Djinn and Tonic
: All recognizable characters are owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, etc.; no infringement is intended, and no money is being made.
Willow set down the wooden crate on the table. "And why did I agree to do this?"
"Well, it might be the hundred dollars each that mom promised us if we finished inventorying this part of her ex-client's estate," Buffy said, patting Willow's back as the lid opened. "Hey, a cute little teapot!"
"That's not a teapot, Buff, it's an antique lamp." Willow picked it up and pointed out the various parts of it. "They used to use them in the Middle East. See, here's where you'd put in the oil, and you'd light it over here."
"Oooo, like Aladdin's lamp?" Buffy was grinning mischievously. "Why don't you rub it?"
"I've got something for you to rub, Buffy," Willow snarked, "but we do need to get the dust off of it." She took out a handkerchief and wiped it off.
Tried to, rather, for light and smoke erupted from the object, forcing a startled Willow to drop it and step back, while a silhouette, then a solid body (or at least one from the torso up) formed from the smoke.
" a deep voice reverberated around the room. "You have freed me from the lamp! According to the Law of Solomon, you are due three wishes!
Willow held her hand to her head. "Wow." She looked up at what was, apparently, a djinni. "First of all, and this is not a wish, simply a request, could you tone down the voice? It's giving me a headache."
"Of course, Mistress," the seemingly floating being said in a much more normal tone. "My apologies for disturbing your health. Have you thought of your wishes, yet?"
"Thank you, but no, I haven't. I'm sorry, I'm Willow Rosenberg, this is my best friend Buffy Summers, you can call us Willow and Buffy, and you are?"
"I am Balil al-Akbar," the djinni said. "I confess to find myself slightly astonished. Most Masters and Mistresses have a very good idea of just what they want."
"Well, I do, too, at any one point in time. "But that can range from 'being out of this crypt, now!' to 'having a quarter to get an soda,' to 'having a billion dollars.' What we want is often not what's best for us. Do you mind if I call you Balil? That is your given name?"
"Indeed it is, and yes, you may."
"Balil," Buffy broke in, "It sounds as if you are very old."
"As far as humans are concerned, I am indeed. Many, many centuries have passed since I first opened my eyes." He gave them a soft smile. "As far as the Jinn are concerned, I am...perhaps entering middle age. There are many much older than I, and many younger." His eyes took on a sad look. When Solomon bound us, he forbade us to increase ourselves until we could live in harmony with humans, and that has not happened yet. So any djinni is going to be 'very old,' to you."
"Wow, so you knew da Vinci?" Willow's voice had a bit of wonder to it.
"Which one?" he asked. "And are you sure that you don't want to get right to the wishing?"
Buffy was about to speak, but Willow held her hand up. "I'm really sure. Besides, does it matter to you whether you deal with us in a few minutes, or a few hours?" He shook his head. "The da Vinci I was speaking of was Leonardo, the one who painted the portrait that we call the Mona Lisa."
"Oh, him." Balil said with a soft snort. "Intelligent, for one of your kind, though not so wise, on occasion. You see,..."
The next day found them still chatting (Willow had insisted on a rest break, so that she could make good wishes). "- and they really did that to Solzhenitsyn's typist?"
"Oh, yes, little Willow." Balil shook his head. "So many blame us and our brethren, both above and below, for the evils of the world, when humans do quite well at providing the evil for themselves." He shuddered. "I would love to continue this discussion, however the time draws near when the magic of the lamp will react as if nobody had rubbed it. What are your wishes?"
Willow gave a slight smile. "Before I give them, I have one more question." She saw him looking straight at her. "What do you
Balil started, then leaned back and gave a riotous belly laugh. "Oh, little Willow, you are truly a pearl without price. It has been an age since I have been asked that, and the few that have, have been forced to not wish for what I wished for. Almost all of them had to use their last wish to save themselves, or a loved one. I do not hold it against them. And, having said so, what I want, as you said yesterday, has changed over time - from having all my brethren freed, to being freed, myself, to simply being able to communicate often with my kind. At this point, what I would like, is - I would like to know love, and to increase our kind, even if my get were placed under Solomon's laws. For that sees an end, if we work hard enough at it."
Willow nodded. "Just so that we're clear, unless I use the phrase, 'I wish,' it is not a wish, from this point on."
She wrote a sentence down, and showed it to Balil. "I know that you think in Arabic, even if you speak fluent English. Do you understand what I'm trying to do with this sentence? And would I have to modify it to mean what I want it to, to you?"
Balil thought, then scratched an amendment on the paper. "One could argue that you are asking me to do a task, therefore using a wish; but, as Solomon admonished us to speak in the language of our Masters and Mistresses, I do not see how this is different." He smiled. "In Arabic, intelligence and wisdom are two entirely different things. One may have the intelligence to craft a nuclear bomb, but not the wisdom to not use it."
Willow bowed. "I thank you, Balil." She looked at the paper and read. "I wish that I had the intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to make the best use of the remaining wishes, in my and Buffy's best interests." Buffy's gasp at her inclusion in the wish was overshadowed when, after Balil waved his hand over her, Willow let out a bloodcurdling scream.
Buffy turned on Balil. "What was that
?" she demanded.
Balil shrugged. "She asked for intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. There are only two ways to gain these things - time and pain. We did not have the time." Seeing Willow finally stir, he passed his hand over her head, and she gasped as the pain left her. "The pain was required for what you asked for, but not afterwards, and, as you did not wish for it, I do not have to charge you for one." He smiled.
"I'm all right, Buffy," Willow said with a wistful smile at her best friend. Turning back to Balil, she bowed again. "It will take some little time to formulate my next wish, though I already have my third ready."
"There is time," he replied, "but do not take overmuch, little Willow."
For the next hour, Willow scratched various things onto several sheets of paper. Occasionally she'd show them to Buffy. "Why this?" Buffy asked of some choices. "Why not..." and she wrote something different.
Almost every time the answer was, "Because that would start to produce problems. We have boundaries, Buffy, even if they're huge ones, because we have to deal with other people." Once, the answer was, "Do you think I want
to get backaches?" as Buffy rolled on the floor.
Near the end, Willow showed Buffy three sheets of paper. "Which do we want to do?" she asked. "I would have had four papers, but the other is, for our purposes, functionally equivalent to this one," and she tapped one of the papers on the table.
"Why do we have to do any of them?" Buffy asked. "I'm not saying no, but I'm not jumping for joy about changing myself, and I'm not all that sure that I want you to change." She turned and faced Willow. "Look, if you had come to me before all of this with this proposition, I would have acted as if it was what I was waiting for, all my life. you're that good a friend. I'm just worried that it would change me, it not being an act."
"Buffy, without this, we are going to slowly get torn away from each other, and it's when we're together that we're at our best, that we synergise. This choice has its problems, but it will actually change us the least. But there are the other two ways, if you want."
Buffy sighed, them smiled and placed a chaste kiss on Willow's cheek. "You do what you think's best, Wills. I trust you."
Willow blushed, quickly wrote everything up, threw away the scratch paper, and turned to Balil. Bowing, she said, "I'm ready for my second wish, Balil."
He smiled. "Wish away, little Willow."
I want to make this wish contingent on something, Balil. That is, if I don't do something, this wish won't come true, and I will still have used the wish; but if I do, the wish is granted, as normal. Would the wording, 'I w-, contingent on my doing the other thing, for this,' accomplish that?"
He nodded. Smiling, he said, "Yes, it would."
She smiled back. "I thought so, but words can be slippery sometimes." She took a breath. "I wish, contingent on my using my last wish to allow the Jinn to increase, as long as Solomon's Laws apply to the increase, that the world would be changed to meet the strictures that I have written down on the paper that my finger is touching."
Balil's smile looked as if it would crack his face. "Done."
"And finally, I wish that the Jinn could increase, as long as all Jinn, whether alive in Solomon's time or not, were still required to follow Solomon's Laws."
"Done." Balil snapped his fingers, and began to disintegrate. "You have done well, little Willow!" he cried as he disappeared.