Disclaimer: I own nothing and make no dinero.
What if Sethos succeeded in kidnapping Amelia, and taking her out of Emmerson's reach, in Valley of the Lions? A bit of Sethos/Amelia, because fan fiction is for dreaming...
One Day For Sethos
Approaching its zenith in the azure sky, the rays of a mercilessly bright sun blindingly reflected off of marble faced columns and meticulously mosaicked floors. Arches cast delicately shaped shadows. Traversing the sunny halls, a man passed by pedestals supporting valuable antiquities of many origins. Persia, Turkey, Greece, China...but no land so favored as that of the mighty Nile. Statuary of stone and gold, sarcophagi, canoptic jars, stele...the list went on and on, and proudly, none could claim a provenance that was less than questionable.
However, it was not a newly acquired object that put such a spring in his step. No ingeniously executed tomb robberies. No cleverly brazen lifts from the hopelessly cluttered Cairo Museum. No, for as of late, it seemed this man had strayed from his pastime of absconding with objects, for that of pilfering people. Or rather, one person in particular, whom of which he held surprisingly dear in a heart long thought hardened by years of deceit and thievery.
Whilst viewing such an accomplished collection, a more deluded man may have been tempted to fancy himself a master of all he surveyed. Though Master Criminal he may be, he knew far better than to entertain the notion he could master that maverick of a woman, Amelia Peabody. Indeed, she could not have invoked such a crippling effect upon his usually steadfast sentiments, had she been a typical vaporous female of their great Victorian age. Oh yes, Amelia was quite capable. Alarmingly so, as the case may be. It seemed a bloody damned miracle he'd been able to get her this far, much less keep her for as long as he had.
She'd nearly escaped, twice, which was a track record no other captive in his clutches could boast. The first instance passed in Cairo, after signaling her husband of her whereabouts with that amusing but resourceful flag out the window. Now that had been a close one. He thought back on clashing swords with her damnable husband, ironically his half-brother, confessing with more than a hair of malice his amorous feelings for Radcliffe's formidable spouse, and his intentions to spirit her away. Very nearly, it hadn't gone through, but luck smiled upon him.
And the second instance occurred there, within the walls of his secret retreat, though very nearly outside the walls, had she had her way. His lips curled with the memory of her clad in a woman's burqa and black robes, face darkened even more so with dirt and possibly makeup she'd nicked. She'd managed to disable one of his most trusted guards, and nearly made it over the wall before he'd caught her. Amelia had been disappointed, but not in the way he'd expected. Displaying no more emotion than mere miff, she'd pulled herself from his arms, handed him the burqa, squared her shoulders, and marched back to her room.
There were appearances to be kept up between them, after all. He was a criminal. Her fabled Master Criminal, no less, live in the flesh. They had matched wits before in the archeological field, and she chose to treat these strange circumstances as something of the same ilk. Two worthy adversaries, pitted against each other. A dangerous game. Quite a serious one. And so it was much to Amelia's chagrin, that a wildcard element had entered their playing grounds. An unpredictable nuisance, as she would no doubt label it, but no less infuriating for a woman who prided herself for her stalwart control of troublesome emotion: the Sitt Hakim was warming to him.
It was long in coming, but Sethos couldn't help but feel smug with a sense of accomplishment. In the beginning, it seemed as though her stony exterior could not be penetrated. In the beginning, proffered meals of lavish delicacy were met with voluntary starvation. Earnest compliments with cutting insults. Expensive gifts refused, set to rest outside her door. Love letters labored over slid back beneath his door. Solitude preferred to his company, in the garden, the library, the veranda, or the withdrawing room.
Six months had passed to the moment. Slowly, painfully so, he'd patiently chipped away at her armor of stone, careful not to damage the treasure he sought so determinedly underneath it all. At what exact point did his doggedly determined Amelia begin to soften? It was difficult to say, though a hundred fond memories flashed through his usually conniving mind. Love makes men into the silliest of creatures, where something so seemingly small as an unguarded smile could send his senses reeling.
Had he really restlessly tossed in his bed until 3 AM, the night she allowed him to merely clasp her hand in the garden? A simple kiss on the cheek banished him to the realm of the clouds for the next three days. Their conversations and debates nourished his soul, those steely-gray eyes flashing so vivaciously as she drove home one point or another.
And he could not forget her birthday, a date of which she had never disclosed to him, but he took pains to discover in his own way. He'd thrown a fantasia the likes of which she'd never seen, regaled by musicians, acrobats, and dancers, a table of exotic foodstuffs set out in offering before her. Begrudgingly she'd consented to a face veil for the surprise, though her jetty black hair rioted down her back. Accounts leaving the area of an inglezi woman inhabiting the palace by the shore just wouldn't do.
Throughout the evening, it hadn't been the elaborate show before them that fired his senses, but the woman beside him, who had gone so far as to lean back against him in their comfortable nest of cushions, upon the dais of honor. Even at that moment, walking through the gardens, a sensory memory of her solid warmth against his torso hit him with such strength as to draw a groan from deep in his chest. One haunting memory faded to another, remembering her lips just barely brushing the tips of his fingers, as he slipped past the veil to feed her a piece of baklava dripping with golden honey. Though perhaps to his chagrin, maybe it was for the better that they'd remained in a crowded room. It had not been a gesture meant to titillate, but all the same, he was not certain that in a more private setting he would have been able to restrain himself, watching her lick the sweet nectar from her lips.
It was while floating high on that particular thought that Sethos unsheathed a knife, cutting a blooming lotus from it's thick stem, anchored in a large pot of water. The flower easily spanned the length and twice the breadth of his hand, the meaty white petals exuding a scent sweeter than roses. Expecting to find his dearest Amelia in her usual spot for this time of day, reading by the lotus pond, he turned round the corner of the wall with something of a skip in his gait.
However, the sight immediately before him caused the Master Criminal to pause, the heavy flower nearly slipping from his fingers. Not giving him notice, for he walked quietly as a panther on the hunt, Amelia sat upon her favored reading bench, legs drawn up to her chest. A white robe enclosed her buxom form. With arms folded upon her knees, all that remained visible of a bowed head was the raven hair which flowed about it, unruly and wild as she. "Amelia?" he asked gently, having moved to stand at her side without her notice.
With a start she jerked up, hastily wiping an incriminating moisture from her eyes before facing her captor. She found him dressed in the loose linens he favored when not in disguise, a white shirt embellished with embroidery, trousers, and sandals. Her eyes traveled upwards to meet his own, those mysterious hazel orbs studying her intently. She had once said only lovers and deadly enemies brave the intimacy of a direct gaze. Which were they? She feared the longer she stayed, the more the line would fade to an indiscernible gray.
"I just...had something in my eye. Blasted sand...it gets into everything..." she quickly excused herself, looking away from that intense gaze.
Naturally, Sethos did not believe her for a moment. Taking a seat beside his lady, the Master Criminal lay the lotus of offering aside. "Come now, darling, what troubles you?" he coaxed, even though he suspected the answer would not please him in the least. Silent as a statue, Amelia sat, staring out at the lotus pond glittering lapis-blue in the late-morning sunlight.
At the point where he felt sure she would refuse to answer his question, she spoke. "Six months doesn't seem such a very long time at this age, does it?" she sighed. Knowing far more to be in store, Sethos inclined his head thoughtfully. "I suppose not, though some months pass faster than others. The past half-dozen here with you have flown in a particular state of bliss."
As a student of human behavior, he couldn't help but be acutely aware of Amelia's every action. The pressing of her lips, the clenching of one hand around the fingers of the other. It all spoke of a certain agitation she otherwise seemed incapable or unwilling to express. "Do you know how much a young boy can grow, in the span of six months? How much he must have changed...Ramses had a birthday yesterday, you know. Nine years ago, I pushed that wild child from my womb."
The mention of Ramses gave rise to a small sting of panic, deep in Sethos' gut, entirely indiscernible upon his exterior. She had not mentioned the boy much at all in her protests, centering most of her arguments upon the desire to return to her husband. In a way he had assumed she was enjoying the sojourn from parenthood, as although she had proved capable of great violence in order to protect her young, Amelia was certainly not a mother hen. Perhaps he felt no guilt from separating her from her husband, but her child...a child is always a complicated situation.
Amelia herself was surprised by her emotional reaction to the passing of her son's birthday. It had come and gone before in her absence, and not affected her. But circumstances were certainly of a nature entirely unique to them; always before, if the boy was left behind for a dig, there was the assurance of returning to him after the season's work had been done. But now...there were no certainties. There was only a smitten Master Criminal, holding her captive in a gilded cage.
Hazel eyes glinting brightly, Sethos suggested, "I could have your son brought as well. The lad seems to be delighted by the tricks in my bag. He could be entertained indefinitely."
Oddly, Amelia's first reaction to the proposal was that of a gripping dread: the thought of her exceptionally mischievous son gaining full access to the wonders of the Master's trade was not a thought to be taken lightly. And what of her dear Emmerson? First deprived of his beloved wife, then nextly his only child? This man was merciless in so many ways; she felt sure he would love to watch his adversary archeologist slowly go mad.
"Bring the whole lot, then?" she asked, tone steely as her eyes. "Mother and son? You would have it all, Master Criminal. Not only me, but my converted son as well...god knows he would have an uncanny aptitude for such things, could you corrupt him."
A hint of white teeth showed as Sethos smiled, almost shyly, obviously pleased by the prospect. "Indeed, though should I admit your crafty offspring into my circle, I fear I may not remain at the head of it for long," he jested, hoping to cheer Amelia with the joke.
She, however, did not seem to be receptive to cheer at the moment. Stonily, she stared out at the pond again. Momentarily her lip trembled, but she held whatever emotions clawed at her heart inside, with that indomitable strength of character. "It is funny, my dear Sethos. There is still some good in you, yet at your inclination to acquire a family the only way you can think to go about it is to steal it. Perhaps you truly are stuck in your ways."
"Old habits die hard, my love, though I will point out that it was not a family I set out to steal, but you. However, if it is your son whose company you find need of, it can easily be arranged."
A dark eyebrow raised skeptically, and for a moment he felt grateful that those flashing eyes were not turned to him, but fixed ahead. "We could all live as a family? In this gilded cage?"
"Cage is such a harsh word..."
"But it is precisely descriptive of my situation here. You cannot argue otherwise."
"You have every freedom to wander here. The garden, the library, my private collection of antiquities..."
"Every freedom to wander, within these walls." The mournful notes embedded in her tone gave rise to a sigh from deep within the Master Criminal's chest.
"Amelia..." he whispered, moving to kneel before her. Finally, she turned her eyes down to his as he clasped her hand, pressing a reverent kiss to her knuckles. She could not help but feel a twinge of ego, at sending the very Master Criminal himself to his knees before her. "It does not always have to be as such. It will not always be as such."
"And how long would it take you to trust me to roam free?" He didn't care to entertain the true implications of such. She would be the weakest link in his organization, allowed to go free according to her own devices. Perhaps more irksome yet, a nagging little voice deep in his breast taunted she would seek out her Emmerson at first chance, no matter how long the lapse of time.
"It would depend..." he answered noncommittally, moving to kiss the tips of her fingers. Against the most rational of faculties Amelia prided her possession of, his ministrations inspired the tiniest of thrills to course through her system, beginning in the pit of her stomach and fanning outwards. As she did not give her usual protest, he brazenly continued onward, kissing the pad of her thumb, her palm, and the sensitive skin of her inner wrist.
In an effort to quell sudden and confusing sensations, as they were of the sort she usually preferred only Emmerson to elicit, Amelia moved to touch the side of Sethos' clean shaven jaw, turning his attention back up to her. "I want to go home," she pleaded, though merely by the tone of her whisper one would have expected a command. "No matter how long you keep me here, I can never forget my family. My husband, or my son. You would never be able to trust me enough to wander with the freedom my soul requires for true happiness. You know this, I see it in your eyes. You have to let me go."
"I do not," he grumbled defiantly, in a manner that startlingly reminded her of Emmerson in his poutiest of moments. It was one moment in a handful of others; the seemingly coincidental similarities sometimes made her wonder. At night by candlelight, out the corner of her eye, his profile so resembled that of her husband's as to cause her to start.
"It is the honorable course," she insisted sagely, "And I do believe there is still quite a bit of honor left in you, whether you care to acknowledge it or not."
Sethos moved to cover her small hand with his own at her cheek. Those eyes, such a chameleon shade of green, blue, and gray, gazed up at her mournfully, seeming to hold years of sorrow far beyond the accumulation of his own age. She felt she wielded an awesome power she'd never asked for.
"Have you grown to love me at all, Amelia?" he dared ask, fearing the answer more than death itself, but all the same feeling an undeniable desire to know. She did not answer immediately, and there they sat, formidable gazes locked in a way neither could escape. He detected an uneasiness about her. A fidget in her form, ever so slight, accompanied by a bitten lip and nervous eyes. It appeared she perhaps feared the answer as much as him. "You may answer truthfully without fear of consequence," he urged. "Dear God, please, the truth, if you will be so kind."
The Sitt Hakim exhaled a rattling breath. Cautiously, her hand raised to brush a lock of hair from his temple, lulling his eyes closed in the tenderness of her finger's path along his cheek and jaw line. "In a different life, my Prince of Thieves, we perhaps could have had a chance. But the truth is that I have a husband whom I love with all my heart and soul, and a son who I at least would like to believe needs me."
Sethos allowed the words to pour over him, through him, until their near-crippling weight finally settled down upon his shoulders. With a noble bow of head, he asked, "And that is final?"
Her answer came deceptively soft, for a word that struck such a hammering blow upon his soul. "Quite."
Biting his lip in a wave of emotion that surprised him to the point where he could not conquer, the Master was forced to stand, and turn away from his beloved towards the pond. His truly forbidden love; so he knew now with certainty, that she could never be his. Amelia watched his form, hands lifting to rest on slender hips, a tension evident and gone again between his shoulder blades, as a thrown stone will cause ripples in a pool of calm water.
And why was it that she felt such a wretch, for causing him pain? Indeed, had he not kidnapped her? Snatched her away from her family, held her captive in this palace? These emotions were not logical, and certainly too whimsical to entertain...and yet, deep in her heart, locked away in a forbidden turret of her soul, Amelia wished there was someway she could give this man a taste of the happiness he desired. She deduced there must have been a considerable deficit of that essential emotion in his life, to cause him to turn down the path he chose.
With a smile as warm as it was guarded, Sethos finally turned back to Amelia. She could not guess the intense pain that constricted upon his heart, but there was a glimmer of hope in the future. The sun blazed behind his head, giving an effect of effervescence she wished she were more immune to. "I will make you a deal, my dearest Amelia," he proposed, with an unexpected lilt of excitement coloring his tone. As he reached for her hand she granted it, allowing him to pull her to her feet as she studied this impenetrable man with a bewildered interest.
"Yes?" she inquired, head inclined with curiosity.
For dramatic effect or merely because of distraction, Amelia could not say, but Sethos paused to caress her jaw line with the pad of his thumb, fascinated by its path across her chin, and ever so lightly, the swell of her lower lip. Finally, he said, "Be my wife for one day. For twenty four hours, act as though you could truly be mine. Indulge me, and then I shall return you to the doting arms of your family."
Amelia's breath caught in her throat. Though perhaps it could have been those cleverly criminal fingers wandering to caress her hair, she preferred to think it was the prospect of freedom that rendered her momentarily speechless. Could he be telling the truth? A careful study of his unreadable visage revealed nothing, as per usual. "One day?" she asked cautiously, almost certain there must be a deadfall waiting ahead for a careless step.
"One day," he affirmed.
"And then you will let me go back?"
"Upon my honor."
"Honor of a Master Criminal?" she asked derisively, a skeptical eyebrow quirked high.
With a self-deprecating smirk, Sethos twirled a lock of her onyx-hued hair around his finger. "Upon my word, Amelia. Upon my love for you. At least that you cannot question."
A sigh slipped from between her lips, and the feel of her breath ghosting across his skin exacted a maddening effect upon his nerves. It was all he could do to keep still, and watch her consider her options and his possible tricks, all the while hoping his desire to scoop her up and kiss her senseless did not betray him. "No, I suppose not," she finally answered. She turned those eyes up to him, flashing with the beauty and promised excitement of a freshly bared dagger. "Well then, my dear Sethos. I believe that is an offer I cannot refuse."
Though his heart immediately soared, attempting to make an escape through the very bones of his chest, his smile was tinged with a knowing sorrow. Though it would be the best he could ever possibly hope to receive, he knew the memories of one glorious day with her would haunt him doggedly for the rest of his life. It was the price one paid for paradise. "Then at least for one day, sweet Amelia, my black little heart will shine golden with bliss."
Amelia looked away, perhaps considering the true gravity of their agreement, perhaps wondering what she'd truly gotten herself into. "I think you flatter my abilities to please," she huffed modestly, for some reason suddenly embarrassed by the emotions flying freely between them. Victorian propriety was bound to catch up to them sooner or later.
Had he really thought that she would truly come around? That he would change his ways for her, and they would live happily and luxuriously for the rest of their lives on the fortune he'd so gleefully albeit criminally accumulated? Don't fool yourself anymore than you already have, he scolded himself. She could never cure his wicked ways. Sethos was a thief to the very marrow of his bones. Even his happiness could not be acquired through any other means than snatching them. These were stolen moments with the treasure he coveted most, but could never truly possess. Sadly, he knew no other way.
Turning her back with a finger hooked beneath her chin, the Master Criminal smiled gently down on her. "I fear not, my love. Shall we seal our agreement with a kiss?"
"Was I naïve to hope it would be a handshake?"
Sethos gave no answer, only waited patiently for her consent or denial. Finally, much to his surprise and delight, she inclined her chin towards him, eyes closed, as though she wished to spare herself the sight of an impending disaster. He needed no more encouragement than that, leaning down to brush lips against hers. His kiss was surprisingly gentle, as he limited himself to the barest of exploring, intruding no farther upon her mouth than the slightest hint of slick tongue parting her lips. His hands cradled the side of her face as though she were the most delicate of antiquities, precious and fragile. Though he knew Amelia to neither be such a thing nor require the treatment as such, she appreciated the sensation such actions pulled from her nervous system. They tingled across her scalp and danced down her spine, intoxicating as they were confusing.
It was with much infuriation, admittedly more at herself than him, that she found herself longing for more as he pulled away. Get a hold of yourself, Peabody, she scolded, looking up into those clever hazel eyes. After just one more day of this nonsense, and she would be allowed to go home. And then what? She very possibly would never see Sethos again...as she should have wanted, the cad. But locked away in that secluded turret, there lived many inappropriate little emotions, secured away from the light of day. The latest addition to her prisoners, Amelia found, was a tinge of regret she could never disclose to another living soul.
"We begin tomorrow morning?" asked Sethos, feigning the courtesy of requesting permission, as though there was a single force in the world that could prevent him from claiming his single day of joy with his beloved.
"If we must." Amelia feigned an icy detachment she did not exactly feel beneath the skin. From the heart-melting smirk Sethos paid her before turning to go, she feared he perhaps understood her duplicity, as he seemed to understand far too much about her.
It was with a certain sense of dread that Sethos had watched the sun sink below the horizon that day, amidst a breathtaking wash of intense pinks, yellows, and violets. Though academically he knew hours more still remained before their carriage would turn back to a pumpkin, there was a certain gravity to daylight's end that served to remind him this incredible day, like all things, must eventually end. Every grain of sand that slipped past to pool at the base of their great timer felt as a jewel of priceless value falling from his grasp, lost to oblivion, never to be returned.
His recollections drifted to the beginning of the day, that rapturous sight of Amelia gracing the dining room for breakfast, curling beside him at the low table. A flowing dress of white linen graced her lovely figure, and accented those ample curves of which she herself was far too critical. Pinned up in her hair, he could she she'd found his gift left for her upon her dresser that morning, a set of golden hair combs inlaid with lotus petals of lapis and alabaster.
After breakfast she'd been entirely dumbfounded as he led her outside, finding two handsome Arabian mounts waiting in full livery. Are we going outside? she'd asked with such disbelief, even as her eyes flashed excitedly, scratching the muzzle of her intended mount. We might as well at least once. Beautiful as it is, the palace is really only half the charm of this place.
And so they'd ridden across the countryside, the harsh dry land so rugged and barren but beautiful all the same. Outside the walls, a smile of contented pleasure had curled Amelia's lips. It was a sight he knew he'd trade anything to see, again and again. He'd watched her soak up every detail of their surroundings, knowing even as they enjoyed the day, her relentless mind worked to determine their location. They'd raced their horses across the ground, chasing each other with wild laughter, and the sight of her long black hair streaming out behind her, abreast that fine Arabian mare, galloping for no other reason but to go, would remain emblazoned upon his mind for the duration of his life.
The surprises of the day had only continued. After riding some time, cresting a ridge revealed the deep blue expanse of the ocean, water roiling for as far as the eye could see. It was beneath the shade of a towering stand of palms that they partook of a picnic lunch, and lazed contentedly, watching the crash of the surf upon the shore. Amelia had leaned against him, allowing the liberty of holding her, and even of kissing her. Oh, how he'd kissed her that day! In the morning, before, and during, and after breakfast. As they rode, he'd stolen her lips mischievously, to be chased by an Amelia who was more delighted than incensed. And there on their blanket, he kissed her tenderly, long and slow and unashamedly lustfully. It was enough to cause her to comment, with a quirk of the corner of her mouth, that truly married people did not usually kiss quite so often. It was a quip to which he'd quickly responded but we are newly weds, and continued with his ministrations.
Sethos amusedly knew that once she had returned to her own world, Amelia would undoubtedly scour maps, comparing landscapes with seasides, in a quest to determine their location. The possibilities were impossibly vast. The Red sea, the Black, the Aegean, the Mediterranean, the Arabian, to name a few... But she would try, because she was Amelia, and he wondered how she would think of him whilst she did. With fondness, loathing, or something indiscernible in-between? Though she may never admit it, she seemed nearly as fascinated by him as he was of her... There was a certain freedom, to the guarantee of their liaison only lasting a single day, not to mention that she was merely paying the price of her release. She could indulge in her curiosities, very nearly absolved of blame, at least in her mind. In the eyes of Emmerson, on the other hand...well, he never needed to know, thought Sethos smugly.
After lunch and lazing in the shade, they'd gone to walk upon the hard wet sand in bare feet, picking up shells and running from the surf with childishly indulgent giggles. They breathed in the salty breeze, hands around each other's waists, feeling impossibly miniscule in the face of the sea stretching seemingly infinitely out before them. Cannily, Amelia had asked Is that a land mass I see in the distance? to which Sethos replied with a smile, It's impossible to say...
As the sun dipped lower and lower in the sky, the pair returned home, to be greeted by a lavishly prepared dinner upon the veranda. By the glorious backdrop of a desert sunset, they ate and fed each other, laughing as some tidbit missed it's mark and landed upon a chin or mouth corner.
Now, they sat peacefully upon the cushions of the veranda, enjoying the cool breeze that whispered past. No matter how many times she witnessed the phenomenon, Amelia still sat in awe at the sheer volume of stars which were visible in the clear desert air, glittering like thousands of diamonds flung into the atmosphere by divine hands. Sethos stretched out upon the cushions like a great cat, resting his head upon his beloved's lap, practically purring as her fingers stroked through his hair.
"You've ruined me forever, you know," he sighed, gazing up through half-lidded eyes. "I shall never be so happy again."
Amelia raised a skeptical brow, with a small if not incongruous smile. "Don't be ridiculous," she admonished. "You are younger than I, I believe, and I am not the only woman in the world. You shall only remain miserable, should you allow yourself the indulgence."
The Master Criminal laughed derisively, all too aware of his habit to indulge in melancholy stewing. It was the nature of most brilliant minds, really, to dwell on the depressive. "But my darling Amelia," he countered plaintively, taking her hand. "Where you may not be the only woman in the world, you damn well are the only woman like you. You're deuced difficult to substitute, and that's all another could ever be. A substitute." He pressed lips to her hand reverently, slowly paying homage to each and every finger.
Amelia fought to keep a clear tone as Sethos administered what was undoubtedly meant as a diversion from the subject at hand. "You're impossibly fatalistic. If you¾" She found her speech interrupted by a devastatingly delivered distraction, Sethos moving from nearly innocent kisses to nibbling upon the tips of her fingers, something so seemingly mundane as a gentle scrape of teeth leaving her speechless. With a smug smile, he looked up to evaluate the damage, finding Amelia staring down at him with an expression crossed between curiosity and panic.
Acting upon an impulse that with too much thought involved would have terrified him, Sethos rolled to all fours, and crouched before Amelia. "I don't want to think about the impossibilities of finding another, on the one night I have you," he murmured, before leaning in to take those lips he'd become delightfully familiar with that day. Though as all the others this kiss began sweetly, it quickly grew to something heavy and longing between them, weighing down upon their burning skin. He had not meant for his longing for her to be expressed so apparently, as he had managed to hold himself in check all day. However, as he kissed her deeply Amelia did not give protest, kissing him back, exploring his mouth and small hands moving up to touch his hair, his cheek, and the column of his neck. Through a haze of some indescribable emotion, Amelia felt suddenly incapable of affording resistance, subsequently annoyed with herself for feeling incapable, but overall too lost in the moment to care.
Further and further entrenched in the throes of their passionate kiss, Sethos brazenly leaned over Amelia, daring to settle down into the warmth of her curves. At any moment he expected her to break away, to bat him off, admonish him a lowly cad who dared reach for too much. Though of course it had crossed his mind that a husband entertains more privileges than merely kissing, he dared not entertain the possibility that she would afford such a sacred thing to him. Not, at least, as merely a matter of fulfilling her end of this bargain. But as he kissed her she arched her back to press against him, calculatedly or as a mere matter of physical reaction, he could not tell. In a way, it did not matter, and tore a groan from deep in his chest besides. "Amelia...my sweet Amelia," he sighed against her skin, ducking to lavish attention upon her neck, lips brushing against the soft lobe of her ear.
In a sudden juxtaposition of places, Amelia found herself lying atop Sethos, those clever fingers entwined in her hair as he kissed her, a single hand having strayed to rest at the small of her back. Still, he'd given her the upper hand in a sense, quite purposefully signaling that should she feel the need, she could rise from this mess of twined limbs and walk away. She found this desire to be alarmingly intoxicating, and yet she could not find the will to extricate herself.
With a ragged groan Sethos pulled away to look into her eyes, desperate to know how far this ship could sail, yet fearing there would be no definite answer. Amelia seemed as affected as he, taking in a long rattling breath as he studied her. She rose and fell with the deep breath he inhaled, suddenly too entranced to move, too confused to think what could come next. Licking his lips nervously, he dared suggest. "Forgive me if I seem a cad, my love, but if I were to sweep you up into my arms and carry you back to that lavish bed I so painstakingly prepared for you, would you attempt to end my life with a jab of your formidable parasol?"
Once again Amelia inhaled, hoping oxygen would assist her in making some sense of this madness, clear some of this fog. There was a look in Sethos' eyes, the likes of which she'd never seen. It was something hopeful, something...fragile. He awaited her answer with bated breath, already certain she would tell him to go to the devil, but daring to ask anyway. How could he not, holding her in his arms as such, heart threatening to pound out of his chest for the excitement she caused him?
That certain something in his eyes moved her, past lust, past sympathy, to an emotion far more simple, far more difficult to fight...the desire to simply know. Even as she uttered them, Amelia could not believe the words that left her mouth. "You seem to have forgotten that you relieved me of that useful implement, along with any other objects that could be used as a weapon...but in aside from that, would that be anyway for an adoring spouse to behave, even if she is only holding the title for a day?"
Without another word the Master Criminal made good on his offer, sweeping her up with a surprising strength of frame for a seemingly slender man, kicking open the door to her airy chambers and shutting it in the same manner. As he lay her down she sank into the plush pillows, the silky bedspread, the gauzy netting and drapery wafting around them.
For a moment he simply stood by the bed, as though immersed in utter awe by the sight, the offering, before him. He nearly wanted to inquire are you sure of this? before entirely sealing her infidelity, a guilt inconsequential to him, but looming far more serious for her. She would be going back to Emmerson after this. He would release her to live out her happy ending with her husband and child, and Sethos would remain alone, haunted by the memory... Damn it all. Emmerson would have her every night for the rest of their lives. Just let him have this, this once. Perhaps it was selfish, but of the fact he was a self-serving man, there was no doubt. Amelia watched him curiously from the bed, attempting to read the thoughts that raced behind his eyes.
"Second thoughts?" she inquired gently, thinking that perhaps she'd instilled a conscience in the man after all.
With a deprecating laugh, Sethos kicked off his shoes, and peeled off his shirt in a smooth motion, tossing the garment dismissively across the room. "Does a man find himself invited into the gates of heaven, and decline the invitation?"
Amelia propped herself up on elbows, watching Sethos' approach. He crawled on all fours, bare torso as sleek and muscled as a great cat's. "Perhaps if he fears he does not belong..."
"I never belong anywhere," he murmured. "Always, I am just a visitor."
A million quips involving being a welcoming hostess to a weary vagabond of the world fired in her brain but died on her tongue, as Sethos ducked to kiss her once again. Just for the night, she allowed herself to become lost in his arms and lips and other masculine charms. It was a night to rival some of Emmerson's most fervently amorous marathons, and it was not until the sun's rosy fingers once again began to spread across the sky, did she drift to sleep in his arms. However sleep did not come for him; Sethos spent the scant remainder of his hours espoused to Amelia listening to her steady breathing, enjoying her warmth and bare skin in his arms.
It was the nature of his situation, to always be a visitor. Yet, he couldn't help but feel that in a different life, Amelia could have been a home.
Amelia finally woke in the late morning, surprisingly disappointed to find herself alone. Sethos had kept his word to 24 hours, it seemed, though she could not remember the precise hour of which he'd left her bed. She surveyed the room that had been her home for the past six months. Sunlight streamed through the tall arched windows, gauzy drapery wafting in a morning breeze. It was wide and lofty, and hardly felt as a prison. Would she miss it, she wondered? Would she miss him? Probably, she admitted, in a moment of emotional lucidity. But it did not matter.
If the Master Criminal kept his word, and she had no reason to believe he wouldn't, she would be going home soon. Perhaps even that very day. Even after the night she'd shared with Sethos, the thought of seeing her husband again swelled her heart near to bursting with joy. To look into those blazing sapphrine blue eyes, feel those strong arms around her, that scratchy beard against her cheek, and the bass grumble emanating from his chest as he scolded her for some triviality or another so delightfully...Emmerson was her home. Nothing could change that.
It was while walking in the gardens that evening that Amelia sensed an impending goodbye. She allowed Sethos to clasp her fingers in his, a concession so seemingly innocent, as compared to their activities in the night prior. "You are sure you want to return home?" he inquired, hopelessly hopeful yet knowing the answer very well.
"I fear so," admitted Amelia, concealing her excitement for the sake of the criminal's heart. But he could see the shine in her eyes; it had been present all day. And sadly, he'd suspected from the beginning it had nothing to do with him.
Pulling Amelia near, he caressed her cheek. "You are a formidable woman, my love. Thank you for indulging me, these past six months...this just past day. I've never been happier."
Somehow, Amelia sensed she would soon be rendered unconscious, and beginning her long journey home, though perhaps unaware of most of it. With a wry smile, she professed, "You're not as wicked as you let on, you know. I'll have you reformed yet."
The tragic smile that curled his lips caused Amelia's heart to ache, just a little. "Ah, but my dearest Amelia, you are leaving me. What else will I have to console myself in your absence, but my wicked ways?"
"A pure heart and clean conscience could do wonders, should you care to try it."
He pulled her closer still, murmuring "It's no fun, I fear, without you." As his lips descended upon hers for the last time in a tender kiss, his hand raised to caress the skin behind her ear, before fingers homed in on that particular nerve he found to be so useful in such times. A limp Amelia slumped into his arms, and he easily swept her up, mournfully intent on fulfilling his promise.
A frightful headache accosted Amelia's skull, as she rose from a haze of unconsciousness. Though at first her vision remained hazy, it eventually cleared to reveal familiar forms in the shadows of moonlight. She found herself resting upon the settee in the drawing room of the Amarna house. The heavy damp chill of English air hung in the night, and she had never been more grateful for it.
Head still fuzzy, she rose from her seat, conquering a sensation of vertigo to find the stairs. The entire house was a wreck, boxes and crates strewn about, filled with various equipments and supplies. It appeared Emmerson had been planning a trip. Had he felt he pinpointed her location, and was mounting an expedition to exact her rescue? Heart swelling, she scaled the stairs with little difficultly, the effects of whatever drug Sethos sent coursing through her system wearing off.
First she peeked in Ramses' room, finding the young boy asleep in his bed. Though she went to stand beside him, she decided against waking the lad just yet, opting for some time alone with Emmerson upon her immediate return. A list upon the boy's bureau caught her attention, written in a hand that had indeed improved since the last she'd seen it. It was entitled Possible Locations of the Master Criminal's Stronghold and Mother, and collected a variety of possibilities. Allah only knew how he'd come to the conclusions. More frightening, was that some of them were near the sea, and not unreasonable guesses.
Quietly, she slipped out of Ramses' room to go to his father. It was in his study she found Emerson asleep at his desk, a lantern still alight, pen clutched in his paw of a hand. He grumbled something under his breath, nothing decipherable but the name Sethos and a great many expletives. Maps plastered the walls, pins piercing locations of the Middle East and North Africa, notes in a barely legible handwriting plastered across them. It appeared some of Emmerson's deductions were also accurate possibilities, and she wondered where he had attained the information. Did he track some known antiquity dealt by Sethos' organization? Capture a goon and wring the truth out of him? The latter seemed believable.
Nearing closer, Amelia observed her husband. He appeared haggard, that grisly black beard in full growth, creases upon his forehead and the corners of his eyes from frowning evident even in his sleep. Musing on how to wake him, she removed the pen from his excitable hand, for the sake of Socrates and anyone else in range, not excluding herself. The poor bust looked as though it's case of the measles had progressed to full on leprosy, as pieces of the actual marble were missing as well, from objects heavier than a pen tossed its way. "My dear Emmerson," she said softly, a hand rubbing his shoulder. "You shouldn't fall asleep with a lantern burning, you'll incinerate the house."
"Peabody," he grumbled, seemingly still asleep. "I will sleep with a lantern if I want¾" Suddenly his eyes burst open, and Amelia found herself on the receiving end of the full power of his blazing sapphire eyes. "Peabody!!" he exclaimed, leaping from his chair with such haste as to send the piece of furniture crashing to the floor. Suddenly locked in a crushing embrace, she more felt rather than heard him growl excitedly, "What...how...confound it, woman!! Never take so long to escape again!! Where the devil have you been? Is that rat bastard here? I swear, I will tear out his spine through his throat¾"
"Language, Emmerson!" exclaimed Amelia, eyes alight.
Stilled by her admonishment, Emmerson paused to look down at his wife, holding her at full arms length for an inspection, eyes narrowed critically. "He did not hurt you?"
"Not in the least."
Even as her stomach flipped, she assured him, "My virtue is as intact as it ever was."
"And how did you get here? Did you escape?"
"He brought me."
"I asked politely."
"And it took this long?" he grumbled. Before she could give answer, Emmerson's lips crashed against hers, the passion of his kiss bending her over backwards, her full weight supported by his ursine strength. It was only as he had the feeling they were being watched did Emmerson break the kiss, looking up to find their son hovering in the doorway, watching silently with curious black eyes.
"Ramses, my boy! Look who's home!" he exclaimed with a teeth smile resembling a baring of teeth, depositing Amelia back onto her feet.
"Yes, so I see, and I was aware of it, as Mother first came to my room to check on me, but as I assume, assuming dat I slumbered, she instead decided to first wake you. But I have been practicing de art of light sleeping, as I tink it will be useful later on, in my adventures, and she woke me. It seems dat you are in good health, Mother. You were treated well?"
Such a disarming feeling of warmth overcame Amelia, at seeing her son awake, that she listened to his tirade without interruption. "I was treated very well, not to fear," she assured him, holding out a hand for him to join her. "Aside from being kept against my will."
Ramses appeared puzzled at first by the extended hand, but soon went to join his mother, only to be further baffled by an affectionate embrace. "You've grown so much in just six months," said Amelia, kissing his cheek. "You have to tell me all about what I've missed."
"I have been conducting de most interesting experiments, Mother," said Ramses, rather excitedly for having been roused at three AM. "Did you bring me anymore of de Master Criminal's accoutrements of disguise? I have discovered dat if one mixes horsehair with a certain adhesive fit for de skin, it makes the most perfect..."
Amelia looked up to Emmerson with an amused grin. There was a light in those steely gray eyes that seemed incongruous with being held captive for six months by an arch enemy, though he decided to write it off to the excitement of returning home at long last. "Welcome home, Peabody," he murmured, pressing a kiss to her temple, as Ramses rambled on.
"And widt just de right amount of shading, one can emulate de skin disease of leprosy, which is as you of course know a highly undesirable malady, which..."
From the shadows, down in the garden, a particularly beleaguered beggar clad in noxious rags, hair matted and teeth appearing to be falling from his skull, watched the scene unfold through the window. Shadows of the family within were cast by the warm glow of a single lantern burning. It was a heartwarming scene, these shadows converging in an embrace. It was a scene of a father and son reunited with a mother who was well beloved by many, by all in the house, and the uninvited company in the garden besides. It was a scene in which he realized he'd had no business interfering. It was a brand of happiness to which he could often dream, but never truly belong. With a salute of respect to the unwitting silhouettes, he made to vacate the premises. He should have remembered all along that he was only a visitor, after all.
A/N: Like? Hate? Tell me what you think, if you please! Reviews are better than gold, round here...