About a (not)genie who fell in love with his master. Incomplete.

“Done,” Suyin groaned, toppling onto her cot of a bed. “Done-di-done-done.”


“Yup. Congrats me.” she sighed, and frowned at her new room for the next academic year, or perhaps longer. “But man, this place is an envelope. I thought I wouldn’t have enough stuff but it all barely fit. We might need to get like, really tall shelves in here if we want anything else.”


“So enthusiastic,” his charge drawled, swiping her phone to bright life before flicking messages away, “So what do you want to do? Explore the place? Buy groceries? Oooh, we should see if your Mirror swipes through security, you’ll have access to the computer labs twenty-four-seven! And we should really ask about wif-fi already, my data’s practically dry.”

He breathed in, slowly, and crossed his arms. “I think you should return me to the Mirror.”

She frowned at her phone, her gaze flicking up briefly before returning to her social networks. “What, you need a nap or something?”

“No, I’m saying you should return me. You don’t need me anymore.”

The bewildered curl in her eyebrow was so unchanged from her childhood expression it nearly destroyed his resolve. But he held fast, fisting his hands under his arms. “You’re an adult now. You won’t need looking after.”

“Uh, yes I will,” she drawled, sitting up, “I need you so I don’t get lost on campus, for starters.”

“Campus guides. Use them.”

“What about my projects? You know I suck at keeping deadlines.”

“Join a study group.”

“I can’t cook!”

“If I can ride a bus, you can cook.”

She’d looked so amused at first, but it had peeled away with each sentence, to the disbelief beneath. She stood up now, phone abandoned, peering into his eyes. “Varu? What, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. I just think you don’t need me anymore.”

“The hell are you talking about? You’re my best friend! Of course I need you.”

If he could dip a hand into a fire instead of doing this, he would have. Until it was a crusted stump of ash.

He grit his teeth, looked away. “I’m not your friend, I’m your guardian. Your genie. And you have outgrown me, Suyin Li.”

-8-{C3 ... -8-{C3 ... -8-{C3

He remembered the first day they'd met.

She'd been eleven, and he'd been, well, seven years younger than he was now. The last time he'd been awake was when Napoleon was throwing a tantrum, banished back into the Mirror for advising against invading Russia.

He had dropped, as always, into the eternal abyss. Sinking and suspended in what he supposed counted as time, until he burst back into the real world still wearing the French military uniform.

He’d looked at the child holding the Mirror, his prison, and somehow knew exactly who he/she(?) was. He could feel the history in the blood, the old resonance of power like a passed thunder-growl, shivering his ribcage.

A descendant of Lady Time, and her consort. His jailers.

The descendant looked at him, mouth agape, holding the Mirror in shaking hands. His/her hair was short, black-haired and looking at the face… oriental? It was hard to tell when they were so young, with such wide eyes. What wasn’t hard to tell was how much time had passed; the fashion was so strange it must have been… he dared not have guessed. Instead, Varu had tried to ask but was interrupted, and he knew by voice that the child was a girl. "Are you a genie? If you are, can I have a pet dog? Please?"

He closed his eyes and prayed, in case he decided to murder her in a fit of cold rage.

-8-{C3 ... -8-{C3 ... -8-{C3

Varu felt her glare burning his cheek, and he wondered briefly if she would slap him. Masters before hadn’t hesitated to do that.

“Did I, did I do something wrong?”

Of course she would make this impossible. “No. No, I promise you you haven’t.”

From the corner of his eye he saw her fidget, fingers bunching into the cloth of her long shirt. “Then why? I… I was really looking forward to this, Roo. I thought you were too. I mean, weren’t you? Like, we can finally hang out together, for real! ”

That he couldn’t deny. Reading books with her in the open, to walk together between classes, joining groups of whatever niche that took their fancy, sharing friends; those he’d been dying to do for years now.

But for how long? How long till he could no longer control the greatest portions of her time, how long till she lost interest in him? How long before he would have to watch, impotent, as she fell in love with someone?

Suyin’s dark hair, groomed for another. Suyin’s dark eyes, attracted to another. Varu would embrace the dark long before he was forced to watch her embrace anybody in any light.

“It’s not about me,” Which was the thickest lie he had ever told her. “It’s about you. I ruined your childhood, Sue.”

-8-{C3 ... -8-{C3 ... -8-{C3

They’d stared at the computer, Varu shaking his head. “I can’t be that old.”

Suyin, twelve, scrolled through images of hieroglyphs, photos of temples dedicated to living suns and rivers of death, and the animal-headed gods that administered it all. “But you said this is what you remember.”

“But that’s five thousand years. Five thousand years!”

“Hey, Genie was in his lamp for ten thousand years and he had such a crick in the neck.”

He glowered at her. “Not again.”

“But he’s the coolest thing ever.”

“The carpet was the coolest thing ever.”

“He can’t even talk!”

They bickered until one of her parents knocked on her door and demanded to know who she was talking to. Also to stop using the internet; her father wanted to use the phone.

If Varu had to summarize Suyin’s childhood, it would be moments like that. Stolen minutes or hours spent at the computer or the library, researching the most inane things as he and his charge bickered about cars, schools, the modern dress-code, literature, reality TV. Hiding when adults neared, disappearing when her friends questioned who that older man was, strangers insisting he leave the playground if all he intended to do was watch little girls frolic in the grass. They even tricked her parents into hiring him as a babysitter once. Suyin had done all her homework, had behaved, left a raving review of him, but. Nice young man or not, a young man near such a small girl was not something they were comfortable with.

By the time three years had passed since her finding his Mirror Varu had been seriously concerned for Suyin’s social life. Maybe it was just children’s TV shows giving him a skewed idea, but he couldn’t help but think that she would have had more friends if she hadn’t stolen away with him so often, for so long. He remembered Suyin’s mother coaxing her to go to birthday parties, sleepovers, camping trips and other such things, but Suyin declined most of such invitations because…

He had never asked her to, no. But he had been the reason. Was that presumptuous of him? Entirely probably. Selfish? Most definitely. He’d reasoned that she had all the time in the world, relishing her preferring to spend time with him, like a precious elder brother rather than an autonomous tool that could be called upon for advice and guidance. He had loved her for it.

-8-{C3 ... -8-{C3 ... -8-{C3

Varu loved her still, too deeply.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” she scoffed, shoving his shoulder, “How the hell did you ‘ruin my childhood’? I thought we had a lot of fun, or was that just you suffering me?”

“Of course not,” he ground out, knuckling his forehead. “But the fact that you had to suffer therapy for your overactive imagination should have been warning enough that we were spending too much time together, but I still… I denied you friends when you spent time with me. How many birthday parties did you go to? How many people came to yours?”

“What part of introvert have you still not grasped yet? I like it being just the two of us.”

“It should change. You deserve a fresh start, a life with friends. Of all the deathbeds I’ve been at, of kings and advisors and all manners of men, the most common regret was about being lonely. I don’t want you to regret because of me.”

“Then help me make friends!” she snapped, shoving him again, “For someone who's advocating against aloneness you sure are shoving me into it, aren’t you? Why do I have to do this on my own, huh? Aren’t you sick of just spending time with me? You need friends as much as I do.”

“As if I could afford to,” he snarled, glaring hotly back, “Aside from the fact that I can barely put together pop culture references or navigate through a facebook page, I don’t age. What am I meant to do, target the visually impaired so they don’t notice that I haven’t aged since the day they met me?”

“Then why are you pushing me away?!”

“It’s for your own good.”

You don’t get to say that!”

“I gave you advice on how to make moves on your first boyfriend,” he snapped, “So I think I do.”

Blood bloomed in her cheeks, and she was screaming: “Get out!”

And he took it as dismissal, and slipped into the dark that was the Mirror world.

-8-{C3 ... -8-{C3 ... -8-{C3

He remembered when she was fifteen, how he’d been teasing her for her sudden surge in height, equating her long limbs to those of baby giraffes, and how she screeched her teenage self-consciousness outrage. He hadn’t mentioned how beautiful she was going to be, or how clever he already thought her, stopped by a forgotten chill that had risen from the grave of his heart of hearts.

It reminded him he was getting far too attached. Did he not remember the cities he had adored, the music that could not be played for lack of correct instruments, the fruits and animals that had evolved beyond recognition? The world spun on without him, people aged without him, moving along like spectators in a zoo with himself as the beast behind bars.

Suyin would move on. Suyin would live on. And then his Suyin would die away without him.

He remembered how he'd asked her permission to be returned to the Mirror not long after that reminder, swallowing down nerves.

"Huh?" she replied, draped sideways over the couch, "Why?"

"Because I'm tired. I haven't been out this long in a very long time."

"But don't you like it out?"

"It's like camping. After a while it's good to get back home and rest. Give me a month and I’ll be as good as new."

A lie, of course. The dark numbed everything, and years would seem like a moment in there, and he was sure Sue would forget him once he was gone, especially after a month. He was almost praying she would.

"Well, okay," she shrugged, "But why don't you just go in and out like you do at night?"

Varu had sighed, shaking his head. "It’s not under my control; that only happens because you falling asleep counts as being dismissed. You don’t need me, after all."

"Huh. Well, can't I just, I dunno, free you?" she flippantly enquired as she leafed through her comic, "You're like the genie from the Disney movie, right? I free you and you get to do whatever you want?"

Varu had rolled his eyes. "For the last time, I'm not a genie.”

“Then what are you, like actually.”

It was a truth he hadn’t dreamed of ever telling her, partially because he hadn’t dreamed in half a millennium, but mostly because if he had, it would have been in his nightmares. “I… I'm a prisoner."

"Like, jail, crime, and stuff?" she enquired, cocking her head to the side doubtfully, "What'd you do?"

Varu tapped his foot and drummed his fingers against his crossed arm before speaking. "You know of necromancy?"

"I'm reading about it now." She grinned. "Magic zombies, right?"

"I tried it out."

"Cool." She went back to her comic. "So?"

"I needed to kill a few people to get started, Sue."

He imagined seeing the shiver that crossed her spine, rattling her hold on her comic. When she finally put it down and held his gaze with her own, there was fear. "Um…?"

"You have your dictators; I had mine. I tried resurrecting him."

She had grown pale, and the fear doubled. "Why?"

"Because I was jealous of my best friend, who killed that man, and got all the glory for it. He married the woman that I’d loved since I knew what love was. And I couldn’t… I couldn’t let it go."

It had been a lot more complicated than that, he was sure, though he barely remembered it anymore. He couldn’t remember his friend’s face, nor Lady Time’s voice. The story of his imprisonment had become his own personal myth, eroded out of his mind without reminders to chisel it deep into his psyche. Sue opened her comic again, as if seeking wisdom from it. "Do you, um, l-love her now? Still?"

Strange, how this girl tossed the three-word phrase around like breadcrumbs but stuttered over that single word like a forbidden curse.


She uneasily leafed through the comic again, rocking from side to side. "Well, I… are you going to try doing it again?"

Varu snorted. “I couldn’t even if I wanted to. Not enough magic left in this world.”

"But you wouldn’t, would you? Bring back the King of Evil in the name of love?"

Dead gods, how she made that sound so stupid. He must have been one stupid, stupid hotheaded youth with no sense of logic before all this. Varu had nodded.

"So," Sue had chewed on her bottom lip and hit the comic against her leg, still shuffling where she sat, "The mirror is a prison."


"It can't be nice."

He sighed. "No, it's not."

"Then why do you want to go back?"

Varu ignored the question entirely. "Your parents are worried about you. They know you're keeping something secret, and you won't be able to call me your imaginary friend anymore. It's best that I'm out of sight for a while."

"I don't mind, you know." She told him bravely, when clearly she did, "I don't mind. I like you."

"Am I worth your parents' worry?"

"I like you a lot, Varu." She insisted, "And people get let out of prison eventually, don't they?"

"Some people don't deserve to. For some it's for life."

"And that's why they have parole. Or bail. Pay two hundred dollars and pass go, or in my case, you help me pass my GCSEs. So there." she’d snapped, and so there the conversation had died.