Mahaad woke to the sensation of water being poured between his lips. It was lukewarm and tasted musty -- he nearly gagged, but forced himself to swallow anyway. When the water hit his throat, he realized just how thirsty he was. His throat actually hurt, it was so dry. As his consciousness slowly returned, he realized that everything hurt. His body ached and his very ba felt faint. But his head in particular throbbed disorientingly.
When he first tried to open his eyes, he immediately had to close them again. The lights were dim, but they were enough to cause a spark of pain to flare in his already pounding head. He took a pained breath and tried again. This time, things were better -- his vision was blurry, but he could make out the vague shape of the person in front of him holding a waterskin. It was on his lips to thank his rescuer, when everything snapped into focus and he remembered.
Atem had given him a small wedjat amulet for protection before he had left for the tomb. He had caught Mahaad's hand in his own and pressed the small carving on a leather thong into his palm, curling Mahaad's fingers over it. "Wear it close to your heart. If I can't make you change your mind," he had said, his voice tight with ill-concealed worry, "then at least I can try to ensure that the gods do not fail you."
But it was not the gods that had failed Mahaad, in the end. It was his own weakness. He had choked on the words to his spell, stumbling over them as pain and exhaustion overcame his body. The spell had remained unfinished, his body intact. He must have hit his head when he'd fallen -- that would explain the headache.
And now he was in a small chamber of Akhenamkhanen's tomb, just off the main
walkway where his disgrace had occurred, tied to a pillar. He was sitting on the floor with his arms stretched awkwardly behind the pillar, hands bound in what had to be more of a symbolic gesture than anything else, since Mahaad could barely move even without the bindings. The thief had to know that, since he had neglected to bind Mahaad's legs.
The thief -- Mahaad refused to give him the dignity of referring to him by name, even mentally -- was crouched on his heels, waterskin still in hand. He grinned at the venomous look Mahaad shot him, making a show of carefully setting the waterskin aside and looking Mahaad over in mock concern.
"Why haven't you killed me?" Mahaad demanded, hating the weak rasp his voice came out as.
"Well, isn't that a fine way to thank your rescuer," the thief said rocking back on his heels. The motion caused the spines of the Millennium Ring to chime together over his bare chest. The sound was enough to make Mahaad wince -- a reminder of the depth of his failure. "I could have left you to die, you know. Bleed out where you fell. Maybe even throw you in front of one of those blades just to see what happened."
Mahaad tried not to stare at the mocking glint of the Ring. "So why didn't you?"
The thief tapped the side of his head, his grin unfaltering. "Think for a moment, priest. Use that pretty little head of yours. You know the answer to that question."
For the first time, Mahaad realized the worst of his physical injuries had been bandaged. The tattered remains of his cloak and headdress lay behind the thief, apparently the source of the linen for the bandages. Between first aid and sharing his water supply, the thief was apparently taking no chances with Mahaad's health. But why? Unless…
The moment Mahaad's expression turned to one of horror, the thief gave a laugh of amusement. "Right! You told me yourself, didn't you? If you die, they're sealing this tomb for good. You, priest, are my precious hostage."
As much as he wanted to, Mahaad did not give into the urge to swear. Instead, he fixed the thief with a disdainful look. "And you think the soldiers will let you walk out of here just because you have me captive? Fool. They'll kill you on sight."
"I wonder about that," the thief said, voice unworried. "One, I'll have the element of surprise on my side. Two, my ba will be fully recovered by then and Diabound will make short work of any soldiers stupid enough to stand in my way." He ticked off points on his fingers as he spoke. "And three… well, who's going to want to risk harming a high-and-mighty priest like yourself?"
Seth would, Mahaad thought. Seth would order him dead in an instant if it meant protecting the Pharaoh. For the first time in his life, Mahaad offered a prayer hoping for his fellow priest's presence, rather than against it. "I'll order them to kill me," he said, his mind already whirling with potential plans despite the still-present throbbing in his head. "I won't let you use me against my own king."
The thief reached out to fist his hand in Mahaad's hair, tugging his hard enough to illicit a pained hiss. "I wonder about that," he said, his tone still strangely conversational. "You're assuming you'll be in any state to talk when we make our escape. I could always gag you. Or knock you unconscious. Or maybe," his voice dropped lower in pitch, and his grin took on a particularly wicked edge, "you'll decide you want to help me."
It was such a ridiculous thought that Mahaad actually laughed, in a sharp bark that pained his throat. "If you think for one moment that I'd do anything to harm the Pharaoh, you're even more delusional than I thought."
"Right, you're his faithful dog. Sitting at his feet and lapping at his hand for any scrap of affection he'll give you, probably because the little bastard won't give you something more interesting to lick--" Mahaad bristled at that, face flushing dark with embarrassment and rage, and the thief burst into loud laughter. "What, was I right? Isn't that interesting."
The thief leaned in closer and Mahaad gave in to the undignified urge to lunge forward as far as his bonds would let him and attempt to bite any part of the other man he could reach. He immediately regretted it. Not only did his teeth close on empty air with a sharp click as the thief easily leaned back to avoid him, the sudden movement was disorienting, making blood pound in his ears. He leaned back against the pillar, squeezing his eyes shut to keep the world from spinning.
To his surprise, the thief didn't do anything to punish Mahaad for his admittedly pathetic attempt at rebellion. When he opened his eyes, there was actually a touch of admiration in the thief's gaze -- but, no, Mahaad had to be reading that wrong. "Not bad. And here I was thinking you were completely tame."
Mahaad just glared in response. He'd decided long ago that whatever… feelings he had for Atem would never be an issue. Atem was his Pharaoh, and Mahaad would serve him loyally for as long as his soul clung to existence. It was a sign of his current weakness that the thief had managed to unsettle him with such a base insult.
"See, here's the thing," the thief said, his free hand going to the Millennium Ring hanging around his neck. His fingers stroked almost sensuously along its circumference as he spoke. "This little atrocity of a trinket has some fun powers to it. You should know, right? The ability to put a little bit of your own will inside someone else…"
He trailed off without finishing the thought, but it was enough. Mahaad's blood had already run cold at the implication. He'd never used that particular dark power himself -- he'd tried to avoid tapping into the Ring's more sinister abilities as much as possible, to use it only as implement of justice they way it had been intended -- but the thief was right. If he used the Ring, Mahaad's free will was in question.
The thief had waited until Mahaad had absorbed the full weight of his words before continuing. For the first time, his expression had gone completely, eerily serious. "Think about it for a moment. While you were having your beauty sleep, what was there to stop me from doing as I pleased?"
"No. If you'd already-- I'd know," Mahaad insisted, with more certainty than he felt.
"Would you?" The thief's voice had dropped to a hiss, as serpentine as the ka he controlled. "Can you really say that for sure? Maybe you're so accustomed to the Ring's magic that you wouldn't even notice. Maybe it'll creep up on you, and before you realize it, you'll be calling me king instead."
"I'd know," Mahaad repeated. He couldn't seem to look away from the thief's eyes -- they were a hypnotic violet-grey, like the sky before a storm, the right one surprisingly unmarred by the thick scar that crossed its lid.
And then, suddenly, the thief's irreverent grin was back as though it had never left, his voice mockingly bright. "It doesn't matter if you believe me or not. We have plenty of time before they open the door again. That's time we can use to get to know each other better, right, priest?"
It was also time Mahaad could use to come up with some sort of plan. Anything to keep the thief from escaping the tomb with the Ring -- anything to protect Atem, and to make up for his earlier failure. Until then, he'd just have to suffer the thief's company. He gave a disdainful snort. "As though there's anything I'd like to know about you."
The thief tugged at Mahaad's hair, his other hand coming up to stroke Mahaad's cheek in a parody of tenderness. He dragged the pad of his thumb, rough with calluses, across the markings under Mahaad's eye and down his cheekbone. It was enough to make Mahaad grit his teeth in disgust. "How cold! There's so much I want to know about you," the thief said, his voice playful. " He leaned in and brushed his lips over Mahaad's ear, breath stirring his hair. "Like what it'll take to make you scream my name." His tongue flicked out, dragging wetly down Mahaad's ear to his jaw. Before Mahaad could protest, or even try to jerk his head away -- not that it would have done any good, with the thief's grip on his hair -- the thief was kissing him.
The kiss was rough, more of an assertion of power than anything else. Before the thief could force his tongue between Mahaad's lips, Mahaad was biting down. This time his teeth closed around the thief's lower lip, hard enough to draw blood. It was enough to make the thief break the kiss, but to Mahaad's surprise, he was laughing, even as blood welled from his lip and stained his teeth copper-red.
"Not bad at all!" he crowed, letting go of Mahaad's hair and wiping the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand. "You're going to be even more fun than I thought." He dragged his hand up the front of Mahaad's robe to clean it, leaving a streak of red over the once-pristine linen already marred with sand and dirt. As his hand passed over Mahaad's chest, it brushed over the amulet he wore under his clothing, just as Atem had asked him to.
Mahaad froze, then belatedly realized that was exactly the wrong reaction. The thief's eyes narrowed in interest. "What's this?" he asked, tugging at the front of Mahaad's robes so that he could slip his hand down the front, fingers sliding over bare skin until they closed around the amulet's cord. The thief gave a sharp, practiced tug, and the knot snapped, leaving the amulet hanging from his fist. Mahaad watched helplessly, afraid to protest lest he give away just how important the little carving was.
"Protection, huh?" the thief mused, looking it over with a critical eye. "Faience. Cheap. One of a million like it. And here I thought it would be something interesting, from your reaction." He tossed it over his shoulder, and Mahaad winced to hear it slide away across the floor into darkness. Cheap and simple as the amulet was, it was a token of Atem's friendship. Losing it felt like another step towards losing Atem altogether.
Mahaad was snapped from his thoughts by the thief's hands at his belt, undoing the complicated clasp with dextrous simplicity. The heavy belt fell to the stone floor with the clank of metal. "What are you doing?" Mahaad demanded, bringing a leg up to kick the thief away.
The thief caught Mahaad's foot around the ankle and held it harmlessly over his shoulder. He was kneeling between Mahaad's legs now, with Mahaad's robes sliding open where they were tucked in at the waist due to the awkward position. He chuckled, stroking the fingers of his other hand up Mahaad's ankle to his knee. "Pay better attention, priest. I said we were going to get to know each other better."
Maybe the thief had done something to him after all, because Mahaad found his body betraying him as those callused fingers slid higher, over the underside of his knee and up the sensitive inside of his thigh. Or maybe, he told himself firmly, he was weak and possibly concussed and the thief was taking advantage of that to keep him confused and easily manipulated.
"Your skin's softer than a woman's. Is that what living at the palace does to you?" the thief mused, his eyes dark with amusement and something else Mahaad didn't want to examine very closely. His fingers were still stroking Mahaad's thigh, occasionally creeping teasingly higher. Mahaad held himself still, fighting the vague traitorous urge to press into that teasing touch.
Mahaad kicked out again with his free leg, his heel connecting with the thief's knee. It was an awkward position, and the best he could hope for was a bruise, but it was enough to make the thief give a surprised hiss and drop Mahaad's other leg from his grip. "Stop touching me," Mahaad said, his voice trembling slightly with outrage.
The thief's grin had vanished again. He stood, shoving Mahaad's legs far enough apart with his feet that any further attempts at kicking were immediately forestalled. "You should be more respectful to your new king, priest. Like it or not, you're serving me now. I was going to show you just how rewarding I can make that service for you, but maybe it'd be better if I showed you your place first."
There was menace in the thief's words, but Mahaad couldn't find it in himself to care. He just raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "Are you threatening me? You've already told me how necessary I am to your plans."
"I'm not threatening you, no," the thief said, a slow smirk twisting his lips. The angry red split where Mahaad had bit him somehow made the expression more sinister. "What do you have to lose? You're already lost your Ring and your honor. But your obedience might affect how I deal with your fellow priests when the time comes to steal their Items."
Mahaad gave him a sharp look. "They won't fall to you as easily as I did," he said, the words shaming him even as he spoke.
"You don't know that. You were pretty confident of your own abilities, weren't you?" The thief's voice had gone mocking. "Who knows. I could even be convinced to be merciful to your precious pharaoh."
It was an unfair blow, and the thief obviously knew it. There was no way Mahaad could even think of gambling with Atem's safety, even if the thief's words were almost certainly a lie. Obedience in something as base as sexual gratification wasn't going to affect the thief's mad quest. But at the same time, if there was any possibility -- any possibility at all -- of even buying the smallest of reprieves for the other priests, it was a chance to help Atem overcome his opponent.
At least, that's what Mahaad told himself. There was a small, creeping voice in the back of his mind that wondered whether the Ring was affecting his judgement after all.
In either case, something in Mahaad's expression must have betrayed his thoughts, because the thief's smirk widened. "Good choice. And since you were so vocal about not wanting to be touched, I'll graciously allow you to touch me instead."
For a moment, Mahaad hoped that meant he was going to be untied. Not that he'd regained enough strength to be able to do much of anything with freedom of movement, but his shoulders and wrists were beginning to ache. Instead, his heart sank when the thief unwrapped his kilt and tossed it aside. Much to Mahaad's irritation, the thief was apparently physically attractive everywhere. The thief fisted his cock, which was already half-hard, not seeming at all put off by the expression of resigned outrage on Mahaad's face.
"You know what to do," the thief said, his free hand returning to Mahaad's hair. When Mahaad hesitated, the thief's grin turned feral and he tugged hard, puling Mahaad to his cock.
Mahaad took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and with great hesitation parted his lips to slide his tongue over the head of the thief's cock. It tasted salty and slightly bitter, but not particularly unpleasant. He licked again, and above him, the thief's breath hitched every so slightly. For some reason, that surprised him, though he wasn't sure why -- had he expected the thief to remain still and unaffected save for gloating at the depths he'd forced Mahaad to debase himself? The thief's hand had slid to the back of Mahaad's head, where it pushed him firmly forward. Mahaad slid his tongue awkwardly up the shaft, hoping to prolong the inevitable -- but a moment later the thief was forcing the head of his cock past Mahaad's lips.
He would put up with this, Mahaad told himself, if it meant keeping the thief appeased and earning a moment a weakness either he or one of the others could take advantage of. You're the one being taken advantage of, a voice in his head reminded him, and you're not doing anything to prevent it. Mahaad ignored the turn his own thoughts had taken, instead focusing on the task at hand. The thief pressed deeper, almost to the point of gagging, before pulling most of the way out. Bound to the pillar, with the thief's hand gripping his head, all Mahaad could do was focus on breathing and not choking as the thief fucked his mouth. He shifted his tongue unconsciously, brushing against the underside of the thief's cock, and was startled by the low moan it drew from the thief.
It was enough to make Mahaad open his eyes and look upwards. The moment he had, he wished he hadn't. The thief was watching him with an undisguised hunger intense enough that it almost made Mahaad's breath catch. Possessive, that's what the thief's look was. Like he was utterly sure Mahaad belonged to him, and would have no problem using him in whatever manner he pleased. There was something appealing about being looked at like that. Atem had never--
No. Mahaad closed his eyes with a soft sound of despair, trying to ignore the thief's breathless chuckle. "Enjoying yourself, priest?" the thief asked, his voice rough. His thrusts were becoming more erratic. Mahaad had to remind himself to breathe. "You're nothing special, that's nothing practice won't solve."
It couldn't have been much longer before the thief came, not with his hand around the base of his cock and Mahaad's mouth inexpertly taking in as much as thief could force without gagging him, but to Mahaad it seemed an eternity. Finally the thief's low, breathy sounds trailed off into a curse, and suddenly Mahaad was practically choking on salty fluid. It seemed a blessing at first when the thief quickly pulled back, leaving Mahaad to cough and spit onto his increasingly soiled robes, until he finished on Mahaad's face.
When Mahaad finally caught his breath and opened his eyes to glare at the thief, he received a laugh in return. "Aren't you cute like that that," the thief said, dropping back into a crouch. Mahaad didn't want to imagine how he looked -- face red with shame, lips slick and bruised, face and robe stained with semen -- but his mind provided him with an image anyway. It's for Atem, he told himself.
Do you really believe that? himself said back.
The thief leaned in to lick a wide swath up Mahaad's cheek, cleaning it. His hand gentled in Mahaad's hair, stroking through it in a strangely gentle caress. "Oh, I'm going to take good care of you, priest."
"My name is Mahaad." Strange how his anger had drained away, leaving only a sort of bitter tiredness behind.
"Mahaad," the thief said contemplatively, as though he were trying out the taste of the name on his tongue. "While we're at it, you haven't even said my name once, have you?" His mouth was bare inches from Mahaad's.
Mahaad looked at the thief's face -- at the half-crazed smile stretching his lips, the ugly scar covering his cheek, the eyes that were still telling Mahaad exactly who he belonged to now -- letting the silence drag on for a long moment before he finally let himself say it: "Bakura."
This time, when Bakura laughed and kissed him, hand making its way back up Mahaad's thigh, Mahaad didn't pull away. He didn't encourage Bakura, but he didn't try to fight him, either.
He imagined the little amulet lying in the darkness, judging him for it.