Disclaimer: I do not own any of the character mentioned herein. They are all property of Stephen Sommers and Universal Studios. Please do not sue me, as I am poor and mean no harm. Savvy?

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BITTER

Anck-su-namun followed the Med-jai that was her guard that night. Silently she carried herself as he led her back to her rooms. She trembled slightly, but never faltered, refusing so show any weakness to any of Seti's guard dogs.

The pharaoh did not want her to spend the night with him this time, he had merely wanted a fix and then to be left alone. He had sent her away, throwing her out of his rooms as though she were nothing more than a parchment of news that did not please him.

It was probably the most merciful thing he could do for her.

Head held high, she ignored the looks from the other guards they passed, the men taking notice of her shaky stride and her seemingly constant grimace of pain as she tried not to fall to the ground and cry out in agony. She prayed to every god she could remember at the moment they did not catch the faint glimmer of red trailing down her legs.

It was not wholly uncommon for her to bleed after Seti was done with her, though it had only happened twice after the first time. She had accepted the fact that it would happen. But it did not take the bitter shame, nor did it dull the burning ache, the feeling of her womb being ripped apart inside her somehow intact belly. She would ache for days, perhaps even grow sick from the internal wound, but Seti would make certain she had the finest physicians.

Only so he could return her to them with the same problem after he felt she had healed enough.

It took her last ounce of strength to repress her sigh of relief when the Med-jai and herself finally reached the door to her chambers. Without a word, she entered as he opened the doors, not looking back when he closed it. Thankful her maidservants did not come until morning to tend to her, she collapsed, blinking back tears of pain.

"Anck-su-namun?"

Her head shot up. It could not be him. She knew that voice, the soft, gentle tone that easily frightened all when he performed rituals, the concern in it that was for her, only for her. A concern no other ever showed her. She saw Imhotep was there, walking toward her.

She broke.

For her high priest, her love, her only friend and comfort to see her so destroyed, so ruined, it broke her. She felt it tear at what was left of her resolve and she sobbed, not resisting his tender touch as he examined her.

His sharp intake of breath told her he had seen the blood. "Oh, my love," he whispered mournfully. "How could he do this to you." His voice was suddenly cold, disgusted and enraged. Yet ultimately, they were powerless.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, taking both of their attentions from her torture. "Do you sleep in my bed even when it is unoccupied?" she teased, yet the sad look in his eyes told her she spoke the truth. "Imhotep," she breathed. "You cannot continue that, what if you are found missing in the night?"

The high priest ignored her comments. Gently as he could, he picked her up, carrying her form back to her bedchamber. He laid her down on the soft bed, removing the loincloth and small cover she wore over her breasts. Her body was free of its gold and black prison tonight.

"I do not understand how he could ever do this to you," Imhotep stated, his voice angry. "He does not realize your value."

Anck-su-namun laughed bitterly. "Oh, he knows my value. I am nothing but a pretty jewel with a value all men lust after. A beautiful trophy to show case to everyone in all my glory, yet they cannot even dare to touch." She sighed, raising a hand to stroke her lover's face. "Except for you, who risk everything," she whispered.

Imhotep kissed her forehead, rubbing the back of his own hand against her cheek. "Close your eyes, beloved, for you are near sleep your body is so weak. You need to sleep as long as you are able to," he told her. "I will stay as long as possible."

"Will you not make love to me?" she asked.

"You are in no condition to do move," he replied.

She nodded, her eyes closing. "I know. Yet I wish I had the strength to. I just want to remember what it feels like, making love. I so very rarely feel that sensation that you give me," she lamented.

Imhotep moved to lie beside her, cradling her body against his as gently as he could. "I wish I could do this for you, make you forget every touch you have ever felt from Seti," he told her. "I wish I could take us away, keep you from his violence."

"You cannot."

Regret was in both their voices, their eyes, in the very way he held her and she moved her head to nuzzled his shoulder.

They were completely powerless. The pharaoh's favorite mistress who had been made a princess in his courts, and the high priest of Osiris, keeper of the dead with the power to curse and damn the souls of the dead.

Supposedly two of the most powerful people under pharaoh. They lived in gilded cages and golden chains, titles of prestige hiding bonds of slavery, gold pain and elegant robes covering brands of ownership. They were nothing, they only held the illusion of power.

Anck-su-namun could feel the blood flow lessen between her thighs, and Imhotep began to wash it away, bringing her basin over and cleaning the red liquid up as lightly as he could. She spread them slightly. Amazing how she trusted him to touch her there, without taking advantage of her prone, weak body, limp and numb limbs that could easily have beaten and killed Seti earlier.

Biting down the acrid taste of bile that threatened to rise up should she continue her train of thought, Anck-su-namun turned her head and tried to let sleep come. She would be fortunate if it came at all, creeping over her like a protective covering that shielded her from the harsh light of reality if only for a few hours.

Her lover would be gone when she was woken by her handmaidens. She would be attended to as soon as they saw her "duties" had caused bleeding. And the world would be cold in the heat of the desert sun.

Until she felt his touch again. The gentle touch of a man who broke sacred laws to be with her. The tender touch of a man who gave her the only comfort she had ever known. The soft touch of the man that truly loved her.

And he would erase memories of a harsh, cruel touch, of brutal pounding against her body, of fierce agony ripping at her insides. He would ease her fears, take away all causes for tears, and love her in his beautiful way.

He would make her forget how bitter life was.