Quid Pro Quo pt. 1

Rayne’s got a problem. His roommate Chuck has a case of the pretties—he’s pretty to look at, and pretty fucking punchable sometimes. But the opportunity to change things presents itself when he happens upon a strange little knick-knack while searching for inspiration for an art project.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This story was written as a paid commission. If you are interested in commissioning your own story from me, please see the [Commissions] page for more information!

"Dude, like, you’re really ruining the vibe…"

Just the mere thought of the dumb, guffawing belly laugh that followed was enough to tick him off. He clenched his fists and took a breath. "Deep breaths," he muttered. "Deep breaths."

"I don’t know why you look so stressed all the time, but, like, it’s not like art’s a real degree anyway, you know?"

His eye twitched. They’d been friends for a couple of years now but sometimes, Chuck just managed to say the dumbest shit.

He was rarely on the receiving end but it never failed to piss him off. He knew it was probably just a big dumb joke in that pea-sized jock brain of Chuck’s, but it didn’t make the dumb shit any less infuriating.

Oh, how he longed to punch the fucker in the face. Just once and he’d be happy. He would have done it too if he didn’t know Chuck would take it as a personal insult—and far too seriously, at that.

He wasn’t a slouch in the body department himself. Being friends with Chuck meant he’d learned how to work out and get a good bod but the big dumb jock was twice his size and again as strong. The meathead fucker could easily snap him in half.


He jolted in his seat.

"You okay?"

"Yeah," he said, running his fingers through his hair as he looked out the rain-mottled window. "Sorry."

The driver, Sarah—his friend from the Fine Arts program—shrugged. "Sometimes I wonder why you put up with the guy," she said, softly.

Rayne chuckled humorlessly. "You know what? Beats me," he said.

Sarah rolled her eyes. "Anyway, we’re here, if you didn’t notice."

"I almost didn’t," said Rayne as the wipers swept one last time across the windshield. Without the sound of the engine to drown it out, the interior of the car filled with the pitter-patter of rain on the roof.

Holding a hand against window to shade his eyes as he peered out, Rayne wondered out loud, "There isn’t a hurricane right now, is there?" he said.

"Dude, it’s the Pacific Northwest. We don’t get hurricanes here. Storms, maybe, but not hurricanes," said Sarah as she reached over into the backseat for her umbrella.

Rayne stared at it.

"You’re probably regretting that hoodie sweater by now, aren’t you?" said Sarah.

"Not my fault my roommate decided to be a fucking dick," Rayne grumbled.

Sarah laughed. "Fine," she said, pocketing the car keys before cracking the driver-side door and unfurling the umbrella. "I’ll share."

The metal frame of the car shook as Sarah stepped out of the vehicle. She walked around the hood and onto the sidewalk.

Rayne popped open his door once Sarah was standing over it with her umbrella. He grimaced. The gutter was full of running water and there was a puddle on the pavement.

He sighed. He probably couldn’t have chosen worse shoes than the canvas sneakers he had on.

Sarah seemed to notice his predicament. She placed her fist on her hips and said, "Would his royal highness like his loyal servant to take the shirt off her back and lay it across the water so that he might cross without fear of dirtying his shoes?"

"Fuck off," said Rayne, rolling his eyes as he stepped out of the car. He closed the door behind him and waited under the umbrella for Sarah to lock the car, pulling his hoodie tight around himself in a futile attempt to hide from the cold.

He gingerly stepped over the puddle and followed Sarah up the path to the front of the antiques store. They walked in to the quiet *tink* of the bell over the door and wiped their shoes on the welcome mat.

"Pretty bad outside, eh?" said the waifish old man behind the counter. He was wearing a knitted green sweater vest over a white long-sleeved shirt and khaki pants. As they approached, he adjusted the thin, metal-rimmed glasses resting on the bridge of his nose and said, "So… What can I do for you?"

"Mr. Nichols?" said Sarah.

"That’s right," said the man behind the counter. "That’s me."

Sarah smiled. She tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear and held out a hand. "I’m Sarah. I called a couple of days ago?"

Mr. Nichols brightened up. He shook her hand. "I remember," he said. "You wanted to look around and see if there was anything you could use for inspiration for your art project, right?"

Sarah nodded. "That’s me, Mr. Nichols," she said. "This is my friend Rayne."

Rayne smiled and shared a curt nod with Mr. Nichols. "Nice to meet you," he said, giving the old man a little wave.

"It’s always nice to see young people coming in here," said Mr. Nichols. "So, what’s this project about, anyway? Maybe I could point you in a direction if you tell me something about it."

Sarah hummed to herself for a moment. "That would be nice, actually," she said. "The theme is ‘unsettling,’ and we’re supposed to come up with three or more pieces that illustrate our idea of that concept."

Rayne elbowed Sarah and muttered, "I still think it’s fucking vague as shit."

Mr. Nichols raised an eyebrow at Rayne.

Rayne scratched the back of his neck. "S-sorry," he mumbled.

"That kind of language is unhelpful," Mr. Nichols reprimanded, "But I do kind of agree. ‘Unsettling’ is such a broad idea…"

Sarah shrugged. "It is what it is," she said. "Our professor’s pretty notorious for giving incredibly vague assignments but having pretty specific expectations about them."

Mr. Nichols laughed. It was a hoarse, strained thing that sounded almost uncomfortable—as far as Rayne was concerned, anyway. "They sound like a pain in the neck," he said.

Rayne grinned. "She kinda is. The last assignment was ‘red’ and apparently she wanted us to evoke something autumnal in our work. I drew a political cartoon."

Mr. Nichols smiled. "I can imagine," he said. "Well, it is what it is, yeah? One thing I can tell you is that you probably won’t find what you’re looking for here on the shop floor. All of this is the kind of conventional tat that sells really well."

Sarah slumped. "I-I see," she said.

Mr. Nichols chuckled. "I didn’t say I couldn’t help you," he said. "If you don’t mind a tiny bit of a walk, I can take you out back to the warehouse we keep most of the stuff that’s too weird to sell."

Sarah clapped a hand over her chest and breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, thank God, Mr. Nichols," she said. "I’d about given up trying to look for inspiration."

Chains looped around the door handles with a heavy-duty padlock were about the only security measure the warehouse had. It was surprising considering how nice the front of house was but then again, if it was somewhere most customers never saw, there wasn’t any reason to pretty up the place.

Mr. Nichols pushed open the doors and stepped in. It was dark. The only light streaming in was through a window near the ceiling that was covered with tarp.

The sound of the window cover flapping in the wind echoed inside the warehouse. Moments later, there was a loud clang as Mr. Nichols pulled a switch near the door and turned the overhead lights on.

"You’ve got your cellphones, right?" said Mr. Nichols, who was shivering in his sweater-vest.

Rayne and Sarah nodded.

"Right. Just ring me up when you’re done, yeah? I’ll come get you and lock up then but I have to get back to the counter."

"Sounds good, Mr. Nichols," said Sarah with a smile.

"Try not to break anything," said Mr. Nichols as he showed himself out.

"We won’t," Rayne called back over his shoulder just as the door closed behind Mr. Nichols.

"Wow," said Sarah the moment she got a good look at the place.

The warehouse had looked fairly large from the outside but it was downright imposing from within. The antiques were piled up as high as they could be, almost reaching the second-floor walkways near the walls and even rising up past them in the middle.

Much of the floor had been taken over, too. there were narrow paths that wound between the piles but there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the way they’d been organized.

"Freaky’s more like it," said Rayne as he slowly crept along looking at the pieces that were haphazardly on display.

A small statuette caught his attention. He could tell it was sculpted by an expert but he could also understand why it was here and not on sale at the shop.

The figure depicted in polished wood was, to put it bluntly, a leather daddy. The man and his gear were rendered faithfully, the anatomy painstakingly correct.

There was a sash draped across the figure’s body that read "International Mr. Leather 1982." He was wearing a leather vest that parted over his thick muscle gut, a leather cap, leather chaps, and a harness across his chest. He even had a flogger hanging from his waist.

Rayne chuckled and set the figure back in its place. He looked around and felt a brief pang of dread. "Sarah?" he called out.

"Still here!" she called back, her voice echoing in such a way that Rayne couldn’t quite pinpoint where she was.

"Oh, thank God," said Rayne. "Where are you?"

"Uhh… Somewhere… I don’t know, exactly," said Sarah. "Just, uh… Just explore on your own, I guess… And we can meet up, after."

"Ugh. Fine." Rayne did just that. He looked around, hoping to be struck with inspiration from the weird pieces of furniture piled up all around him.

As he worked his way down one of the narrow paths between the piles of antiques, the storm outside seemed to intensify. The canvas covering the window on the second floor flew open and the wind whistled into the warehouse.

It hadn’t been particularly warm before but the wind made it even colder. "Fuck," he complained under his breath as he tucked his hands under his armpits.

The lights overhead creaked, swinging from their fixtures in the wind blowing in from the window. If it wasn’t the perfect set-up for a horror movie, Rayne didn’t know what was.

A piece had just caught Rayne’s eye when the light immediately overhead sputtered and died. "Holy shit," he breathed, clutching his chest once it turned back on. "That almost gave me a heart-attack."

"You okay there?" Sarah called out. She sounded closer but Rayne didn’t dare hope.

"Yeah, I’m fine," he called back. "Just had a little scare."

"Jesus, you’re such a wimp."

"Fuck off, please!" said Rayne, looking around for the piece that had caught his eye.

There! he thought to himself. It was perched on top of a wardrobe that was itself buried behind a couple of things. He had to step onto a dining table with ferrets for legs to reach it.

Just as he was about to grab it, he felt a spray of water on his face from overhead. He looked up and saw that he was right under the busted window. "Fuck me," he muttered to himself. "God, I wish the weather would stop throwing a fucking bitch fit."

No sooner had he said it than did the wind stop. The canvas settled back into place as the rain slowed to a drizzle and the first signs of sunlight began to break through the clouds.

Rayne picked up the piece that had drawn his attention. He could have sworn he saw it glow before the weather stopped changing but it didn’t look like there was anything like a light source or even a mirror inside it.

It was probably just a trick of the light, he thought to himself. He examined the object as he clambered down from the table. It was fairly simple: a thin wooden cylinder that had a pretty ornate lattice carved into it.

The pattern was weird, though. He’d thought it was just a simple floral thing, and he wasn’t wrong, but the more he looked at it the more the pattern seemed to change. He saw men tied up and fucking in the intricate design and every time he blinked it was like looking at a brand new scene.

If he was looking for unsettling, then the thing certainly fit the bill. "Hey!" he called out, "I think I found something. I’m going to start heading back."

"Sure! I’ll be right there. I think I’ve at least got somewhere to start, myself."

"Didn’t you grab anything?" said Rayne, waving the piece he’d picked out at Sarah as she came into view.

She held up her finger. "Yeah, Mr. Nichols. We’re done… Yeah. Thank you. We’ll wait."

Once she’d disconnected the call, Sarah looked at Rayne. "Huh? No. Of course, not. I took pictures…" she said. "Anyway, Mr. Nichols says he’s dealing with a customer right now and he’ll be with us right as soon as he’s done with that."

"Oh… Okay…" Rayne stared at the carving in his hand and felt exceedingly stupid for not having done what Sarah did.

Oh well, he thought to himself. It wasn’t like anything else had caught his attention.

"Hey," said Rayne as he walked over to Sarah. "What does this design look like to you?"

Sarah seemed taken aback by the question. "What do you mean? It’s just flowers, isn’t it?" she said, accepting the carving from Rayne. She looked at it closer, blinked, and added, "Oh shit, wait. Wow, that’s weird."

"You see it too?" said Rayne.

Sarah turned the wood carving over in her hands. "Y-yeah, I think so."

"The men fucking?"

"Ew. Gross. Pervert!" Sarah laughed, handing the wood back. "No! I saw this beach that I used to go to with my family when I was little. It’s all fucked up now so don’t even ask, but it was kinda nice getting reminded—even if it was a bit sad."

Rayne stared at the carving. He tried his best to see what Sarah had described but to no avail. "Nope," he said, shaking his head. "Looks like men fucking to me."

Sarah laughed. "What does that say about you, then?" she teased.

Rayne rolled his eyes. "I think it says that I managed to find exactly the kind of thing that would qualify as unsettling."

"Sure," Sarah scoffed.

The door opened and Mr. Nichols peeked in. "Ready?" he said.

"Yep! Thanks again for letting us do this, Mr. Nichols," said Sarah.

Rayne held up his find. "Mind if I got this, Mr. Nichols? I’ll give you 20 for it."


Rayne laughed. "C’mon, man. 25?"

Mr. Nichols pondered for a moment. He held out a hand. "25 sounds good," he said.

"Sold!" said Rayne, shaking on it before the three of them left the warehouse behind.

Chuck was out when Rayne finally got home. Thank God. He didn’t know if he was ready to confront the big lump of meat just yet.

He made his way to the kitchen and grabbed a gas lighter. Mr. Nichols had told him the thing he’d grabbed was a decorative sleeve that was supposed to go around a glass candle holder.

He’d gotten Sarah to drop by a Holly Sticks on the way back so he could pick up both a glass candle holder that would fit inside the sleeve and a candle. He got it all set up, put the candle in the holder and the holder in the sleeve.

He didn’t really know where all the excitement was coming from but he couldn’t help it. Nervous energy prickled at his fingertips as he reached into the glass holder with the gas lighter and lit the candle.

The flame flickered to life, filling the room with the faint scent of sandalwood incense. Slowly, the flame grew, a single twisting and curling trail of smoke rising from the tip.

It was pretty, that much Rayne could see. He was most interested in the shadows cast by the sleeve, though. They danced across the tabletop as the flame flickered.

The sight was strange. The design seemed to move. And not just in the sense that the angle of the shadows changed whenever the flame sputtered.

No. The men Rayne saw in the ornate latticework weren’t just still, anymore. They were fucking actively. Vigorously, even. It was so life-like Rayne could have sworn he heard them moaning.

Transfixed as he was on the scenes playing out in the shadows, Rayne barely noticed the dramatic change in the candle itself. The flame had become brighter—intensely so—and had taken on a faint lilac hue.

The flame sputtered and thick, faintly-purple smoke began to pour out of the candle holder. His eyes grew wide as sparks flew out of the top of the candle holder, shimmering as the growing cloud of smoke caught them.

Instead of diffusing into the air and setting off the smoke alarm, however, the cloud of smoke hung unnaturally suspended over the candle. It grew larger and larger until it hit some threshold and collapsed, pouring on top of the candle and spilling over the edges of the table.

That wasn’t the strangest part. Instead of scattering across the floor, the smoke instead pooled in front of Rayne. It piled up higher and higher as more and more smoke poured from the candle holder.

Rayne watched with wide-eyed disbelief as the cloud grew and grew and grew, stopping only when it was about his height. He stared at it for a moment, uncertain of what to do.

He was about to reach out and touch it when a hand burst out through the front of the cloud. Its complexion was dark. Sun-kissed. Ornate jewelry dangled from its wrist, thin gold chains that extended back toward the cloud of smoke and rings that shone with beautiful jewels.

The hand flapped back and forth, waving away the smoke. The roiling cloud dissipated harmlessly. The only proof it had ever been there was a man where once there hadn’t been a man.

"Freedom at long last," said the man.

Rayne gawked at him. His mind couldn’t process what was happening. It made no sense.

Somehow, the candle had produced a man of what Rayne presumed to be Arabic descent, judging by his features and skin tone. He was covered head to toe in gold jewelry, most of it ornate but for the solid gold cuffs around his wrists and ankles and the solid gold choker cinched tightly around his neck.

The only piece of cloth the man wore was a bolt of sheer silk, so transparent it hid practically nothing, draped over his package and ass, hanging from a gold band that rested on his hips with a dip in the front and back.

"Well?" said the strange man. "Are you going to keep staring or what?"

"Um… Sorry… Uh…" Rayne was at a loss for words.

Magic is real? he told himself. Magic is fucking real? It was mind-blowing. Paradigm-shifting. He almost had to wonder if he’d gotten an LSD candle, somehow.

The stranger tilted his head. His eyes, pale blue like ice, raked up and down Rayne’s body. "Of course it’s real, dipshit," he said after a moment. "How else do you think I’m here right now?"

Rayne opened his mouth to say something but the stranger flickered, disappearing into thin air only to reappear, a heartbeat later, standing right in Rayne’s personal space. The stranger put a finger on Rayne’s lips and said, "Don’t you dare say you’re tripping."

The stranger took a step back. He looked around, stretching his arms over his head and yawning. "What year is it, anyway?" he said.

Rayne glanced at the candle and wondered if he should, maybe, put it out. He banished the thought. The stranger would probably get to him before he could do it.

"Yep," said the stranger. "At least you have the sense to think before you act."

Rayne blanched. He’d wondered if the stranger could read his mind. It was all but certain now. He had but one choice if he wanted to avoid antagonizing the strange man: play along. "It’s, uh… 2022," he said.

The stranger seemed surprised. "So long already?" he said. He scratched his cheek. "No wonder the patterns of speech are so different."

Rayne quirked an eyebrow.

The stranger shrugged. "You wouldn’t understand."

"O-kay…" Rayne muttered. He took a moment to breathe and collect himself. Things had happened so fast he didn’t have the opportunity to take stock.

Looking at the stranger—who was hot, he had to admit—he said, "W-who are you?" He swallowed audibly. "What are you?"

The stranger shrugs. "You may call me Karim," he says. "And as for what I am… It’s complicated. But to put it in terms that you might understand better, you can say I’m a genie."

"A… A genie?" said Rayne. "Like… The kind that grants wishes?"

Karim smiles. "After a fashion," he says.

Rayne blinks. "Like… A genie genie. Three wishes? No wishing for more wishes? No wishing to kill someone or for true love?"

Karim shrugged. "Sounds about right," he said.

Rayne frowned. "You’re being awfully noncommittal about this."

Karim smirked. He rose into the air and looked down at his hands. His toes hovered an inch or two off the floor. "Nice," he whispered as he flexed his fingers before turning his attention back to Rayne.

"Did you expect some big sales pitch?" said Karim with a lopsided grin.

He propelled himself through the air with all the smoothness and grace of a seal through water. He lay on his side, head propped up against a fist.

He wrapped himself around Rayne’s shoulders. "Or maybe…" he said, tracing the index finger of his free hand in circles on Rayne’s upper arm. "Maybe you were expecting a big Broadway musical number?"

Karim whipped back around, hovering in front of Rayne, and produced a karaoke microphone out of thin air with a flourish.

"No, no," said Rayne, interrupting Karim just as the first strains of a preppy show tune began to play. "I-it’s not that. I-I was just thinking you might take this whole deal a bit more seriously."

Karim laughed. "You try being stuck in a wooden candle sleeve for a few thousand years and let’s see you take anything seriously."

"Point taken," Rayne sighed. None of this made sense but it was starting to give him a headache so he elected to just play along. "About that, actually… I thought you guys were supposed to come from lamps."

"Lamps. Lanterns. Lead-stoppered bottles tossed by the wise King Solomon into the sea. It varies, really," said Karim. "Don’t judge."

"I-I wasn’t judging," said Rayne. "Um… So… Like… I get three wishes, right?"

"Yeah. Yeah. Sure," said Karim. He put the mic away, which in this case meant disposing of it in a puff of smoke. He clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "So. What will it be?"

"I’m trying to think of something…" Rayne trailed off as he heard the door to the apartment open.

Rayne didn’t even need to hear the visitor’s voice to know who it was. He could tell just from the sound of the footsteps.

"Honey, I’m home!" Chuck called out.

Rayne’s eye twitched. In all the excitement, he’d completely forgotten the argument the two of them had gotten into earlier. It came flooding back and he couldn’t help but grit his teeth.

"Oooh…" Karim teased. "Roommate problems?"

"Ugh. Yeah," said Rayne. "We’ve known each other for years. He’s fine for the most part but sometimes I just wish—" he caught himself just short of what he was about to say and narrowed his eyes at Karim.

"Sometimes—" Rayne repeated. He had to choose his words wisely. He didn’t want to waste one of his wishes "—I wonder if we could get along better if he wasn’t so… so…"

"Annoyingly perfect?" Karim provided helpfully.

"Yeah!" said Rayne. "That!"

Karim’s face shifted. His long dark hair turned into a blond buzzcut as he took on Chuck’s features, his strong nose, his faint freckles, his dimples and his bright blue eyes. "Wow, he’s pretty," said Karim.

"Pretty annoying," said Rayne with a sigh.

"Aww…" said Karim. He floated over to Rayne and patted him on the head. "What if he was someone else, though? Like… for example…"

Karim held out his palm and twirled his other finger over it. The wooden sculpture of the leather daddy Rayne had spotted earlier appeared in his hand. "Do you think you’d get along better with him?"

Rayne’s cock twitched. He liked to think he would get along better with a hot leather daddy. And if he was being honest, part of what made Chuck so annoying was how much he liked to tease Rayne while simultaneously displaying not a single hint of attraction to him.

"Guess so," said Rayne.

"Well… You’ve got the power now, don’t you?" said Karim, his face morphing back into his original appearance, his eyes gleaming with mischief.

"I… I guess I do," said Rayne, grinning as he realized that he did have the power now.

"Go on, then," said Karim.

Rayne grinned. "I wish Chuck became a leather daddy!"

IMPORTANT NOTE: This story was written as a paid commission. If you are interested in commissioning your own story from me, please see the [Commissions] page for more information!

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