Title: A Desert Interlude
Pairings: Jonathan Carnahan/Ardeth Bey
Summary: Set after the end of The Mummy Returns. Fluff, really.
The dirigible had landed a short way from the Medjai camp, and as the sun sank behind the western sand dunes it was a merry group that dined around the camp fire that evening. Alex had recovered from the earlier ordeal in remarkable time and was recounting their adventures to assorted passing warriors, getting more lurid each time, although he refused to leave Evey's side for a second.
Jonathan was showing a similar reluctance to move away from an extremely heavy looking bag he'd lugged all the way over to the camp, refusing all offers of help. Torn between wanting to boast about his acquisition and a paranoia that someone might yet take it from him, he finally weakened and nudged Ardeth, deciding he was the least likely to turn out to be a sneak thief.
Hiding his amusement at what Jonathan presumably took to be discreet gesticulations Ardeth peered into the bag and his eyes widened. Jonathan quickly drew it shut again and grinned.
"So what do you think of that eh? Isn’t she a beauty?"
Ardeth nodded gravely. "It is from the pyramid?"
"Yes! I snatched it from the jaws of the maelstrom, in what was, if I say so myself, an incredibly brave and death defying feat of – "
"Lunacy," called Rick from the other side of the fire, and Jonathan spluttered.
"Was anyone else willing to risk their neck? I think not!"
"Let us hope it does not bear the curse of the Scorpion King," Ardeth muttered, and Jonathan nodded.
"Yes, let's. What?" He suddenly realised what Ardeth had said and sat up in alarm. "Curse?" he repeated in a strangled voice. "What curse? You're not serious?" He caught the gleam of amusement in Ardeth's eyes and sank back down weakly. "You’re not are you? Very funny. Ha ha."
Ardeth smiled. "One can never be too careful," he murmured.
"Curses don’t scare me," declared Jonathan confidently, now the risk of there actually being one had diminished. "Curses, pygmies, mad reincarnated dead people, bring 'em on!"
"I have not yet had a chance to thank you," said Ardeth with quiet dignity. "You saved my life at Ahm Shere."
Jonathan looked surprised, and then embarrassed. "Oh, it was nothing," he said self-deprecatingly. Considered. "Actually, it was a bloody good shot wasn't it? Tricky, too, through all the trees and so, on. Did I ever tell you about the time I won the – "
"Yes!" came a chorus of voices from around the fire, and Ardeth hid a smile.
"I am proud to have fought alongside you," Ardeth said quietly, as the bickering died away. "You all have a great strength within you."
"Thank you," smiled Evey, arm around Alex who'd finally fallen asleep. "And thank you for staying to help us."
"Well if everybody's quite finished thanking each other, I think we should go to bed," yawned Rick, carefully picking up his sleeping son. There was a chorus of goodnights as the O'Connells retreated to the tent they'd been offered, and a minute later Izzy, too, sloped off, saying he was going to sleep in the dirigible to keep an eye on it.
Jonathan and Ardeth were left alone, gazing into the fire. Jonathan yawned.
"Well, it's not been a bad day's work."
"I am glad it is finally over," agreed Ardeth, placing another branch on the fire, and watching the sparks rise and twist.
"Back to the day job," nodded Jonathan. "Hang on, this was your day job. What do you do now?"
"I will go where I am needed," replied Ardeth, unfairly cryptically Jonathan thought. "What about you?"
"Me? Oh, back to London, set myself up in a nice little pad, I mean, I'm in the money now."
"Wealth is important to you?"
"Isn’t it to everyone?" asked Jonathan, carelessly.
Ardeth smiled. "I have nothing."
"Nothing?" Jonathan echoed in disbelief.
"All I have belongs to the tribe. I do not have possessions as you do."
Jonathan processed this information for a second, then opened his mouth to argue. "Surely you own something though. I mean – what about your undercrackers? Presumably you don't share them?"
"Under-?" Ardeth looked blank, and Jonathan waved his hands around.
"Undercrackers. Pants. Underwear."
"Oh." Ardeth nodded. "I do not wear these things."
Jonathan choked on his drink. "You don’t –"
He shot a sidelong glance at Ardeth's robes and frowned. "Doesn’t it get a bit – you know. Draughty? And I mean, you do a lot of riding –"
"I wear a tunic," Ardeth said gravely.
"Oh, a tunic. Right. Well, that's yours isn’t it?"
"I suppose so," Ardeth conceded, amused.
Jonathan was warming to his subject. "And – Horus, he was yours wasn't he?"
Ardeth's expression clouded. "He was my friend," he said quietly, looking away, and Jonathan could have kicked himself.
"Damn. I'm sorry, I didn’t mean – " he stretched out a hand, clasped Ardeth's shoulder. "That was a stupid thing to say, I'm sorry."
Ardeth looked back at him, nodded. "You are a good man, Jonathan," he said quietly.
"Most people think I'm an idiot," said Jonathan, gloomily. "And sometimes I think they're right."
"Do not be too hard on yourself," Ardeth smiled, and covered the hand still resting on his shoulder with his own.
Jonathan started, then smiled sheepishly, taking his hand away with an odd reluctance.
"So." He stared into the fire, trying to think of a more cheerful subject. "Is there a Mrs Ardeth waiting for you to come home victorious?" Another thought occurred to him and he looked up grinning. "Or a harem. I bet you've got a harem haven’t you?"
Ardeth actually laughed then, and Jonathan experienced an odd jolt of pleasure.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you Jonathan, but I do not have a harem. Or a wife."
"No? Good looking chap like you? I'm surprised."
Ardeth looked a little lost for words for some reason. "I – my duty has always come first," he said, finally.
"Oh, well. You'll have plenty of time for that sort of thing now won’t you?" said Jonathan breezily.
For a while they sat in companionable silence, watching the flames die down. Eventually, Jonathan yawned. "Suppose I should get some shut eye," he groaned, stretching his aching limbs. He looked over at the rows of identical looking tents helplessly. "Er – which one was mine again?"
"That one." Ardeth pointed.
"Right, right." Jonathan finished his drink and stretched. "Which one's yours?" he asked idly.
"I shall sleep here."
"You haven’t got a tent?" Jonathan asked in surprise.
"The sand and the heavens is sufficient."
Jonathan rolled his eyes. "Oh, yes, I suppose the tents all belong to the tribe, don’t they," he said teasingly. "A tent would be nice though, wouldn't it? A nice tent, a proper bed, warm blankets, warm arms around you –" he froze, as Ardeth turned surprised eyes on his. "I said that out loud didn’t I?" he muttered.
Ardeth seemed to consider. "These arms," he said after a second. "They would be yours?"
For a second Jonathan couldn’t breathe. "Yes," he whispered, wondering distantly if it would result in him getting his head cut off – or worse. But then, he'd always been a gambler.
And, somehow, unbelievably, Ardeth was leaning closer, and for a fleeting moment, so brief he almost thought he'd dreamt it, there was the warm pressure of a mouth against his.
By the time Jonathan had remembered how to breathe, Ardeth had moved back a little, watching him with dark eyes that seemed to hold the whole desert in them.
For the first time in his life, Jonathan didn't know what to say. But he had a pretty good idea of what to do.
Shuffling closer on the sand, he closed the gap between them again, and leaned, slowly, towards the other man. Ardeth didn’t move, and Jonathan's lips met his in a soft, questioning kiss.
Ardeth's hand came up to rest at the back of Jonathan's head, and things became somewhat more heated.
"Come on, you," Jonathan murmured after a while, taking his hand. Ardeth made no objection as he followed Jonathan to the tent.
Once inside, they fell against each other, kissing in earnest now, and exploring with eager hands. They stripped without ceremony, and Jonathan pushed Ardeth gently but insistently down to the camp bed, climbing on after him and straddling his naked form.
"You are magnificent," breathed Ardeth, running sure hands over Jonathan's pale skin, making his eyelids flutter in pleasure.
"You're not so bad yourself old chap," muttered Jonathan, gazing greedily at the lithe, strong body spread out beneath him, decorated in enticing places with delicate, enigmatic tattoos.
"I have to say though, I'm a little surprised. I thought – macho sort like yourself – might not be into – well –"
"There is a way, amongst my people," Ardeth smiled.
"Oh, a way, I get it," Jonathan said. "It's cultural."
Ardeth smiled, wickedly. He was starting to get the hang of Jonathan's teasing manner. In one quick movement, he had slipped his arms round Jonathan's waist and flipped them over so he was on top, pressing Jonathan down into the blankets.
"Would you like me to show you just how cultural I can be?" he breathed.
Jonathan groaned with longing. "Oh yes please."
The next morning, sitting round the freshly banked fire with a breakfast of pitch-like coffee and fresh dates, the group watched as the Medjai bustled around them, striking camp in preparation for the journey back into the desert.
Jonathan looked up from his breakfast. "Did you know these chaps don’t wear underpants?" he said conversationally. Rick choked on his coffee and Jonathan added hastily "You're probably wondering how I know that."
"You know, we're really not," Rick put in quickly.
"No, but –"
"Jonathan. Do you have any idea how far sound travels at night in the desert?"
"And do you have any idea how close your tent was to ours?" Rick shook his head despairingly.
As Jonathan gaped like a landed fish, Ardeth came over with more coffee and sat down with a smile that was purely for him. And suddenly Jonathan didn’t care what anyone said.