Author's Notes: This is a bit different from my usual fare, but, I hope, just as much fun. Reviews would be very much appreciated. Happy holidays to all. :)
It was dark and he was running. Running running running they had to get away. Had to get away...
"Jonathan, what's the matter with him?"
"Mm. Fever, I'd say. Infection is in the air out here, old mum, and he was fairly well scratched up. We'll get him back to Cairo as quickly as we can; he'll be up and about and obnoxious as ever before very long."
"Rick? Shh, Rick, I'm here."
"Evie, he's delirious. He can't hear you. Evie..."
Evie. He had Evie by the hand and was pulling her along. Running and dark dark, it was so dark, darker than even a deep starless night, and cold... he couldn't look back, or she would die. He couldn't say how he knew that, but it was a rule.
They thought they'd gotten away. From it. With it. His greatest victory: her sweet, sultry smile. That first night, after Jonathan and the camels were asleep, they held a private celebration. The bold adventurer, suddenly so cautious, and the bookish librarian, suddenly so daring. Laughing so much that it hurt, alternately hushing one another and delighting in the sounds each could elicit from the other. Delaying their inevitable destination, but relishing every step of the journey, they had begun exploring one another under the stars. But here there were no stars. Only darkness. And running. And Evie...
"Evie, help me lift him onto the bed... eurgh. Heavy blighter, isn't he?"
"He's so hot... what do we do?"
"Get him to take a little tonic water, I suppose. The quinine ought to help. Here, you hold the bottle, I'll sit on his legs."
"Oof! Hold his hands, Jon, won't you?"
"Rick, do stop thrashing about... we won't hurt you... there."
Water. She was like water, real water, to a man who had known only shimmering oases of sand. He had been dry as tinder, and then love had engulfed him, a sacred flame. His love for her had come into being suddenly, violently. A starburst, a storm, a plague. A fever. It had taken and overtaken him, possessed him like nothing he'd ever known. He would run to the ends of the earth for this girl. He would die for her. As many times as he had to. He could safely trust in their being reunited in heaven, because now he knew where heaven was. It was in her arms, under an open sky.
"Evie, for heaven's sake, go to bed! I can sit up with him if you're really that worried..."
"He was calling my name."
"That doesn't mean a damn thing, you silly girl. An hour ago he might have been calling my name. You just cut along to your own room and your own bed and--"
"I can't, Jon. He won't let go my hand. He needs me here."
She needed him, and he couldn't look back. Couldn't look back couldn't couldn't couldn't. It was dark and he could not stop running. He ran on, not knowing where they were running to or what he was supposed to do to protect her once they got there. He was not good at protecting her. He could barely protect himself.
Imhotep was nowhere, was everywhere. Imhotep was the trees and the wind that whispered through them, the statues and the sky and the sand they ran across. Hands clawed at him, tearing away clothes, skin. Death was only the beginning, and Imhotep would have an end. Evelyn was the end. Evelyn was everything. Rick was merely standing in the way.
"Evie... Evie, wake up."
"I say, did you take his shirt off?"
"It was all sweaty."
"Hmph. A likely story. Off you go, then."
"I mean it. Get out of that bed and go back to your own room before you catch whatever he's got. Go on... don't give me that look, I'm not going to bloody carry you, that's O'Connell's department. There's a good girl."
He knew, knew, knew he shouldn't look back, but he did it anyway. He did it anyway, and screamed when he saw what was there. What was not there. He was still holding Evelyn's hand... but that was all there was of her. A tiny hand, torn away, now crumbling to sand. She was gone, sacrificed under Imhotep's golden blade. And it was all because of him. The heat of grief and rage seared him, galvanized him. He looked down again and in place of her hand, there was a golden sword. He was going to fight Imhotep, and he was going to lose, and he didn't care. Gone, his love was gone. He would scream her loss, and then he would die.
"Rick... darling, you mustn't shout like that. Shh. Lie still. Everything's all right now. I won't leave you again, I promise. I'm here, love... I'm here..."
And she was there, standing high above him, and the sparkle in her eye became the stars. Millions of stars, shimmering overhead, and now they were back in the desert and he was cuddling her close, all she had on was that little dress and she must be cold, so cold.
She smoothed the hair back from his face and told him to sleep, but he didn't want to sleep, not now, it was their last night in the desert, and they had only a few short hours before the stern morning light caught them at their play. Love, she called him, and he relished the sound, the movement her mouth made against his as she said it, over and over. Whispered endearments, roving hands, and kisses like drowning. Her body, so beautiful and generous. She was everywhere, storm-eyed child of chaos, her hands nimble, her soft skin chill and dewy against his own. Now? he asked with his eyes, still unsure. Yes, her body replied, pale and trembling. Now. Here. She breathed his name into him, making it an incantation, drawing him forth. He caressed her, all of her, he was burning more brightly than ever, and she was cold, cold, cold...
He would soon warm her.
"How are you feeling?"
"Good, that's good."
"How'd we end up here?"
"You've been sick, darling. A fever. Jonathan and I brought you back to the city. Two days ago."
"You were delirious, raving. Do you remember anything at all about last night?"
"Uhh. Had a hell of a dream."
"Did you? What about?"
"Well, it's hard to explain... we were running through the tunnels at Hamunaptra, it was real dark and hands were grabbing at us, and then... something else happened... and then next thing I know we're back in the desert, and then..."
"Go on, Rick, I'm listening. And then?"
"And then we... um. Evelyn?"
"I was wondering when you'd notice. So are you, incidentally... don't worry, I locked the door. Good thing, too, I'm still not quite sure where I put my... oh, never mind. There they are, on the windowsill. I wonder how we managed that?"
"So--it wasn't a dream?"
"Not that bit, no."
"Are you--are you okay?"
"Well, I am rather hungry, now that you mention it."
"Yeah, but, I mean... I didn't hurt you, or anything?"
"My, my! Someone has an elevated sense of self-worth, doesn't he?"
"No, you didn't hurt me, Rick... everything was wonderful."
"And you? I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"Baby, you can hurt me all you want if it'll get you to do what you did last night."
"All right, you. Up. We need to go to the suq."
"Now? What for?"
"You have to buy me a ring before I'll consent to any of that again. Now, Rick... I mean it! Don't think that's going to convince me, either, I won't be... All right, that's quite enough of--ohh! Well... I suppose it is early still..."
All thoughts, all passions, all delights
Whatever stirs this mortal frame
All are but ministers of Love
And feed His sacred flame...
Samuel Taylor Coleridge