Two days later…
Jonathan helped Tilly down from the camel, careful not to touch her heavily bandaged hands. She smiled gratefully and stood looking around her at the desert and the temples beyond, reflecting on what had happened here. The others were all busy preparing to leave, stowing their things away on the plane. But Tilly took this time to get her last glimpse of the beautiful desert, so secretly deadly. She had gotten used to her new appearance over the last two days, constantly borrowing Evy's small mirror to check her hair and eyes. Her eye colour was very similar to Rick's now that they were blue, she decided, and her hair seemed to be changing colour by the hour, now more brown than red.
She detected movement in the distance and shielded her eyes from the sun, watching the distant figure move closer, her eyes widening when she recognised Ardeth.
He galloped up, barely stopping his horse before he jumped down and walked toward her, his arm in it's sling from his injured shoulder obviously not holding him back at all. Tilly stared up at him as he stood in front of her, not saying a word, merely staring intently down at her flushed face. She realised at that moment, as she hadn't realised before, how much she would miss this stoic man and she felt sheer disappointment wash over her, saddening her expression.
"I'm sorry," she said slowly, her eyes going to his shoulder. "For what I did, I mean. I'm glad that you're okay."
"Your eyes..." Ardeth exclaimed and he reached out and touched her hair. "Your hair!"
"I know, it's changing back to the way it was when I was younger..." she trailed off at the intent look he shot her.
To her utter astonishment he muttered a few harsh words in Arabic and then framed her face in his hands, pulling his arm roughly from its sling, bending to give her a searing kiss that her scattered senses had no chance to avoid. Not that she wanted to. For a brief moment her eyes widened, then they closed on a wave of longing. Her bandaged hands came up and rested lightly against his chest as her eyes flickered closed and she savoured a kiss she had never thought to receive.
Rick, Jonathan and Evy all stood gaping at the two people, shocked beyond words that Ardeth actually had human emotions and was apparently giving vent to them with Tilly!
"Well, that answers any questions we had concerning his health! I guess we shouldn't be too surprised," Rick said, shrugging.
"We shouldn't?" Evy gasped, staring up at him in consternation.
"Don't tell me you didn't see this coming? It was obvious to me that they were attracted to each other," he continued.
"Well, yes, I knew they liked each other, but I thought, considering their different cultures, that Ardeth wouldn't...you know...touch her!"
"Maybe he couldn't help himself. I know exactly how that feels," he said, looking down at his wife with adoring eyes.
"Ugh," Jonathan mumbled. "How totally nauseating. How come this sort of thing never happens to me?"
"You want Ardeth to kiss you?" Rick asked, surprised.
"No! A woman of course! Why can't I meet a nice woman in Egypt? Everyone else meets someone here, why not me?" he whined. "Do you think he's going to let her come up for air?"
"Do you think she wants to?" Rick replied, raising one eyebrow. "Come on, let's leave them in peace," he said, leading Evy into the plane and leaving Jonathan to follow.
Ardeth moved one hand from her face and pulled her closer to him, his arm encircling her back and crushing her against him as he deepened the kiss, giving in to it for a last few, precious seconds. He slowly released Tilly's mouth, staring down into her glazed eyes with guilt and satisfaction mingled together. His hands involuntarily stroked the soft skin of her cheeks, wanting nothing more than to kiss her again. But he knew he couldn't do that again, that what he had already done was stepping out of the bounds of his own morality. He looked at her for a few more seconds, his expression unreadable, then he walked away and got back on his horse. Turning the animal to get one last look at the stunned girl, he closed his eyes briefly as if in pain and then spurred his mount into a gallop, moving away without saying a single word.
Tilly watched him go with her heart in her throat, wondering if she would ever see him again. She didn't think she would and she felt an awful sense of loss. Why he had kissed her was a mystery, considering he hadn't touched her before this, but it had an air of goodbye about it that was undeniable.
Evy came out of the plane and walked over to her, grimacing at her sad face.
"Come on Tilly, we have to go home," she said gently, not mentioning what had just occurred, just putting one arm around the shattered girl and leading her into the plane. Rick indicated where she should sit and looked about to say something, but his wife gave a quick shake of her head and he stopped himself. Jonathan was completely oblivious to everyone else, occupied as he was by his latest haul. He turned over a small golden flask in his hands, studying the intricate jewel work on one side with satisfaction. He had managed to go back into the temple several times over the last two days and he had quite a little stash of sparkly items. All was well in his life at that moment, he thought, beginning to hum softly to himself. If only he had been able to move that gigantic gold statue! God knew he had tried hard enough! He tossed the green gems in his hand and smiled again. At least he had managed to take it's eyes, he thought happily.
Tilly looked out of the window as the plane took off, her eyes helplessly scanning the desert for some sign of Ardeth, spotting a dark figure in the distance sitting on horseback and staring up at the plane. She couldn't see his face, but she knew it was him.
Rick and Evy watched her from their side of the aircraft, Evy shaking her head sadly. "I think we're going to have to come back here again," she said.
"I've already said that isn't happening," Rick replied, nudging her.
"I know, darling, but look at her. What about Ardeth too? We need to come back for their sake," she decided.
"They haven't found Imhotep yet, or had you forgotten? All the while he's out there I won't set foot in this country again!"
"Not even if Ardeth asked you to?"
"Well, maybe then. But he won't ask. They'll find him, I'm sure of it!"
"I hope so, for all our sakes. But Tilly should be brought back here again, someday. You both need to find out about what happened at the orphanage all those years ago, about your parents."
Rick looked at Tilly again and had to agree with his wife. If there was any chance at all for his desert friend and his pretty young cousin, then they would have to return, because it seemed obvious to him that Ardeth wouldn't come to England to find her, and he did have to do some detective work about his own childhood.
"I think you may be right. If we can make anyone else as happy as we are then we have to try," he said, his voice lowering as he took her hand, stroking her fingers.
"I always said you were a romantic." She leaned her head on his shoulder and stared at Tilly. "It's not impossible, you know. My mother was Egyptian and she and my father overcame their differences, as your mother and father must have. Love will find a way."
"I hope you're right," Rick murmured, bending to kiss her softly.
"You know I always am!" she whispered back and closed her eyes, secure in the knowledge that they would be return here soon. She had got her own way again.
****So there you have it. The end, for now?? Thanks for all the reviews, and sorry if there wasn't enough love'n'stuff in this one for you. Maybe in the sequel, if I ever write one??!****