Fandom: Amelia Peabody

Title: Cost of Redemption

Characters: Sethos, Emerson

Summary: Emerson managed to greet Sethos-in-disguise-as-Major Hamilton quite congenially in "He Shall Thunder in the Sky." General Maxwell had revealed Sethos' true role as a British spy, but perhaps there were other reasons, as well.

A/N: This ficlet is set during "He Shall Thunder in the Sky," while Ramses and David were taking turns playing Wardani.

Quote from "He Shall Thunder in the Sky," beginning on page 473:

Emerson - "You can only faintly imagine my astonishment when I learned that Sethos has been, for several years, one of the War Office's most trusted secret agents. He was sent to Cairo by Kitchener himself. He knew about your little side show, Ramses, but his primary mission was to stop the leaks of information and identify the man responsible for them. It was he who exposed Mrs. Fortescue, whom he had been cultivating in his characteristically flamboyant fashion. Maxwell told em all of this - he had to, to keep me from going after Sethos myself- but he cooly informed me that Sethos was considerably more valuable than I, and that he would have me put up against a wall and shot if I breathed a word to a living soul. I knew the truth when we stopped by the barracks on our way into the desert. Maxwell had told me Sethos would be there, and ordered me to stay away from him, but - er- well, damn it, I was curious. He's good, " Emerson admitted grudgingly, "I'd never have recognized him."

[Of Sethos' fortuitous appearance at the old ruins where Ramses was captured]

Emerson: "'Maxwell informed Sethos of the matter, who volunteered to have a look round the place himself.'

'Lucky for me he did.' Ramses said

'Yes.' Emerson agreed. 'I- er- I owe him for that. And for other things.'"

Cost of Redemption

The sounds and smells of Cairo swirled around Radcliffe Emerson as he made his way stealthily through the Khan-el-Khalili. SOME people might impugn his ability to be stealthy (such as his own beloved wife) but Emerson knew that he was perfectly capable. He just chose not to most of the time, because it was a waste of time.

But now...Emerson needed stealth. Now, with Emerson's precious son Ramses putting his life on the line to prevent bloodshed in the Egypt they all loved. Now, when Emerson had heard rumors of certain pro-British Egyptian business interests (who were NOT in on the secret of Wardani's replacement with Ramses) plotting to pay for Wardani's death. Emerson would be damned if he was going to let anyone ELSE threaten Ramses. Not when he could, ah...convince...them to leave "Wardani" alone.

In a quiet corner of the Khan-el-Khalili, sat three men, two of whom Emerson recognized. Michael el Masri was an agent of one of those pro-British business interests, Emerson supposed that he might have been sent to pay for the assassination of Wardani. The second man, a poorly dressed fellow with shifty-eyes, fit the description of Abasi, a hired killer, and a good one. The third man Emerson did not recognize, although there was something...familiar about him. Emerson's lips curled, as he wondered if "Major Hamilton" was the only one of Sethos' identities currently at play in Cairo. And what if Maxwell was wrong, and Sethos was still working for his own purposes, still the Master Criminal as well as a British Spy? Emerson's dear wife was convinced that the man would never do anything to hurt their family, but Emerson, who still bore a scar from an earlier encounter with the man WHO HAD REPEATEDLY TRIED TO SEDUCE HIS WIFE, was not so sure.

Emerson unobtrusively moved close enough to eavesdrop on the three men.

"I am sorry, el-Masri Effendi. I cannot afford to take your offer, when Harakhty," the assassin gestured towards the third man who might be Sethos, "Is willing to offer me twice as much to just leave Wardani alone."

Michael el-Masri glared at "Harakhty." If Emerson were Harakhty, he would be careful walking into dark alleys for the next few weeks. El-Masri had friends. But no, Harakhty just looked completely unconcerned, leaving the table. Abasi-the-assasin appeared quite pleased with himself for getting paid for not even doing anything, as well he should.

Emerson sighed, and followed Harakhty into the alley. Sure enough, two thugs-for-hire in the pay of el-Masri jumped the overconfident fool. Emerson didn't wait to see if the fool could fight, he just waded in. Harakhty had dodged the first man handily enough, and at that point, Emerson knew him for Sethos. He recognized the fighting style of the man he'd grappled with on more than one occasion. The attackers were swiftly run off by the combined forces of Harakhty-Sethos and Emerson (more by Emerson. Sethos was too sly to be truly intimidating). Then Emerson's blue eyes locked with the eyes of Sethos, which today appeared brownish. Emerson couldn't help himself. He growled, and pinned Sethos against the wall. To Emerson's surprise, Sethos let him.

They stood there, Emerson and the much shorter Sethos. As Emerson held his arm just below Sethos' chin, he realized that the Master Criminal-turned-patriotic spy was much smaller than Emerson had ever thought him to be. Sethos' overwhelming personality and legendary feats had always made him seem...larger. Whereas, in fact, he was almost exactly the size of Emerson's cherished son, Ramses. And also, there was...something else. Something familiar about the man, beyond their various confrontations over the years. Sethos glared back at Emerson, stunned gratitude giving way to indignation, and great resentment.

Emerson paused in contemplation of that familiarity, that resentment, for long enough that Sethos was able to wriggle away. Sethos was good at wriggling. Also at escaping, oozing, and otherwise disappearing. He was a sly, untrustworthy, long-time foe, so Emerson began to move to recapture him. But Sethos was also the man who had just, inadvertently or not, bought Ramses' safety from this one threat. And then walked straight into an attack as his thanks for doing so. So Emerson stopped himself.

"Er...," he began, "I thought that you were one of those...shady fellows. Can't have them, er, attacking honest citizens."

"Oh, yes, the many honest and helpless citizens to be found in the Khan-el-Khalil." Sethos-Harakhty mocked as he straightened his clothing, appearing for all the world as if he were merely a gentleman coming in from a drive and not a Master Criminal recovering from an attack in a dark alley.

Emerson frowned, beginning a sharp retort. It was true that the Khan-el-Khalili was frequented by many...colorful folk. But it was also frequented by innocent shoppers. "My wife and my daughter come here." He snapped back.

Sethos paused, "I know." He said more seriously, "But few would be fool enough to harm them."

Emerson nodded in satisfaction, because that was true. If he didn't kill anyone who threatened them, Ramses would. Or Peabody or Nefret would take care of the evildoer themselves. They were frighteningly brave, his dear ladies.

Sethos smiled, charmingly. "Now do be a good fellow and trot off, Mr. Emerson. I have a great deal to do today, and it is best for all of us - including Amelia- if no one sees us associate."

"Now, see here, you..." Emerson thundered, although he cut himself off as a passer-by began to stare. Instead, he leaned closer to Sethos, and growled quietly, "No one will know from me. I'd be happy never to see you again. But...thank you. For that."

Sethos sighed and nodded, before adroitly maneuvering himself away from Emerson. "Don't follow me again," Sethos called back, "You're as clumsy as a lumbering elephant." Then he disappeared into the crowd, as smoothly as a snake entering a river.

"I wonder how many skins you'll assume today." Emerson thought to himself, as he searched for the form of Harakhty in the crowd, and wondered how in the world he could possibly keep his dear wife away from Sethos, when she was already suspicious that he was in Cairo. And how he could stop her from trying to redeem the former Master Criminal, when it seemed that he had already redeemed himself. Emerson's lips curled into another snarl, as he thought "If working for the British government's war effort can be considered redemption." But as long as Ramses was doing the same, and in danger from the same foes...then Emerson considered it redemption.

Damn Sethos. Emerson missed the simplicity of utterly detesting him. He didn't want to worry over the safety of the Master Criminal. But he didn't seem to have a choice, although he'd be damned if he'd admit it to anyone else. And especially not to Amelia, who would gloat, since she had always thought Sethos a good man at heart. And especially not to Sethos himself, who might be even more horrified by the development than Emerson.

End note:

"He Shall Thunder in the Sky," page 316:

Emerson greeting Sethos (disguised as Hamilton) at his regiment: "Hamilton!"

Sethos (reacting with well-concealed surprise): "Emerson!"

Emerson, essentially baiting Sethos: "Heard of you."

Sethos: "And I you."

During the exchange, Sethos and Emerson took turns showing of their archaeological knowledge to one another. Seth also gave Emerson a gun for protection, which Emerson pretended he didn't know how to use (much to his son Ramses' amusement), but did accept. The gun later proved useful.

As anyone who has read the wonderful "He Shall Thunder in the Sky" knows, it is revealed at the end of the book that Sethos is really Emerson's illegitimate half-brother. In later books, he makes frequent appearances as the dashing prodigal uncle, charming the ladies and annoying his brother Emerson, all the while bringing adventure in his wake.

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