[identity profile] noelleleithe.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] noelleleithefic
Title: Make A Wish
Author: [livejournal.com profile] noelleleithe

Rating: PG-13
Pairings: Luke/Noah, Noah/OMC (slight), Noah/Maddie (past)
Word count: ~7,875
Warnings: Mostly some angst. Variations on canon themes. Reid Oliver. LOL
Disclaimer: I don't own anything here except my own words. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summary: The blue smoke tilted, diving toward the floor, and Noah couldn't help following it with his gaze as it grew into a long column, nearly as tall as Noah..

Author's notes: So [livejournal.com profile] dazzling_icer was tossing out awesome fic prompt ideas on Twitter at random times, and I happened to see this one. And it caught me. Dammit! A ridiculous number of words and a greater amount of angstiness than expected later, and here you go! (I put the original prompt at the end so as not to spoil, although I did diverge a bit anyway.)

I am officially flying beta-free on this one, although [livejournal.com profile] dazzling_icer did read through it and didn't yell at me. :D

~~~~

"Once upon a time..."

Noah sighed and kicked at a broken shell in the sand. That's how all the good stories start, right? He slid his hands into the pockets of his shorts and looked out over the ocean. He'd come out to scout a location but gotten lost inside his own head.

Once upon a time, there was a man who had everything. A good job, a nice apartment, a cool car, a gorgeous boyfriend.

"So why the hell do I feel like none of it matters?"

He asked the question of the sea breeze, not expecting an answer. None came; at least, not in the usual way.

Noah saw a flash of light out of the corner of his eye, the dying sun's rays bouncing off something shiny buried in the sand at the water's edge. Curious, Noah walked in that direction, looking both ways to see if anyone seemed to have lost anything. No one was within fifty yards of him, and no one paid him any attention.

Noah stopped just a few feet from where the surf washed up on the shore, frowning down at the bottle sticking up out of the sand. Made of cobalt-colored glass, it had an old-fashioned rubber-and-metal stopper in the neck.

Message in a bottle? Noah wondered. He stooped to pull it loose, holding it up and shaking off the wet sand, trying to see what was inside. All he saw was the distorted reflection of himself, skin a light tan, dark hair ruffling in the wind. He brought the bottle down and tried to flip open the latch, but even though it seemed clear of rust, it wouldn't budge.

Noah shrugged. He almost tossed the bottle back on the ground but stopped at the last second. It was pretty cool, enough to take his mind off his navel-gazing for a few minutes, so why not take it home? Wash it up and put it on a shelf somewhere. It would make a nice conversation piece, if nothing else.

Turning back inland, Noah headed for his car, pausing long enough to slip on the flip-flops he'd left higher up the beach. He tucked the bottle under his arm and dug in his pocket for his keys, mind already moving ahead to what he should make for dinner, and whether he'd be cooking for one or two.

~~~~

It was a couple of days later before the bottle finally made it into the house. Dan had been home, earlier than expected, when Noah got back from the beach, and it wasn't until after they'd made a mess all over the bed that he admitted he was leaving again the next afternoon, this time for at least three weeks. Noah hadn't even bothered to argue. Dan never checked with Noah before he took a gig, and while he was far from a stereotypical model, with his cum laude degree in finance, he was definitely married to his career, not their relationship.

Noah spent the day after Dan left cleaning the house. For some reason the activity had always calmed him down when he was feeling jittery or unsettled. Not having a clue what to do about Dan certainly fit the bill. They care about each other, but neither of them had the tendency to put the other first. And wasn't that what a real relationship should be about?

He was moving the knick knacks on the mantel to dust when he remembered the beach bottle. Setting aside the rag and cleaner he'd been using, he snagged his keys from the dish by the door on his way out to his car. He kept his car pretty clean most of the time, except when he was too busy and ended up with fast-food wrappers all over the backseat, so the blue bottle and an empty water bottle were the only things on the floor in the backseat. Re-locking the car, Noah headed back inside, pausing to drop the plastic in the recycling bin and crossing to the sink to wash off his beach find.

Turning on the water to let it run warm, he held the bottle up to the kitchen light, still unable to see a thing through the opaque glass. Grains of sand still dotted the surface of the glass, and he brought one hand over to rub some of them away.

In a second, the bottle grew so hot he nearly dropped it. He managed to set it on the counter instead, his eyes widening as it started to shake. He stepped back, bumping into the island behind him as he watched the bottle tilt to one side, spin around several times, and then pop its top.

The stopper flew out of the bottle like a cork from fizzing champagne, and a cloud of blue rose from the opening. A part of Noah's brain was telling him this must be a dream, or maybe he'd mixed the wrong cleaning solutions and he was hallucinating from the fumes. Either way, he couldn't get his body to do anything, not even run.

The blue smoke tilted, diving toward the floor, and Noah couldn't help following it with his gaze as it grew into a long column, nearly as tall as Noah. A couple of seconds later, standing where the smoke had been was a boy. No, a man. A few inches shorter than him, the man had a wild blond mop of hair, creamy skin, wide brown-hazel eyes, and a smile that had to have cost his family a fortune in orthodontics, because no one had a natural smile that perfect.

"Good day, sir!" the man said. "And thank you for your kind assistance! I'd become quite bored in there, and the heat was beginning to bother me."

Noah stared. The man wore a flowing outfit that looked like something out of a movie, and... wait. Noah frowned and found his voice.

"Who the hell are you," he demanded, "and where the hell did you come from?"

The man only smiled wider, bowing his head slightly. "My name is Luciano," he proclaimed. "And I came out of my bottle, of course!"

~~~~

A beer and a half later, and the hallucination was still there. Standing next to the kitchen counter, wearing those ridiculous harem pants and vest and a bright smile. At least he didn't have a turban or anything like that. His arms were crossed over his chest, and Noah expected him to blink himself out of existence at any moment. Or maybe blink Noah back into reality.

Noah set down his second beer and ran a hand over his eyes. "Okay, let's try this again," he said, trying to keep his voice even and patient, not accusatory. "You're a genie? And you were stuck in that bottle, and when I rubbed it, you were set free?"

Luciano's smile slipped for just a second. "I was released from the bottle, yes," he replied in the same bright tone of voice he'd been using. "And now you are my Master, and I am here to do your bidding!"

Noah pressed his fingers into his eyes and shook his head. "Where's Barbara Eden when you really need her?"

Luciano shifted on his feet. "I do not know what a Barbara Eden is, but I will gladly summon her if you like!"

Noah's head snapped up in alarm. "No!" he spit out. "Holy…. Look, I'm not asking you to summon anyone. Or anything, or whatever it is you can do… think you can do." He sighed and pushed to his feet. "I'm obviously not going to get a straight answer out of you, so I think it's time for you to go."

Luciano's eyes widened. "You will send me back into my bottle?" he asked. "I have only just come out! Is there nothing you wish me to do for you?"

Noah rolled his eyes. "Yeah, sure," he said. "I wish you could give me a nice, big Al's mushroom burger and a chocolate shake. That would be great."

A strange look passed over Luciano's face, but then he smiled brightly again. "Your wish is my command!"

He really did blink then, tilting his head over his crossed arms, and suddenly the room was filled with the smell of freshly cooked beef and hot French fries. Noah looked around and nearly fell over when he saw the previously empty table behind him.

"What…?"

Luciano's voice had a note of pride in it. "A mushroom burger and a chocolate milkshake from Al's," he recited. "Is it not as you wished?"

Noah stared. A square white plate and a tall glass sat in front of the chair he'd just vacated, with silverware and a napkin at one side. A small rack holding a glass bottle of ketchup and small salt and pepper shakers were nearby. The plate held a large hamburger and a pile of fries, and the glass was filled to the brim with a light brown, creamy liquid.

"Please, enjoy." Luciano's voice seem to come from a distance, as if he were at the far end of a tunnel. "It will be just as you recall."

Noah's legs moved of their own volition, and he sat in front of the food, still staring. A trembling hand reached out, and Noah watched it as if he wasn't his as it picked up the glass and brought to his mouth. He took a sip from the long straw, and flavor burst across his taste buds as memory flooded his mind.

Sitting in Al's, smiling at Maddie across the table, heart aching, wishing he could feel for her the way she deserved.

Staring at his father across another table, this one at the police station, realizing that the man would rather have a dead son than a gay son.

Sitting next to a hospital bed, holding a small, soft hand in his, so buried in grief and regret that he couldn't breathe.

Packing up his truck and driving away from the town he'd loved, the people he'd loved, the place where he'd left his heart.


Noah barely managed to set the glass down without knocking it over, and he was on his feet and across the kitchen before he realized it. "I…." His voice shook. "What the fuck are you? And how the fuck did you…?"

His throat closed up, and he squeezed his eyes shut, pressing a hand over the pain in his chest. Oh God, he thought this was all over a long time ago, but it felt like he was right back there again, as if it had never ended, as if he'd never left Oakdale.

He slid down the wall to the floor, curling in on himself, trying to block out the world. Trying not to remember.

~~~~

When Noah's eyes opened, he was lying on something soft, with something even softer covering him. It took him a few long moments to realize he was in his bed, the comforter tucked around him, wearing boxers and a well-worn t-shirt. He had absolutely no memory of getting ready for bed, but he decided he must've been more tired than he thought after his trip to the beach and had just laid down to take a nap.

He rolled over and stretched, and a flash of memory of the supposed "genie" in the kitchen hit him. He smirked at himself. Wow, maybe it was more than just being tired. He must've had a high fever or something, to conjure up a dream or hallucination or whatever of that caliber.

"You are awake!"

Noah nearly fell off the bed at the too-cheerful, too-familiar voice. He snapped his head over and saw Luciano standing next to his dresser, still in those stupid pants, still with his arms crossed over his chest.

"Oh, hell," Noah groaned, slapping a hand over his face. "What the hell is going on around here?"

That bright voice rang in his ears again. "I have told you. You have released me from my bottle and are now my Master. Whatever you bid me do, I shall. Would you like another wish?"

The memories of memories came flooding back, and Noah sat up sharply. "No," he bit out. "One was quite enough, thank you."

Luciano's smile dropped away. "I am very sorry for what happened," he said gently. "I did not know I would be causing you pain by answering your wish. I have removed the offending items and will strive not to allow it to happen again."

He sounded so contrite, so sincere, that Noah responded automatically to reassure him. "It's okay," he said. "You didn't do it on purpose."

Luciano brightened immediately. "What do you wish for me to do now, Master? I will conjure a different meal if you would like."

Noah shook his head. "No, no, I'll just order a pizza," he said. "You can…." He waved a hand awkwardly. "Can you put on different clothes? Those pants are just… weird."

"Of course!" Luciano replied. He did the arm-folding-blinking thing, and Noah's eyes widened as the genie's clothes disappeared entirely. "What shall I wear for you, Master?"

Holy shit. Noah's brain seemed to have blanked out, and he wasn't sure if it was from the shock of having a strange man naked in his bedroom or because the man in question was perfect. Long, lean lines, a scattering of hair across his broad chest narrowing to a darker treasure trail that led to a riot of curls at the base of a plump cock. His legs were firm and muscular, covered with another light dusting of hair, but Noah's eyes were pulled right back to the other man's crotch before he made himself tear his gaze away.

"Clothes!" he managed. "Jeans, shorts, t-shirts, whatever. Just something… normal. Twenty-first century normal."

A moment of silence, and then Luciano spoke again. "I hope that this will be satisfactory."

Noah chanced a look and found his breath catching. Sure, maybe now Luciano had on clothes, but they did nothing to take away from his beauty. If anything, the snug jeans and black, v-necked t-shirt made him even more gorgeous, setting off his creamy skin and blond hair. Noah swallowed and glanced down at his traitorous body, which was reacting as any red-blooded gay man's body would to having a hot guy in his bedroom, naked or not.

Noah sighed and shook his head. "Could you… just wait in the living room? Give me a few minutes?"

"Of course!" Luciano's chirpy-happy voice was back. And then he was gone.

Noah's eyes widened as he stared at the space where Luciano had been standing. He hadn't walked to the doorway to leave. He'd just disappeared, as if he'd never been there to start with.

Maybe he hadn't. Maybe he'd been a figment of Noah's imagination after all.

Noah was surprised to realize how much he hoped that wasn't true.

~~~~

Dunking his head under the faucet in the bathroom sink seemed like a good idea right about then, but Noah resisted the urge. Either the guy—Luciano, whatever—would be in his living room and he'd have to face the fact that some part of this was real, or he wouldn't and Noah could write the whole thing off as a weird anomaly. A very, very weird anomaly.

Noah did stare at his reflection in the mirror as he washed his hands, and he ran his damp fingers through his hair to smooth it after his impromptu nap. His stomach grumbled at him, and he decided he'd go ahead and order the pizza before going out to see if Luciano or whatever was still here.

A large with pepperoni and extra cheese on the way—and a pair of sweatpants pulled on over his boxers—Noah eased open his bedroom door and edged down the hallway, unsure what he hoped for. There were a few options. Luciano could be gone. He could be there but be some escapee from a mental ward, or part of a joke someone was playing. Or he could be there and be exactly what he claimed to be.

Only one way to find out.

Noah stepped out into the living room, and there he stood, wearing those snug jeans and the tight black t-shirt Noah had apparently requested without meaning to. His arms were crossed over his chest again, and Luciano smiled brightly when he saw Noah.

"Hello, Master!" he said. "I have been waiting for you. I am glad you are here. May I do anything for you? You have not yet used all of your wishes."

And just like that, the carefully constructed calm Noah had built around himself came crashing down. "Wait, so you do actual wishes?" he asked. "You mean, like, the whole 'you get three wishes' thing?"

Luciano nodded, still smiling. "You have released me from my bottle, and you receive three wishes before I return," he said. His smile slipped. "I regret it terribly, but the meal I provided earlier has used one of your wishes. I did not realize you did not mean it that way. I have no way to correct my error."

Noah plopped down in his favorite overstuffed armchair, staring at Luciano for a few long moments. Finally he motioned toward the sofa. "Why don't you sit down and explain the whole thing to me," he said. "Then maybe we can get through this without either of us making any more mistakes."

Luciano obeyed immediately, which bothered Noah on several levels, but he ignored the feeling in favor of getting some answers. "So you can grant wishes?" he asked.

"Yes," Luciano said, settling onto the cushions but keeping his posture formal. "I am limited in several ways, but there are many things I can do for you. You simply must say you wish for me to do something, and I can."

Noah chewed on the corner of his lip in thought. "But things like asking you to change clothes don't count?"

Luciano smiled again. "Oh no! Such simple requests of a Master to his genie do not deduct from your wishes. You may ask me to wear a certain thing, or to clean your home, or to make you a meal, and still keep your wishes."

"Wait," Noah said, now confused. "But you said the meal earlier did count?"

Luciano nodded, back to looking sad. "Yes. Because it was a very special meal from a very special place far away from here, it required a greater amount of magic. I am sorry I did not inform you of this before you used a wish on a meal that only made you sad."

Noah waved a hand, feeling as if he were pushing away the memories. "It's all right," he lied. "So what other restrictions do you have?"

Luciano sat forward on the sofa cushions. "I cannot change the past or the future," he said, sounding as if he were reading from a script—or a rulebook. "I can only change the present."

Noah frowned. "But if you change the present, doesn't that change the future?"

Luciano shook his head. "There is the potential that the future could be changed, but that is not the same as changing the future directly. If you wish for a million dollars, simply receiving it does not change the future, only how you choose to use it."

Noah rolled his eyes. "Semantics," he said. "I guess every universe has those. Okay, so you're limited by timing. What else?"

"I cannot remove memories." He seemed sad again for a moment. "I cannot end or restore life or love. I cannot cause permanent harm in an act of vengeance, nor heal mortal injury. I cannot force a person to perform an action against his or her will." He swallowed. "And I cannot affect the circumstances of a genie."

The tone of his voice when he recited the last restriction made Noah wonder about its significance. "Cannot affect.... Is that, like, you can't change anything about yourself either?"

"I can change my clothing and some parts of my appearance," Luciano said. "But that is all."

Noah considered what that could mean. It sounded important, somehow, but he couldn't quite work out why. "So you couldn't, say, make your bottle turn up in a certain place. Or choose a certain Master."

"No." Luciano smiled brightly. "But I have had very good Masters. They have treated me very well in the time we have spent together."

In the time we have spent together. "What…. How long do you spend with your Master?"

Luciano tilted his head. "It is not a matter of time," he said, sounding puzzled by the idea. "It is a matter of wishes. When you have made your three wishes, I will return home until a new Master calls me."

"Home" being his bottle, Noah thought. "Okay," he said. "Can you…. Do you, like, sleep in your bottle?" He shook his head. "Sorry, the only thing I know about genie lore is from TV and movies." He stopped and laughed, lowering his head into his hands. "Oh my God, I think I'm losing it. I've got a guy in my living room claiming to be a genie and I'm asking him about the rules." He felt a hell of a lot like if he didn't get a grip soon, he'd just dissolve into pure hysteria.

A hand touched his shoulder, large and warm. "I am sorry I have upset you, Master," Luciano's voice said. "If I can do anything—"

Noah snapped his head up and laid his hand in the center of Luciano's chest, intending to push him away. But he felt hard, smooth muscle and a strong heartbeat, and his mouth opened before he could think.

"I wish to visit Maddie."

His stomach felt as if it fell through the floor, and the room disappeared.

~~~~

When his vision cleared, Noah stood in a small room, painted a warm shade of green, the light from a single lamp in the corner low and soothing. A large hospital bed made up with soft cotton sheets a few shades lighter than the walls sat in the center of the room, with a small, frail body tucked beneath them.

Noah looked around, stunned. He was alone in the room, and while he couldn't tell if it was day or night, the stillness made him think it must be late at night. He didn't know if this was a hallucination or a dream or what, and he couldn't seem to make himself step closer to the bed, afraid of what he might see.

"Luciano?" he whispered.

Instantly, the other man appeared next to him, without a sound. "I am here, Master," he said softly. "Is this not what you wished?"

Noah shook his head. "It is," he said. "I just didn't really expect it to come true." He held up a hand before Luciano could say anything more. "I know, you told me. I didn't believe you. I'm not sure I do now. It's not that I think you're lying. It's just…."

He didn't know how to explain it, but Luciano gave him a knowing smile. "Surely you do not think you are the first Master I have had who did not believe in genies?"

Noah choked out a small, possibly slightly hysterical laugh. "Of course not," he said. "And don't call me Shirley."

Luciano looked at him strangely, but Noah just waved a hand. "Don't worry about it," he said. "Am I…. Are we really here? I mean, is this like A Christmas Carol where we're just spirits and can't actually talk to people? Or can I…?

Luciano nodded toward the bed. "We are as real as she is," he said. "You may do whatever you like."

Noah hesitated for a moment before walking to the side of the bed. He looked down at the beautiful, if much too thin, face of his one and only girlfriend, Maddie Coleman.

Her hair was short, much shorter than when he'd seen her last, and her skin was so pale she seemed translucent. Her eyes were closed, long lashes fanned against sharp cheekbones, but she breathed deeply and evenly, as if only sleeping.

Noah knew the truth. Maddie hadn't been fully awake for almost seven years. She'd had some brief periods of lucidity, but the injuries to her brain had been too severe for her to recover. A parade of specialists had examined her, and she'd undergone several surgeries, but none yielded much improvement.

As terrible as the thought was, more than once Noah had almost wished that his father's gunshot had killed her immediately.

~~~~

They were only eighteen when they met, interns at Oakdale's television station, along with a nice but somewhat scatterbrained guy named Roth. Maddie and Noah had hit it off immediately, sharing a joint love for old movies and, once Maddie introduced him to them, Al's chocolate milkshakes. They were only friends, though, until the night that Maddie's boyfriend broke up with her long distance.

Noah wasn't sure what was wrong with the sex, but it sure didn't feel right. He tried, though. He dated Maddie, even introduced her to his father when he came to visit, but it didn't take long before she figured out that he just wasn't that into her, and why. That could've been fine, if they'd just broken up and been friends, but Maddie couldn't stop there. She'd pushed Noah to come out, to tell his father. She put her full support behind him.

The Colonel had repaid her by trying to kill them both, and very nearly succeeding on when it came to her.

Noah looked down at Maddie's sweet face and could feel his heart breaking all over again. He reached out for something, he didn't know what, and he felt a hand touch his, and then heard a soft sound.

"A chair, Master," Luciano said. "You may stay as long as you like. I will wait outside if you wish."

Noah didn't respond, his focus solely on Maddie. He pulled the chair close to the bed and sat down, wrapping both of his large hands around her tiny one. "Hey, Mads," he murmured. "Sorry it's been so long since I've been to visit. Things have been kind of weird." He laughed softly, shaking his head. "And trust me, they got even weirder today."

He reached one hand up to smooth down Maddie's hair. "I miss you, Mads," he said. "You always knew what to say to cheer me up, what movie to quote or to tell me to watch. I wish I could've fallen in love with you. Everything would've been so much easier. But you deserved better than me. You still do. You deserve so much, Maddie—"

His voice cracked, and his bit his lip to keep from breaking down. He lowered himself until his head rested on the bed next to Maddie's hip, face turned toward hers. "I'm going to stay right here," he said. "As long as you want me to."

He knew he couldn't stay as long as he'd like, and that she wouldn't want him to put his life on hold for her anyway. She'd told him as much on a rare good day. He wished so much that he could do something to—

He sat up so suddenly his head spun. "I am a freaking idiot," he murmured, mind reeling. "I still have a wish left."

~~~~

He didn't leave immediately. He sat a while longer, talking a little but mostly just watching Maddie sleep, hoping she'd wake up for even a couple of minutes. As the hours stretched, though, he knew he needed to go. Luciano might be doing something out in the hall to keep people from coming in, but eventually the staff would need to check on Maddie, and he didn't want to interfere with that.

Finally, he leaned in to kiss Maddie's cheek, then her forehead, smoothing her hair one more time before standing up and giving her hand a last squeeze. He moved the chair back into the corner and looked toward the door.

"Luciano?"

He didn't even flinch when the genie appeared in front of him. "How may I serve you, Master?"

Noah reached out and took Luciano's hand. "I'm ready to go home."

~~~~

Another stomach-wrenching moment, and they were back in Noah's living room. The time had passed—Noah supposed Luciano couldn't bend the laws of physics that much either—and it was pitch-black outside. Noah didn't let go of Luciano's hand, pulling him over to the sofa and down to sit next to him.

"Okay," Noah said. "You explained how all of this works. The wishing and stuff. I'm assuming I can't just wish for Maddie to be cured?"

Luciano shook his head. "I do not have that power," he said. "I have more power for my Master, but that would only allow me to mend a much more minor injury. A small broken bone or a deep cut, perhaps."

Noah nodded. "I expected that," he said. "But if I wished—and I'm not wishing here, just speculating—if I wished for the best treatment option for her, anywhere in the universe, like the best doctor and surgery and all that. She'd get that?"

Luciano tilted his head. "I would be able to make you aware of the best treatment option for her, yes," he said. "But I cannot compel the doctor to perform a surgery or even to examine her. I cannot force a person to perform an action against his or her will."

Noah remembered that from Luciano's earlier recitation of his limitations. "Okay. But if I asked, wished, for the best treatment option, you would give me the information? The best doctors and surgery or medications or whatever? And then I could use that to get Maddie treated?"

Luciano nodded. "It would be your last wish," he stated. "You have used two already."

Noah paused. If it was his last wish, then Luciano would go back into his bottle. He pondered that for a moment before he spoke again.

"I have a question you didn't answer earlier," he said. "Two, actually. Do you keep the memories of what happens while you're with each of your Masters? And is it possible for a Master to release you from your bottle a second time?"

Luciano seemed surprised at the questions. "I do not recall being asked this before, although it is possible that I have," he said. "I remember all of my Masters, but I do not remember all of the things that happened with each Master." His face fell. "I am sorry, Master, but no person is allowed to be Master of a genie more than one time."

Noah nodded. That was the answer he expected. If he made his final wish, Luciano would disappear, and Noah would never see him again. But Maddie would have a chance, and nothing in the world had ever been as important to him as that.

Still, he'd miss Luciano. The man was gorgeous. And Noah hadn't gotten more than one long glimpse at that body. Maybe he could….

Noah quashed that line of thought immediately. He had a boyfriend, for God's sake, no matter how iffy that relationship had gotten in recent months. And he had no idea what the rules might be when it came to sex between humans and genies.

Noah shook his head once, hard. Jesus, why was he even thinking about this? He should make the damn wish, get Maddie the help she needed, and get the hell on with his life.

But maybe….

Before he even realized it, Noah was leaning forward, and he touched his lips to Luciano's, hearing the quick intake of breath, the surprise from the other man. It was probably the lightest, briefest kiss of his life, but it shot through him like a lightning bolt.

Before he could let it get any further, before he could change his mind, he pulled back a bare inch and, eyes still closed, he said, "I wish for the very best possible treatment option for Maddie."

When he opened his eyes, as he knew would be the case, Luciano was gone. In his place sat a file folder with name written on it in large block letters.

~~~~

Reid Oliver, it turned out, was a brilliant neurosurgeon and a completely unapologetic, unmitigated ass. It took the efforts of Noah, Maddie's brother Henry, and Oakdale Memorial Chief of Staff Bob Hughes combined to convince him to even look at Maddie's records. He must've seen something in there that intrigued him, though, because a week later he was in Oakdale, putting Maddie through a ridiculous number of tests: MRIs, CT scans, a spinal tap, sensation and perception batteries, and so much bloodwork that Noah thought she'd be drained dry.

Finally, after nearly a week, Dr. Oliver made his pronouncement. He'd operate, with the full understanding, and written approval, of her family that the procedure was experimental and carried a high risk of complications. But his record of achievement and his confidence that her condition would, at least, be no worse convinced them all.

The surgery took nearly twelve hours, probably the same number of years it took off Noah's life. When Dr. Oliver emerged from the OR, a smug smile on his face, Noah's knees nearly gave out.

"The procedure was a complete success," Dr. Oliver said, and Noah was so relieved to hear it that he could ignore the pretentious tone. "That doesn't mean recovery is imminent, or even likely. It just means what we did is done, and done well. It's up to her now."

The longest eight days in history later, Maddie Coleman opened her clear, sleepy but lucid eyes and smiled, and the only person who cried harder than Noah was Henry.

~~~~

Noah returned to LA, but only to pack up his life and move it back to his adopted home. He'd broken things off with Dan, amiably enough, and thanks to his frugal habits, he had more than enough money in the bank to get him through for a while until he found a new job. Kim Hughes had already mentioned WOAK as a possibility.

He'd almost forgotten about the blue bottle. It still sat on the kitchen counter where he'd first set it when he brought it in from the car, deep blue and shining, the rubber stopper firmly locked into place. Noah picked it up and gave it a halfhearted rub, knowing nothing would happen but unable to stop himself from trying.

He sighed, looked around at the stacks of half-filled boxes, and decided he needed a packing break.

Grabbing a beer from the fridge, Noah walked out onto the tiny patio off the kitchen and dropped into the cracked plastic chair that would probably go to charity or into the trash when he left. He'd brought the genie bottle with him, not really sure why, except that he didn't really want to let it go.

All he'd wanted for the past seven years had been for Maddie to be okay again. That was still no guarantee; she had months, maybe even years of physical therapy and possibly more surgery ahead of her. But her condition was already several thousand times better than it had been, and that had lifted an incalculable weight off Noah's heart.

His biggest regret was that he had no way to thank Luciano for what he'd done. Sure, he could get someone else to rub the bottle and let him out, but Luciano had said he didn't remember details about what he did with his Masters. It might make Noah feel better, but it probably wouldn't do much for Luciano.

Noah held the bottle to the dying sunlight, watching the glass shimmer. "I wish there were something I could do for you," Noah murmured. "I wish...." His mind whirled, unable to find any other words.

He sighed. "I wish you were free."

A brilliant flash of light made Noah flinch, and to his horror, the bottle slipped out of his hand. It hit the concrete and shattered into a thousand pieces, brightly colored glass spinning off in all directions, nothing but shards left on the patio. Noah jumped to his feet, his heart feeling as if it had shattered right along with the bottle.

There was nothing. No cloud of smoke, no tall, handsome man, not even a shred of filmy blue cloth.

Noah turned, and ran into a wall of flesh. He jumped back and lifted his eyes, only to find himself staring into the face of the man he'd just been thinking of his.

"Lucia—?" He only got halfway into the name before those lips were on his, kissing him deeply, tongue pushing into his mouth as if it belonged there. It certainly felt like it did, and Noah opened his mouth to meet it with his. His hands tangled into that mop of blond hair, and he felt hands wrapping around his back, sliding up over his shoulders and hanging on.

He didn't know how long they kissed, but eventually they parted, and Noah stared into wide brown eyes over red, swollen lips. "Luciano, how—"

The other man cut him off with another kiss, this one short but firm, before pulling back and grinning. "It's Luke," he said. "Well, Luciano Eduardo Grimaldi Snyder, to get technical, but Luke for short."

Noah's head spun. He was even more confused than he'd been when Luciano had first appeared, and he hadn't thought that possible.

"Come on," Lucian—Luke said, taking Noah's hand and stepping toward the door. "Let's go inside, and I'll try to explain. It's quite a story."

Lacking the brainpower to do anything else, Noah let Luke pull him along.

~~~~

They sat on the sofa, and the smile Luke gave Noah was so familiar and yet so different at the same time. It seemed wiser, more knowing, as if Luke were an older version of Luciano. Mentally, at least, since as far as Noah could see, the physical was exactly the same. And he was doing a lot of looking.

"So," Luke said. "I don't know all the details. I only have hazy memories of things. But yes, I was really and for true a genie. Trust me, when it happened I was stunned on a lot of different levels."

He sighed. "I was sixteen, and I came out to my parents. My dad took it fine, but not so much my mom. And she brought in the big guns: my biological father." Luke shook his head. "I knew he had some shady connections, but I sure never expected anything like this."

Noah blinked slowly, trying to think of something to say. Luckily, it didn't appear to be necessary.

"Anyway, Damian tried to get me to go off somewhere with him, but I wouldn't, so I guess he pulled out the big guns. Next thing I know, I'm in this glass-walled room filled with cushions, and all this… stuff is in my head. Genie stuff. Like, I knew I was a genie and what that meant and all the rules, like I'd been doing it forever. But I still remembered who I was before, and I knew what it would take for me to get back to that."

Noah found his voice then. "You knew how to get back?" he asked. "But how—" He cut himself off and rolled his eyes. "Of course," he said. "You couldn't tell anyone. That was part of the rules, or the curse, or whatever."

Luke laughed, a richer version of the light, merry sound he'd made as Luciano. "Boy, they had that deal sealed up tighter than… than the stopper on my bottle!" he said. "No one figured it out. I had probably three dozen Masters in the past nine years, and not one of them seemed to care about what would happen to me."

He sobered and studied Noah's eyes. "Not until you," he said softly. "You were the first one who actually paused and considered me before you made your final wish. When you kissed me…. God. I've never felt anything like that before. I wanted to stay so badly, but even more than that, I wanted to give you whatever you wanted."

"And you did," Noah said, sliding closer. "Maddie had surgery. She's better, a lot better already, and she's getting better all the time."

Luke smiled widely. "I'm so glad, Noah," he said earnestly. "I would've stayed in that bottle until the end of time if it meant you and she could have that."

Noah couldn't stop himself. He brought up a hand to run his fingers across Luke's cheek, and Luke blushed under his touch. "So how did this happen?" he asked. "I know I wished for it, but I didn't have any wishes left. And you said you couldn't change a genie's circumstances."

"I couldn't," Luke agreed. "But you could. Any Master has the power to free his or her genie at any time, at least until another Master comes along. As long as you had control over my bottle, you could free me. And you did. It didn't matter that you didn't know you were doing it."

Noah laughed shakily. "Wow," he said. "I can't even…." He stopped short and stared at Luke. "Wait," he said. "So when you were sixteen you just… disappeared? Your family doesn't know what happened to you?"

Luke paled. "I don't know," he said. "I don't know what Damian told them. I just know I haven't seen any of them in nine years."

"We need to go see them," Noah said immediately. "You said your name was…." He trailed off. "You said your name was Snyder," he said, his voice soft. "Oh my God, Luke. Are you from Oakdale?"

Luke bit his lip and nodded slowly. "I was going to tell you that next," he said. "I was…. I knew Maddie in high school for a little while. Just for a few months before... you know. When I realized it was the same Maddie, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't say anything, and I couldn't do anything for her directly. You had to figure it out and make the wish. And, of course, I couldn't…."

"You couldn't tell me what to wish for," Noah finished. Just when he thought things couldn't get any weirder.

Luke's laugh was bitter this time. "Nine freaking years," he said. "I lost nine years to my bastard of a father, just because he couldn't stand the thought of having a gay son."

"Yeah, well, we almost lost Maddie forever because my bastard of a father couldn't stand the thought of having a gay son." Noah didn't mean to be so harsh, but he couldn't help it. Sure, Luke had been basically imprisoned for nine years, but he'd come out whole and healthy, which is more than could be said for Maddie.

Luke was immediately contrite. "Oh God, I'm sorry, Noah," he said, reaching out to lay his hand on Noah's arm. "I know you've been through hell with all of this. I'm so glad you found me. Not because you set me free, but because I was able to do something to help Maddie. I meant it when I said I would've stayed there forever if it meant she would be okay. And you."

Without even thinking about it, Noah leaned in to kiss Luke. That lightning shot through him just like the first time, a feeling he'd never had with anyone else. He lifted his hands to hold Luke's face, kissing him deeper.

It didn't matter that they'd just met. He never wanted to go without this again.

~~~~

Noah didn't know how long they kissed, but when they finally broke apart, they were both breathing hard, and other things were pretty hard too. Luke's eyes were dilated and his cheeks pink, and Noah thought he was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

His brain came back online, finally, and he sat back a little. "You need to go home, Luke," he said urgently. "They've been missing you for so long. You should call them, tell them you're okay. Get on the next plane to Illinois."

Luke let his hands slide from where they were wrapped around Noah's shoulders down his arms to tangle their hands together. He drew in a shaky breath and blew it back out. "I know I should call them," he said. "I should get there as fast as I could. It isn't fair to make them wait." His eyes were serious and more than a little sad as he looked at Noah. "But I think I need to decompress a little first. When I get there, it's going to be nonstop, wall-to-wall Snyder emotional overload."

Noah quirked a half smile. "And from what I remember, there are a lot of Snyders to emotionally overload."

Luke smiled back. "Oh yeah," he said. Then he stopped, and his eyes widened. "Oh…. I didn't even think…. Noah. When I… left, my mom was pregnant. I've got a little brother I've never even seen. And Nat's, crap, she's a teenager, and I bet Faith's in college by now, and…."

Noah cut him off with another kiss, more to stop him from winding himself up even more than because he wanted the kiss, although that was quite a bonus. He pulled away slowly, hands cupping Luke's face again.

"It'll be okay, Luke," he said. "See all these boxes?" Luke's eyes slid one side, and he nodded. "I'm in the middle of packing up to move. Back to Oakdale." Luke's eyes snapped back to stare at Noah. "I loved it there. I only left because the memories were too hard to deal with. But they're getting better now." He smiled. "And maybe there are some new memories to be made too."

Luke grinned at him, looking young and cheerful like the genie who'd appeared in Noah's kitchen just a few weeks earlier, but now more relaxed, more himself somehow.

More free, Noah realized.

Luke disentangled himself from Noah's embrace and stood up. "Well, then, we'd better finish up this packing and hit the road," he said, waving a hand toward the half-filled boxes. "We've got a long drive ahead of us."

Noah laughed and stood up. "I've got a long drive ahead of us," he pointed out, reaching for Luke's hand. "You might've had a license when you were 16, but you don't now. And I'm not about to risk any more delays."

Luke laughed and moved in closer. "I almost wish I still had those genie powers," he said. "I could get this packing done in a blink. Literally."

Noah kissed his nose. "It's a nice thought," he murmured. "But I vote we stick with the hands-on way."

Luke brought his lips to meet Noah's. "Any way you want," he said against Noah's mouth. "As long we're doing it together."

That sounded like the best idea Noah had ever heard in his life.

~~~~

… and they lived happily ever after.

~~~~
~~~~

(The original prompt: "I Dream of Jeanie" Nuke style. Noah is a filmmaker who, on location at a beach in LA, comes across a washed up bottle on shore that contains genie!Luke inside of it. He opens it when he gets home and there's Luke, calling him master and causing trouble while also giving Noah everything he never knew he wanted.)
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July 2014

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