BUTTERFLIES AND THUNDERSTORMS
The scream tore from her throat before she was even fully awake, her breath coming in gasps as she lay in the half-dark, facing the window but not really seeing anything. She wasn't even sure the scream had been hers until she heard heavy footsteps across the suite floor and a dishevelled Rick O'Connell burst in, gun in hand and a wild look on his face, eyes hard and scanning her room for intruders. Jonathan Carnahan was a few steps behind, blindly pushing past Rick – much to his annoyance – and skidding to a halt by the bed.
"Evie? Evie, old mum, what's wrong?"
Evelyn Carnahan slid herself to an upright position, her breathing nearly back to normal, and peered out at the two men from beneath the swathes of netting designed to keep the insects away. "I'm sorry, Jonathan, I had a nightmare. I didn't mean to wake you. I didn't mean to scream."
Jonathan huffed lightly, reaching out to pat her on the arm. "Well, no harm done. Must have been all that cheese you ate at dinner. Just...try not to do it again, hmm? Nearly gave me a heart attack that did, and I need the old ticker for a while yet."
Evelyn nodded, still not feeling quite herself, and managed a half-smile which she knew would easily fool her brother. "I'm fine, Jon, go back to bed. I promise it won't happen again."
Nodding and moving away, Jonathan yawned. "Well, back to bed, eh, O'Connell? My sister does like to keep everyone on their toes." Without waiting for a reply he headed back across the suite to the other bedroom he shared with the American.
Evelyn watched him go, then turned her head and caught Rick's concerned gaze. Having kept quiet whilst Jonathan did his brotherly duty, he now stepped forward, tucking his gun into a holster. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine, Rick. It was just a silly nightmare; I won't even remember it in the morning." She pointedly lay back and pulled the covers over her again, not wanting to face any more questions, despite appreciating the concern and worry of the man with whom she currently had an indefinable relationship. The idea of being in a relationship was so new to both of them that they mostly flirted and danced around the issue, occasionally stealing a kiss when they thought no one was looking.
"Point taken," Rick grunted, and she heard his clothes rustle as he moved away. The door closed and she sighed, hoping she hadn't offended him.
When the door to the other room had shut and she was sure both the men were asleep again, she slid out of the bed and changed into a lightweight dress and cardigan. She didn't want to go back to sleep, nor stay in the room which seemed to her to be closing in, inch by inch, the longer she sat there. Picking up the key to the main door and pocketing it, she slipped out the door and fled down the stairs.
The hotel courtyard was awash with tropical flowers and plants, and Evelyn had found it a comforting place to sit and think in the aftermath of the Imhotep saga. She curled up on a bench under the canopy of a large palm tree, the moonlight painting everything a silver grey before the clouds scudding across the sky stole the glint and plunged everything into near pitch darkness. In one such light moment, Evelyn saw a butterfly land on a nearby flower and perch delicately, its wings moving silently to a rhythm only it could hear. Then the clouds moved and the butterfly and flower disappeared.
She wished her insecurities could disappear so easily.
Ever since returning to Cairo, she'd found herself plagued with doubts as to her ability to continue, to study, to be in a relationship, to make decisions that wouldn't bring about the end of the world. She'd come to Cairo originally to escape her suffocating aunt on her mother's side; to make a name for herself in the world of archaeology. Instead, she'd found herself struggling to make ends meet, and it was only by pure luck that she stumbled upon Dr Terrence Bey, who remembered her parents well. It was a few short months of cataloguing and organising before Jonathan brought her the 'trinket' box and they set out to find O'Connell and then Hamunaptra.
Of course, everyone knew how that turned out.
She sighed softly, her mind in turmoil, and it wasn't until a deep voice spoke that realised she wasn't alone.
"You know, this isn't a safe place to be out alone at night..."
"Rick!" she pressed a hand to her chest in defence, her wide eyes staring up at him as he gave her a lopsided grin and indicated to the space next to her.
"Of course..." she murmured, catching her breath and moving to give him room on the bench. It being a rather small bench, however, meant that she found herself pressed against a warm, muscular body and she was glad of the lack of light so he couldn't see the blush staining her cheeks. "I do know how to look after myself, thank you very much. They always say screaming is a good way to defend yourself; it deafens your attackers and people will come running."
Rick grinned, his teeth bright against the dark angles of his face. "Of course, screams are no good when you're unconscious."
Not quite knowing what to say, Evelyn let out a small "ooohhh" and huffed into silence. To let her know he wasn't mad at her, Rick laid a hand on her arm.
"Evelyn, are you sure you're all right?"
Glad at the change of subject, even to one she'd rather avoid, she nodded. "I'm fine. Like I said, it was a silly nightmare."
Rick studied her for a moment, his brow creasing thoughtfully. "But it's not the first one you've had, is it?"
She started, then clamped down on her surprise and turned her face in his vague direction. "I don't know what you mean," she said airily.
He chuckled, tapping a finger against her arm. "You may be able to fool your brother, Evelyn Carnahan, but you can't fool me. You are a terrible liar."
She couldn't bring herself to be offended, and offered a small smile in return. "It runs in the family."
"I noticed." Rick sighed, then slid his arm across the back of the bench and tugged her lightly towards him. Not having anywhere else to go, and not wanting to escape in the slightest, Evelyn allowed herself to be pulled into his embrace, tucking her feet up to one side and resting her head on his shoulder. "Talk to me, Evie."
"I've been getting them nearly every night since we got back from...from–"
"From Hamunaptra," Rick supplied.
"What are they about? You've not screamed that loudly before – mostly you call out names, or whimper."
Evelyn found herself blushing again. "You heard me?"
"Your brother may sleep like the dead, but I'm used to listening out for anything unusual in the desert. That was one hell of a scream tonight, though."
She sighed lightly again, taking a moment to breathe in his musky scent. It was a mix of desert, gunpowder and oil and something that was uniquely him. She found it comforting and relaxing, a feeling the strong circle of his arms gave her too. "It's usually things like – what would have happened if we hadn't found the right inscription to control the warriors, or if Jonathan got in the way of Imhotep and he wasn't distracted. But tonight..." she paused, not wanting to relive the horrors of her nightmare but knowing he needed to hear it, "tonight I dreamt I was possessed by Anck-su-namun, and the first thing she did was to...to-" She bit her lip, closing her eyes against the press of tears. Rick didn't move, his stoic strength calming her slightly. "She killed you, and I couldn't do anything, only watch." She subsided into silence, and he mentally kicked himself. He knew what she was going through – the guilt of the survivor was a common ailment; one he had suffered through many times. However the way he dealt with it was most likely worlds away from the young librarian in his arms, and he didn't quite know how to respond.
"You're thinking I have a vivid imagination." Her voice was quiet, and he realised he'd been silent for too long. Not yet comfortable with the whole talking-about-feelings, he opted for the light-hearted reply, hoping it would cheer her up.
"This coming from someone who's just seen off a resurrected priest and his long-lost lover." She giggled softly and he let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. "It gets better."
"Really?" She'd turned her face fully towards him and the pure hope on her face made him want to take her into his arms and protect her from everything that could possibly hurt her. She was still such an innocent, and more than once he'd found himself wondering how she'd managed to get herself away from the protective, cotton-wool society she should be living in back in England and immerse herself in a world of mercenary treasure-hunters, blood-thirsty thieves and jaded Legionnaires.
"I promise. It might take a while, but it will."
She seemed to take that to heart, subsiding into a contemplative silence. For his part, Rick enjoyed just sitting there holding her without the constant buzz of noise from the market place or Jonathan, or even Evelyn herself, wildly speculating on some theory or other. The soft rumble of thunder overhead just added to the feeling of content; the fresh breeze stirring up the foliage around them gave him a sense of being part of something bigger, something more. Something that allowed him to believe he could be whatever he wanted to be, not just Richard O'Connell, ex-Legionnaire saved moments before death by a librarian's deal with the prison warden.
"What are you going to do?"
His question surprised both of them; Rick because he hadn't actually intended on voicing his thoughts and Evelyn because she'd not expected him to break the comfortable silence.
"Tomorrow. Next week. Next year. Just...after this. You can't stay here forever."
She looked slightly put out and shifted in his arms. "Why not?"
He gave a low chuckle at her almost childish belief that nothing would change, but smoothed his hand down her arm to reassure her. "I mean, you and your brother aren't going to live in this hotel, surely? You're going to find a house, and become curator of the museum, or apply to those scholar-people again."
"Bembridge Scholars," she corrected automatically, almost without realising it, then sighed and closed her eyes. She'd thought life would be so simple when she'd set out on her journey. Find Hamunaptra, find the Pharaoh's treasure and go down in history. Or return empty-handed and disillusioned with her day-job to settle back into. But the curator had died trying to prevent the cursed townspeople from tearing Rick, Jonathan and Ardeth Bay into pieces, and the library was still in a horrific state from when she'd accidentally knocked the shelves down. No one knew who was going to take over; the knowledge she had was most likely going to be rejected by the archaeological community as being too far-fetched (after all, who would believe she'd been kidnapped by an immortal high priest bent on resurrecting his dead girlfriend and taking over the world?) and they had two sacks of precious metals and jewels that they'd discovered on the backs of the camels from a tomb that no longer really existed – or at least was not accessible in the slightest. "I don't know."
"Really?" He sounded so surprised and she smiled lightly at his apparent faith in her having a plan for everything.
"Really. I thought I did. At least I did before all...this...happened. I was content in my job, doing something that interested me even though I was finding it hard to advance in my field."
"But now...?" he prompted, wanting to hear her admit to what he found he couldn't.
"I'm lost," she stated simply. She was beginning to lower those walls around her emotions and let him in, allowing him to see more of the true Evelyn Carnahan instead of the prim and proper Englishwoman he'd first met. "I don't know what to do. I feel like I've been caught up in something and then thrown out into the world with no guidance. My beliefs have been turned upside down; I've lost people I know to something no one would ever believe could exist..." She sighed, unsure how to continue. Whenever she thought of the future her emotions whipped into a maelstrom of confusion and uncertainty like a butterfly caught in a thunderstorm, thrown this way and that by strong winds.
Unsure quite how to respond, Rick squeezed her lightly to let her know he understood – which he did, having thought he was destined for the gallows and nothing more. Now he was free, and fairly rich by the looks of the treasure they'd unknowingly brought back with them, and he had endless possibilities stretched out in front of him without a single clue where to start. "Will you go back to England?"
Evelyn considered his question for a moment before lifting her small shoulders in a minute shrug. "I don't know. We have enough to afford our own home, away from my aunt, but other than that..." Rick filed that small piece of information about her relative away, intending to ask her about that later on when they weren't so concerned about the immediate future. "What about you?"
"Hmm?" He took in a breath, filling himself with the smell of the fresh, damp air around them which heralded the oncoming storm. Already the breeze had turned a little chilly, and he knew it wouldn't be long before they were forced inside to shelter from the changing weather. "I guess I'd always thought I'd end up going to England at some point in my life. I'd like to see it."
Evelyn smiled. "You'd like it." But she chose not to launch into one of her impassioned monologues and he appreciated the quieter, freer side of the naive and bookishly intelligent young woman he'd fallen for.
They sat there in silence for a while longer until the first fat drops of rainwater hit the leaves and ground around them, and then Rick took her hand and dashed over to the shelter of the hotel with her just as the heavens opened behind them, feeling more free than he had ever before.
Jonathan's steady snores emanated from his room as they entered the suite, dripping slightly from the rain that had caught them before they'd managed to dive under cover. Rick's amused snort earned an amused look from Evelyn as she made her way across to her room, fully intending on saying goodnight and trying to find sleep. But a strong hand on her arm stopped her and she turned to find Rick stepping towards her and then past her, his other hand already removing his ever-present gun from its holster.
"Let me check first."
Privately, Evelyn thought she was far too old to have someone check under the bed for monsters, especially since they'd already established she'd had a nightmare and not been under attack; however she was beginning to appreciate the fact that there was currently a rather tall, muscular man with a gun who'd take no nonsense from anyone who might want to attack her, in her room. And if this was the way he wanted to show his protective side, then Evelyn wouldn't be the one to stop him.
"All clear." He turned back to her to find her hovering in the doorway, rainwater dripping lightly onto the floor from the ends of her loose hair. He had a sudden urge to take her in his arms, but settled for clearing his throat awkwardly and tucking his gun away. "Will you be all right?"
She nodded mutely, and they began that dance again; the one of people unsure of where they stand with one another.
"Right, I'll be off to bed then." He moved as if to touch her, then paused, then nodded and moved past her to the sitting room beyond.
Rick stopped and turned to face her, noting how she shifted from foot to foot and fidgeted with her hair. She was obviously about to say something but she wasn't sure how to, and he suspected she was fighting with the propriety and etiquette that had been instilled in her from a young age.
But she won, and her voice was soft as she spoke again. "Will you stay?"
To put her – and, if he were honest, himself too – at ease, he grinned widely. "I thought you'd never ask."
As she removed her cardigan and slid under the sheets still wearing her dress, he carefully set his holster within easy reach, kicked his boots off and lay down on top. It wasn't that he didn't trust himself, but there was another person in their party who had no qualms about barging into rooms and Rick didn't particularly want to have to worry about Jonathan trying to attack him under the impression of the American stealing his baby sister's virtue.
Although he did intend on slipping back to his room before sunrise so he could avoid that particular scene.
"What are you thinking about?" Evelyn's voice broke into his thoughts and he smiled down at her as she cuddled closer, the distant rumbling becoming slightly louder as the storm moved past.
"If you do go back to England, I'd like to go with you. If that's okay with you, of course."
Her face lit up and he chuckled, her delight infectious. "I would very much like that." She touched his cheek with a fingertip and traced a very faint scar there; one that he'd always been a little self-conscious about, but with her it just felt part of him. He caught her hand and brought it to his lips, brushing feather-light kisses over her fingers. She watched him silently with wide eyes and he decided it was time to broach the subject of their relationship.
"I don't know what I have with you, Evie, but I like it, and I want to spend more time with you. See where it goes." He wasn't making any promises; hell, he was terrified of commitment, but he was telling her in his own way he wanted to stick around for a while.
She nodded, the feeling of uncertainty that had been plaguing her since their return starting to ease. "Whether we go to England or stay here, we'll do it together."
"And your brother?"
"Oh, you know him; he'll find his own way." But the airy way she said it didn't cover the meaning beneath and he understood completely that Jonathan was a big part of her life that wouldn't change. If he stayed with Evelyn, he'd be staying with Jonathan – they were a package deal, and he found that he didn't mind that idea as much as he thought he would.
"Yeah, I know him." He tugged her closer to his body and she curled into him, slipping a hand over his side and clutching his shirt as if to ensure he wouldn't disappear in the night. He touched his lips to her forehead, then lightly against her own lips as she tilted her head to look at him, and as her eyes closed he deepened the kiss, pouring into it the emotions that he could never quite manage to vocalise. He enjoyed her responsiveness for a while, then pulled away. They needed to get some sleep that night otherwise neither would be able to keep up with Jonathan the next day and that was never a good thing.
"Sweet dreams, Evelyn."
She kissed his cheek and tucked her head under his chin, her hair tickling his skin lightly as her muffled, "Goodnight, Rick," reached his ears.
The sun was strong and bright as it poured in through the window and lit upon the sleeping couple. Rick's good intentions to leave Evelyn and sneak back to his own room in time for Jonathan to wake had been abandoned as the tiredness had caught up with them both and they'd slept deeply until their bodies felt it time to wake.
Unfortunately, they were prematurely awoken by Jonathan's entrance. Had they both been under the sheets it would likely have precipitated an attack in defence of his sister, but as it was they were both startled to consciousness by a loud, scandalised shout, which was only cut short when Jonathan found himself staring down the barrel of a very steady gun.
There were probably better ways to announce a relationship.
Author's Note: I despair at the lack of decent Mummy fic. Saying that, I have found a couple of authors that have written amazing fic and really captured the characters perfectly. Since the Mummy and Mummy Returns are my comfort movies and I can now quote my way through both of them, I thought I really ought to write at least one fic.
Oh, and the less said about the third movie, the better.