In a flash of blue smoke, Genie materialized on the roof in his human form, letting his legs dangle over the edge. The faint sounds of the party below drifted up in an incomprehensible swirl of music and laughter and excited voices. But the glow from the fires and the lanterns didn't quite reach the roof. Instead, the genie found himself shrouded in a quiet darkness, illuminated ever so slightly by the stars overhead. He turned to his left, and as the last of the fireworks exploded, it cast a brief golden glow over the form of his new master, sitting with his legs hanging over the edge too.
"So, uh, kid," Genie began casually. "What are you doing up here?"
Aladdin shrugged, a slight movement just barely perceptible in the dark. "Just taking a break."
"From the party?" Genie guessed, watching the figures below.
"From Prince Ali."
Genie glanced at him again, surprised. But he could still only see the kid's profile, slumped with his head on his hand, elbow on his knee.
"I mean, it's great, don't get me wrong!" Aladdin clarified suddenly, straightening up and facing the genie. "Don't think I'm not grateful or anything. I am, really. It's amazing." There was a note of pure awe and wistfulness in the way he said amazing that struck Genie like a sandstorm. "All the food and the clothes and the drinks and the... well, luxury." He shook his head in apparent disbelief.
Some of Aladdin's words from earlier drifted to the forefront of Genie's mind.
I've never been to a party.
What do I have to offer? Knowledge of how to steal food? How to jump between buildings?
Genie knew that Aladdin was different. He could see it in the things he did, the way he talked, the clothes he wore. He definitely wasn't "that guy." But who was he?
"And the way people look at you," Aladdin continued, voice still breathless with amazement. "Like..." He gesticulated vaguely, searching for the right words. "Like you mean something. Like you're worth something."
Genie frowned. "Hey, of course you're worth something, kid."
"Yeah, I know," he agreed. "Prince Ali is worth a lot."
"That's not what I-"
"So thanks," Aladdin told him fervently. "It really is great. It's just... It felt like a dream, you know? Like in another second, I'd wake up and it would all be gone. So I just had to take a break. To, to remind myself that this is real. Or, I guess," he amended quietly, "to convince myself that this is real."
"And is it working?"
Aladdin shot him a wry grin before leaning back to lie against the roof. "Not really."
Genie copied his master's movements and lay back, too. The stars glinted above them as they lay there in an oddly companionable silence. It had been a long time since Genie had described anything as companionable.
"When I said you were worth something, you know I meant you, right? Not Prince Ali."
A beat of silence.
"Thanks, Genie," Aladdin said. "But... you don't really know me."
Another blue flash rent the air, and suddenly Genie was sitting right beside Aladdin, who, to his credit, was not startled.
"I do know you, boy," Genie told him firmly, poking his chest. And now Aladdin was startled, clearly bewildered by the genie's intensity. "I don't have to know what your life was like to know who you are."
But in fact, Genie realized he had a good idea about what Aladdin's life had been like. He had never been to a party. He knew how to steal food. His clothes, when they first met, had been patched, dirty, and worn. He was clever. Good with his hands. Had a mischievous monkey companion, and a vest with too many pockets. Red marks around his wrists where he had been bound with rope. He never spoke of his family, nor friends, nor even a home. A street rat, Genie believed the common term was. It wasn't a very nice term. But he was sure Aladdin had heard worse. It was no wonder that the respect and admiration Prince Ali attracted was so strange and dream-like to the kid. It was probably the first time he could ever remember being treated like that. Like you're worth something.
And yet Genie knew the rules of the Cave of Wonders, had known them for centuries. Only one may enter here. One whose worth lies far within. The diamond in the rough. This alone gave Genie a pretty good idea of who Aladdin was. That, and the fact that the kid had been his first master ever to ask what he, Genie, would wish for. Not to mention his easy, unbothered, "I'll do it," intending to use his last wish to set Genie free. Even if it didn't end up that way (Genie certainly didn't expect it to), it was the thought that counted, right?
So maybe Aladdin was a street rat, but he was also so much more. He wondered if Aladdin knew that, or guessed it, or perhaps just tried to believe it. But Genie, at least, knew. Knew that Aladdin was worth more than others thought, more than he realized, more than even Prince Ali. If only the kid could see it too.
The genie was snapped out of his thoughts by his master's voice, and realized belatedly that he was still leaning over Aladdin rather intimidatingly, in the middle of trying to convince the kid of his worth. The street-rat-turned-prince squirmed uncomfortably beneath Genie's attention.
"Sorry," Genie mumbled, backing off. "Got a little lost in thought there. But my point still stands, right?"
"Right." Aladdin nodded, sitting up to watch the party again. "Thanks for thinking so highly of me, Genie." He cast him a small smile. "Even if I'm not really a prince."
"You bet," Genie replied, with a bigger smile. "You ready to head back to the party?"
"Then how about we head back to your room, and figure out what to do about that princess of yours?"
Aladdin laughed and stood, balanced expertly on the rooftop. "Sounds good," he said.
"Alright!" Genie cheered. He stood up too. He took one last look at the party still going on below, and frowned.
"You can go back to the party if you want," Aladdin told him quietly, clearly following Genie's gaze. But the genie shook his head.
"No, that's not what I..." He trailed off, rubbing the back of his neck in obvious bewilderment. "I just..." Genie looked to the left and to the right, then behind them, and finally below them once more. He turned back to Aladdin, who was watching him curiously but patiently.
"What is it?" his master asked.
Genie studied the kid with a frown, and then pointed in frustration to their current position on the roof.
"Kid, how did you get up here?!"