A/N. Wow, so finally here huh! You've all waited far too long for this chapter to be posted, a lot of which i am going to unashamedly put down to my computer crashing for over a month. But that said it is a pretty damn long one, and took forever to write, hopefully it will be worth it.
I want to thank everyone who has ever reviewed or even just read this story, I would name you and respond to you, but due to FF new restrictions i can't. So i am afraid your all going to have to put up with a group thank you, from the bottom of my heart, and extra kisses to all who deserve them.
So for the last time, without further delay onwards ...
- Sand and blood.
Standing in the corridor, Jonathan spun the key in the lock and smiled. Locked doors were always much more fun when you were on the right side of them.
Turning around, he pocketed the large ring of keys; after last time's failed escape attempt he was not going to take any chances. With a brief thought to his bruised ribs, he prayed Osahar was right about everyone having left. Looking up and down the corridor, the signs were good; no one was in sight. He had no idea why Djeser-si would have ordered all of his guards to leave, and to be honest he didn't care.
With his head held high, and a spring in his step, it was all he could do not to whistle as he began down the corridor.
Rounding the far corner, he screamed as he slammed straight into another person and sent a pile of blankets flying into the air.
Jonathan gasped in surprise, and the guard's eyes widened, as they stared at each other for a second.
"You should be in your cell!" Osahar suddenly shouted loudly.
Jonathan moved his mouth to answer, but thought better of it as his little friend reached to the knife on his belt. Spinning in the sand, Jonathan began running as fast as he could in the opposite direction.
With the sand being kicked in his face, Osahar gave chase.
"O'Connell! O'Connell!" he shouted, the long winding corridors distorting his voice eerily, as he followed.
Jonathan suddenly skidded to a stop as Osahar's strange shouts reached him; the man still could not even get his name right.
"It's Carnahan," he began as he turned slowly.
But Osahar, whose eyes were fixed on the floor, failed to see that Jonathan had stopped and slammed straight into him, this time sending them both- and the small dagger he was carrying- tumbling to the floor.
"My name is Jonathan CARNAHAN!" Jonathan shouted loudly and slapped the sand.
Osahar wasn't paying attention; his eyes were searching for his lost weapon. Looking up as Jonathan coughed, he met the man's smiling eyes, and was horrified.
Having followed Osahar's gaze, Jonathan had found the weapon first, and a wide grin spread across his face as he reached for it.
Standing still at the top of the stairs, Rick almost sighed as around his ancient brother, the now empty chamber in front of him filled with a kingdom's worth of gold. Everything that he had marveled at on his last visit- with Ardeth, and Jonathan at his sides- returned to its place. Only now the statues were brighter, and the mirrors, instead of needing a bullet to bite through the dusty cobwebs and spin them into action, were already shining brightly. The room looked untouched by the millennia that had passed since his journey with Nefertiri into this sacred place.
As did the Man who stood in front of him calling him brother.
"You are not my brother," Rick intoned in perfect Egyptian. "Het-si was my brother. I do not recognise you." Taking a couple of steps down the stairs, he fought not to show the pain in his back which was growing by the second, and locked eyes with Djeser-si, who was practically red with rage.
"You will acknowledge me Menka," Djeser-si practically screamed, as he began to lose his precarious grip on his body. "I have more power than you could ever dream of. Het-si is dead; Djeser-si the priest lives."
Following in his own footsteps, Rick was unable to halt his progress down the stairs as he closed in on his ancient sibling.
"You deny our father, you deny your name, yet you refuse to deny me," Rick stated calmly, with each word closing the distance between them by a step. "How have I wronged you to such an extreme?" he demanded to know.
Djeser-si sneered at his brother, who was now standing but a foot away, as he too fell into the trap of the past that Rick was currently entangled in; seeing with his eyes what he knew not to be there, unable to control his movements or words that he had already acted out once.
"You have everything that should have been mine, and yet you ask if you have wronged me," he stepped forward, closing the gap between them, and looked his brother up and down with undisguised contempt. "You don't even have Medjai blood!" he hissed.
Wincing as Djeser-si's words hit where she instinctively knew it would hurt Rick, Evelyn recognised his movements, as only a wife could, and knew she had to act.
Scared by the possibility of this too soon confrontation, she ran as fast down the dark steps as she could. If she needed any more conformation about the absence of Rick's conscious thoughts in his actions, the by now familiar glazed look in his eyes was it.
She suppressed a shiver as her feet hit the rough sand of the level floor, and she realised how unnerving it must have been for her husband when she had found her past.
Djeser-si, attention drawn by her movement, tore his gaze from the Menka he could see in front of him to Evelyn.
"Nefertiri," he gasped, all his breath rushing from his tired lungs at the sight of the princess before him, his eyes hungrily devouring all the contours of Evelyn's body, which he had dared not hope he would once again see. "Princess," he continued and bowed his head, his eyes never leaving her. "Time has had no hold over your beauty."
Menka's hand shot out with the speed of a cobra striking its prey, and grabbed his brother's wide chin. With his strong fingers pushing painfully deep into the soft flesh of his sibling's jaw, he pulled Djeser-si's face and gaze back to him.
"You will not look at her like that," he growled protectively.
Shu-nah rushed forward the moment Rick touched his leader, only to be waved away by the calm Djeser-si.
"You can't fight me brother," Djeser-si intoned quietly, his steely eyes boring deep into his younger brother, trying to instill all the responsibility of their ancient family hierarchy in him. "You never could."
Menka's eyes narrowed as his grip on Djeser-si's face tightened, and his hand automatically moved to his sword.
"No Rick!" Evelyn cried as she clasped her hand on his shoulder, reaching for him in every way, trying to call him back from the past. Despite the enormous amount of respect she had for their shared history, right now she needed him to be her husband.
His wife's voice worked exactly as desired, and Rick was pulled back to the empty treasure chamber. Understanding her concern almost immediately, he used his grip and shoved Djeser-si as hard away from him as he could.
"Do you wanna bet on that?" he snapped in his American drawl.
A childish grin decorated Jonathan's face as he raced down the corridor chasing a screaming Osahar. He could not remember the last time he had run this fast when someone wasn't chasing him. Slowing just to catch his breath, Jonathan gazed around him at the dark rough walls, and realised he had absolutely no idea where he was. Osahar had fled deep into the complex, and Jonathan could only pray that the little man knew his way out again, because he realised, he didn't.
Pushing off against the wall, he began racing after Osahar again, but for a different reason this time.
Standing deliberately between the O'Connell's and the two Onuris guards behind him, Ardeth suppressed his own look of relief as he watched a similar one slide across Evelyn's features. The result of, for the first time since entering the room, hearing her husband's familiar warm American tones escape his lips.
As his head rocked painfully with the momentum of Rick's shove and he stumbled backwards,
Djeser-si's face twitched into a scowl as those same tones forced him to the present.
"Enough!" he snapped, trying to fool everyone, including himself, that he was in control of this situation.
Hearing the annoyance in his leader's voice, Shu-nah stepped forward and to Djeser-si's side. The whole time his eyes rested on the large Medjai, who was obviously trying to block the path of his guards. Shuh-nah was sick of the dramatics being played out in front of him, and anxious to be done. With a sharper tone than he had ever dared use before, he whispered a reminder of why they were all there, and a suggestion of what to do next.
A warped grin crawled across Djeser-si's face as his own eyes confirmed the information Shu-nah had whispered, and with the smallest of nods he agreed to his general's plan.
"I see you have what I want," he gestured in Rick's direction as the golden object he desired winked at him in the torchlight. "Give it to me."
"Where is Jonathan?" Evelyn demanded over Rick's shoulder before he had the chance to reply; her concern for her own brother was now overflowing.
"He is here," Djeser-si admitted, and waved his hand around at the five or six different corridors that led from the large room. Some of them had only been opened since the mounds of treasure had been cleared from the room. "Somewhere."
Rick noticed Shu-nah fade backwards and begin to move around the room, but he couldn't bring his eyes to follow. Djeser-si was the biggest threat at the moment, and although he knew the Onuris had a plan, there was little he could do while Jonathan's safety remained in the balance.
"So, you get what you want," Rick began, his hand moving reluctantly to the sword at his hip, "when we get what we want."
Djeser shook his head slowly.
"Now that doesn't work for me. I think I'll just take what I want… now!"
As his last word echoed around the room, Shu-nah jumped into action. Having moved successfully behind Evelyn, he jumped forward, one hand going around her waist, the other holding his shining scimitar tightly to her throat.
Spinning around as Evelyn let out a piercing scream, Rick's eyes, although on his wife, picked out that Ardeth had been jumped too, and was now being held with one arm each by the guards. His limbs pulled so tightly behind him, it was all the Medjai warrior could do not to fall forward to his knees.
Swearing underneath his breath, Rick turned back to Djeser-si with narrow eyes, and every single muscle in his body tensed. He understood full well his brother had the upper hand.
Djeser-si knew it too, and Rick's obvious anger only widened his grin as he stepped towards him.
"So," he taunted. "Still think you can beat me?"
The silence that answered Djeser-si's question was broken violently by a desperate voice crying in a pitch higher than a natural Arabic tone, "Djeser-si help me!"
Turning to face the noise, Djeser-si watched amazed as an excited Osahar skidded into the cavernous chamber- closely followed by Jonathan, who slammed straight into the small guard and, for the second time that day, sent them both to the floor.
"Jonathan!" Evelyn cried, stepping forward only to be reminded of the sharpness of the weapon at her throat. Relief flooded her; her brother was alive and well, and as clumsy as ever.
"Jonathan?" Rick repeated, Evelyn's excited gasp reaching him before the sight of Jonathan rolling in the sand did. Never had he been so happy to see his brother-in-law. Slowly he turned to Djeser-si, the wide smile now on his face.
Djeser-si's face tightened as his plan began to fail. He turned away from Rick's triumphant look, and his eyes went to Shu-nah.
"The princess is mine," he commanded, "but kill the rest of them."
Without even a pause for breath, he turned and began to run from the chamber.
With but a brief look to Evelyn, Rick followed.
Running after Djeser-si, Rick knew he had to stop him. He knew only one of them could live, his ancient brother or his wife, but the decision was an easy choice; Evelyn always had and always would come first for him. His choice of his beloved over his brother, for the second time, weighed heavy on his heart. Not as much as last time, he was aware, but enough to leave him uncomfortable about the task ahead.
Meeting her husband's gaze for that brief second, Evelyn knew exactly what he was going to do. Not about to wait for the outcome, she lifted her right foot and slammed her heel as hard as possible straight into the shin of Shu-nah behind her. Crying out in pain he automatically let go of his grip.
Taking full advantage of the distraction provided by his friend, Ardeth forced as much power as he could through his shoulders and into his arms. Bringing them and the guards round in front of him, he slammed them into each other.
Seeing the danger to his sister and the others, Jonathan untangled himself from Osahar and got to his feet, taking a second to brush himself down and run a hand through his hair. He took a step forward, only to stumble. Looking down he was amazed to see both Osahar's hands clamped firmly around his ankle.
"Will you let go?" he asked in the same tone he used for ordering his mid-afternoon tea.
"No!" the guard called. "You must not interfere with Djeser-si's plan!"
"Let go!" Jonathan demanded, louder this time, as he began to shake his foot.
"No!" Osahar argued petulantly, and as his grip on one foot was shaken off he simply replaced it with a grip on Jonathan's other.
Evelyn faced off against Shu-nah unarmed, a fact that became painfully obvious as the Onuris leader got to his feet, twirling the large scimitar impressively. From the look in his eyes, she could tell Djeser-si's orders were the last thing on his mind.
"You were at Ahm Shere?" he hissed as he advanced on her.
Evelyn backed away as she looked from side to side. She didn't understand where this line of questioning was leading.
"Yes…" she admitted eventually, seeing no reason to lie. "A few years ago."
Shu-nah's expression tightened.
"Who killed my brother?" he demanded the answer to the question that had, ever since he had heard of his brother's demised, plagued his every waking moment.
Evelyn's face wrinkled in confusion.
"Your… brother?" she questioned quietly, wracking her brain.
During her visit to Ahm Shere, Evelyn's focus had been so desperately on her young son's safety that she had difficulty remembering much else. Then it dawned on her; the huge staring eyes, the strong jaw line…
"Loch-nah…" she whispered, remembering the large Onuris leader.
"Who killed him?" Shu-nah demanded again, advancing on Evelyn.
As she recalled the personal fight between the skilled opposing leaders, Evelyn's gaze unwittingly moved past Shu-nah to Ardeth, who she could see slaying one of the two guards he was fighting.
Turning with fire in his eyes, the Onuris leader followed Evelyn's gaze, and found the opponent he had been searching for.
"Medjai!" he growled.
Evelyn's eyes widened as she realised with dread what she had just done.
Lying on his front rolling in the sand, Jonathan fought childishly with Osahar. Every time he managed to get free of one of Osahar's hands, he found himself held by the other.
He's an octopus! Jonathan thought absently, as he narrowly avoided getting another mouthful of sand by rolling at the right time.
"For the last time," he asked politely, his tight English manners never failing his speech, even if his legs were kicking out the whole time. "Will you let go?"
"You can't…" Osahar began, before he was silenced by a lucky strike of Jonathan's boot slamming smack into his jaw. The shock of the blow left Osahar reeling, and he immediately let go of Jonathan.
Taking quick advantage of the situation, Jonathan clambered to his feet.
"Terribly sorry my friend, but I did ask nicely," he rambled, surprisingly upset by the look of total horror on his little guard's face.
"Ardeth, look out!" Evelyn's desperate cry grabbed Jonathan's attention.
"Got to go," Jonathan called cheerfully as he ran to his sister. "No hard feelings."
Grabbing his sister's hand as he reached her, Jonathan stopped her from running to Ardeth's aid.
"Hey sis," he greeted. "You came all this way for me?"
"Jonathan," she breathed as she turned to him and embraced him briefly.
"Anyone would think you missed me," he teased with a grin.
Evelyn smiled- until over his shoulder she saw a glint of a golden weapon being wielded in the torchlight.
"Help Ardeth," she quickly directed. "I need to find Rick."
Knowing better than to argue with the look in her eyes, Jonathan rushed in the direction of the Medjai, who was currently fending of both Shu-nah and his fellow Onuris, without making much headway.
"Help is at hand, old chum!" Jonathan cried.
Determined to settle a few old scores, he threw himself at Shu-nah's back.
In one of the doorways of the treasure chamber, Rick stood over the fallen body of his brother.
Menka's golden weapon, having found its destiny through Rick, lay embedded deep in Djeser-si's side, spilling his blood and ending his life.
"You should have stayed gone," Rick whispered the ancient words that he knew were Menka's. "Be at peace Het-si," he took a deep breath. "Brother."
As he turned from the true sight of Het-si, rather than that of his borrowed Medjai body, the first thing Rick saw was Evelyn rounding one of the stone columns at speed, her eyes obviously searching for him.
Spotting her husband, and the defeated Djeser-si, Evelyn froze as his eyes caught hers, and held them with such intensity she almost forgot to breathe.
Grinding his boots in the sand, Rick ran to her, needing to feel his wife in his arms. Reaching her in seconds, he grabbed her and pulled her against him with such a force all the breath left their bodies.
"You're safe," he whispered breathlessly as he crushed her to him, unable to get her close enough.
Rick didn't know why he needed her so much, but he couldn't let go. Holding her so close he could feel her heart hammering, her racing pulse only beaten by his own. Pulling her tighter still, he cupped her face to bring her lips to his.
Evelyn's eyes closed as she met her husband's kiss, and the salt from the beaded sweat on his rough lips made her own tingle. Breathless and overcome with desire, she moaned softly against him.
Evelyn's enthusiastic response forced Rick to deepen their kiss, his lips crushing hers hard and fast, his hands not asking for permission of her body but taking it. It was as if the force of his passion would no longer brook restraint, he gave in to it completely, as if for the first time.
"Evie," he groaned back, and reactively gasped against her soft lips, his grip on her tightening as suddenly a piercing pain shot through his back.
Jonathan fell heavily to the sand, as Shu-nah twisted and threw him off for the third time. Spitting out a mouthful of sand, Jonathan looked up and watched the seemingly unstoppable Shu-nah run again towards Ardeth.
"Ardeth!" he cried quickly, and was relieved to see the Medjai duck below Shu-nah's swinging sword.
"Sharmute!" Ardeth swore at the Onuris, and although he didn't speak Arabic, Jonathan knew it wasn't a term of endearment.
Looking across the sand to the doorway where he had left Osahar, Jonathan was surprised to see that the little man was no longer there. The clash of sword drew his attention back to the fight, when Suddenly an idea occurred to him.
With a grin, Jonathan reached out and grabbed for Shu-nah's ankle.
Rick couldn't breathe as his eyes widened. He could feel the cold metal of a sharp sword sliding in between his shoulder blades, and slicing through his burning muscles as if they were nothing. All his pain of the last few days paled in comparison to this. With what could only be his own blood drenching his back, and dread growing in his stomach, he recognised the familiarity of the agony.
Not once, but twice before had he felt this deadly sting.
His experience in the Valley of the Queens he knew now had just been a memory, and the pain he had been in since then, nothing but a trail leading him back to this place, where he had experienced it the first time.
With her husband's fingers burning bruises into her arms, his pained gasp frightening her to the core, Evelyn snapped her eyes open and screamed, already too late.
Over Rick's shoulder, Djeser-si's cold eyes bored into hers.
"You are a fool brother," Djeser-si hissed in Rick's ear, never taking his gaze from Evie. "This pathetic weapon spells your demise, not mine!" he ranted as he stepped back and pulled the golden weapon, now soaked in both brothers' blood, out from where he had driven it deep into Rick's back.
"RICK!" Evelyn screamed as she felt his body seize in response.
"Not last time," Djeser-si continued ranting as his eyes finally turned to Menka's sword, "and not this time."
Evelyn panicked as her husband's vise-like grip loosened, and he began to fall from her. Grasping at him, she could not stop his descent to the floor.
On his knees, Rick's head lay against her stomach for a brief second before Djeser-si grabbed his shoulder and tossed him to one side.
"Rick!" Evelyn screamed again as she watched her strong husband fall like a rag doll to the sand.
Ignoring her distress, Djeser-si just stepped over his brother's body, the bloodied sword still in hand.
"It's just you and me now," he grinned as he pointed it at Nefertiri. "How it was supposed to be."
Backing away from the pure joy shinning in Djeser-si's eyes, Evelyn's back hit the pillar.
"No," Evelyn whispered, refusing to look away from where Rick lay. "where not."
Lying in the sand, Rick could not move. Every muscle in his body burned, as with each shuddering breath the pain he felt doubled. Desperately he fought against the drowsiness that threatened to engulf him. Forcing his eyes up, he met the frightened gaze of Nefertiri and knew he wouldn't give in. He couldn't even if he wanted to, not now, not yet; his love needed him still.
Djeser-si laughed openly in Evelyn's face.
"What, brother dearest?" he questioned as he followed her look. "He has minuets left, maybe. But I… I would have given you a lifetime."
Evelyn finally looked up, and faced Djeser-si.
"He has given me two," she answered coldly, her hand unconsciously creeping to the necklace that Rick had given her, seeking all the comfort Nefertiri had taken from the item.
Djeser-si's face twisted into anger.
"You chose wrong," he ranted, his ancient grudge once more overtaking his conscious mind. "I would have done anything for you, I would have protected you."
Evelyn's hand gripped tighter to Menka's sun pendant, her actions barely under her control. The fog of her past clouded her mind, so that not even the sting of the sharp pendant points slicing into her hand and drawing blood was enough to save her from it. With a light breeze running across her suddenly bare shoulders, and a cold circlet of gold snaking around her upper arm, Evelyn stepped onto Nefertiri's path.
"Wrong?" she questioned with a scowl on her face, as she refused to cower to her inferior. "I picked right. You," the princess looked at him with undisguised contempt, "could never be as good as your brother."
Fury screamed across Djeser-si's twisted features as he launched himself at her angrily. All his life he had heard that accusation, but no longer would he accept it.
"You could have been mine," he whispered to his princess as he pinned her body to the column with his own. "You should have been mine," he amended. Slowly he reached out and covered her hand at her neck with his. "You still could."
Nefertiri pulled her hand away immediately. Djeser-si's touch offended her. Of every man ruled by her father, she had allowed only one the forbidden privilege, and she would not betray him by allowing another.
Rick's heavy eyes watched as the pendant he had spent many hours crafting snapped its chain, and stayed in Nefertiri's dainty hand as she pulled away. Gripping it tighter, he watched her make a fist around it.
"I was never yours," Nefertiri, hissed, and Rick was amazed to hear Evelyn's English tones escape from her painted Egyptian lips. Swinging the fist he had watched her make, with all the skill he had taught her, Nefertiri aimed at Djeser-si's jaw. "And I never will be!" she shouted.
Unable to believe his eyes, Rick watched the punch land and the razor points of Menka's sun, protruding between Nefertiri's fingers, slice deep into his brother's throat, ending his life.
Falling backwards, Djeser-si's body hit the sand hard, and Rick took a deep breath; it was over. Finally he could rest his eyes.
"I see the years haven't slowed your fight!"
Rick's eyes snapped painfully open as he heard his brother's voice taunting his wife.
"No…"he moaned silently as he realized that the death he had seen was but a shadow of the past.
With his mind momentarily clear, Djeser-si had stepped back, easily avoiding Nefertiri's swing. He too remembered being here before, and he was not going to let her catch him that easily this time.
"Then again…" he continued, forcing a smile across his dry lips as he tensed his right arm, "you never were the quickest." Then with all his strength, he hit Nefertiri directly across her cheek with the back of his hand.
Evelyn's head reeled backwards and hit the column soundly. The resulting pain left her in no doubt as to whom she was. Fighting against the darkness on the edge of her vision that threatened unconsciousness, Evelyn heard her husband.
"Evie!" Rick cried, his own pain paling into insignificance as he saw his wife's.
Shaking her head to quell the throbbing, Evelyn looked to her husband and was surprised to see Djeser-si stepping towards him. Quickly pushing herself off the stone column, she moved to the pair of them.
"Still with us brother?" Djeser-si questioned, looking down on Rick. "Don't worry, it wont be for long."
Having used all of his energy to scream his wife's name, the adventurer now lay still, the pain washing through him deafening him to pretty much everything.
"Get away from him!" Evelyn threatened, her voice cracking with emotion.
Djeser-si looked up and smiled.
"But princess, I could save him," he tormented, and reaching to his own neck he pulled the now useless chain of Anubis over his head. "Well this could," he corrected.
Evelyn's eyes widened.
"He doesn't need it," she argued, knowing full well what the priest was implying.
Djeser-si grinned, and kicked at Rick's side.
"Don't be foolish," he scolded. "Surely even you can feel him slipping away?"
Evelyn shook her head, refusing to believe it. Her hand gripped so tightly to her chain that she could feel it biting once more into her wounded hand.
"Ha!" Djeser-si shouted, once again talking to his princess. "And he thought you loved him."
"I do," Evelyn whispered, Djeser-si's words hurting her as desired, her mind working over time.
Djeser-si took a step towards her.
"Then you do want this?" he asked, holding the chain of Anubis just out of her reach.
"Give it to me!" she demanded.
Djeser-si laughed loudly, as more of his mind slipped away.
"Give me yours," he answered calmly, his laughter subsiding as quickly as it had exploded.
Evelyn looked down at the necklace, and then to Rick. Lying in the sand, she was surprised to see him for the first time, not as her husband, but as her guard, her confident, her eternal love; Menka, his chest bare but for the Medjai tattoos, his skin bronzed by the sun, his eyes firmly shut.
An angry wave screamed through her as she turned her gaze to the necklace, and slowly began to spin it. Her husband's life was being ransomed for a piece of jewellery.
"You want it," she growled as she continued to wind the pendant up, "you have it!"
With that, she whipped the deadly sun straight at Djeser-si.
Laughing triumphantly, Djeser-si snatched the chain out of the air, before his laughter turned to a wheeze. Looking down at the chain, he was terrified to see that he held little but the last inch of the interwoven golden cord; the sun pendant had found its mark, and buried itself deep into his throat, sealing his fate, just as it had last time.
Evelyn was on her knees before Djeser-si had stopped laughing; she trusted her, and Nefertiris, aim sufficiently not to need to watch it land.
"Rick… Rick… Rick." Evelyn's voice came in gasps, tears already on her cheeks. She refused to believe he was gone.
Sitting in the sand with watery eyes, Jonathan tried to make a fist with his hand without screaming. Unfortunately for him, Shu-nah hadn't taken kindly to his new method of interference, and with none of the qualms Jonathan had experienced himself, had kicked violently at his fingers. Realising he had no immediate need to make a fist anyway, Jonathan gave up and turned his attention to the apposing leaders.
Ardeth, having finally killed the second guard, was turning to face Shu-nah.
"Now," the Onuris hissed as he squared up, "you will pay for killing my brother."
"Your brother's loyalties were as foolish as yours," Ardeth snapped back. He had no need to ask of Shu-nah brother's identity; the sight of Loch-nah falling to his blade was firmly etched in his memory.
As Shu-nah stepped back to avoid the Medjai's blows, he stumbled against something on the floor.
Looking up as a pair of legs slammed into him, Jonathan met Shu-nah's angry eyes.
"You again?" the Onuris growled loudly, and raised his sword to rid himself of Jonathan once and for all.
Jonathan winced as he expected the blow, only cracking his eyes open a second after it didn't strike. To his surprise, Shu-nah fell to the sand beside him.
In his anger, the Onuris had for the briefest of seconds forgotten the Medjai behind him. It was the last mistake he was ever to make.
Taking advantage of the open side facing him, Ardeth once again bathed his sword in blood, and sent Shu-nah to meet his brother.
"Thanks," Jonathan grinned good-naturedly, and without thinking held his hand out to Ardeth.
Smiling discretely to himself, the Medjai gripped the Englishman's bruised fingers tightly, and pulled him to his feet.
Evelyn barely even heard her brother's pained scream echo around the pillared chamber. Her attention was on one man alone.
"Please," she whispered. Please wake up."
Rick's heavy eyes opened slowly as his wife's voice filtered through the pain. Relief flooded his body as he saw his wife's face before him. She was safe now, but the pain was so much
"I… I love you," he whispered.
"No, Rick, No," Evelyn shook her head, refusing to accept the finality she could hear in his voice.
"I always have," he admitted, a single tear escaping his eye.
Evie's tears shook her whole body, as she pulled him towards her. Rink winced audibly, his blood flowing freely from his fatal wound, feeding Hamunaptra's carnivorous sands.
"Hold on," she whispered as a plan formed in her head, and she laid Rick's head back down on the sand. "Rick just… hold on." She knew just what she had to do, and just who would be the most help. "Jonathan!" she screamed at the top of her voice. "JONATHAN!"
Already on his way to his sister, Jonathan ran the remaining steps before skidding to a halt, his eyes darting around, trying to take in the entire shocking scene in front of him.
Djeser-si lay slain, Rick looking frighteningly the same way, and Evelyn on her knees between them was digging frantically in the sticky sand.
"Evie what happened?" he demanded, his eyes not leaving his brother-in-law's still body.
"The necklace," Evelyn mumbled, her eyes scanning the area for the chain of Anubis. When Djeser-si had fallen, so had his necklace. Now it was the only thing she could think of that might help her love.
"What?" Jonathan questioned, not understanding.
"The chain!" Evelyn repeated as she threw more sand aside "The Anubis chain, Jonathan help me find it!"
Crossing to his sister, he touched her shoulder gently.
"Evie?" he called, concerned. "What happened to Rick?"
Twisting on her knees, Evelyn turned her filthy, tear-stained face to her brother.
"Please?" she whimpered, unable to take his stalling.
Jonathan dropped to his knees instantaneously; he could not bare to see his baby sister so distressed. Without fully knowing what he was looking for, Jonathan began searching.
Following just behind Jonathan, Ardeth also arrived on the appalling scene. He had seen death in all of its guises, but this shocked even him. Slowly everything he had been told began to make sense, and why no one had seen Menka after the Hamunaptra raid. He hadn't been afraid to fight his brother, and he hadn't abandoned the Medjai, he had just followed his princess, and it had cost him his life.
Crossing to his brother Medjai sadly, Ardeth stood above him and began to pray for his immortal soul.
"He's not dead!" Evelyn screamed as she got to her feet and ran at Ardeth, his words speaking to her deepest fear.
"This is his destiny," Ardeth answered sadly. "The past cannot be changed. As Menka died for Nefertiri, so he will die for you."
"Evie, I've got it," Jonathan announced triumphantly as he held up the chain of Anubis, heavy in his broken hand.
Evelyn turned at his voice, and a smile crossed her tear bitten face.
"Not if I can help it," she argued against Ardeth's grim prediction.
Ardeth's eyes followed as she ran back to her brother, and he was dismayed by her obvious plan.
"Evelyn, you can't use that," he argued as he too dropped to the sand around Rick.
Evie froze and looked down at the chain she now held.
"Djeser-si said it could save him," she rambled, confused.
"It may hold his soul," Ardeth granted, "but it is not meant to. It is dangerous."
"Dangerous?" Jonathan echoed, as Evelyn stared blindly at the necklace, her hand shaking uncontrollably.
"It is always dangerous to interfere with the past," Ardeth explained his warning.
Jonathan's mind raced as he thought back to the conversation they had had all those days ago in Evelyn's study.
"If it does work," he began cautiously, "won't it mean Rick will have to kill Djeser-si, or he'll lose his mind?"
Ardeth shook his head. "That would not apply if he returned to his own body. But that is not the point. Rick's destiny is to pass today."
Evelyn looked up. She had been listening to all they had said, and now her heart was breaking.
"Destiny would leave me with out a husband?" she questioned, her tears flowing. "Alex without a father?"
Ardeth met her eyes in silence. He knew she was waiting for him to answer, but he couldn't; he had none to give.
"Destiny be damned!" Evelyn swore. Reaching for her husband, she looped the heavy chain around his neck. "Please…" she begged Rick's closed eyes again, "please don't…" her sobs replacing her words as she waited.
Slowly Jonathan moved behind her to place one hand supportively on her shoulder. Not knowing what else to do, Ardeth followed suit, although Evelyn barely noticed.
Each second passed like an hour for her as she concentrated on every increasingly shallow breath Rick took. She would have rather died again herself than see her husband like this.
"Rick?" she whispered as her husband missed a breath, and she felt his body go limp in her arms. Shaking him gently, she prayed to every deity she knew that the chain would work.
After a second, her face twisted with pure grief as he failed to respond and start breathing again.
"Nooooooo!" Her distraught scream bounced around the walls of the large chamber and buried itsself in the hearts of the men standing either side of her.
The tears streaming down her face were matched exactly with Nefertiri's as the princess too lost her only love. Falling on top of Menka's body, Nefertiri sobbed, and fought as desperately as she could against the hands grasping at her trying to pull her away.
"Come away," distorted voices urged as they pulled her to her feet. "It's over."
"No, No," Evelyn cried fighting against the two pairs of hands that held her so strongly they bruised her delicate flesh. "Nai!"
Ripping herself away from them, with no care for her own safety, Evelyn threw herself to the floor. Crawling in the sand and up across Menka's bare chest, Nefertiri ran a shaking hand across his cold lips.
"I'll wait for you," Evelyn whispered. Crushing her tear soaked lips against his she stole a last kiss. "Forever."
Sitting bolt upright, Rick coughed violently as he drew too deep a breath for his tired lungs.
"Rick," Evelyn dropped to her knees at his feet, "it's ok."
Rick looked around, his muscles feeling stiff as he did so.
"Where am I?" he questioned, confused.
Evelyn laughed a little too lightly.
"You were just asleep," she whispered.
Rick continued to look around, and was surprised by what he could see. The books that lined the walls, the luxurious rugs that covered the oak floor boards, and the worn leather that cradled his aching frame, all told him he was in Evelyn's library at home.
Rick jumped to his feet immediately.
"What happened to Djeser-si?" he demanded. He couldn't remember anything clearly other than the threat of his brother. "How, how did we get home?"
Evelyn stood up slowly.
"I was going to wake you shortly anyway," she answered as she moved to the door. "Alex will be home soon, and I knew you'd want to meet him."
Rick shook his head, he didn't understand.
"Alex is at school?"
Evelyn laughed again.
"You must have been sleeping very deeply," she mused. "Today is the first day of his holiday."
"Evie," Rick grabbed her arm as he followed her into their grand entrance hall, "what happened at Hamunaptra?" he demanded.
"Of course I will have to set a dinner place for Jonathan," she mumbled almost talking to herself.
Rick let go of her. His mind hurt- could it be possible it had all been a dream? Turning, he headed towards their large front door. He needed some air. His chest was so tight he felt like he couldn't breathe. As he reached for the front door handle, Evelyn's hand swiped at his.
"We don't go out there," she smiled and tried to pull him away. Slowly she wrapped her arms around his neck. "We have everything you want here," she purred, and tried to kiss him.
Rick pushed her away. Something was wrong, his head hurt as he tried to remember, but he knew things were right. Reaching out again to the door, he pulled it open forcefully, and was nearly knocked over by the blast of air that rushed through it.
Enjoying the cold air, it took a moment for Rick to notice the view from the door. Looking out as he did, Rick's eyes went wide. Instead of their generous gravel driveway, Hamunaptra's treasure chamber spread before him. Through the flickering torchlight he could just see his own body lying still in the red sand. Raising his eyes slightly he could see Evelyn weeping hysterically into her brother's chest. The sound of her tears chilled him, and he knew it was a sound that would haunt him forever.
The realisation and consequences of what had happened hit him hard.
Stepping forward, the false Evelyn at his side placed her hand gently on his shoulder.
"You have been given the chance to stay here, and be happy," she whispered. "She gave you that chance, with the power of Anubis. Not dead but not alive."
Rick rolled his eyes. What had Evelyn done now?
"The necklace," he realised out loud, and turned from the picture of his own death, and the weeping Evelyn. "If she used the chain it means I can go back."
The false Evelyn failed to hide her disappointment.
"But do you want to?" she asked quietly, her bottom lip beginning to quiver in the way Rick normally found irresistible. When Rick failed to answer, Evie curled the lips he loved so much into a smile. "If you stay here," she whispered, "you get to choose everything."
"That would make a change," Rick muttered.
"Everything will be exactly how you want it to be," Evelyn continued, "you'll never be hurt again, I'll never be hurt, you'll never be surprised..."
A slow grin crept across Rick's face; she was making this an easy choice. Pulling her hand that rested on his arm up to his face he kissed it gently, and made his decision.
A/N. So were've reached the end, and i guess theres not a whole lot left to say. Other than thank you again for reading, and i hope to hear from you all again soon, in this 'verse or another.
Till we meet again,
xxx PP xxx