FOUR YEARS LATER
Something you forget about when you've been a genie for a couple millennia is just how bad a paper cut hurts. Sure it's not the sort of pain that comes from a bullet to the back of a sword through the middle, but it hurts, none the less. Shaking my hand, I hissed before sticking the digit in my mouth. After I was sure that the small amount of bleeding had stopped, I went back to organizing the stack of papers on my desk.
A week after Aaron explained everything, he came back, saying that he had forgotten to give us something. That 'something' ended up being a manila folder complete with my fake birth certificate, a brand new social security number, and medical and work histories. Every little thing that I would need to get along in the world as a human. He also kindly pointed out that I had already gotten a teaching degree in history. History was really the only thing that I didn't have to work at since I lived through most of it.
I didn't know why that was important until Paige threw a little bit of a diva fit. To the rest of the world, it looked like she had gotten sick of the label, but since I knew her so well, I knew that she was faking it. She had decided that she didn't want her child to grow up as a daughter of a pop star because usually those kids ended up being absolute freaks. She stormed out on the record company, yelling that they could keep that goddamn last demo. I smiled as I remembered their facial expressions.
Of course, it didn't take a week until the tabloids exploded with questions of why ETERNAL would possibly want to quit. It surprised me that she waited a year dealing with the speculation before calling a national news paper for an interview. The entire world then knew all our little secrets. Which I was perfectly okay with because they were going to come out anyways; it might as well have been Paige sharing them.
Three months after the interview, I managed to convince Matt to send his completed manuscript to a publisher. What can I say? It was a pretty damn good book. It took maybe eight weeks until a letter came back, saying out they wanted to publish it. We decided to keep it a secret from everyone at first…until Paige found it on a shelf at Borders. She was over the moon because it was one of the greatest books she had ever read. She keeps the one she bought, and Matt signed, on a shelf in her living room.
Right after we had split the group up, Matt and I moved Massachusetts. Paige and Brandon followed because she said that she felt weird when I was on the other side of the country. At the time, I just hugged her, telling her that I loved her too.
"Professor Henderson?" a voice asked, tearing me out of my thoughts on the past. I looked up, grinning at the young man in my office. Mason Fatts was in my general history class at the university where I worked.
"Can I help you Mr. Fatts?" I asked, still shuffling through papers. Glancing at the clock, I wondered when Matt was going to be here. He said he was going to be here fifteen minutes ago. Did he get lost again?
"Um, yes," he seemed like he didn't know what he wanted to say at first but then he steeled himself. "I was just wondering about my paper –"
I had to cut him off because I had just gotten them that day so there was no way that I had read his. "I don't talk about them until I grade them, Mr. Fatts."
"It's not that," he said quickly. "I had an English paper due today too. I must have switched them in my bag because Professor Nilden asked me what the Andrew Jackson had to do with The Taming of the Shrew." He paused while I fought off a laugh. When I forced the frown on my face, he continued. "She said that she'd be willing to switch with you if I asked."
I made a show of stuffing papers into a black accordion folder. I liked Jessica Nilden, the Shakespearian English professor, and she always made sure to give students every chance she could so they could get the best grade they could. But I saw how she handed one kid who plagiarized his speech. I swear I could see the air frosting around her. And I also saw the sense in what she had said to Mace. As long as she and I swapped his papers, he didn't have the chance to rewrite anything. "I'll switch with her."
He sighed with relief. "Thanks."
I stuffed the folder into my briefcase. Well, if Matt had gotten lost, then it was my job as his more responsible half to find him. "No prob," I told Mason, glancing over my desk to see if I had forgotten anything. I saw my cell phone, pocketed it and walked towards the door to my office. "See you later, Mr. Fatts," I said, "I've got to go."
He nodded and left the office, turning left. I locked the office door and went right. A few moments later I paused as I saw Matt walking towards me. I grinned at the guilty expression on his face and walked faster. I tossed the arm that wasn't holding the briefcase around his neck, tugging him down for a kiss. When we pulled apart, I lifted an eyebrow at him."How do you keep getting lost?"
"I got distracted," he muttered, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Lost track of time."
I lifted an eyebrow. "Can't keep your eye off the nubile young college kids?" I teased. Even as we were talking, we were walking away from the direction of my office and towards the doors that would lead us to the car. Usually I drove myself to and from work, but this morning Matt had stolen my keys and said that he was going to be my driver. I guess I should have been happy, and I would have been but it was sweet.
Today was my birthday.
Well, technically not my original birthday because that was on a Greek calendar and the Romans were the ones who came up with the calendar we use today. So we – and by 'we' I mean Paige – decided that my new date of birth should be the day that I got my mortality back. It was four years ago today that I became human. Funny enough, this made me twenty-one physically. Good to know that I could now drink alcohol legally.
Matt snorted. "More like I couldn't stop thinking about you."
"It's the tie isn't it?" I said, holding up the maroon strip of fabric. "Crys said that it was sexy. Now I'm just oozing masculine charm."
We left the building heading towards our very expensive silver Porsche. Or should I say Matt's, because mine was black and much smaller than his behemoth. But he liked it so...Before I could I even reach for the passenger door handle, he reached around me and opened it for me. I glanced at him over my shoulder. "No comment about my masculine charm?" I asked, sliding into the seat and tossing my briefcase into the back seat.
He waited until he was in the driver's seat. "Babe," he said, grinning at me. "I don't need comments to make my feelings about your masculine charm known."
Strange how I didn't know if that was a compliment. I frowned as I wondered if I wanted to ask if it was but then I decided I really didn't want to know. Reaching over, I grabbed his hand from where it was on his lap as he pulled out of his parking spot. "So," I said, drawing the word out, "You said something about dinner this morning?"
His fingers fitted through my own, and he held my hand tightly. "Yeah, I thought you'd might like some Chinese," he said and then chuckled when he glanced over and saw my fallen face. "Babe, it's not takeout. It's P.F. Changs."
"Well, I can't say no to that," I said. It might not be some expensive place where they charged you a few hundred dollars for a steak but I really liked P.F. Changs. Then again, who doesn't?
He grinned and my heart flipped over him my chest. When I had been a genie, I had often wondered what that love that they showed in movies would feel like. That kind of love where you would do anything for the other person. What I had thought was nowhere close. I loved him more and more every day. I pulled his hand up to my mouth and held it there for a moment. "I love you."
Matt's head whipped around and he stared at me for a moment before he seemed to remember he was driving and turned back to the road. "Did you did something bad today?" he asked.
I gasped in mock indignation. "So I can't tell my husband that I love him?" I retorted, still loving being able to say those words. My husband. We had gotten married a year a half ago, after that it had just gotten to be so right between us. Not that it was ever wrong but the time was right so we went the whole nine yards for the thing. We decided to do to the smart thing and let Paige organize the entire shindig. She evenhanded me Matt's ring while she had a two-year-old holding her hand. And little baby Dawn was adorable in her pale purple dress and a pacifier in her mouth.
"Well," Matt said. "It makes me wonder what you did to make you get all tender and make me start expecting you to tell me to pull over."
"Pull over," I commanded, making him laugh. "No, really, pull over. I want to have my wicked way with you."
"If you keep spending our nights having your way with me, I'm going to miss my deadline for next ten chapters," he pointed out as he pulled into the parking lot of the famous and oh so delicious Chinese bistro restaurant. "And you know Liv has a heart attack each and every time that happens." He paused. "Plus, I really don't want to get arrested for public nudity."
"Yeah, that'd put a crimp in your sales wouldn't it?" I said, unbuckling my seat belt. He leaned across the consol between us and cupped my face in his hands. Our lips met half way. When he pulled back, I was flushed and breathing heavy. "Damn it…" I muttered, "Screw public nudity and take your pants off."
He laughed again, sliding out of the car. If I pouted as I followed, I had good reason to. He held my hand as we walked into the restaurant. "We'll eat and then I'll give you your gift, then we can go home for some way having."
"My way or your way?" I asked, thinking that this probably wasn't the best line of conversation to be having in a public place with my current state of mind.
After seeming to have thought about it for a moment, Matt made a sound in the back of his throat. It looked like he had been having the same lines that I was because he answered with a, "Both ways sound good to you?"
I didn't trust my voice so I just nodded. We were led to our table, a very nice little private booth in the corner and I ordered some saki while Matt stayed in his safety zone and got beer. Like every other time that we had ever eaten out and I notice him not trying new things, I had to tease him. I mean, let's face it. He needs to start widening his horizons.
And, like every time I start poking fun at him, he just gets that self satisfied smile on his face as he reads his menu. So I had to smile in return, even as I kept it up. By the time that our food arrived to our booth, I had switched topics from his beverage choice to the fact that he never uses chopsticks. He just let me ramble until we got our dessert, these delicious little banana's deep fried as egg rolls, and then he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a long envelope. He held it across the table.
"Is this my present?" I asked, even as I took it. I ran my thumb over the top of it, watching him. He looked excited to see me open it and I wondered what it was. So I slowly slid a finger under the flap.
"Yes, it's your present," he took a drink from his beer as he pretended that me slowly opening the envelope didn't bother him as much as I knew it did.
Finally, I just tore off the top and stared down at the two slips of paper in my hand. Plane tickets. I squinted down at the destination and then looked up at him. "Athens?" I breathed, too surprised to really be able to do anything but stare at him.
He grinned. "It's where you grew up," he said, finding my hand under the table and giving it a squeeze. "It seemed fitting."
If I was the I'm-so-happy-I'm-crying type of person, I would have been bawling like a baby. Unable to do anything else, I squeezed his hand back. A heartbeat later, I motioned towards our waiter. At Matt's amused yet confused face, I grinned. "Didn't you promise something fun after dinner?"
"Well, I don't know about promising," His smile turned gentler and he rubbed his thumb over the back of my hand."But I'm sure we can work something out."
"Hmmm, I like that plan." I smiled at the way that his eyes widened then darkened almost immediately at my comment. Under the table, his hand left mine to rub circles on my thigh. I gave him a look when he wandered upward. His reply was a silent look that said 'what?'. His hand went further but I stopped him. "Maybe we should wait."
He frowned. "This sounds familiar."
"I really don't want to get arrested for public nudity," I copied his earlier comment from when we were in the car. When he laughed, my grin widened.
"Well I wasn't saying that we –" he broke off when the waiter came with our check. After he handed off his debit, he turned back to me. "I wasn't saying that we should go at it now."
"Your hand must have a mind of its own, then," I said, still keeping his fingers from wandering. "Because it seems to be saying something completely different."
The look he gave me almost made me want to disregard everything that I had just said and jump him. Somehow I managed to hold on to that slim thread of self control until we left the restaurant and made the five minute drive towards home. We lived in the penthouse of a condominium complex. I'm not sure which one of us was rushing more towards the elevator.
As soon as the button was pressed and the doors were closed, I had my hands clutching at the front of his shirt, tugging his mouth down to mine. Immediately he pressed me against the wall of the itty bitty elevator, his leg sliding between mine while I kept a hold on him. His hands traveled down to my hips, lifting me up. I hooked my legs around his waist, arms wrapping around his neck. The entire time, our mouths were fused, hungry and desperate.
With a ding the elevator doors slid open. And since there were cameras in the elevator, he stepped down the little hall, which ended at our door. It probably shouldn't have impressed me that he managed to carry me, while I was working his shirt open at the collar, nibbling at his skin. He chuckled. "Think the security guards are enjoying the show?"
"Some of them," I muttered, thinking about Allison. She liked us. "Think you can get the door open?" He pressed me against it.
"Well, we aren't going to be having our party out here," he murmured back. He slipped his hand into my pocket to hunt for my keys. I jerked and moaned when he accidentally brushed my arousal. Finally, he had my keys and he had to fumble to find the right key and then get it into the lock on the door. "If I can't unlock the goddamn door, we just might end up out here."
I managed to laugh. "Just hurry. Please," I arched against him, panting at his ear. "Hurry."
Weakly he chuckled. "I'm trying."
Finally the door gave out behind me and I heard the sound of metal as he dropped the keys, kicking them inside as he stepped forward. I moved a hand away from his neck to push the door close. At the moment that he settled me on the waist-high wooden table that we had in the entry way, the sound of the door slamming echoed loudly in our empty home. Our lips met again and I felt his hands working frantically on my tie. At the exact moment that he had it unknotted, the lights all turned on and we froze. Please tell me she didn't…
"SURPRISE!" I looked over his shoulder just in time to see about twenty something people jump out from behind the couch and curtains. I winced and hid my face in his neck when I realized that there were some of my colleagues there. How on Earth was I supposed to be able to look at them?
"I'm going to kill her," I muttered, hearing him chuckle, "I'm going to wrap my hands around her throat and kill her dead. Very dead."
Slowly, he pulled back, taking me with him so that I was able to stand on my own instead of sitting on a small wooden table and putting the removed tie on the table at the same time. When I was on my feet, he whispered, "I didn't know there were different levels of dead."
"You'll find out when I kill her."
Then again, I realized how incredibly hard it is to be mad at Paige when her three year old daughter suddenly ran towards us, her arms stretched towards me. "Unca Jay, unca Jay!" Dawn cried, dressed up nice in a orange floral dress and her pale strawberry blond hair in pigtails. Because saying no to that face was absolutely impossible, I reached down and scooped her up. She put her hands on either side of my face and gave me a kiss. "What took you so long?" she demanded. "Mommy and Daddy and I waited and waited and waited and all your friends came but you never did."
Paige stepped forward from the small mob of people who suddenly decided that it'd be a good idea to talk amongst themselves while I killed her. She had gotten her hair back to her natural blond and she had it pulled back in a braid. The front of her tank top was slightly convex with her second pregnancy. "Sorry, Jay," she said, looking like she wasn't sorry in the least. "I just thought a surprise party would be nice."
"Oh you surprised us all right," Matt said dryly, taking Dawn out of my hands. He kissed her cheek before settling her down on the ground. She giggled and ran off towards Brandon, who was walking over. "You should have at least told me," Matt continued, "That way I could have kept his hands off me."
"My hands off you," I demanded, turning towards him. "That was mutual hands, buddy."
He held his hands up in surrender and took a step back as Paige laughed. She stepped up between us and threw her arms over our shoulders. "I didn't tell you, Matty," she said as she steers us towards the group of friends and family that were now in my living room."Because all he has to do is give you a look and you just come apart at the seams and tell him all your secrets. I mean, really, name one secret you have."
After opening his mouth to say something, he closed it. I laughed when I realized that he realized that he really didn't have any secrets. Paige laughed too, then she pushed me forward. "Go mingle with people, Jay. Try to salvage your reputation. I just can't believe you were doing that in front of my daughter."
"It's okay, Mommy," Dawn said as she skipped back over, holding a cup of juice in her hand. "You and Daddy do it too."
At least Paige had the decency to blush and turn her face away. A little ways away, I heard Brandon burst out in mortified laughter. I gave her a quick one harmed hug before I grabbed Matt's hand and pulled him away. If I was forced to 'mingle', as Paige said so eloquently, I was going to bring him along with me. The first step was a tall red headed woman with a plastic cup in her hand. "Sondra," I said loudly enough for her and everyone around her to hear.
She looked up and threw her arms around me, giving me a hug. "Are you going to tell me what happened?" she whispered in my ear. Even after four years, she still made sure to ask me how I had become human again. There hasn't been once when she's seen me and hasn't asked. Not once.
"I could," I whispered back, "But someone would kill me."
Almost as if he could hear me, I saw Aaron wink at me from across the room. I didn't know why he kept hanging around us. And I didn't think that he really knew why either. There was one time where Paige had once said that he didn't really seem to know what to do with people. I wasn't sure if that was true, but if he didn't know what to do with people after four years of being around us, he'd never learn.
She gave me a hard look. "I don't believe you."
"Trust me," Matt said quickly. "Someone would really kill him." As he talked, he looped his arms around my waist, tugging me back against him.
Before Sondra could answer another woman, this one short and dark haired walked up. "Professor Henderson," she said loudly, grinning. "Mace find you?"
It took me a moment to realize that Mace was what Mason Fatts usually went by. I nodded, then froze. "I forgot my briefcase in our car."
"With what I just saw, I can understand why." When I closed my eyes, Jessica Nilden grinned. "Oh yeah, I'm so glad that I finally got to see your husband up close and not just at a distance when he brings you lunch." She gave him an appreciatory look. "He's much better up close."
Sondra made a sound in the back of her throat as turned away. "Well, I'm going to go and try and get drunk. We all know that it's not going to work…but there's no harm in trying." She wandered off and I shook my head at her back.
"Is it just me," Matt murmured in my ear, "Or is Aaron making sure to avoid her?"
"It's not just you," I assured him and grinned at Jessica. "Thank you for noticing my fine taste."
"Oh, I've done more than notice," she said, winking at me. "I've memorized."
Matt suddenly coughed, making her look up at him and me twist around so I could see him. "You two do know I'm here, right?" he asked.
I grinned at him, fighting down some laughter. "And who are you again?" I asked. "I know I know you, but I just can't remember who you are."
"Ha ha," he said sarcastically, even as he was smiling. "Very funny."
By eleven, nearly everyone but Paige and her family had left. I was sitting on the couch with Paige, while she had her hand on her enlarging stomach. "We didn't tell you yet, you know," she murmured, looking a little tired.
"Tell me what?" I asked.
"The babies are healthy," she said slowly, still moving her hands around. "But there are three of them." At my shocked expression she nodded. "Oh yes, three. Brandon and I are going to keel over from sleep exhaustion."
I chuckled and reached over to pull her into a hug. "You'll do fine, just like you've done with Dawn."
She closed her eyes and murmured something but I didn't really hear it. Brandon had gone into one of the rooms because his sister had called, wanting to tell him some story about his niece and nephew and I figured that he'd be wanting to leave once he saw his wife almost dead asleep on the couch. So someone would have to go get Dawn from where she was in the little baby play room that Matt and I had made up when we moved in.
I grinned when I saw them sitting in one of the rocking chairs, reading a Princess Aymie book. Princess Aymie was a series that Matt had started when Dawn had turned a year old, thinking that it'd make a good bedtime story for her. It did, and she loved it. As did Matt's publishing agent, Liv. They're now actually in the top five of children best sellers, even though they were published under a pseudonym so some over religious freak wouldn't flip out over him writing children's books. I leaned against the door jamb, wondering for a moment how that three year old was still managing to be awake.
She was definitely Paige's daughter.
Dawn glanced up and grinned when she saw me. "Unca Jay! Lookie, you're a princess!"
While Matt snorted in repressed laughter, I sighed. The illustrator for Princess Aymie, a guy named Timothy Wilson, had met us for one of those business lunches. And he had decided to draw Princess Aymie as looking a lot like me. So Dawn sometimes called her Princess Jaymie. Paige thought it was hilarious. I didn't.
Matt laughed and stood up, taking her with him. Still smiling at me, he held her at his hip, and walked forward. "Time for her to go?" he asked.
I nodded. "Paige is sleeping."
"Mommy can't be sleeping!" Dawn cried. "We're not home!"
Matt kissed her cheek and put her down on the ground. "Then go wake her up," he said. She giggled and ran off into the living room. There was a whump and then Paige made a sound of surprise."I think she woke her up," Matt told me, putting an arm around my shoulders.
I leaned into him. "Really?" I said, "I don't quite believe you."
When we had walked back into the living room, Paige was already up, Brandon was back and holding his baby girl. They grinned at us and Paige moved forward and gave me then Matt a hug. "We gotta go," she said.
I nodded. "Drive safe."
"Why do you think I'm driving?" Brandon asked, making everyone but Paige laugh. "We'll see you later."
I managed to wait until the door was closed that I turned towards Matt, sliding my arms around his waist. "Now," I said, leaning upward so I could nip at his ear. "I think we were interrupted earlier."
He smiled and gave a shaky laugh. "I think you're right." He grabbed my shirt and started to pull me back towards the bedroom. I didn't put up much of a struggle. Our lips met and I smiled into the kiss. We undressed each other quickly, tugging and tearing to get to the skin underneath. Falling backward, I pulled him on top of me, pulling back from the kiss to laugh.
I was happy.
Sigh...happiness. I'm so happy that it's done. And first one to be posted of the two I'm going to be working on will be...Aaron's. Because I like him so much. He's such an ass at times.
Thanks to any and every one of you who reviewed me or will review me in the future on this story. Thanks for reading!