Rajan paced the apartment. The ugly, ugly apartment. Without Tavor’s magic, it sat in all its downtrodden glory, with scratched floors, barely-held-together cabinets, and a couch that would look more at home in a dump than this sorry place. If Ali had to spend Christmas here, she’d be even more depressed. Assuming they could convince her to leave her room, anyway.
Tavor looked up from the computer that Rajan was beginning to suspect was magically attached to him. Did he plan to give it back to Ali after next semester started? Or would he finally conjure a new one? “Are you still fussing over the holiday thing? What do you think you’re going to do without magic?”
“Well—” Rajan broke off, frustrated. Genies didn’t do things without magic. It was part of being a magical being. “Have you figured out what’s going on with our magic? My fire has never gone out of control.” He paused as Tavor looked up from the computer screen, one eyebrow raised. “Well, not without me meaning it to.” Out-of-control fire was his specialty, but he’d always meant for that fire to be out of control. “Anyway, why is this happening?” Tavor had had two whole days to think about it. Unless he’d just spent the time cruising through forums instead. That was what humans called using the internet, wasn’t it? Cruising?
Tavor hesitated, then shrugged, his eyes flicking back to the screen. “Don’t worry about it. It’ll pass in a few days, so just don’t use magic in the meantime.”
“A few days?!” Rajan glared up at Tavor. “You cold bastard.”
How could Ali’s feelings not matter to Tavor? It was because of them that Ali didn’t have her parents. The universal could at least take some responsibility for the role he’d played in that.
Turning back to Christmas, Rajan’s mind flashed to the holiday displays he’d seen in window after window in the past several decades, and he brightened. “Could you at least give us money? That would be simple magic, wouldn’t it?”
Tavor’s hands paused in typing as he looked up, his face disbelieving. “What do you want money for?”
“Decorations. Obviously.” Rajan’s gaze jumped to the window, noting the position of the sun. Was it early? Late? Time had little meaning when you didn’t sleep or age. It was easier to count time by masters than years, and easier to count by families served than centuries. The McMichael era, the Velasco era, etc. “I’ll need to leave now. Humans like to close the stores for the important holidays.”
“Leave?” Tavor repeated, still not seeming to understand what Rajan was going for.
Rajan glared up at him as he summoned his human form, praying nothing went wrong. He felt his hair pull in as it shortened from the massive spikes, and his eyes burned, signaling they were changing color. He fought the urge to fidget as a shirt covered his torso, the unfamiliar sensation of material there irritating his skin.
“Yes, leave. I’m going to go buy decorations. Now. Can I have money or not?”
Illan smiled, his own appearance melting into a pale, white-blond human version of himself. “I see. If we cannot provide holiday cheer for Miss Ali, we will bring it from elsewhere. A laudable idea, Rajan.”
Rajan didn’t know what laudable meant, but he was glad Illan wanted to come too. Rajan wasn’t sure how to buy things from stores.
Garan stood, his eyes on Rajan. He’d been staring mournfully at a picture of a flower ever since Tavor had told him he was banned from growing any. “I’ll choose the best tree.”
Rajan narrowed his eyes, wanting to tell the plant genie he couldn’t come, but Garan’s hair was already turning black, his eyes darkening to brown. Rajan tilted his head at the green overalls that appeared on the genie. Was that dirt staining the knees? How had Flower Head managed that?
“Here.” Tavor, now floating closer to the ground, thrust a bundle of money at Rajan.
Hesitantly, Rajan took it. Flipping through the money to count how much there was seemed like the thing to do, except Rajan didn’t understand human money, other than that you gave it to people and then they gave you things you wanted. Instead, he made what he hoped was another “laudable” decision and handed the bundle to Illan—who immediately flipped through it.
Rajan gave a firm nod, then shot a glare at Flower Head. “Between the two of us, we can probably figure out something that’ll brighten the holiday for Girlie.”
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