Morgan's Genie Ch. 05bybashfullyshameless©
Two notes: Chapter Zero (the prologue) has had a little new text added to it. Also, look to my profile if you're wondering what's going on with me. Hope you enjoy!
July, 1098 AD
Somewhere near Antioch
More Crusaders arrived outside the old man's home the day after his servants had been slain. The home itself lay smoldering, having burned the night before. His servants were buried. Their murderers lay wrapped in their own cloaks away from the ruins. Everyone else was gone.
They found him sitting in the dust, with his legs crossed and his head bowed. His staff lay across his lap. He surely heard the approach of twenty men on horses, but gave no indication that he was concerned. He merely sat and waited.
Two soldiers dismounted, drew arms, and moved off to each side of the old man where he sat in the dust. Two more soon joined them.
Finally, the apparent leader of the group joined, walking over to the old man with his sword drawn. He was a husky man, with a dark beard and a grim temperament. "We've been looking for you," the bearded man said.
"So I have gathered. I regret that I was not here when your first batch of men arrived. You are the one they call Charles?"
"I am," sniffed the Norman. He looked around. "I suspect you already know your magic will not work on me, nor on my men."
"Nor would you have dared to come here otherwise," the old man put in with a faint, knowing grin. "I wonder how your men would feel about you or your protection if they knew the details. It is one thing to convince men to do awful things in the name of their god. It is another to knowingly ally oneself with—"
"You are dying already," Charles interrupted.
"Yes. A wasting illness, now in its final stages. It is quite beyond my ability to remedy. The Practices of healing were never a strong study of mine. I know only enough to mask the symptoms. There was a time when I sought to prolong my lifespan through magic, but the only prospects I could find came at unacceptable prices. The necessary bargains are all so very...distasteful. Aren't they, Charles?"
He looked up at Charles then, needing little time to evaluate the man. "You came here in search of knowledge and power. Tomes, ancient scrolls, all that sort of thing. Sorcery by way of banditry, I suppose. As you can see, I no longer have any. Even my own personal power is quite diminished."
"They said you were the greatest in the region," Charles sniffed again, trying to maintain an air of indifference. His true feelings showed in his eyes. The old man needled him, and he did not like it. "The wise hermit out in the wilderness. The mentor. You trained so many."
"I did," he acknowledged. "Truthfully, most of what I taught was merely the value of hard work and independence. Perhaps in the end I was a better teacher than a Practitioner myself."
"There was power here, though," Charles said. "I sense it in the air. I smell it. But no longer in you. Why?"
The old man shrugged. "I made a bargain with someone."
"You said you don't like bargains."
"I didn't like the bargains that were offered to me. Others may find bargains that suit them just fine. All a matter of details. What were yours, Charles?"
The Norman's eyes grew colder. "I need not answer your questions. Where is Thomas?"
The old man tilted his head curiously. "You send out four men, only to have the lowliest of them return empty handed. You seek power, only to find none to be had. No treasure. No prize. I imagine, then, that thoughts would turn toward revenge. Yet you find no one to suffer your wrath but an old man taking his dying breaths. Tell me, servant of the Pit: how does it feel to be thwarted at every turn?"
At that, Charles gave up any pretense of calm. His reddening face screwed up into a snarl of rage. He grabbed at his sword, jerked it free and strode within reach of the old man.
His target smiled at the sight. Then his eyes closed. Charles ran him through, again and again, stabbing and hacking the body to pieces. All the while, though, he knew that the man was dead before the first cut.
It only made him angrier. He would hold onto that anger for a long, long time.
* * *
Morgan's trainers at Fort Huachuca had told her they would teach her to be more observant. Human Intelligence, they said, was about constant vigilance. It was about reading people. Noticing what they noticed. Always having your eyes open, even when in a friendly, safe environment. They had done that. Experience in the field had expanded on that vigilance dramatically.
She'd have had to be blind not to notice how many people, men and women alike, had to do a double-take on her as they wheeled her off the plane, and to the bus, and then through the hospital to her room.
At first she thought there was something stuck on her face. She frequently brushed at her nose, hoping she didn't have a booger hanging halfway out or something equally horrifying.
Morgan wanted to ask Thomas, but he was, once again, utterly fascinated by his surroundings. He looked around like someone seeing the world for the first time. To be fair, that wasn't too far off the mark. She didn't want to spoil the moment for him. She also didn't want anyone to see her talking to her invisible friend. Morgan left him alone, though she couldn't shake the feeling that even Thomas was stealing looks at her.
Professional habits took over. Morgan kept her mouth shut, pretending like nothing was wrong. She waited and watched. Eventually, she caught onto the patterns. Guys stole more looks, and tended to smile. Women generally looked twice, then turned to whatever else they were doing, and their body language generally conveyed less interest.
Every time she found a reflective surface, it was either too high, or quickly blocked by someone moving around, or she was turned away by the guy pushing her wheelchair. It wasn't until she was finally left sitting in a waiting room while her attendant went to check her in at the front desk that she finally had a moment of independent mobility.
"This city is amazing," Thomas said for the millionth time, looking out the window. "I had thought Baghdad was impressive enough, but this place...look! Another of the planes is taking to the air!"
Morgan didn't look. She wheeled herself over to the coffee table, brushing aside the magazines she found there and bending over in her chair to see her reflection on its black surface. It wasn't ideal, but it did the immediate job.
Her face was different. Definitely. That was still Morgan staring back at her, but there was something different. She had lost a little weight in her face. Her skin was smoother. Her mouth had changed somehow; her lips were now just a little fuller.
Morgan's eyes went wide. She sat up straight again. Her gaze darted left, then right, then left again. She waited for just a moment's privacy, just a second when no one was looking. Finally, the opportunity hit. In a flash of movement, Morgan's hands went to her own breasts, groped for just a split second, and then returned to her lap so fast they made a slapping sound.
Yep. Bigger. Not obnoxiously so, and hidden somewhat by her hospital shirt, but bigger by at least a cup size. Probably two.
Her jaw set. Her slender, perfect, no-longer-marred-by- pimples-that-wouldn't-die jaw.
"Sergeant Anderson? Oh, there you are," the pleasant, heavyset attendant smiled as he came over. "Got your room and everything. Ready to go?"
Morgan looked up at him and smiled as if there was nothing wrong. "Hm? Mm-hm," she nodded.
The attendant smiled back. He stepped around behind her wheelchair and pushed her along. Thomas followed. The aide brought her to a room, helped her up out of the chair and into a hospital bed, and mentioned something about a doctor coming in to see her soon and how she could ring up assistance while she got settled.
She didn't listen, really. For all the pleasant, appreciative expressions and smiles and nods she directed the attendant's way, and for all her normal vigilance, Morgan's only thoughts were about the awestruck goon gawking out her window that only she could see.
Then the attendant left. The bed next to hers was thankfully empty. "Thomas," she muttered through gritted teeth.
"Such an amazing view," he breathed.
"Thomas," she repeated more assertively.
"Hm? Yes?" he turned around to face her.
"Privacy," Morgan said. "We need privacy. In here. Now."
"Ah," Thomas blinked and then nodded. He looked at the door for only a moment. "We'll be left alone for now. Is something wrong?"
"What. Did. You. Do. Thomas?"
His brow furrowed. "Do to you? What do you mean?"
Morgan jerked a thumb at her own face. Then she grabbed her breasts again. She glared as understanding dawned on him. In the back of her mind, she realized it was most likely two cup sizes. They were also more sensitive than before. Her own hands almost felt good.
"Oh. I am sorry. You wished to look differently."
"You said as much on the plane," Thomas shrugged, looking at her in abject apology. "Morgan, are you distressed? I thought this was something you wanted. You said—"
"Something I wanted? Or something you wanted!?"
He looked like he'd been slapped. "Morgan, I will undo what I have changed if that is your wish."
"I thought you said you liked me the way I was."
"I did! I do! You were the one who objected. Don't you remember the conversation we had about modern beauty?"
"Yeah, I remember that just fine. I also remember pointing out that those girls in those magazines weren't real."
"...you said they needed 'help,' but I'm not sure what that meant. But you fell asleep saying that you wished you could look like them."
Morgan grumbled. They had miscommunicated. She got that now. Her brain understood that Thomas had, at worst, taken a liberal interpretation of something she said. It was still difficult to let this go.
"Those women are genetic freaks in the first place, Thomas. Nobody actually looks like that. Well, okay, hardly anybody. A distinct minority. I mean okay, yeah, they're naturally beautiful, but—dammit, but that's not the point!" She fumed at herself more than at him now. "Thomas, they alter those photos with computers now. You can't really hold anyone to that standard of beauty. Not in real life. That's what I was trying to say. Or meant to say. Ugh."
Tactfully, Thomas waited a long moment before he spoke again. It gave her time to release some of her frustration. "I apologize for causing you any distress," he said when it looked safer to speak. "I never meant any insult at all. I would never lie to you, Morgan. I concede that I see the differences between those pictures and your natural face, but I hope that you understand I truly found you beautiful from the moment we met. And moreso as time has gone on. I didn't change you to please myself. I changed you to please you."
One of her eyebrows rose suspiciously. "You sure about that?" she said, placing one forearm under her breasts and pushing up meaningfully.
Thomas stepped on a grin. He shrugged in apology. "Again, it seemed to fit the image I believed you sought. I think you know my judgment of you was not built upon your bosom."
The snicker escaped her before she could stop herself. She tried to put her hand over her mouth to control her grin, failed, and then finally allowed herself to laugh. "I think that line got away from you," she said.
"Aye. I think it did," he admitted.
She sighed, her expression changing to one of chagrin as she looked at her genie. Then she glanced around the room. "Would you find me a mirror, please?" she asked in a more polite tone.
Thomas spotted the one over the sink, out of Morgan's reach, and used a little magic to pull it off the wall. He held it before her.
"Huh." Morgan grunted. She brushed at her hair, staring at herself. "Hm." She looked again. "Wow."
Thomas waited. Finally, her eyes flicked up toward him. "You did a good job."
"I'd hit that," she shrugged.
Thomas blinked at her odd turn of phrase, then blinked again when he realized what she meant.
"Oh man," she said, rubbing her eyes. "We're gonna have to have that talk, too."
"Nevermind. Could you put the mirror back, please?"
He did so, finding it little trouble to mount it back where it came from. "I am deeply sorry if I offended you," he reiterated in a gentle tone.
"Yeah. Well. You didn't, I guess. Just a little freaked out because we didn't communicate well. I suppose there are much worse things than being smoking hot."
"So you don't want me to change you back?"
She paused before she answered. "No," she said. "Much as I hate to admit it. No, I don't."
"Why do you hate to admit it?"
"Because I feel like I shouldn't be hung up on my looks like this. That it shouldn't matter. I don't know. I imagine this makes you happy, too, right?"
"You make me happy regardless."
"Thomas," she said, smirking a little coyly, "we're already awfully intimate. You can tell me what you think."
"I cannot imagine finding another woman more attractive than you regardless of this," he replied evenly, "but yes. I concede that you are...slightly more pleasing to the eye thusly."
Chuckling at his wording, Morgan asked, "And you're not gonna be bothered by other people finding me more 'pleasing?'"
"Why would I?"
"Because other guys might do something about it. You wouldn't get jealous?"
Her genie gave a little head shake, then moved over to take her hand. He'd have sat on the side of the bed but for the railing on the hospital rig. "I've considered this," he said softly. "As I said before, if you have romantic aspirations with anyone, I am your servant. I am here to do what you want."
"That was before we started sleeping together."
"Yes," he nodded, "and I hope we continue. Truly. I've...never felt this way about anyone before." He reached out to run his fingers through her hair. "In another life, I'd have wanted you all to myself, yes."
"But not this one?"
"I'm not a normal man in this life," Thomas replied. "I am here to serve you. If you wish to have another lover, or even many, I would not begrudge you. Perhaps it is a measure of the enchantments upon me, but this thought doesn't cause me distress. I want you to have what will make you happy."
"You sure?" Morgan pressed softly. "I don't want to hurt you. You mean a lot to me, Thomas. I'm not even...I'm not asking your permission here so much as I want to really know how we both feel about us. On the one hand I'm just afraid to rush things—like I haven't already, right?—but on the other, I just...I don't want you to think you're just some toy to me. You're real. We're real."
"In a way, Morgan, I was forced upon you. Neither of us met before I was bound to you as your servant. I don't want you to think that my feelings for you are anything less than romantic. But I make no presumptions, and I ask nothing of you that you are not ready to give. Again, perhaps it is unnatural, but I feel no distress at the prospects of you being with another.
"And at any rate," he added with a bit of a grin, "I somehow doubt that any ordinary man could rival the sort of intimacy we share."
She giggled a little. "No, I guess not," she said. She squeezed his hand. "Or the performance. Or the security. I just don't want to have my cake and eat it to if it's at your expense."
Thomas shook his head. "Would you enjoy dalliances with other men?"
Blushing fiercely, Morgan confessed, "Yes. Especially if it didn't come with lots of baggage. Er, without complications afterward," she elaborated. "I mean, I don't want to have sex with every cute guy who walks through the door or anything, but I...yeah. I really like sex. You're amazing, Thomas, but if I'm not hurting you, variety's always...you really don't mind? You're really offering me this?"
"I am. Naturally I'm properly mortified by the scandalous appetites of my liege," he smirked, plainly not the least bit bothered, "but alas, you are my liege, and I owe you every service within my power. Given your natural radiance, though, I imagine you would have no shortage of easy pickings. I can make sure there is no 'baggage' or embarrassing discoveries."
"Would you be freaked out if...if I was ever with another woman?"
His eyes widened a bit. "No," he said, "no, I would not."
"As long as you got to watch, right?" she grinned.
"I make no conditions."
"Yeah, yeah. Typical guy. Just...that doesn't freak you out at all? No? Okay. Good. Just wanted that out of the way." Morgan indulged in his affectionate gaze for a longer moment, then shook herself and stretched. "Okay," she said, "I need to back off on this or I'm gonna pull you down on top of me."
"Well," he said somewhat humorously, "my inability to feel jealousy aside, I would always choose to lay with you myself rather than step aside for another."
"No, silly. We can't. We just got here. Somebody's bound to want to check in on me."
"Ah. Yes. That." Thomas stepped around to peer out the door. "Indeed, there is a man outside I suspect is your doctor. He's distracted by my enchantment right now, but clearly he means to see you."
"Okay. Let's get this done. Remember, we want him to think I'm mending quickly, but we don't want to make it look unnatural. Go ahead and let him in, and Thomas—thank you," she said. "For everything."
"Your servant," he replied, bowing low. Then he retreated back toward the window.
A knock came at the side of the open door. "Sergeant Anderson?" a man asked.
"Hi," the doctor said as he walked in. He closed the door behind him. "I'm Dr. Richmond." He did the same blink and double-take as everyone else had today, covering it well but plainly noticing Morgan's beauty nonetheless.
Morgan did a double-take, too. Dr. Richmond was a good-looking man. He had strong, well-groomed features and a nice smile. A very nice smile.
"It's very nice to meet you, Sergeant," he said, shaking her hand. "We heard about you on the news. Hell of a piece of, uh, work you did out there."
"Thanks," she grinned shyly.
"You're in good hands here. We're going to do everything we can to make you comfortable and healthy again." His grin was a touch more than friendly. Morgan read him like a book. He didn't want to be unprofessional, but his attraction was plain on his face.
He said things to Morgan about her legs and her other injuries, but she didn't entirely hear them. Her mind was suddenly set on having cake and eating it, too. She glanced toward Thomas, who kept track of the situation, but innocently shrugged and looked out the window when they made eye contact.
"So I should give you the once-over here," the doctor said. "Vitals and all that. Then we'll check your injuries and see how you're coming."
Morgan bit her lip. This was a doctor. An officer. No wedding ring, but he might well have a girlfriend...but then again, maybe not.
She glanced again at Thomas. He gestured to himself and then toward the doorway, silently asking if she wanted him to leave with a knowing grin. He'd never asked anything like that before. She couldn't believe it. He wasn't just okay with her screwing around; now he was enabling her.
With the doctor distracted by his clipboard, Morgan mouthed, "You sure about this?"
Thomas rose and walked toward her. The doctor was completely oblivious to it, to Morgan's hesitation, and even to how he fumbled with his stethoscope like he'd never used it before. "Indulge yourself," Thomas said without the slightest worry. "No one will think anything odd of this or worry at all. Including the doctor," he added. Then he was gone.
"Sergeant?" the doctor asked, again with his disarming smile.