Tongue Tied

Summary: When Madeline O'Connell's older brother Rick returns from his military quest to Hamunaptra, his stories make her concerned, but she never expects that they'll ever have to deal with the cursed city ever again. But then Rick gets himself sentenced to hang, and an unlikely savior appears in the form of the Carnahan siblings. The next thing she knows, she's being dragged along behind her big brother on a treacherous journey to Hamunaptra, where they accidentally unleash an evil thousands of years old on the Earth – and have to team up with the Med-jai warriors to stop him. And the leader of the Med-jai warriors becomes a bit of a problem for Madeline, as he's very attractive – which, by default, makes her act like an idiot.

Rating: T

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the motion picture The Mummy. I wish I was, but sadly, I have no rights to anything. Please, please, please don't sue me. I also have no money.

AN: I know that rewriting The Mummy with the addition of Rick's sister is extremely overdone, but this story popped into my head and wouldn't leave me alone, so… here it is! Please read it, because I actually think it doesn't totally suck.


Prologue:

Cairo, Egypt: 1923

"Damn it!"

Madeline O'Connell growled in frustration, crinkled up the newspaper in her hands and hurled it angrily across her one-room apartment. The employment advertisements were sparse, as usual, and since many of them were in Arabic, she'd had to painstakingly translate them with the aid of an old, second-hand dictionary – only to find, once translated, that she was not qualified for any of the positions advertised.

She needed a job. This morning, she'd had one. She'd spent the day working at one of Cairo's many restaurants, where she'd been waiting tables for the last month. There she received wages that were too small and none of those large tips she'd been told so much about. This evening, however, after ten hours running from the dining room to the kitchen and putting up with the demands of disgustingly rich, rude foreigners, an all too common occurrence in her life had occurred once again.

Madeline got fired. She got fired a lot.

It wasn't her fault, she maintained, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. She worked long hours serving platters of smelly, disgusting food to loud tables of tourists who were simply dying to sample authentic Egyptian cuisine – people who didn't understand that once they started requesting the comforts of England and America from the wait-staff, they were no longer consuming what was traditional. The lady customers objected to her because she wasn't dainty and she wasn't foreign… and the men, who didn't care what you looked like once they'd had a drink or two, always got a little handsy. It didn't matter how many times her fellow waitresses told her this was a good thing – that if she played along with her grabby, tipsy patrons, she would finally get those large tips she'd been hearing about – Madeline could never hold her tongue and smile, not even for a generous tip.

Maybe if she learned to control her temper, as her now former boss had suggested, she wouldn't get fired quite so often. But then again, if her customers and co-workers didn't treat her so goddamn badly, she'd have nothing to get angry about. And the problem was not that she was an irresponsible, immature young woman who had yet to understand the concept of a dress code, as another former boss had suggested. It was just that… well, skirts and high heels were uncomfortable and… and people were rude, and she… well, to hell with him anyway.

To make matters worse, she still hadn't heard from her older brother, a Legionnaire who'd left several months ago with his garrison on a quest to find a lost Egyptian city or something (she hadn't quite gotten all the details) and she had yet to receive even a single letter. Madeline was not only tired, hungry, angry, and broke, but she was also worried to the point of irrationality.

She sighed and flopped against the tiny, broke-down mattress set up in the corner of her apartment. The single room was as sparse as the employment ads, and cozy it was not. Unfinished walls had been white-washed to make them look nicer, but the paint was old and yellowed. The ceilings were low, and the window centered in the one exterior wall grated unpleasantly when she opened and closed it. A threadbare rug she'd nicked at the market covered the unforgivingly cold floor. The door was in the opposite corner from her mattress, directly before the foot of her bed, and its hinges squeaked. Her one luxury in the entire shabby space was a small kitchenette in the furthest corner from her bed, complete with badly-installed wooden cabinets and a rusty faucet, but Madeline didn't mind the crooked cabinetry or the rust. Running water was an unexpected bonus anywhere, and it was particularly nice to have inside the four walls she rented. That being said, such luxuries came with high expenses, and if Madeline didn't find a decent job soon, she could kiss her sink goodbye.

Rick had known where the money was, where the opportunities were. He had done the responsible thing and joined the Legionnaires. It was something she should have considered. True, the military did not enlist women. True, she'd have to disguise herself, pretend to be a man. Still, she could have pulled it off. Standing at just over six feet tall, with shoulders that were too broad and muscles that were too defined, Madeline O'Connell was anything but feminine.

Another sigh. She pushed herself off the mattress and headed for the tiny kitchenette. There was a bottle of whiskey in one of the lopsided cabinets, and she was terribly thirsty.

Madeline snatched her prize from one of the cupboards overhead and slammed the heavy glass bottle down onto the countertop. With skilled fingers, she popped the cap and then threw back a gulp, savoring the burn that traveled down her throat.

It was just as well she hadn't enlisted, she told herself. After all, the military wasn't for people like her. She was undisciplined and lacked self-control. True, Rick had never been a shining example of self-control either. He'd told her once that it didn't matter. Once you had some burly guy screaming in your face, once you watched everyone around you falling into line… it didn't matter who you were or what you lacked. You learned.

Of course, she'd never been a great learner, either.

Madeline tossed back another gulp of whiskey, hating herself because she was making excuses. She was terribly good at making excuses.

Outside, the clatter of horse hooves echoed in the street. Someone shouted. These were hardly strange events; there was always noise in Madeline's neighborhood. Yelling, laughing, screaming, banging, and clattering horse hooves filled the night, every night, and by now she was used to it. She could sleep right through any sort of raucous in the street below. But when a deep, masculine voice returned the shout with a raspy string of curses, sounding out from just before her building, Madeline frowned, put down her whiskey, and crossed to her single window. She could almost swear she knew that raspy, cussing voice...

Dry coughing exploded directly below. She tugged back the thick white mosquito netting that served as curtains and peered out into the dark, dusty street. The road was mostly empty, abandoned and ghost-like under the glow of the gas lamps, save for a lone dirty man in a brown legionnaire's coat, slumped over in exhaustion, who had reined in his horse directly before the building.

She grabbed her robe and her keys and tore out of the tiny apartment, raced down the narrow, creaking steps, and flew out the front door. The dirty man was slowly crawling off his horse, and nearly fell to the street as his feet hit the ground.

Madeline rushed to his side, grabbing his arm and wrapping it around her shoulders in order to support him. "Rick?" she exclaimed, torn between excitement and worry.

"Hey, Maddie," Rick replied in a scratchy voice. He leaned heavily on her as she helped him towards the apartment entrance. "You look good."

Madeline rolled her eyes at his cavalier attitude. "You don't," she replied shortly. "What the hell do you expect me to do with that horse?"

Rick shrugged, unconcerned. "I don't give a damn," he rasped. "Not my horse."

She shook her head, half exasperated yet half relieved. Slowly, they tripped along inside the building and up the old stairway. Madeline studied her older brother from the corner of her eye. Normally, Rick was one of the few people who made her feel small; he stood three inches taller than her, and his imposing broad shoulders dwarfed her own. But tonight, hunched over as he was, limping and coughing his way up to her room, he seemed fragile in comparison to her.

Not to mention, he was truly filthy; his close-cropped chestnut brown hair, usually the same shade as Madeline's, had turned several shades lighter with all the dust, and both his coat and face were caked in dirt. Sweat tracks lined his face, little rivers of sunburn in the sand. Madeline couldn't stop staring at him. Shock was slowly taking hold. Her brother had dropped in from nowhere, without letter or telegram, covered in dirt and barely able to walk. It wasn't totally unusual – Rick had a tendency to shock her. He dropped by all the time in weird, unexpected ways, returning home without warning and always looking the worse for wear due to some harebrained scheme he or one of his military pals had dreamed up. Sometimes, she got to sit in on those schemes. Often times, not.

"Where the hell have you been?" she demanded.

He shrugged, coughed, and waved her off. "Later."

"What's wrong with you?"

"Tired. Thirsty."

Madeline helped him into the apartment and deposited him in one of the cheap wooden chairs sitting in her kitchen space. She put a glass under the faucet and then slid the water in front of him. He gulped it down in seconds and immediately motioned for more.

She complied. "Are you hungry?" she asked.

He shook his head.

Madeline left him with his water and headed for her mattress, where she'd left a shotgun leaning against the wall. Then she headed for the window and rested her hip on the sill. The horse had been tethered outside, and Madeline made sure to keep her eye on it. Maybe it wasn't Rick's animal, but a horse could be sold. She was newly unemployed, and Rick looked no better off than she. Her brother stayed seated at the table, still sipping the water. She darted a glance in his direction.

"Start talking," she ordered.

Rick swallowed and raised an eyebrow at her, sparing a grin. "What? You're not even going to tell your big brother you missed him?"

"Not a chance in hell. Where have you been, Rick?"

"Oddly enough, Hell," Rick replied. He grinned at her.

"And do they not have a postal service in Hell?" Madeline asked sourly.

"Now, see, I know you meant that ironically," Rick said, shaking his finger at her. Then he coughed throatily and took another gulp of water. "But no. They don't have a postal service out where I've been."

"Which was where again?" Madeline demanded.

"Hamunaptra."

Madeline's eyes went wide. She gaped at him. She wasn't exactly an archeologist or a historian, and she avoided the Cairo Museum like the plague, but she wasn't deaf either, and even if she didn't speak Arabic all that well, she understood enough to know the stories flying around Egypt about Hamunaptra. Everyone knew about Hamunaptra, the burial place of early Egyptian kings as well as the so-called 'wealth of Egypt'. Story-tellers called it a booby-trapped maze rigged to sink beneath the sand at the pharaoh's command. "You mean the City of the Dead?" she asked. "That cursed place out in the desert somewhere? Where there's supposedly crazy amounts of treasure?"

"The very place," Rick grinned.

Madeline eyed him ruefully. "But from the looks of you, I'm going to guess you didn't find much in the way of treasure out there, did you?"

Rick didn't argue with that assumption. Instead, he told her a story. Madeline leaned against the cracked wall and listened as he told her about the hard, hot, and dusty road to Hamunaptra. He told her how once they'd found the famed city, they'd also found an army of Tuaregs who weren't too happy to see the company of legionnaires. Madeline couldn't help but be fascinated as her brother related the battle they'd fought despite being outnumbered, how his superior officer had abandoned his men and ran away to save himself, and how his good friend Beni had raced into the tombs to hide, and closed Rick out of the only refuge he had.

But obviously, since he was back in their apartment telling the story, Rick had not died out there at Hamunaptra, and he went on to explain about the strange winds, the haunting noises, and the face that had appeared in the sand. The sudden phenomenon had frightened the opposing army away, and Rick had managed to survive a long walk across the desert back to the nearest form of civilization, where he stole a horse to get back to Cairo.

Madeline wasn't one to believe in ghost stories, but then again, neither was Rick. Logically, she could dismiss it all as some sort of panic-induced desert mirage. But somehow, she couldn't quite convince herself. To hear her rational, cynical brother tell her he had witnessed something that sounded so… well, supernatural… was enough to convince her that maybe there was something to the legends of Hamunaptra. Maybe.

Rick finished his story, and the two of them lapsed into silence. Madeline tried not to show it, but his story had shaken her. Too many times out there in the desert, Madeline had almost lost her older brother and she hadn't even known it. A glance at Rick proved he was twice as shaken as she was. Unnerved by her brother's serious, faraway expression, Madeline asked, in an attempt to lighten the mood, "Did you bring me a souvenir?"

Her brother grinned and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small, dark gray, octagon-shaped metallic box. Madeline frowned and crossed the room again. Rick handed her the piece and she turned it over in her hands, examining it. The box was smooth, save for the thin, indiscreet hieroglyphs etched into the sides, and strangely warm to the touch, probably from its hot, sweaty journey inside Rick's pocket. She had no idea what it was. There was a seam, suggesting it could be opened, but she couldn't pry the seam apart for the life of her. Still, she found the markings on it fascinating. Probably, they had some sort of meaning. She had no clue what the ancient symbols might mean, but they were certainly pretty.

"I'll tell you one thing, Maddie," Rick concluded his story, staring at his sister as she turned the trinket in her fingers. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him off for using the shortened version of her name, but she was so glad to have him back that she resisted. "There's something out there, something under the sand."

"Yeah?" she hummed, raising her eyebrow as she continued to examine the box. "What?"

"Evil."