I'm so sorry for the long wait between chapters, work is crazy at the moment as is the rest of my life, not to mention the fact that this chapter just wouldn't end! Everyone wanted to get in on this one and demanded some attention! This was meant to be a short-one shot story within the series and it has become somewhat larger! It might not have been a fast update but I hope the length makes up for it!
Thank you to everyone who has been reading, favouriting and following this story and of course leaving reviews! I read all of them and I really appreciate them, it's what keeps me going! There may be a long gap between chapters but I promise I will finish this series, I'll update as often as I can!
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Summer in the City
August hit the museum like a particularly sweaty brick. Larry was pretty damn sure that wax and polyurethane figures shouldn't be bothered by temperature changes but the whole museum was clearly sweltering.
Both the Vikings and Huns had shed their armour, most of the exhibits had shucked whatever layers they could without sacrificing the general level of modesty Larry insisted on. (There were some things that could never be unseen)
It was like they were reacting to his level of uncomfortable rather than the actual temperature. Either way, most of the exhibits were sprawled lazily about the museum, a huge number had taken up refuge in the Ocean Life exhibit, thoroughly appreciating the sea breeze. The blue whale, nicknamed 'Moby' because Nicky couldn't bring himself to name such a friendly creature 'Monstro' was rather pleased by all the visitors, he'd learned to sing a little more quietly so as not to blow the ear drums of anyone listening but still managed his songs as happily as before. The visitors had come to hear his songs and he wasn't going to disappoint!
So summer in the museum was filled with lethargic exhibits and exuberant whale song. Everyone was fairly relaxed, if a bit over-warm.
Ahkmen upon feeling the warmer weather nearly exploded in excitement.
"It's like Egypt here!" He bounced for possibly the 400th time. Larry was ever-so-slightly beginning to lose his mind. Teddy and Sac were dealing with a very unhappy JB who was also uncomfortably hot, his wailing had shredded everyone's ears and even his adoring older adoptive brother could only deal with it for so long. They'd taken Jean-Baptiste off to try and bathe him and Ahkmen had for once opted to stay with others, he wasn't all that used to shrieking babies and it was beginning to hurt his ears, no matter what he'd tried his little brother continued to wail so he decided this was clearly a Moon-Mother level problem and opted to stay with Larry-Guardian and the rest of the lobby dwelling exhibits.
But it really was too hot for anyone who wasn't used to it. Even Rexy wasn't in any mood to play, flumphed as he was on the floor, his regular playmate of Manny the Mammoth (Honestly Larry needed to limit Nicky's naming of things, it was like living in a Disney movie) was staving off the heat in the Ocean Life section having previous made up with Moby after scaring him a few months ago.
Ahkmen was beside himself with joy, he'd missed feeling warm like this, the hall of the Gods was alright especially after Moon Mother and Papa Bear gave him cosy clothes to wear but it wasn't as warm as home. He thought it was probably because everyone had to share and that Gaborik and Tulung wouldn't like things to be as warm as Egypt as they lived in the very cold north and had lots of furs and things to keep warm so it wasn't as cold in the halls for them but it also wasn't as warm for him. A balance everyone could be in which was alright thought Ahkmen once he realised everyone had to share the space and needed to be comfortable. But now? Now it was WARM.
He'd heard Larry-Guardian talking about something called Air-Con and it not working but Ahkmen didn't really understand what he meant. Just that it was lovely and warm and like home and he missed feeling like this, like the sun was looking at him directly, making his blood race inside him, making him want to play and run and jump!
And that's exactly what he did.
He'd managed to tire pretty much everyone out, even Tulung and Rua the liveliest of the Inuits and Huns, Kjartan and Edil having already long since disappeared for the evening. Nicky was on holiday with Erica and Don for two weeks and Teti, his ever loyal companion was doing her best to keep up but she was only a little bear with even smaller legs, it was hard to run around a lot when you were made mostly of wool and fluff. Plus, she was getting very hot too and had had to flop on the floor finally, sitting and watching her friend as the heat got too much. Anna, in a last ditch attempt to save everyone challenged Ahkmen to see how many cartwheels could he do one after another.
The little boy bounded off happily in the assurance that someone was watching what he was doing. Everything was better if someone watched, it meant what he did mattered, it was worth something.
"How does he do it?" Anna turned to her Nordic friend.
Ragnar smiled, "Little ones are always full of life silver fingers."
Anna smiled, she didn't understand half of Ragnar's words but she knew that last one was for her and her alone, she'd never heard him use it with anyone else, "I know but I'm sure this one is stealing our energy to use himself!" Anna fanned herself as she spoke, careful to keep an eye on the cavorting princeling, he'd already got halfway down the long corridor to the hall of miniatures.
Ragnar tried very hard not to look at the Dutch woman as she sat in simple blouse and skirt, stockings and shoes long forgotten, long, long hair tied haphazardly up in a top knot in a desperate bid to keep cool. It was very hard to ignore the few strands that escaped to frame her face perfectly.
The Viking lord swallowed hard, sensing an opportunity to escape this situation before he made a total fool of himself, he could not risk their friendship with a thoughless gesture "then we shall have to tire him and steal it back. Ahkmen!" Yelled the Norseman, "can you roll?"
"Roll?" queried the child, freezing as he was about to attempt another cartwheel.
"Roll forwards ingot"
Ahkmen continued to look puzzled, whilst both Ragnar's and Ahkmen's English was slowly improving there were some words and meanings they'd not quite cracked yet.
Ragnar sighed, deliberately stripping off the last of his armour and boots leaving only his linen tunic and woollen trews in place. "Like this ingot."
The large Viking tucked himself close and performed a fairly impressive forward roll.
It was Anna's turn to try not to stare, the definition of the Norseman's back was not disguised by his tunic under any stretch of the imagination. Thankfully Ahkmen's trilling and excited clapping meant it seemed like she was looking at the child.
"Me next! Me next!"
"Onwards ingot!" Ahkmen needed no more encouragement and proceeded to turn himself into a tiny human hedgehog, rolling along happily, enjoying the fact that for once he was being encouraged to play rather than 'behave like a prince ought'
He really liked not having nurses and nannies.
The halls of the Gods had their compensations.
"Having fun there Anna?"
Larry didn't even try to hide his smile.
The Dutch woman blushed crimson, Ragnar missed her awkwardness completely in favour of clapping Larry heartily on the back, "Guardian! Are you well this evening?"
"I'm great Ragnar, just great. Hey, thanks for keeping him occupied for a bit."
"We hope to tire him, he has stolen everyone's life"
Larry's eyes widened in worry, "Life?"
"Energy," translated Anna quickly, "he's full of it and the rest of us are, well," she gestured to the decidedly inactive room.
"Wilting like a daisy in the Bronx?"
The Dutch woman had no idea what he'd said but she guessed his meaning, "I will take your word for it guardian."
Larry smiled, "it's crazy hot, not hot enough to melt you guys that are wax thank god but it's gonna stay like this," Anna and Ragnar looked appalled, " Yeah, I know, I checked the weather report, it's going to be like this for least another week."
"Yeah, I'll try and get some fans rigged up for everyone but we've got a lot of heat ahead of us."
"And that only seems to fuel Ahkmen.
"The child is reminded of home," Larry and Anna looked puzzled, Ragnar elaborated, " The land of the golden sands is his home is it not?"
The night guard considered, "Yeah, you could describe Egypt like that."
"Where the sun always shines and warmth is as common as flies?" Pressed the Norseman pointedly.
"Yeah, oh right, I get it. It's like home to him, he's used to this."
"More so guardian, this is the closest he shall feel to home, it is joy that fills him, even if he may not understand all the whys."
"Do you think this will upset him?"
"Does he look upset?"
The child in question was currently trying to walk on his hands.
"Yeah, let's just take this one as a win shall we?"
"But what are we going to do if this heat is to persist? We cannot keep up with him for long and he will grow bored before long. These nights colouring will not keep him entertained."
"No I mean, we're gonna have to take it in turns keeping him occupied, you're right, colouring isn't going to cut it. I can ask around and see if people are willing to do something active with him."
"Do not ask those of us from colder climates, they're the ones worst affected."
"What of Bekebhantu? He might be willing."
Larry beamed, "Brilliant, he's a Zulu, those guys ran for miles every day in crazy heat. I'll ask him. Thanks Anna. For tonight though, I'll see if I can tire him out with catch."
It took a while but Larry, with the help of a particularly bouncy ball and Lewis and Clark who'd long since given up any sense of awkwardness around the young prince managed to tire Ahkmen out enough to put him to bed, collecting a very relieved Teti along the way, she was every diligent in watching him but even she had her limits of what she could with him.
They had liked Ahkmenrah tremendously, they liked his manners, his loyalty and how fiercely he had protected 'Pomp' on the night of the break in. He had been good for their Sacagawea, adding to her much needed sense of family and, they suspected, she had been very good for him, as other honorary brothers of her they knew just what a difference she could make.
They had been a little, for lack of a better word, nervous around the child at first. He was so tiny, so frightened at first then so full of energy and laughter, so different from the reserved regal young man they had known. They were worried about saying the wrong thing, about scaring him further and then, well, at first it seemed like a disrespect to their friend, to treat him completely as a child.
This thankfully didn't last long.
They realised very quickly once it was clear the child wasn't going to disappear after one night that Ahkmen was very much just that, a child, with no memories of his adult self. It also helped that whilst he attached himself firmly to Sacagawea and later Teddy the little boy was incredibly affectionate once he got over the whole 'pale demons' thing. It was very easy to imagine him as an older brother to Pomp, there was enough similarity to warrant an unquestioning introduction to a newcomer.
Both men had, by the end of the first week, been completely accepted by the child as part of the family and indeed liked to play and climb and explore with the adventurers. Both Lewis and Clark decided that it was an incredibly satisfying experience to prepare them for when Jean-Baptiste was that age.
As it was, the heatwave not only continued but got hotter, still not in the danger zone for wax figures (Larry was checking pretty much on the hour every hour just to make sure) but definitely not comfortable.
Bhekabantu was more than willing to allow the small child to accompany him on his evening runs, it was nice to have some more company, he'd got used to running with several exhibits but since the heatwave had struck they hadn't been able to keep up. He didn't do the miles he had in his previous life however, since Larry's guardianship had begun he'd been finally allowed to just run. Run for however long he pleased, wherever he pleased so long as he didn't startle or upset anyone else. In the last eight months he'd created a range of different routes, some more challenging than others using the stairs and winding corridors as well as the vast halls of display. Running was in his blood, he'd begun in his sixth year a proud udibi, apprentice warrior, charged with light support work, keeping the water and rations moving before becoming a grown soldier in his own right. They ran as commanded, miles in the hot sun to achieve victory in their lightning attacks, he had hoped to graduate from the horns to take his place in the bull's chest, a veteran of combat ready to fight fiercely against their enemies but before that he had awoken in this hall of misfortune, cold and confused. Incarcerated in his room by fiends in grey he had fought for freedom but only earned beatings in return, they had used the wand that spat lightning at him in that first week and then they had simply locked him within the room, the doors too powerful to break down but at least he had room to pace, to run in circles. A least he could move. But still, he had been ready to kill the next man in that garb but he had not tried to contain him, had welcomed all help to save the hall and had rewarded that with freedom. The young warrior had been almost moved to tears when he found he could run unchallenged once more.
Slowly, more and more had joined him, it became a pleasure as well as a release. He had made an effort to learn the common tongue when lessons were offered, wanting to communicate with his fellow runners. They had made quite the group.
On occasion the sand king from the far north of his land had joined them, he was young, younger than Bhekabantu himself, and eager to feel the freedom their paths allowed, stripped from his usual gold to clothing he wore to spar in the arena they all ran peaceably.
It was still an unsettling mystery that the child that ran alongside, piping questions to him along the way was that same sand king, just reduced, forced back into childhood. Bhekabantu did not question the magic that allowed life to pulse through them each night for he knew he would get no answers. Instead, he tried not to miss the sun and the warmth of the day focusing on new friends and the joy of the run.
It was impressive how long the child kept talking.
"where are we going?, why are we running? Do you like running? My Daddy likes to run sometimes, he has to practice for the Heb-Sed festival, are you practicing for that? I like running! It's so warm I can run and run! Why aren't you wearing shoes? Don't you have any shoes? Don't you like shoes? I had sandals at the palace but now I have these, Nicky calls them sneakers. Do you think it's because they're quiet so people can sneak in them? They're red and I love them. I've never had red shoes before. I can run better in these than my sandals!"
And so on and so forth.
Bhekabantu grinned at the child, answering questions where he could, asking his own in turn, interested in the lands far, far to the north of his homeland, of the great stone buildings, of gods and kings honoured in rock and where the floods brought both life and death.
The child chattered on happily, he'd deliberately slowed his pace and taken the easier of the routes, intending to keep going till the little boy was tired, the others had begged him to keep him occupied, the others, not so used to such oppressive heat were struggling to keep up with an energetic little one.
He missed being around young ones, as a young man back home he'd found them tiresome and annoying but now, having not seen a child for over 50 years he'd come to appreciate both the baby and the king-turned-prince, there was something about their laughter, their joy in things that made his soul lighter, even if it was for just a little while.
He was still reminiscing over this when he realised he'd not heard a question in a while. Nor were his steps being echoed.
Bhekabantu froze. The boy was no longer with him, the Zulu looked about him frantically until his eyes fell upon a small figure face down on the floor half way back the way they had come. With a jolt of terror the young warrior leapt into a sprint, charging towards the prone child, a panic of thoughts tumbling through him, terrified he'd somehow killed the child, that they'd run too far.
Sacagawea was absolutely going to kill him.
He reached the little boy, heart in his throat, just time to hear a muffled snore.
Bhekabantu very nearly passed out with relief. He was asleep. He was only asleep. He'd heard of the child's sleepy exploits, he'd even returned the little one a few times from odd sleeping places but he never believed the stories that he could just stop like putting out a flame. He was beyond grateful that it was as harmless as that but reasoned it may be next week before his heart rate returned to normal. With a heavy sigh he scooped up the comatose child and carried him gently back to his official carers, proud he could have succeeded in the mission they'd given him but also privately glad he got to keep his hide intact.
"Oh, hey how did-" Larry paused taking in the sight of the Zulu holding the unconscious child, the night guard was well versed enough to notice the remains of absolute terror that radiated off the young man. "Ah, he conk out on you mid step then?"
Surprised eyes snapped up to meet his, "How, how did you know?"
"Ahkmen's got a habit of it. I'm impressed though, didn't think he'd manage it running."
"There was no warning." Admitted the young man, still looking mildly shocked, "One moment he was with me. Next moment down."
"Yeah, yeah that sounds pretty typical, it's cool though, he's fine, you're fine and Sac isn't going to kill you."
Bhekabantu raised an eyebrow.
"Trust me, I know that look of fear, it's usually on my face."
The both shared a relieved grin, "look," continued Larry, "no harm no foul."
"What do birds have to do with this?"
"No that's fowl, I mean nothing bad."
"Your English words are confusing."
"Tell me about it buddy."
"I just did."
"No, I mean," Larry gave up, "you know what? Yes, yes English is confusing as all hell and I salute you all for learning."
"We have good teachers." the young man smiled, finally relaxing.
"That we do, that we do."
"Oh thank the great sprit! He's asleep! What did you do?" A very tired looking Sacagawea appeared carrying a JB who was clothed only in a cloth diaper closely followed by a hatless, gloveless and jacketless Teddy. The 26th president mopped his brow and sighed with relief.
"He looks out for the count! Well done my lad!"
"It was nothing," the smile that tugged at the warrior's mouth said otherwise. Larry had been making a point of including ALL the museum exhibits in stuff, trying to make everyone feel more comfortable and generally welcome. According to Attila some of the exhibits had had a rougher time than others, not as rough as Ahk or Teddy or Sac in that respect obviously but still, Larry was determined EVERYONE felt welcome, wanted and free.
"No, it was most certainly something," asserted Sac, "I can't thank you enough. What with the heat Jean-Baptiste will not settle and it's hard to focus on two children at once when it feels like all I want to do is sleep."
"Then I am glad to have helped."
"We really appreciate it my boy, we're very grateful of a reprieve." Teddy took the sleeping child from the Zulu who bowed once Teddy had the little boy clasped tightly in his arms.
"We are of one family here, a unit with the same purpose, we must assist each other.
"Quite right my boy, quite right."
"Did the run go well?" asked Sac, smiling at the young man, eternally grateful she didn't have to deal with an-overly hyped Ahkmen before bedtime.
"He ran far for one so small," complimented Bhekabantu,"the easy route but I made it last, made it seem new when it was old."
"I did not wish him to bore, we raced at times too."
"Excellent, you've done a good job man, thank you." Larry eyed the Zulu worriedly before offering, "Do you want any water?"
The young man smiled, "Thank you but no, I need it not. This magic is something I like to test, I want to see how far I can go. This air, the heat of it is nearest to home as I can remember. There is no one else now to think of today. I wish to see how long, how far."
Larry wasn't sure what to say to that, it sounded like hell to him but hey, whatever worked for people, "Well, um, good luck with that."
"Thank you guardian." Bhekabantu bowed once more, flashed a quick grin at the sleeping child and launched easily into a sprint.
"You know," Larry sighed, "I really need to get people to stop calling me that."
Teddy smiled knowingly, "Why fight a losing battle Lawrence?"
"It does fit you, you know," added Sac helpfully, "you are a guardian Larry, even if you don't consider yourself one."
"You two are so not helping." The pair smirked at their friend, "Yeah, yeah," continued the night guard, "I'm not guarding you guys against the weather all that well, air con's still bust."
"Indeed but we'll manage, there's only so much you can do, and I can tell you, I've spent a good few heatwaves within these hallowed halls and this is by far the calmest and most peaceable one."
That surprised Larry, "Really?"
Teddy leaned in conspiratorially, "Really."
"Oh," Larry rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, "well, um, that's nice."
Teddy and Sac shared a look, a familiar one to the pair of them that meant 'one day we are going to make him see his worth.'
"However," continued Teddy, attempting to fill the slightly awkward silence, "we've not had a heatwave where we've had to marshal a heat-proof child."
"No, fair enough. Any ideas of what we can do?"
"I'd like to take him outside but since the only place that is safe from prying eyes is the roof I don't think it is worth the risk."
"Yeah, no, I am not dealing with a small child who forgets he can't fly."
It had been one of Larry's many Ahkmen-based nightmares that the child would get over-exuberant in the fresh air and make some miscalculated leap into the unforgiving Manhattan skyline. He had absolutely no idea if the tablet could mend broken mini-pharaohs but he was categorically NOT going to find out. He was pretty sure superglue would not be an acceptable back up plan and if it happened on his watch, if the horror didn't kill him Sac certainly would.
"So the roof is out until we can guarantee that we can keep him on it." Agreed Sacagawea.
"What about this Lawrence?"
Larry turned to look at Teddy who, with the ease of a well-practiced parent, had shifted Ahkmen onto one shoulder, freeing up his right arm to sift through many leaflets adorning the main desk.
"What you got?"
"A family fun day, some sort of summer festival in central park this Saturday."
"Well that's no good, he's only awake after—"
Teddy cut him off, presidential tone slicing through Larry's words, "I didn't finish."
Larry shut up immediately.
"What it says is that it's a festival of some sort, a carnival celebration that is intended to be 24 hours in Central Park, I believe commemorating the notion of 'the city that never sleeps', security will be present and activities for young ones will be running till midnight."
Larry's jaw dropped, "What? Really?"
"Indeed Lawrence, see for yourself."
Larry scanned the flyer, Teddy was right, this was perfect.
"Why are they holding such an event?" Asked Sac puzzled at the idea of such festivities in the city.
Larry shrugged, "it's New York, they don't need a reason to party."
"So it seems."
"Look, guys this could be the perfect thing," The night guard's eyes were taking on an excited sheen, "it's meant to get even hotter this weekend, Ahkmen's going to explode if he doesn't get outside soon."
"I agree entirely but you can you really leave the museum for that long? I mean, of course we would keep an eye here but we've never had a night guard leave these hallowed halls during an evening and—"
"Wait, Teddy, buddy, actually," he paused, trying to find the right words deciding to just try and come out with it, "actually I was going to ask you and Sac if you two wouldn't mind taking him out?"
Teddy looked astonished. "Us? Outside? But—"
Sac jumped in, hardly daring to hope, "Truly? You would permit us?"
Larry was dumbfounded, "Whoa, guys, what do you mean 'permit'? Of course you can go outside, I mean, I'd rather you didn't in your costumes since, you know, attracting attention is a bad thing but if you ever wanted to go outside you could, I'm not going to stop you, I wouldn't announce it to the world but I trust you guys, I trust everyone here who can understand me since you know, it's hard to know what I'm saying if you don't speak English or Larry or both but yeah, of course, I can only ask you guys to do stuff, you know, and ask nicely, what you guys still thought—?" Larry was beginning to look horrified.
"No," Teddy was quick to reassure, "it's not that you were being tyrannical, not in the slightest, it just, well, it honestly hadn't occurred had it my love?" He turned to Sacagawea for back up.
"No, never," she agreed, still looking incredibly excited, almost glowing as she spoke, "much as I would like to explore this new world we have only ventured outside in emergencies. It never crossed my mind that we might be able to leave, the threat of the sun has always been so great."
"Well, you know, dawn is a long way off, and it wouldn't be for all of the night anyway, plus, you know, you guys, you're sensible you're not about to run off or cause a scene or anything, I mean, like, mass migration like when I first started? That is a bad plan but this, on occasion, this could work, you know, I mean, you don't have to if—"
"No, we want to." Cut in Sac immediately, "we would love to take Ahkmen and Jean-Baptiste out on Saturday."
"Yes, quite, both of us, and the children if you are willing."
Larry beamed in equal parts relief and amusement, it wasn't often he got to see the pair of them so flustered and excited. "Great, thanks guys I owe you one for this."
"Is there anything we should know about?"
"About the event, things we should probably know about society, if we are to blend in, I am not familiar with the world outside nor is my bear," she turned to Teddy, "though you are more up to date than I, this is your city after all."
Teddy blushed. "Well, I did have a hand in some of the constructions." He understated impressively.
Larry loved to watch Sac gently tease Teddy, it never got old watching the usually effusive and jovial president get hot under the collar.
"I'll get you some leaflets and stuff but in general, it's August 2007, George W. Bush is president, always tip people and don't trust anyone."
"Really, that's hardly encouraging."
"Trust me, people can be—"
"Oh I know, ne'erdowells and nincompoops, you stressed that last time we ventured outside. We will be keeping a close eye on Ahkmen you have our fullest assurances."
"Why do you think I'm asking you guys? I know you'll do a good job."
"Thank you Larry, thank you for your faith in us."
"Sac, honestly, there are no other people in the world I trust more than you two."
"Still, it is an honour, and one we do not take lightly," She kissed Larry's cheek gently to emphasise her point.
It was the night guard's turn to blush hard, praise from his friends was something unexpected (despite the regularity on which that praise occurred) and very much savoured.
"And now I think it's time to get these boys to bed."
"Yeah," Larry cleared his throat, "good call. You know, I never thought putting them down together would still work, you would think Ahkmen would get bored of JB stealing his space all the time."
"On the contrary, Ahkmen settles far more quickly if he shares with his baby brother and Teti. He adores them and cuddles them both tightly, it's a challenge to prise him off most nights."
"Speaking of, where is she? I haven't seen her all night."
"Ahkmen left her in his room, she was very tired he said and his room was cooler. She apparently doesn't like the heat, being made of fluffy things so he wanted her to be comfortable since she refused him when he offered her a soak in the sink to cool down."
"Indeed, she is rather aware of things especially to do with our young friend."
"You know, one of these days I'll bring in Nicky's old Winnie the Pooh books, he's a bear of very little brain but he's pretty wise in all cases. Might make a nice bedtime story or two."
"That would be lovely Larry, I'm sure Ahkmen and Jean-Baptiste will appreciate it."
"Well, goodnight Lawrence, no doubt we shall see you later."
"Yeah, later guys."
With that family Saca-Roosevelt headed off with both their sleeping charges.
In the days that followed the exhibits did their best to keep cool, Larry had completely given up on both jacket and tie but had managed to commandeer as many fans as he could find in the various offices and set them up in the most populated areas which made the environment marginally more tolerable.
Sac had taken JB for a bath to try and help cool him off which Ahkmen immediately insisted in joining in, Sacagawea and Teddy had tried to mediate the situation by saying he could help bathe his little brother but that he himself didn't need a bath.
It took roughly the seven seconds both parents had their backs turned for Ahkmen to be as naked as his baby brother sitting in the large stone sink that served as their bath babbling happily to the infant and playing with his beloved rubber ducks.
Sac and Teddy sighed. Well, at least they'd tried to preserve Ahk's modesty for when he returned to them. Oh well, it seemed there was no further point in worrying now.
The shrill shrieks of delight drew Larry's attention who took one look at the situation, opened his mouth then looking at his friend's faces gave up, Ahk was going to freak out whatever happened when he returned, one bath or 500 it really made no difference.
However, it did give him an idea.
He headed over to the kitchen and after a quick, successful hunt he found what he was after, three fairly large Tupperware boxes. He sat them on the side and looked at them critically, he needed something else before they were going to be useful. He rootled about some more before finding some cocktail sticks and twine. Larry considered, it might do, but if he could find something that would quicker and easier to assemble that would be best.
He was in luck.
After a thorough raid of the lost and found box he laid his hands on the jackpot. It didn't take him long to put together everything like he wanted. It should do the trick. Now to offer his idea to those who might appreciate it.
Jed and Octavius, like the rest of the dioramas, were sweltering. Ancient Rome and Texan summers were one thing but New York heat waves when you're three inches tall were not fun. Even the Mayans were uncomfortable, this heat was unyielding and stifling and tempers were fraying.
The romans, after approval from Octavius had shed their armour and the cowboys and railway workers likewise had stripped out of several layers. It was hot, dry and miserable.
The first few days were tolerable, people talked, relaxed, played a few games but the longer it went on the hotter and more disgruntled people became. Arguments over petty things broke out, it was all Jed and Octavius could do to moderate things, it wasn't even between romans and cowboys half the time, but between friends, co-workers, people who'd got on for the last 54 years (in part at least due to their unity against 'the others' in the next diorama). They'd not left their hall since the start of the heatwave, had barely seen each to other in the last few days as the duties of good leadership called and required some diplomacy and some head smacking. As such, both men were getting testy themselves. Jed put it down to this "God-damn unnatural abomination of a heatwave of tarnation" whereas Octavius, who whilst quietly wondering what they'd done to incur the wrath of Vulcan whom surely must be sending the heat of his forges to announce his displeasure, was more aware of what truly behind his increasingly short temper.
He missed Jedediah.
He missed their adventures together, exploring the wider world of the museum, talking for hours as they looked up at the stars from the safety of the sill they had assailed. He missed his friend's easy company, their discussions over culture similarities, differences, philosophies and memories. They talked about what they remembered of their lives before something neither man shared with anyone else, they'd grown a solid trust remarkably quickly once they'd put aside their differences and it was a constant source of joy for Octavius. Which was why it was one of the reasons bothering him that they'd not seen each other properly for a while.
The appearance of Ahkmen and his continuing presence had shaken Jed badly. Much as he would be the first to say he 'loved the lil'tyke, he's made outta goddamn sunshine' it did remind him categorically that he was in a museum, he'd never have the children he'd wanted, hell, the life he'd wanted. That Ahkmen was the closest he was now ever going to get to that experience. The cowboy had thought he'd come to terms with that but seeing the child on a nearly daily basis (Ahkmen utterly adored the pair of them) had reopened old wounds. He'd only confided to Octavius, something the roman general took as a great honour, he himself had never considered the possibility of children, being an uncle was enough, his duty to the empire came first. And as such he'd been trying his best to distract his best friend, he couldn't bear to see him unhappy and whilst this heatwave was technically a distraction it was only fuelling his temper.
Given that this was the current situation Octavius was dealing with the appearance of Larry was something akin to a godsend. It was even better when he heard what the night guard suggested.
The pair enthusiastically agreed to his plan, grinning happily at each other for the first time in days as they awaited his return with the supplies.
"This is gonna be great!" crowed Jed who'd thrown his arms around his friend in his exuberance. "Why'd we never think to ask for this last bunch o'times the museum got sweatier than an armpit in Kansas?"
"Because," Octavius began hoping to cover his blush as an excuse of the weather, "the previous guardians had no consideration of us or our needs"
Jed sobered, "yeah, you're right there, what was it?" Jed began to imitate, "'You ain't real, you can't feel the heat so quit your whining'" He grimaced. Whilst yes, technically they couldn't starve or dehydrate, every time the sun rose they were returned to an optimal state they could still get uncomfortable, it was the memory of heat and physical feelings if nothing else but the point was the environment could effect them, the fact they'd survived in the cold no problem when dealing with the old guards the third night Larry had taken over had been mainly down to the fact they were so focused on their mission they honestly hadn't noticed it, plus the tablet command returned them back in one piece to the museum and probably a lot faster if it had been their own wills guiding their feet .
And Larry cared.
Larry had come by to ask them if they were okay, had previously brought some ice cubes around to help keep them cool as electric fans were completely off the cards since it would blow them all down the hall.
They were eternally grateful to the night guard for viewing them all as people.
The men didn't have to wait long for the Guardian of Brooklyn to return.
"Right, so um, I got three containers, they were the only decent ones I could find so one can go to the Mayans and I thought you guys could share these two, I figured maybe male and female if you wanted to give the ladies some privacy or you know just use them however. I've got some Lego brick stairs I made out of the lost and found but if you guys wanted to make your own ladders then there's some cocktail sticks and twine I cut up that you could use if that's better? If you tell me where you want them I'll go get the water."
Larry had realised that maybe privacy might be an issue for the western ladies at least and all the ladies might want a break from the guys but he wasn't there to dictate, however best it worked for them they could sort themselves out. All he needed to do was supply water and make sure the Lego steps in and out held.
Jed and Octavius were nearly fizzing with excitement, they were going to get their own pool! Octavius had missed the civilisation of the baths, it was something he had always availed himself of whenever he had the chance.
Until the museum.
He had considered requesting something like that in the early days but quickly dismissed the idea, it was foolish to give the previous night guards an opportunity to exploit. If he let on that there were things that would make his men more comfortable, that would allay their fears then they would use that against him or simply continue to ignore their existence save for locking them up.
He and Jed both had asked Larry not to explain what he was doing wanting to surprise their people, both men looking forward to the joy it would bring.
Larry was quick to return. He was beyond pleased that the guys had liked the idea, had been basically bouncing up and down at the thought, it made him move all the quicker, at least he could do this for them, he might not be able to make everyone comfortable but he could at least do this.
Following Jed and Octavius' request he set up one container in each diorama, added the steps and the water and once he made sure it was safe left them to it. Stopping only to make sure the Mayans understood they weren't allowed to drown anyone in their pool no matter how annoyed they got with the Pelota Purépecha teams, he'd had to have a very stern word with all of them of why they couldn't play fire hockey indoors, normal Mayan hockey was fine so long as no one tried to actively kill another person however the fire ball version was banned. B'alam had accepted the terms with grace at least, he knew better than to test the patience of this pale guardian of the night, it was better to keep him in good spirits than to antagonise him. Especially when he was the supplier of sustenance worthy of the Gods.
Larry gave the hall once last check over before heading off to make sure everyone else was okay, he had to admit, bribing the Mayans to behave with gummi sweets had been one of his better ideas, there were far less willing to cause trouble when they knew he would withhold the treats. The fact that they considered them divine gifts was a bonus.
With a satisfied nod to himself he headed off on his rounds.
The romans and westerners viewed the new additions to their displays with unabashed delight. The ladies quickly declared their rights to their own pool, Claudia, Choi Hei-Jyut and Sarah citing in equal parts common decency, peace and the lack of will to share with 'a bunch o'guys stinking worse than a month-old stable.' As it was, technically, they couldn't really sweat or smell, and they would return to crisp freshness every sundown however, it was the principle of the matter.
The men saw off the ladies without too much complaint, it meant they could behave far more immaturely than usual (The fact that the ladies planned to do exactly the same thing was something they weren't about to share).
As soon as they were gone the guys began to strip down, whooping with delight. Jed joined in with them until he caught sight of the romans, specifically Octavius also tugging off his tunic.
"Wait, what?" His question was almost drowned out but Octavius caught the tone, Jed was distressed for some reason.
"What's the matter my friend?"
"You're stripping off too?!" The cowboy was incredulous.
"Why yes of course, it is rather warm Jedediah. I thought you might have noticed as we have been complaining of that very fact for several days. I intend to alleviate that with a swim. Aren't you?" The roman general was honestly puzzled by his friend's reaction.
"But you're going in naked?!"
"Of course, how you do expect to swim?" Asked Octavius mildly, completely oblivious to the conniptions he was causing Jed. "There is no point in constricting yourself in clothing, the great baths in Rome had a number of pools for swimming and bathing. I wish you could have seen them." He got that wistful look that usually crossed his face every time he thought of Rome.
Jed huffed. It wasn't like he'd never swum naked before, the rivers and lakes had been havens of fun and cleanliness as they'd crossed the country building the transcontinental railroad. Normally he'd be the first to leap in as God made him but, well, he hadn't even considered Octavius doing the same. He'd been the last to remove his armour, he always was so proper and dignified or at least, tried to be when he wasn't being driven around at the break neck speeds Jed liked. He wasn't really ready to deal with this. But Octavius was looking all confused and it made Jed mad as hell because he was feeling things he no idea what to do about or even think about. Octavius was his best friend. He wasn't supposed to get all mushy thinking about him and he definitely wasn't supposed to get hot under the collar at the idea of swimming around with him. Right then. Best thing he could do in this situation was the way he dealt with all situations involving doing anything fun with Octavius, ignore the holy hell out of the butterflies that had snuck into his belly unannounced and carry on as normal. Octavius didn't need to know that he made Jed's guts do weird things whenever he laughed. Nope he just needed to be Jed's best friend and carry on being his best friend. And Jed needed to man the hell up. "Okay, I jus' thought you romans would have some fancy swimming gear for stuff like this."
Octavius laughed, "we may be technologically advanced in some ways my friend but why complicate things unnecessarily?"
With that Octavius shucked the last of his garments, way to excited to notice anything else, including his friend and climbed the steps to dive happily into cool, refreshing waters. Jed's eyes had been fixed firmly on the ground, he braced himself as he swallowed all of his reservations and followed suit. God damn was he glad the water was cold.
Things seemed to be going well despite the heat, the miniatures were appreciating their makeshift pools, the fans were working and the Ocean life exhibit was peaceful. Just enough time to sort out the next big thing on his list. Getting Family Saca-Roosevelt ready go out tonight.
"Hey guys, um, I got you some stuff that should be okay, I mean you can't go out wearing what you've got here so, well I got some things, I think they should fit, I hope they're okay and—"
"Lawrence, stop babbling." Smiled Teddy fondly, "I'm sure they will work for us no problem."
"Right, yeah sure, um what are you telling Ahkmen?"
Sac spoke up, "That the Gods have been pleased with his behaviour and that there is a celebration taking place out in their realm and we have been permitted to visit it."
Larry nodded in agreement, "Ok, cool that should work."
"Also," added Teddy, "we're making sure he knows not to tell people where he comes from as people could get jealous and bad if they think he's from the hall of the Gods."
"Yeah, that's what I was worried about but then again, he's five, most kids at that age are pirates, dinosaurs and dogs in one afternoon. No one will take him all that seriously, so long as you guys have a decent cover…?" He trailed off looking hopeful.
"Yes Lawrence, we've talked about this, we are to be man and wife, parents to Ahkmen and Jean Baptiste as we understand a family like this is no longer unacceptable?"
It took Larry a second to realise what Teddy was saying, "Yeah, no, not a problem anymore or at least, not a problem to sensible people."
"Yes, that is something I am very glad I do not share with my original, whilst he was a great man he failed to see the nobility in the native tribes of this land." He turned to face Sac, "something I swear never to do."
She kissed his cheek affectionately, "you could not close your eyes like that my bear."
"No, no I certainly couldn't." He realised he'd rather strayed from what he had been saying, it was far too easy to be lost in Sacagawea's dark gaze, "But yes, um, anyway, we thought that shouldn't be too much of a problem in light of the modern world. We were planning on explaining Ahkmen's name is his version of Andrew, that it took him a while to master it and Ahkmen was his best attempt when he was a toddler and it's stuck as a pet name if anyone asks. Just in case it raises questions as it does not seem to fit with Ted or 'Wea or JB."
"Yeah that's a good move. So you think you're set?"
"We will be once we change into the clothes you've provided. Thank you again for your consideration Larry, we really appreciate it."
Larry looked awkward, the way he usually did when anyone thanked him sincerely, "hey, it's fine, I just wanted to make sure you guys got a chance to get out without getting a load of attention."
"And we're very grateful. We'll be back in a moment."
They withdrew quickly, Sac heading for the staff room and Teddy the men's rest room (he was ever the gentleman, determined to preserve Sac's modesty. As it was Sacagawea had her own thoughts on the matter but she appreciated the chivalric intent for the moment) to change into the clothes Larry provided. Whilst they were gone Ahkmen bounded over to the night guard.
"Larry guardian!" The child threw himself at the man he was beginning to consider an uncle wrapping himself happily around the man in his standard greeting.
Larry grinned, delighted Ahkmen was actually so openly affectionate to him now, he supposed it meant that the child has decided he was trustworthy. "Hey there little buddy, how are you doing?"
The usual torrent of talk poured out of the excited child, "I'm very well thank you! It's still so nice and warm! How are you? Are you well? Are doing anything nice? Have you seen Moon Mother and Papa Bear and Jumble? They were here before when I woke and I played with Jumble and cuddled him but then they said they had to come see you so I played cartwheels with Kjartan till I got dizzy and he got tired and I thought they might have found you by now and what's happening are we going to do anything fun today? Why is it so warm? Are—?"
He stopped, mouth falling open in surprise when he caught sight of Sac, Teddy and Jean-Baptiste appear around the corner.
Teddy was dressed in a pair of Larry's jeans and boots, a new dark blue t-shirt and a blue striped over shirt. He'd taken off his hat and gloves too adding to the whole relaxed vibe he was sending out and indeed looked, for all the world, like a modern dad at the weekend.
Sacagawea too looked very different but none the less relaxed, in a green summer dress patterned with flowers and fruits. She'd swapped the moccasins for the sandals Larry had provided for the sheer novelty of having something different on her feet though she kept her necklace and earrings on as usual. One of the biggest changes what her hair, she decided to try something different since the opportunity was presented, after 54 years being exactly the same the option to alter things, just for the night, was very appealing. Very carefully she undid her braids and brushed out her long hair, allowing it to flow freely over her shoulders.
It took Teddy a moment to collect his jaw, whilst in his opinion Sacagawea would look beautiful in a hessian sack it was quite a shock to see her in something different, the button up summer dress was rather more fitted to her than her buckskin dress. She beamed at his response, it was still a new experience to get such a genuine response from someone she was partnered to.
"I take it you approve?"
Larry nudged Teddy who was still stood agape at the sight before him. Ahkmen leapt into the breech instead, "Moon Mother! Your dress has changed! This one is very pretty! And your hair is all long and shiny!"
Sac smiled widely at the little boy, "Thank you little moon," she bent down to hug him, rubbing her nose against his, "you're just as handsome as always." She continued, kissing his cheek. The movement spurred Teddy to actually talk.
He coughed, trying vainly to get a hold of himself, "oh, yes, yes of course you look radiant my dear, you always look radiant whatever you wear but yes, the green well, quite…" He trailed off, still agog.
Sac turned to Larry, "I have you to thank for this, it's lovely."
"I'm glad you like it, it really does look good on you. Sandals fit okay? I kinda had to guess your size."
"You've done very well, it's not often I get to try something new and these are very comfortable."
"Well you're very welcome, did JB's stuff fit okay?"
"Yes, I think Ahkmen will approve of your choices too."
"Look over my shoulder and you'll see." He looked over and saw his adoptive little brother grinning up at him wearing a Spiderman t-shirt over a modern diaper.
"Jumble! You have Spiderman too!" Ahkmen was utterly delighted, he'd become an even bigger fan of Spiderman since Larry, encouraged by Teddy and Sac to build on the trust Ahkmen was beginning to properly show towards him, had begun to read to him at bedtime from his old comic book collection. Larry being a native of New York had collected stories of heroes from his hometown, he'd liked the adventures of Spiderman but preferred (if he was honest) the real-life adventures of Captain America.
"That's right my boy, and look what Lawrence has brought for you as well." Teddy proffered the child a new, matching design t-shirt as that of his adoptive brother. Ahkmen trilled with excitement, tugging off his dungarees straps to wiggle out of his current dinosaur t-shirt. Teddy helped him put the new one on and re-did the straps with practiced efficiency.
As soon as Ahkmen was free he flung himself at Larry, "Thank you Larry-Guardian! I love it! I can look just like Jumble now! Everyone will know we are brothers!" Larry laughed, picking up the exuberant child and laughed when he was rewarded with sloppy, loving kiss to cheek.
"Hey, you're welcome little buddy. Glad you like it!"
The child considered, gifts usually had a purpose. Visitors always brought his daddy a gift when they came because they had something they wanted to do or talk about. "Why do I have a new Spiderman?"
"Because Ahkmen, we have a surprise for you."
The child's eyes lit up. Ahkmen loved surprises.
"Well little moon," spoke up Sacagawea, "we have been blessed by the Gods. Today is a festival of theirs and we are invited to leave their halls and join in with the festivities."
"Really?! We are? We can go outside with the peasants!?"
Sacagawea just about managed to repress both an eye roll and a sigh, "They're not peasants Ahkmen," she explained patiently once again, "merely people who dwell within the realm of the Gods. Don't call them peasants."
Ahkmen considered, it wasn't worth arguing with Moon Mother, "Oh alright." He huffed, before brightening, "But we can go outside?" he pressed urgently.
Sac smiled widely, betraying her own excitement, "Yes little moon, we can."
"One thing my boy, you cannot tell people where we live."
"Why?" Ahkmen was incredulous, "We're in the hall of the Gods, it's an honour!"
Teddy smiled warmly at the child, his manner ever-patient, "I know that and you know that but how would everyone else feel? Would you be jealous if someone told you that they were chosen by the Gods and you weren't?"
"But I am!" cried the tiny princeling
"But if you weren't?" Pressed Teddy gently, patiently awaiting the realisation to dawn.
"But, but," Ahkmen, stopped, thinking about what it was like at the palace, playing with Neferti and Amhotep. The way they would look at him when he wanted to play a game they didn't and when their parents made them go along with his wishes. He just wanted to play. But he remembered their faces how angry they looked. He tried harder after that to play games they all liked. He didn't like being different. He had begun to forget, everyone in the halls were kind and played with him. But they didn't let him have his own way all the time, he still had to do things he didn't like, play games that weren't his favourite and whilst it might be something to grumble about, at least he knew it was better to play together.
The child looked up at Teddy with what he and other adults had begun to call the 'pharaoh eyes' a gaze that belonged to someone much older than Ahkmen, they wondered how many lessons he had already had to learn about life and politics. "I know Papa Bear," the little boy sighed, "it's better they don't know. I won't tell them, I promise."
Teddy swallowed down the emotion that had risen painfully in his chest. Ahkmen was far too young to have such an understanding of the world. Instead he ruffled the child's hair, "that's my boy. Well done. Now are you ready to go and join the celebrations?"
"Yes! Yes please!" The little boy whooped with joy, leaping into Teddy's arms.
"Well then Lawrence, I believe we shall see you later." He freed one arm to reach for Sac, "are you ready my dear?"
"Oh yes," her eyes shining in anticipation, "I am most ready. We shall see you later Larry, she beamed, we shall return for bedtime."
"Have a great time guys, and here," he handed Sac $20 bill, "take this, for ice cream or something."
Sac's eyes widened, "for us? Are you sure?"
Larry fixed her with a determined stare, "it's not a visit to Central Park in summer without ice cream. Take it, you all deserve it. Have fun."
"Thank you Larry," Sac willed her eyes not to water, "I cannot thank you enough. We will see you later." With that family Saca-Roosevelt, hand in hand, headed off towards the loading bay, ready to step out in to the warm summer night.
To be continued.
Thank you everyone for reading this and for being so patient with me!
I promise I will get part two to you as soon as possible, but I also promise as long as I take this whole series will be finished eventually.
Please let me know what you think, I read every review and they absolutely keep me going!
Answers to accountless reviews!
rosethorns- Thank you so much! I adore Ahkmen too! I really miss grown up Ahk too but Ahkmen's got a job to do first! Thanks again for reading, I'm so pleased you're enjoying it!
TeddyXSac-Thank you so much! It was really important I thought to have Teddy and Sac actually talk about the situation, that Ahkmen did get a chance to pray in his own time and the family had a chance to form properly. I love family Saca-Roosevelt too, there's some more of them here and in the next chapter too! Thanks so much for reading and reviewing!
Lightraygirl- You're actually ahead of me! Film night will happen in a future chapter I promise! Thanks again for reading and reviewing!
WolfClaw-I think we all would! Thank you very much for reading and reviewing!
NatM-fan – Thank you so much for your lovely detailed review! I'm so pleased you're still enjoying this story! I love digging into the characters and exploring all their stories, backstories and their relationships with each other! There's a lot more of that going on in this chapter! I'm glad you liked the look at Ahk's power, I'd been thinking about the tablet and what it can do and what Ahk could possibly do with it, I'm glad it all made sense, he is a good and decent person and I really wanted to show how much of a core trait it is of his. Rebecca is coming to the museum I promise! I love Teddy and Sac, I try to focus on them as often as I can! I will always try to flashback to Ahk in every chapter (though he's escaped me this time!) The tablet issue does get solved later on, I promise! I really hope you enjoy this latest chapter, thank you again for reading and reviewing! :D
Lucky Dog- Teddy is going to bide his time along with the rest of the museum, they know Ahkmen is very protective and defensive of Kah even though he is a horrible brother. Ahkmen still loves him, so all the museum adults are waiting and listening to learn more rather than trying to force the details from him.
NATM- There is DEFINTELY more of that planned for future chapters, I promise! Thank you so much for reading and reviewing!
19-1 – Thank you so much! I'm so pleased you liked Teddy and Sac's conversation and that it felt real to you! That's such a compliment! The flashbacks cover the time before 'Treasured Collection' starts (roughly 6 weeks) and all the times between the stories I've published in the series so they are a mix! I'm so pleased the rooftop scene worked for you, I hoped it would be sad with a happy (ish) ending, it's not an ideal situation but it's the one they are al stuck so they are going to make the best of it. I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Guest- Thank you very much for reading and reviewing! Yes, Nicky will be appearing again soon and there will be some bonding time with Teddy down the line, I like the pair of them too! Uncle Teddy will be definitely appearing!
The Archer- That's not a stupid question at all! Ahkmen's got a bit of a mixed accent, he's picked up English from a mix of teachers, so I'd say he has a mid-Atlantic accent, not quite American, not quite English but with some of his words definitely have an Egyptian accent. It depends on who he learned the words from for how he sounded when he originally said them, if it's an Octavius word he sounded English but if it's a Jed word he sounded like he was from Texas! It used to be quite a jarring jumble but now it's softened to a general mid-Atlantic lilt! Thank you so much for asking!
Shining Time – Yes! I do fully intend to! Though it will take a while, right now we're in August in the museum! Thank you so much for reading and reviewing.
Lion Queen – I'm sorry this has taken a while but it's 10k of more stories so I hope that will suffice for the moment! You're not wrong though, more reviews definitely power me into writing more! This was only meant to be a 4k one shot story in the series.
Lucky Survivor – Thank you very much and thank you for contributing to the number!
BE OUR GUEST- Thank you so much! I'm sorry you've had to wait a while but here is the new chapter, I'm so pleased you're enjoying my stories! Thank you so much for reading and reviewing!
Tony StarkIron- I would take that money Mr Stark but even that amount can't shift writers block or wrap up everything else I'm doing to give me time! Not everyone can be a genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist! But thanks very much for you encouragement!
Black Widow – I still appreciate Mr Stark's encouragement Agent Romanov, I hope this chapter takes his mind off things for a bit!
Guest (2)- Well, here is an update! It's one chapter but it's a long one! I hope you like it!
Guest (3) I honestly hadn't planned to, I'm a British author so I hadn't picked up on memorial day, it's Remembrance Sunday for us in the UK (and commonwealth) which is on November 11th.
Rascal – Right now! :D
ACTION FIRE – I CANNOT UPLOAD TWO CHAPTERS FOR I HAVE ONLY WRITTEN ONE SO THAT SHALL HAVE TO SUFFICE! LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF IT!
Guest (4) Ah, right, what I meant by 'that would finish Teddy off' was that if Larry told Sacagawea where to find the old night guards he was worried she wouldn't make it back to the museum in time and would become dust. If Teddy lost Sac he would be a total wreck and he probably wouldn't recover from that emotional hurt ever. Does that make more sense?