I Heard You
Two beings floated gently in an indigo fog. Something in them awakened, and they were separated. "In time, my love," one of them whispered, and their memories faded away.
Whatever had just happened, Rick knew one thing: he had to get out of this chair. He stood and stretched, joints cracking and popping after sitting in the tiny armchair for hours. He wondered what time of night it was, for the view out the window was dark now, marred only by wispy gray storm clouds that were quickly creeping over the horizon. He felt like it had been an eternity.
The first person he came upon was Jonathan, and Rick was suddenly grateful that he'd been in a chair and not on the floor. His brother-in-law was already awake, blinking in the soft hallway light like he was staring into the sun. "What are you doing on the floor?" Rick asked, even though he already knew.
"Uh..." Jonathan rubbed his eyes, squinching his forehead like he was trying to remember. "Well, I had been drinking," he muttered. "But I...I walked in the house and I heard...chanting. I remember sort of blacking out, falling, but then...I was awake, and...everything was...different." He sighed, not meeting Rick's eyes. "Some hangover."
Rick stood, offering his arm. "Tell me about it. Are you...okay?"
A smile tugged at the corner of Jonathan's mouth, and he finally looked up. He reached out to grasp his brother-in-law's shoulder. "I'm alive."
"Thank God for small favors."
Jonathan took Rick's proffered assistance and stood on wobbly legs, seeming a little older than he ever had before. "She's not here, is she?"
"I think she ran."
"She's got a head start on you then. Go."
Rick turned away from Jonathan, feeling as though his head was swimming about in uncharted seas with no one but sharks for company. "I don't think I can."
"You're going to let her run?"
"If she wants to."
"You have to go find her. You have to go now."
Simple, unabashed anger suddenly rocked through Rick, anger at the world, at the gods, at himself, at her, at Jonathan. As his fist connected with thin plaster, crumbling it to dust by force of rage, the anger almost seemed to flow into the wall and evaporate as quickly as it had come. Jonathan was right. He hated it, he hated him for saying it, but he was right. "What if..." Rick trailed off, looking distractedly at bleeding knuckles that now pulsed with a vague, far-off pain. "What if she doesn't want me to find her?"
Jonathan couldn't believe what he was hearing. They were insane, the both of them. He'd go after his sister himself if he could; he wouldn't leave her out there alone after all this. Yet at the same time, Jonathan knew it wasn't he that had to go. "You have to find her," he said again, "or everything was for nothing. It all comes back to you two, Rick. You can't throw that away. It would disappoint the universe."
Rick didn't allow himself to think anymore, he just forced his feet to move toward the door before he changed his mind. As he reached the front door he paused. "Jonathan... Thank you."
"No problem, my friend... And Rick?"
"Why did you... I mean, why did you trust me? Knowing me, probably shouldn't have."
Rick grabbed a jacket from the coat rack, looking back at Jonathan. "You haven't made me regret it yet."
He slipped out into the night. The misty air immediately chilled his bones, shocking a mind that had for so long resided under a burning sun. He had to remind himself that he had not actually been there, that the whole time he'd just been in his own bedroom, forced to relive days he certainly didn't choose to remember.
But...maybe they needed to remember. Lessons learned, mistakes repented. Amongst the tragedy there had been a life. Happiness. Love. Her. That was what he had to hang onto. He couldn't lose her again, no matter what mistakes they'd made in another existence.
He ducked his head against the increasing storm as the wind whipped about the deserted Cairo streets. Anyone might have thought he was walking blindly, for his wife had certainly left no indication of where she was running to.
Rick knew. And if he was wrong, he'd try another place. Then somewhere else. He'd find her. She couldn't hide forever.
Not from him.
Jonathan leaned against the wall, taking another minute to steady himself. His head still swam a bit, and he wondered whether this was something the others were going through, too, or if his evening out earlier had worsened his physical state.
He took a tentative step forward, then another, congratulating himself on not falling over in the process. He made slow progress through the apartment, checking each room. Most of them were empty. Alex had been taken over to a friend's house earlier in the day, wholly unaware that the rest of his family had, for all intents and purposes, been in a completely different world for the past several hours.
In the library Jonathan found Ardeth, still apparently caught up in the selfsame world. Jonathan had a feeling it would be useless to try and wake the Medjai, so he didn't bother. Instead he sunk into a nearby armchair, hand going absentmindedly into his pocket out of habit.
Jonathan froze. Without taking the object out of his pocket he knew what it was; he knew the feel of the hard metallic circle and the placing of the scratchy gemstones as well as he knew the back of his hand. Why it was there and where the hell it had come from was an entirely different matter. At the moment, however, he had more important things to worry about.
Ardeth opened his eyes quite suddenly. His gaze was a bit wild until it landed on Jonathan. Seeing someone he recognized seemed to calm him, though his brow furrowed in confusion. "What..."
"...the Hell just happened to us?" Jonathan nodded. "Yup, that's pretty much what I was wondering, too."
Ardeth felt as though he had all the puzzle pieces lying in front of him, but there were far too many to fit into a coherent picture. "Was I...asleep?"
"Looks like it. We were all pretty out of it, I think. Care to explain exactly why?"
"I didn't expect the spell to..." He shook his head, as if trying to clear it. "...affect me. To affect you. It was a long shot with them." Ardeth looked around, taking in the library from his low vantage point. "I'm on the floor."
Jonathan fought the building urge to grab the Medjai and shake some sense into him. "What did you do?"
"The spell has been around since the Book of the Dead was first written. It is fairly simple, but... powerful. It only tells you what you need to know at that moment in time. And once it's been cast...you can't ever take it back."
"So what are you saying?" Jonathan thought of the ring in his pocket and swallowed the fear that accompanied it. "This isn't over?"
Ardeth ignored the question, still lost in his own thoughts. "When did you wake up? Did...Tahir...pass away?"
Jonathan hesitated. Like all memories, it was already beginning to fade, but the sand and the darkness were still very real in his mind. "Yes."
"I didn't. What if...there's more to it?"
Jonathan shrugged. "I can't recall anything of related import in the dynasty. Ramses led the country on a pretty typical destroy and conquer mentality for a long, long time."
"We've proved tonight that the common legends don't tell the whole story."
"Do you have any more stories? Anything else your people know about that time period?"
Ardeth shook his head. "No. Our stories include no one by the names of Tahir or Khalil. I was not aware of their existence. Even Achsu-rai's name had been lost. We'll probably never know everything."
Jonathan had never seen Ardeth at such a loss before, and it scared him. He was even teetering on the verge of admitting it. "Maybe we're not meant to."
"Fate was telling them something they had to know. The rest..." Something else occurred to the Medjai then. "Rick and Evy--are they okay?"
Now Jonathan was the uncertain one, as much as he wished he could give his friend an answer. "I hope so... I hope so."
The restaurant was full of people, but Rick paid them no mind as he charged through the back and up the stairwell. As he emerged on the open roof and realized it was deserted, his heart sank. As he turned to leave, something caught the corner of his eye over by the fire escape, and it soared.
The rain had slicked her hair against her head, and she wasn't wearing a coat. Shivering in the wind, she stood alone under the turbulent sky, looking out over the city. She seemed not to notice him. Rick resisted the urge to run toward her and instead took a cautious step forward, then another. She never turned her head toward him. When he'd reached her, he took off his jacket and placed it around her, but the moment it was on her shoulders she stepped away from him.
"I should have picked a less obvious spot," she said, and there was no trace of anything in her voice.
"I would have found you anywhere."
She took a step backward, seeming to realize fully that he was actually there. "What happened to your hand?"
Rick took a step forward, she took one in the opposite direction. "Nothing."
"When I woke up...you weren't there," she whispered.
"I was in the other room, I--"
"That's not what I mean." A timid hand reached for him, but she seemed to change her mind and took it back. "She knew," Evelyn said, continuing to back away from her husband. "She knew, she always did, she never doubted him, she never... She never doubted you."
"No!" It was then Rick noticed the tears glistening in her eyes, and their depths reflected the city lights of Cairo like watery pools. "When I woke up," she continued, "I looked at you, and I... I doubted you! For this horrible, horrible moment I doubted you, I doubted your love, I doubted everything! And I hate myself for that!"
Images attacked his mind against his will. A blade glinting in the torchlight, the glow of her eyes fading into death, her blood...everywhere... "After what happened... I can't begin to..." His muscles twitched with the memory and he shuddered, the very air around him seeming to scream with anguish.
She looked as though she were thinking much the same thing, and she shut her eyes tightly against it. "You did nothing but what I asked. And I repay you by..." She turned her face to the sky, asking the heavens what she couldn't ask him. "How selfish could I have been? How could I have asked you to do that? I'm sorry, I'm so sorry I accused you of--"
"No, it's my fault. I was supposed to protect you, and I failed. I've failed so many times, I can't believe you keep trusting me. I can't believe we've gotten as many chances as we've had."
Evelyn shook her head sadly. Was it regret? Rick couldn't tell. "We'd both be dead a hundred times over if not for each other."
"Who says we haven't died a hundred times?"
Rick had to force the words out, but as he spoke, they came faster and faster of their own accord. "Evy, this doesn't just happen everyday. This thing that we have, we've screwed it up before, we know that now. But we still have it. Doesn't that say something to you? You said it yourself. That wasn't the end. We said as long as we believed, we'd get to choose the fate we wanted. I'd choose you every time, Evy, I'd choose you if it meant my own death. You're my fate, Evy. I'm yours."
Evelyn pulled the jacket tight around her. Knowing it was his gave her comfort, and with that thought something else struck her, too. "Your love is the only protection I ever needed. Just you. It was always enough for me, and I..."
Rick took another step. She was close enough to touch now, and he longed to put his arms around her, still needing to make sure she was standing in front of him. That she was alive, that he'd somehow managed to find her again amidst the chaos and pain that surrounded their destinies.
She looked at him finally. The tears had escaped the confines of her eyes and they trickled down her face in jagged little lines. "I wouldn't trade our lot for anything," she said. "I wouldn't trade you for a million lives, a million deaths. Never."
Rick could say nothing but, "I love you." It was all he needed to say to mend whatever harm had ever been done, because it was the truest thing either of them had ever said. Evelyn took a step forward and was immediately wrapped in his arms, safe, relieved beyond all measure just to know he was really real, that he still loved her and wouldn't ever stop. He repeated it until he ran out of breath, and when he paused she placed a finger to his lips and echoed his statement.
"I love you, too."
"I never really said it, not to your face. Always, though, I said it to myself, when you were asleep, when you weren't listening, when your back was turned."
She gripped him even tighter now, terrified that the gods might realize they'd stolen time they didn't deserve and decide to take it away from them again. "I heard you. A million times I heard you."
The storm picked up speed then, but the two didn't notice. Back at the apartment, friends awaited their return, but they weren't thinking about anyone else. Just two people standing on a rooftop, oblivious to everything but the embrace which no longer promised death, but hope.
Far away, the gods smiled, and the storm carried on.
Whoa.....done. Nine months and nine days after first posting!!! THANK YOU so much to everyone for your reviews and encouragement!!!!!!! I love each and every one of you, and y'all know who you are:) Thanks for your patience!!!!!!! A special merci goes out to my beta Mythica:) Also, look for a new big epic tentatively titled "Mortal Soil" coming up soon. Maybe sequels to this one, too (obviously the door is open:) I hope y'all enjoyed "Cost of a Glance!" Please let me know what you thought of my little story:) Bonsoir......Buffelyn:):):)