They weren’t more than a few miles past the Sheik’s palace when Hub slowed his horse to a stop. Garth followed suit, drawing up next to him and treating him to a questioning glance.
“Ain’t nobody following us.” Hub answered the look. “No point in running your horse into the ground, with some six hundred pounds of gold on her back. It’s a wonder she made it this far.” His face twitched once, an attempt to keep his amusement restrained, and then Garth watched as he transformed seamlessly from a fearless warrior into a mischievous brother.
“What are you laughing at?” he demanded, indignation masking his relief. It seemed to get a little harder for Hub, every time, to go from fighting back to laughing.
“You looked damned ridiculous with all that.” Hub informed him, waving a hand at the bags of gold piled along the horses side. He leapt off his mount in one smooth motion, and then staggered about in a mockery of Garth’s earlier motions.
“Yes, very funny.” Garth muttered, lips twitching in spite of himself. “Let’s see how you do with 10,000 gold pieces balanced on your back.” Hub just grinned at him, unrepentant.
“Road’s not more than a few miles off.” he announced, changing the subject. “Let’s get that,” he nodded towards the bags, “distributed between’em,” and here he jerked his head toward his horse, “and then let’s get moving again.”
The desert was beautiful in its absence, at night. The only visible light came from the battered flashlight Hub carried, and it became impossible to keep track of time, or distance. It was like being the only thing that existed. Hub led them infallibly in the right direction, responding to some deep instinct that Garth had never had access to, and he followed, just as he’d followed his brother his entire life.
“Well, shit.” Hub murmured, staring at the bank statement in fascination. Garth laughed at him.
“What did you think 600 pounds of gold was gonna be worth?” he teased.
“Not this.” Hub admitted candidly. He flashed a mischievous grin at his brother. “The look on that teller’s face when we first came in with it...”
They’d stopped in Alexandria, at Garth’s insistence, to open a bank account. “Pace we’re going with all this weight, more than a dozen people’ve passed us on the road and seen what we’re carrying.” he’d reminded his brother. “They’ve got more than enough time to plan an ambush. Why ask for trouble we don’t need?”
“Because it’s in our natures.” Hub had responded with a wild grin, but when they came to the fork, he’d turned toward Alexandria without a fuss.
They’d been to Alexandria before, as soldiers. But there was all the difference in the world, Garth was quickly discovering, between being in the city and being poor, and being in the city and being rich.
They checked into a hotel, rather than getting out their tent. “Don’t see the point of all this fancy shit.” Hub grumbled, poking at a provided bathrobe with disgust. “It’s - it’s extravagant, is what it is. It’s gonna turn our bellies soft.”
Garth wisely chose to say nothing, and later, when they were settling into bed, Hub’s expression was quietly thoughtful, rather than annoyed.
“We could wire money to Jasmine from here, couldn’t we?” he suggested, once the lights were out, and only his dim outline could be seen. He was carefully looking nowhere but straight up at the ceiling, presumably asking its opinion, but Garth chose to answer anyways.
“Yeah, we could.”
“We could send her train fare, get her to come meet us here.”
Despite the low lighting that rendered it useless, Garth sat up and turned to face his brother. “Yeah, we could do that. Why do you want to?” he asked, already tired of the hesitancy. The only times Hub ever wasn’t entirely sure of himself were when he was putting his own desires ahead of Garth’s, and those times were few and far between.
“Well, from here we could go anywhere.” Hub explained. “Morocco, maybe. The slave trade’s gotten worse over there.”
“I’d like to see Morocco.” Garth returned mildly, and some subtle sign of tension evaporated from the other man’s silhouette.
“Yeah... we’ve about covered Egypt, I’d say.”
It took about a month for Hub to pour almost the entirety of their reward money into his battle. Garth and Jasmine exchanged silent looks of understanding, agreed without agreeing that they wanted luxury about as much as they wanted a hole in the head.
“A man like Hub will earn and lose a thousand fortunes in his time.” she murmured to him once, her accent making the words beautiful when they could have sounded cheap. “And we have enough fortune just by having his love.”
Garth had only nodded his agreement, his relief that she understood, and if there had ever been any tension between them, it disappeared into that moment.
In Egypt, Hub had fought slavers by throwing the sheer force of his will at them until they had no choice but to buckle under it, and it had worked when it could not have for any other man. He had done it because he was Hub, the crazy American who fought like twenty men, and giving up was not in his blood. But beneath that had been Hub, Garth’s brother, who saw the suffering of the slaves and felt it as his own.
The money changed things, in Morocco. The illegal slave trade there was enormous and powerful, part of the country’s institution in a way it hadn’t been in Egypt. Hub drew people to him just by being a force of nature, but now he was able to buy them weapons, buy them medical supplies - he turned a group of freedom fighters into an army.
It was completely shocking, about eight months after they had settled in, to arrive back at their camp one day to see a familiar young woman lurking uncertainly next to their tent.
“Pearl?” Garth got out, startled. He looked helplessly over at Hub, who appeared even more stunned than Garth felt. They’d never really thought back to their little sister, who’d been a mere slip of a girl when they left.
She was barely more than a girl now, it seemed, her clothing loose enough on her body that she appeared to be drowning in it. Then she turned towards them, delighted, and the fabric shifted just for a moment to reveal the slight swelling of her stomach..
“Hub! GARTH!” She threw herself at them, her joy completely unfeigned. “We all thought you were dead, and then about six months ago we get a note from some lawyers, letting us know that a bank account had been opened in your name in Egypt of all places, I’ve been trying to track you down ever since!”
She was speaking so rapidly the sentences were running together, her whole body vibrating with joy, and Garth spared a moment to feel guilty that they hadn’t so much as sent her a postcard.
Two days later she disappeared as abruptly as she’d come, along with the $300 Hub kept tucked into his mattress.
“I can’t believe we got played by our own sister.” Hub kept repeating, looking furious and sullen, and more than a little bit hurt, though he tried not to. “It’s not as though she couldn’t’a asked, if she needed money.”
She couldn’t have, though, Garth thought. The world could be black and white for a man like Hub, but not for a tiny slip of a girl who traveled alone, and dressed to hide her swollen belly even from her brothers.
A few months later, when Jasmine’s belly started to swell, and Hub walked around looking dazed and pleased and just a little bit terrified, Garth thought about telling him.
There didn’t seem to be any point, though. Hub hadn’t brought it up for awhile, and Garth didn’t think they’d ever see Pearl or her child again.