A/N—I don't own Lawrence of Arabia. I wish I did (oh, I wish I did), but I don't.
This is a friendship fiction.
Ali says that Lawrence offered him money. What happened? Lawrence's POV.
The jangle of the coins is the only sound in the dark tent.
"1000 now." My voice is cold and emotionless. "1000 later."
Ali doesn't answer. His back is turned, so I cannot see his face. When he finally speaks, there is an anger in his voice that I haven't heard since Gasim's disappearance, when I returned to the Nefud in order to search for him.
"What do you take me for? A mercenary?" He practically spits the last word. Another sound fills the darkness—the swish of fabric—as he turns to face me. His dark eyes are aflame. His nose and mouth quiver. His fists are clenched tightly as he struggles with his rage. "You think to buy me? With this?" He motions at the bulging bag. 'You think me greedy—"
He will never forgive me for those words.
"Cruel!" His voice breaks.
No, never. Never. Never. Never.
"Ali..." I try to explain, but I can't. I can't bring myself to rupture this friendship any further with mention of my fear of his desertion. But he already knows.
Sadness lines the bitter tones of his voice when he speaks again.
"Do you think so little of me, Aurens?"
"El Aurens is best." He once pronounced that name with pride. "El Aurens is best." Now, that name is no better than the word he spat at me before. Mercenary. Mercenary. I refuse to look at him. I can't look at him.
"Do you truly think so little of me, that you would try to buy me? Do you truly believe that I will not follow without pay?" His voice breaks again—he can't speak without being choked.
"2000 in all, Ali," I say firmly, reminding him of the reward.
"I do not want your money."
His eyes are glittering when I look up. With tears. A few escape, but he frantically blinks, and they vanish.
"I will follow you, Aurens, but I will not follow you for money. I will follow you because you are still El Aurens. You are still the same man you were before Deraa. Only humbled."
I have no answer to his words. They are true. But I won't admit that.
"Gather your men," I say, when I can speak. "They will take the money."
"Yes. They will."
He turns away. He doesn't look back.
As the tent flap flutters back into place, I see him fling the bag—coins and all—to the ground, where the shimmering metal spills out, nearly indistinguishable against the burning sand.