“You were right about the magic not leaving the museum,” I breathed, a small laugh escaping. Feeling a burst of energy, I straightened and threw my hands in the air. “We did it!” I spun in a circle, then threw my arms around Flame. He stiffened, and I jumped back.
“Sorry!” I folded my hands behind my back. I hadn’t meant to hug him. It was just the excitement of escaping and being alive. And, maybe, there had been a couple moments where talking with Flame had reminded me of bantering with Tavor, like talking with a friend.
“S’no problem.” Flame looked away as he rubbed the back of his neck. I probably imagined the dusting of pink across his cheeks. “Sooo,” he drew the word out, his gaze shifting back to me, “where to now, Girlie?”
Reality crashed down on me. I was supposed to leave him behind. Now I not only had a second genie, but a second McMichael genie. I should have run while he was sealing the mummy. Except—what if the shadow mummies attacked him? And he’d saved me. From the fossils, from the molten gems, and from the mummy. Running off without him would have betrayed all that help he’d freely given me.
But panic still clawed at my throat. My apartment barely fit me and Tavor. All other logistics aside, this would not work. An apartment for one was not meant for three beings.
“What about a contract?” I said, grasping at straws. What could we accomplish before the day was out that would be big enough to constitute a contract? “Could we create a contract to fix the museum?”
He raised his eyebrows, then gestured at his hair and eyes, as he had before. “Again, hopefully for the last time: I. Am. A. Fire. Genie. My magic relates to heat, fire, and smoke. That’s all. I can’t reverse damage I cause. Besides—” His mouth curled into a grin, his red eyes shining. “This was the most exciting day I’ve had in centuries. I’ve never had a master as entertaining as you, and I am not leaving your side. No contracts for me.” His grin broadened as he tilted his head, eyes locked on mine. “And you don’t want wishes anyway, right?”
Well. He had me there.
The grin faded, and he straightened. His voice was quieter than it had been all day when he spoke. “I know my magic better than anyone, and I knew how to handle the shadowed fossils better than you. I have never had a master with the humility to allow me to use my own judgment with my magic, or any who would have given me that trust. I did not ask for your trust, but you gave it.”
Placing a hand over his heart, he bowed. Tavor had once bowed to me, but it had felt sarcastic. This felt earnest.
He spoke as he rose from the bow. “I will not betray that trust if you will not betray mine. Ali.”
I blinked. Had he just said my name? I was tempted to ask him to say it again.
He held his hand out to me, the sun glinting off the golden ring holding his ruby. I stared at it, then sighed, hanging my head. After his little speech, I couldn’t abandon him at the museum, even if it would work. Which it probably wouldn’t anyway.
“I don’t suppose you’re looking for a roommate?” I asked dryly, taking the ring.
I shook my head. “Nothing. Let’s go home.”
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