tagSci-Fi & FantasyMorgan's Genie Ch. 02

Morgan's Genie Ch. 02


Chapter Two: Intensive Care

The Next Day

Baghdad, Iraq

"Oh thank God. I thought it was gonna be oatmeal or grits."

"Hey, you ain't that busted up," said the other soldier as he placed the tray over Morgan's lap. "And I don't know about you intel types, but torture's illegal in this hospital."

Morgan smiled as the soldier left, then leaned forward to smell her breakfast. "Wow," she said, "I don't think this came off the assembly line." She poured the cup of syrup over her pancakes, swirled the lump of butter around the top, and then pulled off a forkful to put in her mouth. Her eyes closed -- they had removed the eye patch early in the morning -- and her smile became serene.

When her eyes opened again, they turned to Thomas, who had returned to his seat. Every time someone came in the room, he got up in case they would want the chair. But whenever they were alone, he took up the spot again. It was where he was when she awoke. "You ever had pancakes?"

"What, bread? We had bread," he shrugged. "The sauce you are using is strange, though."

She pointed with her fork. "Pancakes, not bread. The sauce is maple syrup. The white stuff is just butter, and the yellow lumpy stuff is eggs."

"I know what eggs and butter are," Thomas said gently.

"C'mere," Morgan told him. She cut off another lump of pancakes with her fork. "Open your mouth," she instructed, and then fed him his first taste of pancakes with maple syrup, along with a long moment of eye contact.

"Mmh," Thomas blinked, chewing slowly. "That is very good."

"I think you're gonna like modern food," Morgan smiled, then cocked her head curiously. "So okay, genie man. Do you need to eat? Sleep? All that stuff?"

He shrugged. "I'll know when I get hungry or tired, I suppose. I haven't been either, though I'm not surprised that I am not tired. I've been in a dream state for hundreds of years, after all."

"But you're not hungry, either?"

"Now that I think about it and there's food in front of me, I am," Thomas nodded. "Famished, actually."

"Well, good, 'cause I'm not gonna be able to eat all of this." Morgan decided to put some scrambled eggs in his mouth, too. "They're probably gonna think it's weird if I order up enough food here for two people, though, so you might have to go find the mess hall and swipe something all on your own. Or just order it, if you can show yourself."

"I can show myself," Thomas said after swallowing. "What is a 'mess hall?'"

Morgan snorted. "Oh man. This is gonna be a constant thing, isn't it? I don't suppose you could just magic up an understanding of the modern world, could you? Maybe pull it out of my head or something?"

Her secret companion shook his head ruefully. "No. It would appear that language is one thing, but knowing what is in another person's mind is quite another. I affected Raneen's dreams by speaking to her as she slept. I can misdirect attention and make things easily forgotten, but that would appear to be the limits of my ability to affect the mind."

"Fair enough," Morgan said. She continued eating, finding herself increasingly happy to have him around. He was pleasant, friendly, cute, adorably lost amid electric lights and modern medicine...and sincerely eager to please her. "So okay. You can make yourself invisible to people and you can heal me, and you can make gold out of nothing. What else can you do? Anything?" As he opened his mouth to reply, Morgan grinned excitedly. "Wait, wait, don't tell me. You can't kill anybody, you can't make anybody fall in love with anybody else, and you can't bring back the dead?" He blinked thoughtfully, yet with a little confusion. "Sorry. Childhood movie reference. Aaand you don't even know what a movie is. Wow, I'm just making this more and more complicated, aren't I?"



"I feel perfectly capable of killing," Thomas said after a moment's consideration.

"I don't plan on asking you to," Morgan replied quickly.

"I suppose that's good," he shrugged. "As for the rest, yes, I doubt that I could raise the dead. As far as making a person love someone, I suppose I would have to try."

His mistress shook her head. "Sorry, that was a tangent. But what else can you do?"

"The old man told me that matters of the soul were very difficult to affect with magic...which leads me to believe that love would be difficult, though not attraction. I cannot simply create a soul, so I would not be able to create a person from nothing." He paused. "Or animals. Though I believe I could create convincing illusions of both that would affect all senses."



"Turn back time? Travel through time?"

"No," he said after a moment's consideration. "I wouldn't know where to begin in even trying."

"You had that gold brick. Did you create that, or did it come from somewhere?"

"I created it. I believe I could create most anything that you asked for, as long as I understood what it was. I could create more maple syrup for you now that I know what it is," he added slowly as he considered it.

Morgan watched him think. It seemed odd that he didn't know all of his own powers, but at the same time it was interesting to see him try to explain it. Given her work in interpreting and interviewing, she understood how difficult it was to communicate concepts when a common frame of reference was sketchy at best. Thomas may have been a common foot soldier nine hundred years ago, but he seemed naturally bright.

"My ability to heal includes some degree of manipulating the body," he went on. He seemed to be staring at her chest, which, Morgan considered, wasn't exactly flattered by her hospital gown. "You will die of a wasting illness in twenty years, perhaps somewhat more."

Her eyes went wide. "Um. Can you fix that?"

"I can," Thomas said, and after a moment with his eyes closed, he corrected, "I have."

"That's nice," Morgan grunted. She didn't feel any different, but as long as she was going along with all this -- and everything told her that Thomas was for real -- then it was certainly a sudden relief.

"Had you lost your foot or leg from yesterday's battle, I could have restored it," Thomas continued. "I could make you look different. Make you healthier. These would be real changes, not mere illusions."

"You picked up modern English and Arabic pretty quickly," Morgan noted. "Do you think you can learn other things that fast?" Thomas merely shrugged, leaving Morgan to ponder it. "Sixty-three weeks at DLI to learn Arabic and you pick it up in a few minutes," she grumbled.

"What is DLI?"

"Defense Language Institute," Morgan answered as she pushed her plate away. There was still some food on it. She offered it to Thomas, who happily accepted it. "It's a school in my country where they teach foreign languages to the military and diplomats and such."

"Do they send all warriors there?" Thomas blinked.

"No," she chuckled. "Not even close. Just people who are likely to need the training, which admittedly is several hundred people at a time."

"That seems like a long time to spend on learning a language. How much time do you spend learning to fight?"

Morgan snorted. "That depends on how much of your job is fighting. Most soldiers don't specialize in fighting anymore so much as doing all the things it takes to support those who do the real fighting. Everybody trains to fight to varying degrees, but...well. There's a lot that can vary there. Like with me, I'm a woman, so I can't be in a front-line fighting specialty in the first place. So while I was taught to fight, I didn't get nearly as much training as someone in the infantry would."

"Ah. You were ambushed yesterday," Thomas remembered. "You didn't go out looking for the enemy."

"Not so much, no."

"What do you do as a soldier, then, if you do not fight? You are here as an interpreter?"

"Largely," Morgan nodded. "My job is counterintelligence. I was what's called a 'human intelligence collector' before that. I'm supposed to help figure out what the enemy is going to do before he does it. And I'm supposed to help catch his spies. But a lot of that is about talking to people, so I have to know the language. And since I know the language, I get pulled to do all sorts of other tasks that aren't always about my job."

"Like dealing with Raneen yesterday," Thomas said.

"Exactly. The men who attacked her were military police. They're supposed to be the ones to catch our own soldiers when they break the law. But since they're the lawbreakers here, we didn't want to use one of their own people who speak Arabic to interview Raneen. That's how I got called into it...and maybe it's arrogant of me to say, but I can't imagine too many other folks getting her to talk like I did."

"What will happen to them?"

"Well, they're under arrest now and the crime was pretty serious, so they'll probably stay jailed until they go on trial," Morgan said. "If they were civilians -- I mean, if they weren't soldiers and this had happened back in my homeland -- then they might have a good shot at getting out of trouble in their trial. But military justice isn't as easy to escape. They're definitely in trouble for stuff related to attacking Raneen, but I think they'll be found guilty of the attack itself, too."

"Will they be put to death?"

"Nah. But they'll do hard time. They'll be in prison for years, and it'll be military prison. It won't be pleasant. And it'll be awfully hard to pick up and move on when they finally get out." She was quiet for a moment. "Hardly seems like enough for what they did to her, but it's better than nothing, I guess."

After a long moment, Thomas said quietly, "Your army considers rape a grave crime."

"Supposed to, anyway," Morgan sighed. "It's not like guys don't get away with it sometimes."

"My army would hardly have cared at all."

Morgan looked up at him, surprised at the look in his eyes. "What about you?" she dared to ask.

"I struck a serving girl once, before the Crusade. I was drunk and angry and stupid," Thomas admitted. "It was commonplace. Worse was commonplace. But I was horrified at what I had done. Most of my friends laughed at me and called me soft, and thought I was foolish to have made such a fuss over apologizing and trying to make amends. But I was foolish to hit her. I knew that the moment my hand landed." He looked Morgan in the eye. "And I never struck a woman thereafter."

"But you went on the Crusade," she said. "You fought Muslims?"

"I did," he nodded. "It was what the Church told us must be done. They told us the Muslims were evil. That they did not have souls. That they were servants of Satan. That fighting them would cleanse us of sin."

"What happened then?" Morgan asked softly. "You don't seem to think that now."

Thomas shrugged. "I realized they saw much the same evil in us. And in looking at my fellows, I could not argue the point." He inhaled deeply, as if such things were difficult to say. "I looked around at my fellow Christians and could not see any reason why one would want to accept Christ."

Morgan reached out and found his hand. When he looked her in the eye again, she said, "My country is mostly Christians. I was raised as a Christian, but I'm not terribly observant anymore. In my country, our very first law says that there can't be laws about religion. Nobody gets to tell anyone else what religion they have to be. We have many Muslims. We have many Jews. We have religions you've never heard of, and we have people who don't believe in a god at all. And we've got some real idiots, I'll admit, but most of my people would go nuts if someone really tried to force out one religion or another."

The thought amazed him. "How do you manage that?" he asked.

She grinned. "It's a total pain in the ass sometimes," Morgan conceded, "but we love it."

"I look forward to seeing it with you," Thomas smiled back quietly.

"We don't put up with slavery, either," she said with even greater seriousness. "It led to a civil war a long time before I was born. We'll lock a man up for a crime, put him to labor...but it's not slavery. We don't do that anymore. So that's kind of a problem here with you and I."

"I came to this state as a form of penance," Thomas assured her. "There are reasons why only a worthy master could open my vessel -- or mistress," he corrected with a slight grin. "My power comes largely from service. I am not sure how much I would be weakened if you were to set me free, but I know I would lose much. I would be utterly lost in this time." He fell silent, pondering a resolution to this. "Surely your country permits willing service?"

"It does," Morgan nodded slowly. "You'll say something if you feel differently about this in the future?"

"If that is your wish," he bowed slightly. When he raised his head, he added, "Bear in mind how far I was willing to go in service to a mortal lord and my faith once before. I do not believe that I would be bound to you now if your nature was incompatible with my conscience. That was the point of the enchantment on the vessel. My faith may have been misled, and I can already tell you now that you are a far better person than my previous liege. I would not give my unconditional service again lightly...yet I swear it now to you."

They were silent for a moment before Morgan took a long breath. "Wow," she said, "this conversation got awfully heavy."

"It did," Thomas agreed. "I apologize."

"Not your fault."

"I imagine we both have a thousand more questions."

"Yeah. Well. I've got one more for now. Are you ever gonna go away?"

"I wouldn't presume to be immortal," he said, "but I will only ever leave you if you ask it of me."

"See, I'm not gonna want you hovering over my shoulder all the time. That's just creepy. Clingy, too. It's unattractive."

"I see your point," Thomas conceded. "I can certainly come and go freely if that is your whim. You could always summon me at your wish. But my presence or absence is ultimately contingent upon your whim." He paused. "And it would be difficult while you hold my hand." Morgan blushed and mumbled an apology as she started to turn back but Thomas squeezed warmly. "I don't mind."

Her breath shook a bit, but her smile held. If anything, her face only reddened as he looked in her eyes. "You're a charmer," she admitted.

"Not many have said so. Thank you."

"Did you...have a wife? A woman at all?"

"No one," Thomas shook his head. "My family was poor. I admit that the Crusade provided an opportunity to better myself. Faith was my motive, but to say I did not have small hopes of earthly rewards along the way would be a lie."

"So no women at all? Ever?"

"Well, I didn't say that," Thomas chuckled with a hint of embarrassment. "But I left no one behind. And you? A husband?"

"Well, I've had boyfriends," Morgan said, "but the last one...we were living together before I came out here, but just before I left I found out about his other woman. But we weren't married. We were, um...I'm not really much of a Christian when it comes to all that," Morgan confessed. Her grin shrank, but remained.

"I am no one to judge," her companion shrugged. "Surely I am damned for being tainted by heathen sorcery, anyway."

"I kinda doubt that."

"Do you want him back?" Thomas asked gently. Morgan blinked in surprise as Thomas added, "I don't believe I can make him fall in love, but I am certain I could help you in such a pursuit in many ways."

"No. Hell, no," Morgan shook her head. "He's an asshole. I don't want that. Thomas...that wouldn't bother you? You wouldn't feel...weird about that?"

"My first and only real loyalty is to you, Morgan," Thomas told her. "If you have romantic interests, I stand at your service in pursuit of them."

She eyed him for a long moment. She was good at reading people. Very good. It was, after all, at the heart of her job. As much as his gaze and his voice and those shoulders left her heart all aflutter, she was pretty sure she had a good read on Thomas.

At least, that was what she told herself.

The pair fell silent again, but their hands remained together and the gaze held. "If I ask something of you that you object to," she said slowly, "and I mean really object to because it'll hurt you or it feels wrong...promise me you'll at least say something?"

"I am not worried," Thomas answered, "but I will speak my mind if that is your wish." His voice was as resolute as any gung-ho, can-do affirmation she ever heard from her comrades, yet he was considerably cooler about it. "Command me without hesitation."

"Good. 'cause I've got instructions."

His mouth curved into a half-grin. "I am at your service, milady."

"Alright. So like you said, magic only really works if we keep it quiet, right? So it'd probably be a bad thing to have you just heal me. But this laying in the hospital when I can have myself fixed up just right is crap." Thomas nodded, listening as she spoke. "Can you make sure we're not disturbed for awhile? Give us some extended privacy?"

He thought about it for a moment, then rose and closed the door. He laid his hand upon the door for a moment, then nodded. "Done."

"And nobody's gonna think that's odd?"

"They'll presume that things are normal and that there is no need for alarm," Thomas said, "though I wouldn't advise running with this deception for long. Not until I am more accustomed to your world and the expectations of those around you."

"Fair enough. Now, can you heal me but fix it so nobody notices?"

He considered her wish. "I could," he said. "As I said, I can create elaborate illusions. I could heal you and ensure that those who looked upon you would still see the injuries you have now. Or I could genuinely revert you to this state if it were truly necessary for secrecy."

"Ugh. Thank God. Okay, fix me right now," Morgan grinned. "I want to be perfectly healthy again. Healthier than I've ever been."

Thomas came to stand over her at the foot of the bed. He reached for her heavily bandaged and wrapped left foot, slowly running his hand around it, and her ankle, and her lower calf. Morgan felt her flesh stretch and knit in sensations that were decidedly odd yet not at all painful.

Then his attention shifted. Morgan inhaled softly, watching him with bated breath as his hands moved to her right thigh. His touch was gentle and warm as he wrapped his hands around her knee and slowly slid upward. He went as far as the bandages around her gunshot wound, and then somewhat higher, but as muscles mended and skin grew over the wound Morgan found herself thinking less about the wound and more about his hands.

When those warm hands came away from her leg, she was almost a bit disappointed, but then his eyes met hers. She bit her lip. "Your back," he said softly, reaching one hand under her right arm. Taking his meaning, Morgan sat up, twisting a bit so he could place his healing touch on the ugly bruises from where her body armor had saved her from bullets. Again, she inhaled softly. Morgan realized that she was trembling.

Thomas guided her down onto her back again. He finished, as she knew he would, by reaching to the left side of her face. He looked in her eyes and yet just to the side of them as he worked his magic around her eye socket, which was still tender. She loved the way he looked at her. She never thought of herself as more than passingly pretty even when she was all made up for a date. Here she was beaten to hell and laying in a hospital bed, hair matted and well over a day past her last shower, and yet he seemed absolutely dazzled.

"Wow," she whispered. He responded with a humble smile until she said, "I hope Raneen wasn't embarrassed about being touched like that when you took care of her...?"

His eyes widened. Morgan bit her grinning lip as his embarrassment became obvious. "I hadn't...ah..." he tried.

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