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: Big thank you to my reviewers, redscarletangel, LadySoftball, Nelle07, Gem of the Stars, midnight-flurry, Seyyed, Ravenclaw Samurai, Mariella D'Angelo, marimo head's lover, OceanFae, Pirate College Graduate, Makayla, and WhiteInnocence. You guys are awesome. Oh, and PS to Mariella: I took your advice on both last chapter and chapter 21. At least, I think that's the right chapter. Again, same plot, nothing changed, I just tried to fix some of the language. Thanks!
This is the final chapter, you guys. Hope you like it.
Chapter 23: A Reunion and a Goodbye
Slowly, Madeline and Ardeth pulled away from one another. The kiss over, they both just stood there rather awkwardly, unsure how to proceed. Madeline frowned, surprised that Ardeth had just done that, and tried to think of something to say. "I… think you did that to make me stop talking," she announced.
A small grin crossed Ardeth's face. Before he could respond, however, the world around them began to shake. A quick, panicked glance around her only served to further panic Madeline when she saw that the heavy stone ceiling above their heads was slowly but surely coming down on top of them.
"Oh, what the fuck now?" she half exclaimed, half groaned. This was getting ridiculous.
Ardeth, too, was staring up at the ceiling, looking more than uneasy. "Seti's lever," he murmured.
Madeline rolled her eyes. Now was not the time to be cryptic. "Whatever that means," she said sarcastically.
"Come!" Ardeth shouted, taking her by the arm. "We have to leave! The city is sinking!"
Madeline stared at him in bewilderment, but before she could say anything, Ardeth was dragging her along the hall, racing for the exit. Madeline hurried alongside him, still attached to him by the arm. Suddenly, however, she stopped and yanked her wrist from his hand. "Wait," she exclaimed. "What about the others?"
"There is no time," Ardeth returned, making to take her arm again. She dodged his grasp.
"He is strong and he is smart," Ardeth replied. "He will find a way out. Now, come!"
Again, he took her by the arm and dragged her down the hall. Madeline contemplated further arguing, but decided against it. The ceiling was coming down on them like a pestle. As badly as she wanted to find her brother and the Carnahans, there simply wasn't time to stumble about the tomb. Even as they ran, the doorway at the end of the hall was rapidly closing up.
They reached it as quickly as their legs would allow, and Ardeth practically threw her through the doorway. Then he slid under the closing door with barely inches to spare and leapt to his feet. Madeline followed suit and chased after him as they raced across the chamber containing Horus, and then down the second passageway. They made it through the doorway to that hall just in time, and then tore through the treasure chamber. All around them, heavy pieces of pottery and statuary were tumbling to the floor. Narrowly missing being squished by several of the falling objects, Madeline and Ardeth finally made it up the large staircase and bent their heads forward, ducking under the closing door to the treasure chamber.
There was no time to stop and catch their breath. They still had a ways to go before they were completely out of the tomb, and the ceiling was still threatening to crush them. The two of them clambered into the narrow passageway they'd come through on their way in. It was dusty inside, and small bits of rubble were tumbling down around them. Racing as fast as they could, single file, they ran down the narrow passage, feeling the sting of tiny rocks against their skin and dust in their eyes. They fought their way out of the passage and stumbled back into the entrance chamber. Ardeth gave Madeline a shove towards the main door and she squeezed herself through the tiny sliver of space, barely making it out. Behind her, Ardeth tried to slide out too, and Madeline gave his arm a yank, pulling him through the doorway as easily as he had been half his weight.
The two of them stumbled out away from the door, stopping to catch their breath. "You… you are very… strong," Ardeth announced breathlessly.
"Thanks," Madeline gasped. "I know."
Ardeth yanked her towards him and she nearly fell over. A large pillar crashed to the sand, landing directly where she'd just been standing. The two of them glanced around to see the exterior of the city falling down as well. "Hurry," Ardeth ordered, taking her by the arm again, and dragging her toward the stone gates.
The two of them ran through the billowing sands, artfully dodging the falling architecture, and finally made it to the exit. They tore away from the city, headed for a far off spot where a herd of camels was standing and watching the destruction without concern. Finally, having reached a safe distance from the collapsing city, they stopped, panting, and stared at the dust cloud billowing around the crumbling exterior walls.
Madeline stared at the city as it fell. Only minutes after their escape, the entire city had fallen into the sand. There was nothing left.
Grief crept over her. Rick, Jonathan, Evie…. They were gone. She inhaled shakily, looking down at the ground. She felt like she should be bursting into tears or something, but nothing happened. It didn't seem real. She couldn't believe it, even though she'd just seen it.
Ardeth's hand rested on her shoulder. She looked up at him, slightly startled. He smiled softly, and pointed out into the desert.
Frowning, Madeline followed his finger with her eyes. Oblivious to their presence, Rick, Evie, and Jonathan were racing towards another group of camels. They'd escaped.
Madeline breathed a heavy sigh of relief. "They made it," she murmured. "Jesus, I thought I was having a nervous breakdown."
Ardeth smiled again. "I told you, did I not?" he said. "Your brother found a way out."
Madeline gave him a mock nasty look. "No one likes a know-it-all."
They stood there in the sand for a moment, looking and feeling uncomfortable. They met one another's eyes a few times, only to look away immediately. "So, uh…" Madeline stammered. "I, uh… guess you'll be going off to your… campsite, or whatever, right?"
He nodded. "First, I want to thank your brother."
Madeline nodded. "All right then."
"And you," he added. "I want to thank you. You and your companions have done my people – no, you have done the world a great service. And you… you may very well have saved my life."
Madeline snorted. "I very seriously doubt that."
"No," he insisted. "It is true. Without your help… I don't believe I would have been able to fight them all off myself."
Madeline looked to the ground, embarrassed. "Yeah, well," she murmured. "You're welcome, I guess."
They fell quiet. "Come," Ardeth said finally. He beckoned her to two of the camels.
Madeline concentrated on getting her camel to sit down for her. No such luck. Even after everything that had happened, nothing had changed between her and camels.
"Here," she heard Ardeth say behind her. Suddenly, she was off the ground, and Ardeth had placed her on the saddle of the camel. Surprised, she looked back over her shoulder at him.
"Uh… thanks," she murmured, embarrassed again.
Ardeth climbed onto his own camel. They began riding towards Evie, Jonathan, and Rick. Madeline wondered if she ought to say something about the kiss… well, the two kisses, actually. Ardeth didn't seem inclined to bring either one of them up.
In all fairness, however, he had already brought up the first one. Maybe it was her turn now.
"So, uh… why did you kiss me?" Madeline asked suddenly.
Ardeth glanced over his shoulder at her, and then turned away immediately. Madeline couldn't be positive, but he seemed almost embarrassed. "The same reason you kissed me, I suppose," he returned.
Madeline didn't really know what to say to that. "Ah," she replied.
She eyed the three people they were fast approaching. Suddenly, she made a decision. Giving her camel a small swat, she sped up and cut Ardeth's camel off. He stared at her in surprise.
"I don't want to be overly persistent," she announced. "But I'm not big on the public displays of affection, so I better do this now."
He raised an eyebrow. "Don't worry," she continued. "I'm not expecting anything fantastic here. I just want to say good-bye."
With that, she leaned in towards his camel and kissed him on the lips. Her camel shifted underneath her - which was just typical - and she nearly fell off. Ardeth caught her around the waist, and pulled her closer to him. All this occurred without either one of them breaking the kiss. It lasted several moments longer, and then, finally, they slowly separated.
They stared at one another, but this time not awkwardly. The kiss was just what Madeline had said it was - a goodbye. Ardeth steadied her on her camel, and they let go of one another entirely.
There was really no explaining what was going on between them. Neither one of them really knew. But Madeline felt particularly good about this last kiss, because it was completely uncomplicated. Both of them knew what it was about, and both of them were all right with leaving on these terms. They were, at the very least, friends - and possibly something slightly more.
They prodded their camels forward again, and soon reached the others. Rick and the Carnahans were staring at the dust cloud where Hamunaptra had stood only moments before. Ardeth placed his hand on Jonathan's shoulder to get his attention.
Jonathan screamed, and Rick and Evie swiveled around in panic. When they saw Ardeth and Madeline however, their expressions changed form panicked to relieved.
"Thank you! Thank you very much!" Jonathan exclaimed in annoyance, clutching his heart.
"Maddie!" Rick shouted, racing over to his sister's camel and giving the lead a hard tug, forcing the camel to sit. He enveloped his sister in a huge hug. "You idiot! I thought you were dead!"
"Like wise," Madeline replied, hugging him back. They pulled apart, and Rick helped her off the camel.
"You have earned the respect and gratitude of my people," Ardeth announced, speaking to all of them.
"Yes, well," Jonathan replied, affecting humility. "It was nothing, really."
"May Allah smile on you always," Ardeth returned. He did some strange Med-jai salute thing, which Jonathan tried – and failed miserably – to imitate.
"And yourself," Jonathan said.
Ardeth smiled at them all one last time, and then his eyes fell on Madeline. She smiled at him rather shyly, unsure what to say. He said nothing as well, only gave her a smile slightly different than the one he had given the others, and then nodded at her. She nodded back, and Ardeth turned from them all, riding his camel off into the desert.
"Yes, anytime," Jonathan called after him.
"Stay out of trouble," Rick added.
"He's just leaving us here," Jonathan announced, sounding annoyed. He turned back to look at the city with a small, rather bitter laugh. "Well, I suppose we go home empty handed – again."
"I wouldn't say that," Rick replied.
Madeline turned to look at her brother, eyebrow raised. Rick, however, was not looking at her. He was staring down at Evelyn, and she was staring back at him. Slowly, they leaned into one another and kissed, for what seemed like ages. Madeline couldn't help but smile at the sight. Then she turned from them, hoping to give them some privacy, and instead stared out into the desert, watching Ardeth disappear into the horizon. She supposed she ought to feel sad about this, but she didn't at all. Imhotep had been defeated, Hamunaptra was under the sand where it would no longer be a problem, her brother had worked things out with Evie… and she had earned a strange sort of friend in Ardeth Bay. There was no reason to expect anything more than what she had gotten – a few personal conversations, and a handful of kisses. But Madeline couldn't help but feel that this wasn't the end – and that she and Ardeth would meet once again. She didn't know why, or what would come of it, but she was certain that they would.
"Oh, please," Jonathan grumbled. Madeline started, thinking for a moment that Jonathan had heard her thoughts. Then she realized he was talking about Rick and Evie.
He approached one of the camels and grabbed a hold of the lead. "How about you, darling?" he asked the beast. "Would you like a little kissy-wissy?"
The camel grunted in response, and Jonathan fanned its mouth with his hand. "Whew," he exclaimed, making a face. Clearly, the camel wasn't exactly up to par when it came to dental hygiene.
"Well, hell, Jonathan," Madeline said teasingly. "Was kissing me really bad enough to make you chase after camels instead?"
Jonathan started and stared at her. She grinned at him. He looked rather embarrassed. "Right, Maddie," he said, stumbling over his words a bit. "I don't know why I did that, really… I was just… well, you know how it is… could we just…?"
Madeline extended her hand to him. "Friends," she said with a smile. It wasn't a question. It was a promise.
He smiled back and shook her hand. "Friends," he agreed.
It was almost a perfect ending to their adventure, really. All four of them were on their camels now, Rick and Evie sharing one of course, and ready to go back home. The good guys had won, the bad guys were dead – and they were riding off into the sunset.
AN: Well, the story's over – but you haven't seen the last of Madeline. I plan to write a sequel very shortly, so be on the look out for a story called Self Esteem if you are interested in reading it. It will not be a rewrite of The Mummy Returns – although I am considering one for later on. But this story will take place in between the two movies. Madeline will be back of course, and so will Jonathan and Ardeth, although I don't plan on including Rick and Evie. Thanks for reading, and I hope you all enjoyed it!