Evy was dreaming. She was standing on nothing, it seemed, totally surrounded by deepest black. Serqet's voice rippled through the darkness. "Secrets, my child… secrets… secrets…" Her voice faded as Ardeth appeared in the blackness, which gave way to the bar downstairs. Evy was kissing him again, but she was not drunk this time. Rick was screaming at her to stop, pleading that he loved her, but she didn't care. They both ignored Rick as she ran a hand through Ardeth's black hair, and- Evy bolted awake in a cold sweat. She looked at Rick, still asleep beside her, and got out of bed. She put her face in her hands and tried to slow her racing heartbeat. Why would she have that sort of dream? Why? It was disturbing to think about. She had to talk to Ardeth. Quietly she padded out of the room and opened Ardeth's door without knocking. He was sitting in the only chair in the room, sharpening his sword with a dully glittering stone, dressed in his usual sparse sleeping outfit. At her entrance he looked up. "Evelyn," he said in surprise. She closed the door and went to sit on his bed. Then she stood, too unsettled to sit still.
"I think I am taken with you," she said. There was no point in dodging the issue. He put down his sharpener. "Evy, you have a husband," he said quietly. She shook her head impatiently. "Nothing about you could change how I feel about Rick. That isn't the point." She began to pace a bit. "The point is that I also feel a small something for you." She tried to emphasize 'small' without insulting him. "I don't want to hurt Rick. That is the worst thing that could ever happen to me." She stopped pacing and looked at him. "That is why I'm telling you now." He looked at her expressionlessly. "Ardeth," she said seriously, "do you feel anything for me?" He put down his sword. "No," he said. She looked at him hard, and didn't believe it. He was avoiding her eyes. "Ardeth," she said. He shook his head. "I don't, Evy. What do you want me to say?" He picked up his sword again and started to sharpen it. He was definitely avoiding her eyes. Evy pursed her lips in frustration. Ardeth was being stubborn. She knew that shutting away emotions only made things worse, but he wasn't listening to her. She also knew that he could say 'no' until she fell asleep asking.
She stood there for a moment. She already knew the answer to her question. It was more than obvious; it had been since perhaps before the bar incident. How could she make him admit it? The only way she could kill her little infatuation was to talk it out with him. And he would not talk. Ardeth looked up from his sword, which was more than sharp enough already. "Was that all, Evelyn?" The way he said it, Evy knew that he thought she'd given up. "No," she said, "it's not." She took a step towards him, an idea forming in her mind. It made her nervous, but as far as she could see, it was the only way. Ardeth looked at her apprehensively. "Evy, what-?" She continued to walk towards him. Then his eyes widened and he knew what she was doing. He swept his sword and sharpener away and got out of the chair, edging back. Evy would have laughed if she hadn't been nervous. He was acting like she was the Scorpion King risen again. His hand found a wall and he was trapped in a corner. Evy was between him and the door. She took a deep breath and closed in on him. "Evy, n-" he was cut off as she kissed him.
The moment her lips touched his she knew that she had made a terrible mistake. She had not counted on how much he wanted her. She had supposed that he felt the same as she did, nothing more than a childish crush. How wrong she had been. She had thought he was avoiding her arbitrarily, and hadn't really thought why he would not discuss it. Now, so close to him, able to all but smell his lust, she knew that he would not have been able to help himself. He had been protecting her- and now she may have opened the floodgates. Quickly she withdrew her touch. He was standing stiff as a board, hands clenched, eyes never leaving her face. Now she could see it without even touching him. He had not been exaggerating when he had said he fell hard and fast; it was terrifying to see his inner struggle. And she suddenly knew that every second she stayed took him closer to losing the battle.
She turned to go, but her hand was caught. She turned and saw that Ardeth was holding her wrist as if he would never let it go. Oh, no, she thought softly, and then he was kissing her, pushing her against the wall. One hand was on her neck, the other on her waist as he kissed her, panting heavily. "Ardeth," she said through his kisses, "Ardeth!" Her voice seemed to wake him and he froze, body still pressed against hers. Then with a strangled cry he violently pulled away from her, slamming into the wall and sliding down, hands clutching his head. She gasped for breath, skin burning where he had touched it. He gave a low moan, curling in on himself, trembling. She could hear ragged sobs as he struggled to catch his breath. "Ardeth?" she asked anxiously, touching his shoulder. "No!" he said, jerking away from her fingers. "Stay away!" Evy bit her lip and withdrew her hand. "I'm sorry, Ardeth," she whispered, and left his room.
The next morning Ardeth was gone, or so it seemed- there was nothing in his room, but then, there had been nothing in it when he was living there. Evy felt terrible, both about causing him to leave and about kissing him at all. Rick grumbled about desert-dwellers with no manners, not even saying goodbye, but Evy was not listening. She remembered that she wanted a souvenir of their adventure, so she took them all to the Cairo market. "So what are we looking for?" asked Rick, holding hands with Alex to make sure he didn't get lost. Evy continued to walk. "Evy?" Rick said after a moment. Evy blinked. "What?" Rick looked at her funny. "I said, what are we looking for?" She shook her head. "Oh. Well, I want a statue of Serqet to take home to London." Rick was confused. "Didn't you buy three or so for the altar?" Evy rolled her eyes. "Those were all cheap, darling. I want a nice one that will last." Rick shrugged. "Whatever, honey. I think they're all fine." Evy nodded absently and continued to walk. Then she blinked. A familiar figure in black was walking down the street. Evy smiled in relief as she saw that Ardeth had not disappeared after all. She tapped Rick's shoulder. "Look who's here," she said. Ardeth had not noticed them yet.
As they watched, Ardeth got closer and closer. He seemed distracted, even a little depressed. Evy frowned unhappily. Ardeth bumped into a woman carrying a pot of water by accident as he was looking at a stall. He spun around, saying, "Sorry, I-" He stopped. Evy could see the woman's face and it looked familiar. "Ashëla?" he asked in surprise. Ashëla brushed a lock of black hair back from her face. "Do I know you?" she asked politely. Ardeth exhaled shortly. "I… suppose you do not," Evy heard him say. She leaned towards Rick. "This is the original Ashëla," she told him quietly.
Ardeth was floundering, at a loss for words. "I, uh-" suddenly he stopped. "Would… would you like to meet me… for dinner tonight?" he asked awkwardly. Ashëla smiled. She searched his face, and, apparently liking what she saw, replied shyly, "I'd like that." She looked down, then up at him through her lashes. "Wonderful," she heard him say in relief. "I- meet me at… the inn down the street, I- I'm staying there." He was suddenly shy as well. "Well, ah- goodbye, I'll… see you tonight." He walked away, still looking back at her, and promptly bumped into a stall post. He steadied himself and continued, rubbing his head. Ashëla hid a smile and walked away. Evy quickly turned Rick down another row before Ardeth could see them. "What-" Rick said as she steered them away from Ardeth. "He's happy," she said softly. "Let's leave him that way."
The night was cool and quiet. Ashëla sighed as Ardeth rolled off of her. Her eyes were still closed, her body still tingling. She opened her eyes and rolled onto one side to face him. He kissed her forehead lovingly, smoothing her hair with one hand. She put a hand on his chest, feeling his heartbeat, and whispered, "I have found the perfect man… and had him, all in one night." He put his hand over hers and squeezed. "And I, the perfect woman," he murmured, meaning every word. They looked at each other for a long moment, until Ardeth leaned in to kiss her gently. Ashëla wrapped her arms around him, and they fell together. A few hours later, a half-asleep Ardeth muttered unconsciously, "Evy…" "What?" Ashëla said sleepily, but Ardeth did not answer, for he was already soundly in the world of dreams.