact the man seemed a good man.
"I was curious what you meant before… about finding the thief who I am seeking for those crimes."
Petrov looked thoughtful, Nikolai seeing the wheels behind the man's eyes spin but also noting the skepticism in the Caliph's manner. He would not be an easy man to convince.
"You say he is much as I am… a Genie but he is only a man, Caliph. Flesh and blood as any other, even you. I could easily help you capture him if he is posing as one of my kind."
Nikolai hoped his words would help his case but that look of disbelief remained behind those brown eyes. Nothing was hidden there, honesty abounded that he read anything but freedom there. He waited for the man to speak.
"If you are bound to a bottle for all eternity… how would you help me? I can't make you my friend or advisor. What would you have me do? Carry you about when I need assistance? This would not be helpful and I have no time to waste…"
The Caliph rose, arms crossed over his chest loosely but it was a hint that he was already opposed to working with him. Nikolai had to throw out something more interesting…
"There is a way, Caliph… something that would ensure I could not run from the kingdom and still help. May I?"
He moved slightly closer to Petrov, holding up his right hand and waving it before the man's eyes. Brown eyes followed the motion with intrigue, blinking at the sight before them. It was a bracelet, or the image of one. It bore a symbol something similar to the hex on the bottle and cuffs they had placed on the genie. It was not pretty but more utilitarian like a manacle, the Caliph giving it a glance before looking at Nikolai quizzically.
"What is this supposed to be? I have cuffs to bind these and a bottle…"
Petrov was not interested in the item but Nikolai needed him to be.
"Caliph this is more than just a cuff to bind me to you. With your spell I can only stay in one place and cannot go beyond arms reach. With this, I am bound within the radius of the kingdom or a smaller reach if you so desire. It cannot be broken by any genie and has been used by my kind to hinder mischief. It's foolproof."
Nikolai did what he could to sell the idea not happy to be revealing such a secret but it was necessary if he wanted to search for Katarina and have something other than the bottle as his home. He saw suspicion in the Caliph's eyes, the man moving towards the exit. He wasn't convincing him but he had to.
"I'm not sure I can trust this… or you, Nikolai. Your time will be served."
There was some regret in Petrov's tone despite his firm tone and crossed arms. The Caliph felt pity for him but wasn't liable to budge from his position, Nikolai nodding as he bowed his head and disappeared back into his bottle. This was his home now and for his escape, he was stuck there for the rest of his life.
It was to Petrov's surprise that he found himself confounded three days later by the man who acted like a genie. Nobody could stop him from his spree of thievery so he did what any Caliph would and finally choose the person who could help. The genie might be right, being one who could find another of his kind or a man who acted similarly. He had looked into the bracelet Nikolai had showed him and found that it was indeed a mythical band that controlled genies and made them bound to men by making them mortal. They still had powers but only if their master permitted. He had his alchemist make the band and once it had been created, he went to visit the genie once more. Nikolai was sitting outside the bottle, talking with a guard which was unusual. They turned and bowed to him as they noticed his approach.
Petrov smiled, looking at the guard who stepped aside and then at the genie. Nikolai was smiling slightly, looking a bit happier but mostly hopeful which he found interesting. He hid behind a firm unemotional look which seemed to make the genie curious but cautious.
"You understand what this means?"
Petrov waited to hear what Nikolai would say, his alchemist having come earlier in the day to place the band on the genie and free him for now from his bottle.
"I am under your protection, my lord Caliph. I am to do your bidding and nothing more. At some point you may grant me freedom if I have proven myself worthy. Is that correct?"
Nikolai parroted more or less what he had told his alchemist to speak, nodding his head and adding one more thing.
"You are to follow my direction or return to the bottle and be corked for the rest of your existence. It is your duty to follow my lead. Understand?"
He waited for the genie to reply, Nikolai doing so while rubbing with his right foot at his left leg.
"My lord, this chafes but I will abide by the rules. What is your first command?"
The genie was scratching at the band with his right foot but not trying to remove it. He could do little for the chafing but they did have somewhere to go.
"You will live among mortals. I have a stable with an extra room. It is the only space available at this time. The groomsman has left for a holiday so you may take his place until he returns. It is a simple dwelling but adequate."
The room that Nikolai was given was far more than simple. It was nothing like the lavish dwellings he was used to occupying. It made his cell within the bottle look like a palace as he tried to get out of staying there but Petrov would hear nothing of it, leaving him to get comfortable. The room had a mattress filled with hay, a rough wooden chair and a small bathroom off to the side that was more an outhouse than anything. He wanted to cry but this was his life now and at least he was out of the bottle. Petrov had told him to find clothes, that his dark thieves outfit would be less than desirable while wandering the kingdom in his name. There was a vendor of gently used and peasant clothes nearby so that was what had been recommended. Nikolai sighed, going from his new hovel to the vendor. What more could he do but explore the city as a mortal.
"Darya… I wish to donate some clothing."
The woman was swarthy, older and seemed a kind hearted soul or so he hoped as Nikolai moved closer to see what she was giving away. Her clothing was of a higher caste than even the shopkeeper indicating she was wealthy if not the wife of a Caliph herself. The clothing she lay before the shopkeeper was of a highly sought tailor no longer making clothes. He had admired the tailor while he lived, a man who knew how to live and have a good time. Nikolai moved in closer, seeing that the tunics were what he thought.
"These are amazing…"
He had come closer, smiling at her as sincerely as a genie could but feeling genuinely surprised such clothing as rare as these would be donated. The woman smiled back, a twinkle in her eyes as if she appreciated his interest.
"You think? They belonged to my late husband Ivan."
She handed him a tunic coat, Nikolai taking off his own black leather jacket to put it on. It fit well with only a bit of room indicating it had been for a slightly larger man. She seemed please.
"It looks nice on you. Ivan loved this coat. He wore it to balls and parties that Devon held."
Now he had confirmation, her voice wistful as he felt warmth from the woman's memories. She absolutely glowed with happiness, only a hint of loss present that made him wish he could comfort her.
"So these were made by THE Devon? You and your late husband were lucky to get these."
He tried on a few more pieces, Darya watching and waiting as she helped another customer and they spoke.
"We were. Devon was a close friend of my husband and his parties were ones only a special few were invited to."
Her eyes twinkled and she held out her hand.
"My name is Juno… what is yours?"
Her hands were gentle and soft and she smelled of jasmine. There was an almost matronly feeling to Juno but with hints of something else he could only imagine. He bowed and smiled back.
"Nikolai… Do you have more of these?"
He was too excited to see these clothes he was beside himself, her laughter tinkling and lively as she nodded.
"A whole room of them."
Juno glanced at him curiously and it was as if they were speaking without words, Nikolai helping her to take up the clothes as they left back to her dwelling to see the rest of the tunics. He may have made a new friend today, his thoughts on mortals changing by the moment.
The following day, Petrov rose early to talk to Nikolai and let him know they were going to investigate a scene associated with the thief he was seeking. He arrived at the groomsman's dwelling to find one of his assistant groomsmen sleeping there instead.
"What is the meaning of this? Where is my genie?"
He was worried he had been tricked, looking at the talisman that kept track of the anklet when the assistant groomsman bowed and handed him a note.
"My lord Caliph… he left this note late last night."
The man was afraid but apparently was not smart enough to know what rules the genie was under. Nikolai had possibly fooled him and escaped but the talisman linked to the bracelet said he was still within the realm. Petrov read the note, the fine script neat and clear.
I have moved to the stead of your subject 1 mile away.
Here is a map to my location.
Your humble servant, Nikolai.
Petrov sighed, uncertain what to expect when the genie was making his own rules now. This was meant to be his home among the people and to learn the error of his ways. The Caliph dismissed his assistant groomsman with a warning and headed for the address on the map. When he arrived he was surprised the home was not just older but very nice almost as nice as his own palace. Why would someone allow a strange genie or person into their home? He would have to make sure this was no trick.
"Caliph… We were expecting you. Your friend is upstairs."
The servant woman smiled, bowing politely to him as she motioned him inside. He felt confusion at the unexpected greeting, walking into a grand foyer and beautifully tapestried home. Everything was of the highest quality but it was an older home, many of the items of an earlier time. He glanced around uncertain he was in the right place when an older woman dressed in a beautiful dark gray gown smiled at him and bowed her head. In her hands she held a small dog which she was petting.
"My lord Caliph… My name is Juno. Nikolai is expecting you. Let me lead the way."
She acted as if she were taking him to see an official of the state, Petrov uncertain what was going on as he was lead up an ornate and winding stone staircase to a room that held an even more breathtaking view of the valley and river surrounding his kingdom than his own palace. Who was this woman and how had the genie met her? She left him with the premise of bringing refreshments as he wandered the ornate room. It was full of books like no library he had seen before and antiquities both ancient and obviously belonging to the woman's family. He saw an open door to a terrace and a figure sitting looking over the balcony at the city below. It was Nikolai.
"Caliph… I hope you don't mind that I chose another residence? The groomsman's assistant was cold and tired so I gave him my bed and went to shop as you told me. Juno was nice enough to show me this room and allow me use of clothing that fit what you requested."
Nikolai was dressed in a sleeping tunic hemmed in gold and silver. It was more than he wore to his own bed and he was the ruler of the kingdom.
"So Juno is ok with who you are?"
He knew most people feared or reviled genies in his kingdom, surprise at Juno's absence of either curious. Nikolai nodded.
"She has me help her around the house if that is ok. You asked that I learn to be more mortal so I am cleaning her carriage for her as well as watching her granddaughter."
Nikolai seemed calm when he spoke, smirking slightly as Petrov did the same back. He was surprised that one so cocky would be comfortable watching children much more cleaning.
"Babysitting… that must be…"
He paused as a young woman close to what age the genie was walked by in a gauzy sleeping gown. She looked like a younger version of Juno, a vision of beauty as she smiled at him and walked over to a seat near Nikolai.
Her voice was beautiful and alluring, her eyes moving to look at him as she gave a little head bow then grabbed a piece of fruit from the table. Petrov had no idea what was going on but he had to stop this now. He had work for them to do on the thief, motioning to Nikolai.
"Get dressed. We have work today."
He tried not to look at the beautiful young woman, flushing slightly in response to her smiles. She continued to eat fruit as Juno returned and poured him a cup of coffee. He nodded to her in reply as he sipped at the brew and smiled. This was a coffee he had never tasted before and it was heavenly. Juno smiled at him, offering him more and some fruit which he took. For a moment he just felt like a regular person and not the Caliph of the kingdom but this was even more rich than the foods he consumed and this woman seemed unperturbed by the genie or his presence. He leaned over and whispered.
"You understand… he's a genie."
Petrov was curious why this woman was so different than the other subjects, a twinkle in her eyes as she replied.
"So was my Ivan…"
When Petrov heard footsteps, he glanced up from the foyer and saw Nikolai coming downstairs. The Caliph looked surprised almost dumbfounded but also annoyed. Nikolai gave him a wide grin but Petrov scoffed.
"You look like a buffoon."
Petrov's words were harsh but there was something akin to jealousy there or maybe it was something else. The Caliph seemed upset with him but he wasn't sure why. He had only done as he requested.
"You said I should be amongst the mortals and here I am. What have I done wrong, Caliph? These clothes are classic Devon and he was a master tailor for former royals."
Nikolai had been happy to find these clothes and Juno, her background curious as they had spoken and he'd found her husband had been a genie like him. Petrov seemed unamused.
"This is coffee in the clouds, Nikolai. The beginning of what got you in trouble before. Something for nothing. Things must be earned and won not taken without permission!"
The Caliph was upset or maybe jealous. Nikolai had yet to learn all the moods of this man much more mortals in general.
"I can find the coffee if that's what you request, Petrov. I believe it came from Rome…"
Nikolai didn't finish as Petrov pointed him towards the door and they left. Today was his first day helping mortals with mundane tasks but he was glad to not just be free if only by the bracelet but to be outside the bottle. They rode in the Caliph's carriage to the port near the river's mouth. It was a busy thoroughfare and it fascinated Nikolai as they entered the confines of the harbor, his eyes taking it all in. A beautiful young woman approached them, smiling at Petrov with a small bow of her head then to Nikolai.
It was a brief interaction before they began business, Petrov noticing the genie smiling seductively at the young woman who appeared to be a soldier of the court.
"Come along, genie. We have work to do…"
Something buzzing woke him up, hand feeling around before he grabbed up the device and spoke into it.
"Burke… how are you feeling?"
Hughes voice was it's usual no nonsense self and Peter sat up as best he could his body aching from the cold and fever he was getting over. He looked beside him and saw that Elizabeth had left, her robe at the foot of the bed in a neat pile.
"I've… felt… better, sir. Is… Caf… frey beha...ving?"
His throat was sore and rough, making it hard to speak mostly why Elizabeth had made him call in besides the fact he had a 102 fever. He saw cough syrup and a water jug with a glass on the nightstand as he reached with his free hand to pour himself some.
"You still sound pretty rough. Give it another couple of days. I want you well when we start the next big case. Caffrey is in good hands but I sent him home early for good behavior. He's been doing what tasks we ask him to do with no complaint."
Hughes sounded happy about the situation, Caffrey still a new asset they were accessing to see if they'd keep him around. It was a pilot program at best and if Reese was happy, that was a good thing.
"Thanks. Glad to… hear… it, sir."
Peter smiled as they finished up the call. They had solved the Dutchman case recently, Hagan in prison for forgery. It had been a big win for the department and Neal had been major in helping to get it done. They were still getting a feel for the other, Peter certain Neal was playing him at times doing things behind his back but today he was home sick so he couldn't do more than rest and heal. Thinking of Caffrey was on the bottom of his list although he wanted to call and make sure the young man wasn't doing anything he shouldn't if he had been let off of work early. It was only noon.
"Marshall's office, how may I assist you?"
The voice was crisp and to the point, Peter doing his best to speak clearly as he gave out the anklet number. The operator nodded, giving him her reply.
"That device is located outside of a residence in Brooklyn. Do you require assistance?"
Peter blinked at her words, about to say something when he heard Elizabeth's footsteps coming down the hallway. His wife peeked her head in and smiled then frowned as she saw he was on the phone.
"Hun… you're supposed to be resting, not gabby. The doctor said you won't get your voice back speaking."
She was giving him that look that meant he should comply, Peter giving a quick croak into the cell of "No thanks." and hung up.
"Good… now, I have some soup and crackers for you if you feel up to it. Want me to bring it up or do you want come downstairs?"
She was hugging him, El's hair tickling his face as they kissed but not on the lips. He didn't want her sick too.
His words were just audible as she nodded, kissing him on the forehead then clucking her tongue.
"You still feel a bit warm. I'll get some aspirin for you too. Dressed warmly, hun."
Elizabeth left him as she headed back downstairs. A few seconds later the doorbell rang and Peter wondered who was coming to visit them at 1230. His coworkers knew he was sick but they were busy, his thoughts confused as he tried to remember what he'd just been doing and the dream he'd been having.
Neal… What a… surprise. Peter's resting… chicken soup from June. I'm sure he would love some. Come in.
He could hear his wife talking as he pulled his robe around his white tee and sweats, pushing his feet into warm slippers and stumbling tiredly down the hall and over to the stairs.
"I just wanted to see how he was feeling. Hey Peter…"
Neal was looking at him now, an innocent look on his face as he held up a container and Elizabeth turned and smiled. She gave him a "Hun, be nice he brought soup" look as he nodded feeling a bit grumpy from the sore throat and cold. Peter finished coming down the stairs, moving to the sofa and plopping down tiredly, remote in hand as he turned on the TV. Neal moved to a nearby chair and sat down still dressed in a nice suit possibly the one he had from work.
"I'll bring that food for you hun and Neal, I have sandwiches and coffee if you like."
Peter watched as Neal nodded back, continuing to sit somewhat stiffly in the chair. Maybe he was trying not to wrinkle the suit but he was usually pretty relaxed, the agent curious what was up. He switched the TV to ESPN, a ball game on as he leaned back on the sofa and watched. Neal remained quiet, both men silent as the game played in the background and Elizabeth returned with the food. She seemed to notice their dilemma but didn't say anything, going back to putter in the kitchen with a word that she would be back to check on Peter in a few minutes.
"I never realized how much paperwork the FBI does in a day."
Neal had thrown that out there randomly, a petulant sound to his voice but it seemed more forced than anything. Peter ate his soup, crunching the crackers as he dipped them in the broth. After a moment he replied.
"That's… the job."
Peter glanced up at the younger man, blue eyes watching him curiously before they were silent once more. They were still relatively strangers but after the Dutchman case, Neal was coming over to their house more and more. He wondered if the con was lonely, watching him shift in the chair a bit and get more comfy despite the suit.
"Your wife makes a great chicken salad sandwich, Peter."
Neal was taking another bite of one of his two sandwiches, smiling and looking rather pleased with himself. There was a sense of uncertainty but he was smiling despite it. Peter turned the TV off and sighed.
"What's up… Caf… frey?"
It was obvious the young man was there not just to visit but for something else. At least it seemed that way. He saw those blue eyes widen in surprise then a queried look on Neal's face.
"I just… Jones was wondering how you were doing. I didn't know Hughes would send me home early so I told him I'd ask."
Neal spent the rest of the day puttering around with them. When Peter went upstairs around 3 PM to rest again, he could have sworn he heard the con and his wife talking quietly below, then giggling about something then quiet. He was too tired to fight the man's presence, going back into the oblivion of sleep. It was before he woke up a few hours later just before 7 PM that he realized what he had been dreaming about earlier. Elizabeth had been watching and old movie musical last night, Kismet or something like that. It had to be the reason for his odd dream.
"Peter likes you, Neal. Just give him time. Trust isn't something given out by anyone on short notice. Just be patient…"
Elizabeth's voice was kind, gentle as he drew closer to the kitchen and the two people within. His wife hugged him and felt his forehead.
"You feel less warm. Let me make you something to eat, hun."
She excused herself shooing them out to the living room as Neal followed, helping Peter when he stumbled slightly. There was something about the con that made Peter like him but right now he was still on the fence about how much.
"Thanks… I was about to get going."
Neal sounded tired but mostly his tone was that of someone who felt they'd overstayed their welcome. It wasn't like the young man to act that way at least not since they'd become unofficial partners. Peter nodded.
"Thank you Neal… for the soup and visiting. Elizabeth needed the company."
It was the closest he could think to say and be nice. He was a bit out of it still but it had been nice hanging out with Neal.
"My wish is your command…"
Author's Note: Just a silly little something I wanted to play with. I may add more to it later on but this was always meant to be a kind of "dream" sequence story. Let me know what you think. :)