tagRomanceHow to Be a Genie: 12 Easy Steps Ch. 06

How to Be a Genie: 12 Easy Steps Ch. 06

byaltar_ashes©

Chapter Six: How to Readjust Your Genie

If she laid very, very still, she could almost pretend that her skull wasn't splitting. Suddenly Cypress knew how her father felt, those mornings after he'd had a wee bit too much to drink. Of course, her father had always had her there to bring him a nice big mug of black coffee. She wasn't even sure that would help this headache, since it wasn't from a hangover. At least, I don't think so, Cypress thought. I can't quite remember what happened last night… It was all kind of blurry, as if it had been a dream. For some reason she thought she was in Avery's bed, but that was impossible; she'd been at home last night, after all.

Hadn't she? Despite her headache, some details of last night were becoming clear. She'd started to feel pretty ill and out of sorts, and then… I ended up here, Cypress realized. With Avery. And then…Ephasia…she came and… It was like trying to cup water in her hands when her fingers were spread apart. Nothing wanted to stay. There was only one thing she could do: talk to Avery. The problem was, she so did not want to open her eyes. Even if the room was dark, it was going to hurt like hell to open her eyes. Not that it doesn't already, Cypress thought. With a resigned sigh, she forced her eyes open, just a bit.

The curtains were shut, so the room was somewhat dim, but she knew it was Avery's. Heck, she would have without opening her eyes; her bed wasn't half this comfortable. Oh, god, I never even changed out of his clothes, Cypress thought, as she tried to drag herself into a sitting position. I hope he didn't notice the cat food… Really, she could have at least changed. Now she must look like some weird obsessed doofus, no doubt.

"Cypress?"

She was halfway sitting when Avery called her name. Fortunately he kept his voice soft, but it still made her flinch a little. Judging by his rumpled clothing and messy hair, he'd slept on the couch again. Cypress noticed that he was holding a large, steaming mug in his hands, keeping it steady as he made his way across the room. He did not make me coffee, she thought, staring at the mug. He doesn't think I was drunk, does he? But it wasn't coffee. As soon as the mug was clutched between her hands, she could smell, ever-so-faintly, chamomile. God bless him, Cypress thought, sipping carefully at the tea. No wonder that Vivian woman is all over him all the time. It isn't just because he's really cute.

"How are you feeling?" Avery asked, keeping his voice low. He sat down on the edge of the bed, a few feet away from her.

"Like utter crap," Cypress said, bluntly. "And…geez, I'm sorry…I mean, to impose on you like this again…"

Avery smiled slightly. "Don't worry about it," he said. "My life has gotten…very interesting, since you came into it."

"How very…diplomatic of you," Cypress muttered. "Look, I'll be out of your hair as soon as I possibly can. It would be especially helpful if one of you could drive me home."

Avery grinned. As long as she kept her eyes low, and didn't open them too much, she only saw one of him. But she was awfully dizzy, now that she'd sat up, and her vision kept blurring. You know, being a genie should be cool, Cypress thought, scowling down into her mug of tea. I should be impressive and all-powerful…not the same as I always am, but with added 'bonuses'. At the very least, she should be able to do something about headaches! Really, she should have known she would make the most pathetic excuse for a genie ever.

"I don't think you can leave," Avery said, his tone suddenly somber. "Don't you remember what Ephasia said?"

"I was trying not to," Cypress said dryly. "I know, I know…but what am I supposed to do? Live here?"

She regretted the words as soon as they came out of her mouth. Come on, Cypress, she thought. Even a Celtic forest god isn't that generous. Besides, who would want to live with her? Looking up, she realized that Avery had not recoiled in horror at her words, as she'd thought he would. In fact, he looked like…well, like he was considering it! Like it might be a good idea, even! It's not possible, Cypress thought. Nothing good ever happens to me. If being stuck as someone's genie and not being able to stay away from them without dying actually constituted as good. She wasn't quite sure.

"You can't leave," Avery said, more firmly. "If you're my genie, I'd be pretty irresponsible if I just let you die."

Cypress rolled her eyes. "I'm not a goldfish," she muttered. "Even if I did stay here, what about school? We only have one class together. What if I can't make it through the rest of my classes?" She paused a moment, eyeing him. "We might have to meet up between classes all the time. Would you really be willing to do that?"

"Yes," Avery answered. He grinned at her expression. "I can't let you die. I'd be doing the world a great injustice."

She went so red that she was certain he could see it, even though the room was dark. He shouldn't tease me like that, Cypress thought, squeezing the handle of her mug so tightly, her knuckles turned white. It's not nice… As she sat there, blushing, she started to remember some of the finer details of the night before. Like kissing him. Oh god, he must think I'm such a loser, she thought, wishing she could crawl into a hole and hide. I can't believe I did that! But wait…had she kissed him, or had he kissed her?

Of course he didn't kiss you, dork, Cypress scolded herself. He's got a hot fiancée, why would he… Her mind scrambled like eggs in a pan when Avery reached over and gently touched her hand. What with her sudden desire to shout for joy, one would think she was a twelve-year-old who'd caught a glimpse of her favorite Backstreet Boy. I'm going to die of embarrassment, Cypress thought. But hey, at least I'll die happy. There was definitely something to be said for having a cute guy invite you to live with him.

"Come on, Cypress," Avery wheedled. "We can figure something out. Do you really want your bitch of a sister to win?"

"No," Cypress admitted, with a sigh. "Okay, then. But just remember, this was your idea!"

*****

Avery looked anxiously up at the clock. Why can't he ever finish on time? he wondered, glancing at his Modern Lit teacher. I won't make it to see Cypress if he keeps up like this. And that was not a good thing; she got really edgy if he didn't make it, or even if he was late. Not that he could really blame her. He'd be edgy too, if he knew he'd die simply because he wasn't hanging around someone all the time. But sometimes Avery couldn't help getting annoyed. Cypress had a sharp wit and an equally sharp tongue, and she tended to use both when she was upset. Then afterwards she would apologize, and he couldn't stay angry, because the way she looked at him made him think of a poor little kitten that was afraid of being thrown out in the cold.

When at last his teacher did finish up, Avery shoved his things into his bag and hastened out of the room. He had no more classes today, but Cypress had a ceramics class, and that was two hours long; she wouldn't last through the whole thing if he didn't get to her. They'd found that five or ten minutes allowed her to make it through about an hour-long stretch, before she started getting dizzy and disoriented. This had them scrambling to meet each other between classes. There was simply no other way; Avery had suggested—jokingly—carrying her in the vase, but Cypress had freaked out over that idea. So on the days when one of them had no classes, or only one, they hung around at school waiting for the other.

He reached one of their meeting places—a little nowhere alcove beyond the stairs, the no one ever occupied—to see her standing, waiting for him. Being a genie apparently came with some benefits, because she no longer needed her glasses. At a loss as to what to do with her hair, now that is was smooth and manageable and she actually could do something with it, she'd thrown it up into a ponytail. Even though she'd brought her own clothes to his place, Avery knew that the Alice Cooper t-shirt she was wearing was actually his. Cypress had a tendency to just grab whatever came to hand. Really, she was as good as having a male roommate.

"There you are!" she exclaimed, when she saw him. He saw her shoulders slump in relief. "I thought you weren't going to make it."

"So did I," Avery admitted, as he halted next to her. "He never shuts up! So…how are you feeling?"

Cypress smiled cynically. "Like a ragged little half-genie with no clue what she's supposed to be doing."

"Well, that's an improvement over yesterday," Avery teased.

To his relief, she smiled. Cypress could go either way with that sort of thing. As long as he didn't tease her about the genie thing, she simply played along, teasing him back. Avery had found, however, that some jokes were simply inappropriate. Like knocking on the bathroom door at six o'clock in the morning, just after she'd crawled out of the shower, and saying "Open Sesame". He'd thought it was quite funny, actually, but Cypress hadn't been very amused. Sometimes Avery thought she must sprinkle Sense of Humor on her breakfast, so she didn't have one until after she'd eaten.

"Well, I'm doing better than you are," Cypress said, the corners of her mouth twitching in the start of a mischievous grin. "You're on your death bed, remember?"

Avery rolled his eyes. "How could I forget?" he grumbled. "It's all I can do to keep Viv from sending an ambulance over."

Since Vivian liked to show up at his place at a minimum of once per day, he'd had to find a way to keep her from coming over. So Avery had phoned her to tell her that he'd caught a cold. He'd played up the runny nose and phlegm quite a bit—there was nothing that would keep Vivian off so well as snot and phlegm. Unfortunately, it was nearly two weeks now that he'd been "sick", and he imagined she was starting to get suspicious. And his landlord had been suspicious from day one. Eventually Avery would have to pay extra rent for Cypress to stay.

"Well, hopefully by next week, this won't be a problem anymore," Cypress said, with a surprising amount of cheerfulness.

"How uncharacteristically optimistic of you," Avery said dryly.

"Not optimism," Cypress said, shaking her head. "Where I come from it's called 'wishful thinking'." She rolled her eyes and flashed a small, self-deprecating smile. "Well, I need to get to class. I'm already going to be a few minutes late."

"I'll be down in the library—" Avery began.

"—if I need you," Cypress finished, grinning. "I know, I know. See you later."

And that was how all their meetings tended to go. Really, Avery thought they were handling the school situation quite admirably. It was the home situation that was a major problem. Eventually, like any deception, the truth was going to come out. Either Vivian would find out for herself, or he'd have to tell her. Frankly, Avery would almost rather she found out herself. He could just get the locks changed on his door and stay in his apartment for the rest of his life. She'd never even get the chance to get within throwing distance of him. Which was good, because she had quite an arm, for a woman.

There was another problem, and it wasn't one he could share with Cypress. That was because it centered around her. Living with her was what could be accurately termed as 'pleasant torture'. Avery found she was actually a pretty fun roommate; she had a great sense of humor, she never bitched when he didn't put the toilet seat down, and the only time she complained about his music was when he wasn't playing it loud enough for her to hear it. Sure, she could be a bit tempermental, and she definitely wasn't a morning person, but she wasn't clingy like Vivian, either. In fact, Cypress didn't seem to like him that way.

Which was the problem. Okay, so Avery hadn't fallen madly in love with her or anything ridiculous, like that, but he did like her quite a bit. It was rather ego-bruising that she didn't appear to return his regard. He'd kind of thought she might, that time he'd kissed her, but nothing had happened at all since. Well, with the exception of seeing her in only a t-shirt or a towel, which was starting to fray Avery's nerves. And, like usual, he thought, sighing, I can't seem to scrape up the emotional maturity to do anything about it. Whee.

*****

It was a really good thing she couldn't focus on her homework anyway. Not that Cypress usually minded Avery's music, but it was a bit of a detriment to her education, at the moment. She couldn't seem to keep her mind from wandering. One of these days it's going to wander off, she thought wryly, and never come back. She chewed on the end of her pen and stared at the page without seeing it. Homework. It was such a normal sort of activity. Far too normal to fit her new persona: that of a genie who is so pathetic, she can barely be out of her "master's" presence for an hour.

Cypress didn't really mind the part where she had to spend so much time around Avery. They was quite nice, actually. But the fact that she had little choice in the matter was irritating. Worse, they now had to lie and sneak around constantly, since there was no way the could possibly explain this to anyone else. The only other person who knew was Cypress' father, and still wasn't sure she was talking to him again. Of course, Avery was doing most of the lying and sneaking, especially to his fiancée. There should be a rule against giving genies to guys who have fiancées, she thought, sighing. Or at least, cute guys who have fiancées.

As if Fate were mocking her, Avery's door opened and he came padding out. At least he turned down his music… Cypress thought, a wee distractedly, admittedly. She was kind of absorbed in watching him walk. He was as graceful as his forest god appearance implied, and there was just something about his hips, when he was standing still. It was utterly ridiculous, really. Guys barely even had hips. Which was maybe part of the problem. There was just something about that sort of slender area… Oh, for cripes sake, Cy, knock it off, she thought, scowling. I'm quite obviously long overdue for getting laid.

"How's the homework?" Avery asked. His voice was partially muffled, because he had his head practically in the refrigerator, trying to scope out some food.

God, he's got a nice butt, Cypress thought. "It's homework," she said out loud. "What do you think?"

"I think you like homework about as much as you like six o'clock in the morning," Avery retorted. When he lifted his head, she saw that he was grinning. "Come on, Cypress, smile. Please?"

She managed a half-smile. "I'll smile more if you make me dinner."

"Oh, sure, I'll do that," Avery said, rolling his eyes. "Tell you what…you conjure up the food, and I'll cook it."

Cypress bit her lip. She didn't really want to get all snippy with him again, but she wasn't too keen on those damnable genie jokes he kept cracking. Most especially because she couldn't conjure food, or at least she hadn't figured out how to. She couldn't do much of anything, in fact. I'd just love to make a ten course meal appear in his kitchen, Cypress thought. That'd wipe that smirk off his face. Except it wasn't a smirk, really, so much as warm, teasing little smile that made her heart flip flop. Which, quite frankly, was worse.

"Hush," she muttered, "or I'll conjure you."

Avery chuckled. "Promises, promises."

He's not supposed to make teasing little innuendoes, Cypress thought, staring hard at the page of her open book. He's supposed to be quiet and sweet, and not make my pulse run an Olympic marathon race. Hadn't he been nothing but quiet and sweet, those first few days? The more Avery got comfortable, having her around, the more he opened up. Cypress couldn't help wondering if he was ever like this around Vivian. No wonder she's on him like white on rice, she thought morosely. I would be too, if he was my fiancée. And, okay, maybe he didn't always seem too happy about having a gorgeous fiancée, but that couldn't be right, could it?

She looked up to see him perched on the coffee table, grinning down at her. Avery held a glass of water and when he raised it to drink, she couldn't help noticing his lips. I'm getting nowhere awfully fucking fast, Cypress thought, dropping her pen and sitting up. Thank god I'm not a guy, or he'd know what I was thinking by now. She sat back on her heels and then hesitated, uncertain what to do now.

"The least you can do is smile for me," Avery said, handing her the glass of water. "I think I deserve that much, what with all the running around I've been doing to protect your cute little genie butt."

"Leave my butt out of this," Cypress retorted, scowling. "I'm certainly not going to smile if you keep making fun of me."

"I'm not making fun of you," Avery said. "Oh, come on…don't be so grouchy."

Cypress folded her arms across her chest and glowered at him, feeling rather stubborn. This usually worked on her father—and occasionally her cat, so long as it wasn't time for breakfast—but Avery was undaunted. His gray-green eyes glowing with amusement, he rose from the coffee table and had gotten hold of her before she really knew what was happening. They ended up knocking over the water glass, but Cypress was too busy fighting for her life to notice.

Okay, so that was exaggerating just a bit. In reality she was shrieking her head off and slapping at Avery's hands, trying to get him to stop tickling her. It was such an underhanded attack, she would never have expected it. And apparently her newfound status as a genie didn't lend her any tickle protection. You would think being nearly six feet tall would lend me an edge! Cypress thought, wriggling like a fish on dry land as she tried to pry Avery's fingers away from her sides. But no, it just makes me a bigger target! Of course, one would also think being a perpetual beanpole would help, but that didn't either, apparently.

"Stop!" Cypress cried, trying to elbow him in the stomach and ending up relatively unsuccessful. "Avery, knock it off!"

She wrenched around in his arms, but all she managed was to send them tumbling down onto the couch. Cypress shut her eyes and braced herself, but Avery's hands on her arms kept her from landing too hard. She opened her eyes to stare at him and realized what a compromising position they were in. Worse, there was something rather…exciting, about getting into a tickling/wrestling match with a really cute guy. Maybe this genie stuff isn't so bad after all, Cypress thought, feeling a flush creeping up her cheeks. I mean, if I'm really being honest with myself, it's absolutely wonderful to be living with someone like—

"Avery!"

That sharp voice cut through her thoughts. She recognized it immediately, and judging by the look on Avery's face, so did he. Slowly, like something out of a comedy move, they both turned their heads to look. Neither of them had actually heard the door open—obviously that had happened while she'd been shrieking—but there was Vivian, standing in the doorway, her hands planting on her hips, and looking mightily pissed off. Now would be a very good time to learn how to grant wishes, Cypress thought, swallowing hard. Oh, we are so dead…

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