Life, at the moment, was very good for Ardeth Bay.
The creature was destroyed. Hamanaptra was safe. Everyone was in Cairo, celebrating--not only the troublemakers who released the creature, but his own people were here, relaxing and keeping an eye out until they left the country. Evelyn Carnahan was in a room down the hall; Rick O'Connell was in the room next to hers. They were leaving in the morning.
Jonathan Carnahan was staying a little while longer. Jonathan had a large suite, with a large bed, with a large Egyptian trying to get to sleep in the large bed. The safe, comfortable bed. The soft bed, with fluffy-thin sheets and snuggly pillows, soon to be warmed by a safe, comfortable, snuggly Englishman.
Yes, life was definitely good for Ardeth.
"I can't believe she did that! That's the last time I ever lend her anything of mine!" Jonathan slammed the door behind him, emphasizing his ire.
Ardeth sat straight up in the bed, shaking his head to brush the hair and beginnings of sleep out of his eyes. Jonathan had said he was going out to get something to help him sleep; he didn't know that the man had meant an argument. Ardeth blinked his eyes a few times. The room was so dark, and Jonathan was moving around so quickly, all he could see was a blur.
"He's gone! I can't believe she let that barbarian take him!" Jonathan moaned pitifully, throwing his hands in the air as he landed in the bed beside Ardeth with a whump. "I can only imagine the tortures he's going through..."
Now Ardeth was alarmed and awake. A friend of Jonathan's was in trouble? Ardeth threw back the covers, scooting over the sheets to sit closer to Jonathan. "Who?"
"Mr. Bear," Jonathan sighed to the ceiling. "He was keeping Evy company, and that animal...kidnapped him!" With another dejected sigh, Jonathan dropped his head into his hands, supporting his elbows in his knees.
Ardeth reached out with one hand to stroke Jonathan's back. The other reached towards his boots half-hidden under the bed. "I am sure he is all right," Ardeth soothed as he slipped one boot on over his bare foot. "How long have they been gone?" He knew the left boot was around here somewhere...ah, right next to Jon's leg.
Ardeth bowed forward to get his boot, half-bent over Jonathan's leg. Jonathan took advantage of the position to fall to the side, draping over Ardeth, his arms wrapping around the Egyptian for comfort. "It feels like forever!" Jon's voice was muffled by the silky sleepdress Ardeth was wearing. He sniffed a few times, and wiped his nose across the fine fabric. Ardeth couldn't keep his face from scrunching at being used as a human tissue. Jon sniffed a few more times, then calmed down. "At least since we were last in Cairo. She said he disappeared some time before we returned to Hamanaptra. I can't believe he's gone!"
Ardeth gingerly sat up, transferring Jonathan from his back to his front. The Englishman stretched out on the bed, his head cradled in Ardeth's lap, looking up at Ardeth with teary-blue eyes. "Calm down. We'll find him. I can have my men together in an hour. They might be anywhere, but we'll scour the desert to find him."
Jonathan's face screnched up, and Ardeth was sure he was going to start crying again. Ardeth wiped away the old tears, letting his hand linger on the soft, slightly wet, skin of Jonathan's face. Jon didn't cry, though. He just looked really, really confused. "But I know where he is."
"You do? Where?" Ardeth asked, his left foot trying to inch towards his boot without dislodging Jon from his lap. It would be much easier to do this if the man would give him five minutes to get dressed...
"He's in O'Connell's room."
Ardeth's foot stopped dead. "Why did Mr. O'Connell kidnap your friend?" Ardeth asked, beyond confused at this point.
Jon sat up, accidentally kicking Ardeth's boot halfway across the room. "I don't know. Maybe he thought that Evy would have to come to him, trying to retrieve Mr. Bear." He paced around a little bit, his hands flying everywhere, occasionally tripping over Ardeth's boot. "God, he's probably sitting there on O'Connell's bed, waiting for me to come save him. She won't go, because she says that Mr. Bear's my responsibility, and I shouldn't have let him out of my sight in the first place. But she was the one who wanted the extra protection. But I can't let O'Connell know he's mine. That beastly American would never understand!"
Ardeth's eyes bugged open when Jon said 'he's mine', but he kept his words to himself. He knew that the Englishman might have someone else waiting for him, that this little affair might not last longer than the trip to Cairo, but a deep part of him thought that it could have been something bigger. To hear the proprietary snarl in Jon's voice...it was obvious this Mr. Bear meant a great deal to him. Choking down his feelings of rejection, Ardeth asked numbly, "Why don't you simply ask Mr. Bear to come out and talk to you? O'Connell is a rational man. He'll step aside." As will I, Ardeth thought, concluding the thought.
Jonathan stopped pacing. Instead he stood in front of Ardeth, staring at him like he'd suddenly sprouted wings. "Mr. Bear doesn't talk, Ardeth."
Ah, the strong, silent type, Ardeth thought. Just Jon's type.
"Mr. Bear is a stuffed animal."
It was Ardeth's turn to look at Jonathan strangely. "I don't understand."
Jonathan grinned and sat next to Ardeth on the bed. "I mean that Mr. Bear is not real. He's a..." Jon grabbed one of the pillows off the bed and held it up for Ardeth. "He's stuffed, like this pillow. And he's a little bear. Children in England sleep with them so they won't be afraid of the dark." Jon squeezed the pillow, making it look a little like a bear.
"A toy!" Ardeth nearly shouted, his joy at finding out Jonathan didn't have a secret lover being held hostage by the American making his voice louder than he meant it to be. "So why is it so important?"
Jon clutched the pillow to his chest. "It's Mr. Bear! I've had him since I was just a little chap. Evy borrowed him because the whole mummy thing was giving her nightmares. Now that it's over, I want him back, but O'Connell has stolen him!"
Ardeth fell backwards on the soft bed, suddenly feeling exhausted even though Jonathan was the most he had to deal with all day. Staring at the ceiling, he knew that Allah did not give more than one could handle--but Jonathan was a handful. "So why did you need him tonight?" he asked, his voice patient and mumblely in his sleepiness.
Jonathan leaned back to lay down beside him. "Well, he's mine. I don't sleep well unless I've got him in bed with me."
Ardeth turned his head to look at Jonathan. "You've got me."
"It's not the same," Jonathan said, pouting. He caught Ardeth's hurt look, and rolled onto his side to face the man completely. "It's better." He kissed Ardeth softly on the mouth.
Ardeth caught Jonathan by the back of the neck before he could pull away, slanting his mouth to make the kiss something deeper, more intimate. Jonathan allowed Ardeth to lead for a while, before he planted a firm hand in the middle of his chest and pushed himself away.
"I want Mr. Bear."
Ardeth fell back on the bed, looking to the ceiling for guidance. "Then why haven't you gone over there and gotten him yourself?"
A sneaky hand finger-walked up Ardeth's arm and sat on his chest, idly playing with the open-V of his sleepshirt. "Because then O'Connell would know the bear was mine, and he would never let me live that down."
Ardeth caught the hand and held it to his chest. "Send your sister."
"Evy doesn't want to see him alone until the wedding day. She's determined to be a proper bride." Ardeth wasn't sure if that was true--Jonathan knew that Ardeth wouldn't be able to resist protecting someone's virtue, and Ardeth knew that Jonathan knew...
"So it would be better if he thought it was mine, is that it?"
"Cor! He'd never think Mr. Bear was yours!" The sneaky fingers slipped out of Ardeth's grasp, sliding across his chest to massage his muscles.
With a heavy sigh of resignation, Ardeth agreed.
Rick lay back in his bed, staring at the little ragged bundle on the chair across from him. The bear stared back. By now Evy must have realized the thing was gone. All the excitement of Hamanaptra and the mummy was over with. Something this important wouldn't be easily forgotten.
It was obvious that the bear was well loved. His fur was missing in places, and he'd been sewn up so many times he looked like Frankenstein's Bear. The big pink ribbon was new--probably recently gifted to the treasured bear by his owner. Evy didn't really seem like the person to have a silly little bear with her, but he was still learning a lot about his future wife.
Tonight would have to be the night that she would come to him. Screw waiting for the wedding. She would have to have her bear back!
Suddenly, the door burst open. The words of welcome Rick had prepared died as, instead of a diminutive young librarian, a wild-haired desert warrior stormed into the room. The piles of heavy black garb was gone, replaced by a skimpy long night shirt. It looked like he'd just been awakened, and was very pissed off about it.
Rick shrunk back against the headboard.
Ardeth limped into the room on one boot. His dark eyes scanned quickly, finally landing on the same thing Rick had been staring at for the last three hours. SWOOP! Ardeth grabbed the bear and disappeared out the door in a single, lightning-fast movement. The door blew closed, as though it had been a sirocco that had come to visit rather than Ardeth.
Okay. Maybe Evy wouldn't be coming tonight.
"MR. BEAR!" Jonathan screamed when Ardeth came rushing back into the room, holding the little bundle aloft. He spirited the tiny bear out of his hands and brought it to the lamp beside the bed. In seconds, Jonathan was checking every strand of fur to make sure nothing was out of place, or crinkled, or torn.
The sight of a grown man cooing over a little over-loved stuffed bear was very endearing. Ardeth simply stood at the foot of the bed, toed off his single boot with his bare toe, and waited for his lover to turn his attention away from the fluffy bundle.
Assured that Rick hadn't done anything untoward with Mr. Bear, Jonathan picked up the old toy and hugged it close to his chest. He looked up at Ardeth, his entire face aglow with a smile. "My Hero! Thank you."
Ardeth tilted his head in response, his own face lighting in a grin. The Englishman was contagious.
Jonathan looked down at the yellow bear, his face serious. "What was that, Mr. Bear?" He held the bear to his ear, and nodded solemnly. His face still serious, Jonathan stood up from the bed and approached Ardeth. He cradled the bear in his arms, facing it out towards the other man. "Mr. Bear says thank you too." Then the bear jumped forward and bumped his nose against Ardeth's, Jonathan making a loud lip-smacking noise for a kiss.
"Mr. Bear!" Jonathan gasped, pulling the bear back down to his chest, staring at it with wide eyes. "What are you doing?" He held the bear to his ear again, while Ardeth looked on, amused. "Oh, yes I agree," Jonathan said enthusiastically, obviously not talking to Ardeth. "He IS very handsome." Then Jonathan blushed. "Mr. Bear, I am shocked at you!"
"Urm, what did Mr. Bear say?" Ardeth couldn't help but ask. He had thought that Jon said the bear couldn't talk, but suddenly it seemed to be full of wisdom.
Jonathan held the bear in front of his mouth, his eyes dancing devilishly behind the worn ear. "He said that I should kiss you, before you started getting ideas about him."
Ardeth nodded his head. "A wise bear."
Jonathan dropped the bear down to his side, clutching it with one hand. His mouth had that crooked little smile he always got before he pounced. Slowly leaning forward, Jonathan planted a swift peck on Ardeth's nose. "He also said that he wouldn't mind if we had company in the bed."
Ardeth glanced down at the stuffed bear in Jon's hand. "A very wise bear indeed."
The little bear began to walk up Ardeth's arm, with the help of Jonathan. "I think he really likes you Ardeth," Jonathan said. Mr. Bear leaned against Ardeth's chest, looking up at him with black-glass, adoring eyes, and one fuzzy paw slipped inside the deep V of Ardeth's sleepshirt. It tickled a little, but it was soft and warm.
Before the bear could reach deeper, Ardeth pulled Jonathan to him, and kissed him hard, squishing the bear between them. There was a muffled argument, then Jonathan finally pulled back. He panted, pretending to pat the back of the bear.
"Ardeth! Lesson number one about sleeping with Mr. Bear." Mr. Bear turned and gave Ardeth a grave look. "Do. Not. Squish. Mr. Bear."
Moving carefully this time, Ardeth stepped closer, cuddling both bear and human in his arms. Once he was sure they were both comfortable, he leaned down and covered Jonathan's mouth again.
"How was that?" he asked the bear.
Mr. Bear nuzzled Ardeth's neck while petting his throat. On the other side, Jonathan did the same. "Very nice."
Ardeth slowly led their little group into the bed, being careful not to squish anyone. It would be difficult getting used to his demands, his strange sense of humour, his constant outbursts and over-reactions, but Ardeth was willing to learn to live with Mr. Bear.
It was Jonathan he wasn't so sure about.