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Time to Breathe

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Could they maybe breathe for a few minutes now?

Evy wasn't certain the fates would be so kind, but she was taking it.

Izzy had gotten them halfway to civilization. Judicious bartering got them the rest of the way, until they were safely ensconced in the same hotel they had been in after defeating Imhotep the first time.

Evy would never forget the look in their enemy's eyes, when Ankh-su-namun had refused to risk the gauntlet of death for him. She honestly thought they had seen the last of him, and could only hope that Ankh-su-namun was gone as well. She had no wish to continue to have the intrusive thoughts of Nefertari needing to avenge her father. She certainly wasn't going to waste time thinking about the part of her that agreed with her then-rival's actions.

Women were not property. People weren't meant to be owned and gilded as treasures.

She shook her head to clear it of modern sensibilities versus Pharaonic powers. The motion caught Rick's attention from where he had slumped into a broad chair.

"Evelyn?"

"Thinking about the past," she told him, honestly, before putting a hand up at him to keep him from rising. "Nothing terrible, Rick." She looked to the inner door of their suite, then gave up on occupying herself with tidying the Bedouin clothing she had bartered for in the battered chest they had given the travelers. She was certain Alex would sleep for the rest of the day and through the night; exhaustion had finally caught up to him on the outskirts of Cairo.

Nor could she blame him, not really, for the nightmares that had made the sleeping on their journey back here nigh-impossible.

She swept over to Rick's chair and dropped carefully into his lap, curling up small so he could hold her. "Do you think Ardeth will come before we must go back to England?"

Rick considered that, then nodded. "He'll have to see to his people. But yes, I do think he'll come."

"Good. I need to know he is truly alright."

Rick pressed a kiss to her hair, and that was yet another anchor in the now. Her husband loved her, worshiped the ground she walked on… and never put chains on her. Their choice of one another was so deep, so mutual that it had only been tested once.

The test, it had turned out, was only in each other's eyes. Much like their own fall into one another, they had fallen into Ardeth, separately, and been worried how it would be seen by the other.

Evy knew she had worried that Rick would be too American or too European in his thinking about her knowing her own mind and body and heart. Rick had… well. The love of one's own kind went through phases of disdain, condemnation, and praise in the annals of history. They had talked it, and their own feelings for each other, out in this hotel, that long ago night after laying waste to Imhotep's plans.

She realized that Rick had nodded off holding her, and that was one more point of their partnership. He could, and would, let her be the strong one. Her blood was still singing with the spell that had brought her to life, and so she would only doze, while her husband and son slept.

She just hoped her brother hadn't already found trouble with Izzy, wherever they'd gone.

`~`~`~`~`

Evy opened her eyes to see that the chair opposite them was now occupied, and her face softened. So Ardeth had come sooner rather than later. He'd gotten past her own light guard on the room, which did not surprise her terribly, but would have distressed Rick.

{"Don't worry; I will pretend you saw me come in,"} Ardeth said in Masri, the local dialect of Arabic. His eyes fluttered open, and she truly thought it was completely unfair that a man could have such beautiful eyes like that.

{"How long have you been there?"} she asked softly.

{"Barely a few minutes,"} he reassured her. {"You both looked so peaceful, something quite lacking in my usual view of you."}

She laughed at that, and Rick inhaled, before his eyes popped open, completely awake. Evy sometimes envied him that, and knew Jonathan did too.

"Good evening, my friend," Ardeth told him, shifting to sit more upright in the chair, reaching across the small distance.

Each took a hand, and Evy got to see a lazy smile. Ardeth could be so serious, and yet, when he was at ease with them, those smiles came more frequently.

"About time you made it in," Rick grumped, playful tone in his voice. "We made it this morning."

"Hmm, yes, with the trade caravan," Ardeth said. "Some of us did not have the luxury of such travel, and there were dead to mourn."

"How bad was it, Ardeth?" Evy asked, rather than let their banter get out of hand. She read in the grimace that it had been worse than he would be willing to tell her.

"Let us just say that the Medjai are being encouraged to be kind to our wives, or to court them if we have none," he told her.

She caught the edge of hesitation in his words, and she squeezed the hand she still held. "Then, my friend, perhaps we should speak less of the trials, and celebrate the success?" she said boldly.

"Evy's got a point. As usual." Rick supported her plan, and after a moment, Ardeth nodded, rising. They stood with him, and turned to the other door of the suite, so that Alex was undisturbed. The Medjai would be watching the hotel, and be aware of their son's adventurous streak.

They could take this time, just the three of them, to relax into one another's care. Rick did not have to be the bold protector. Ardeth did not need to carry the weight of protecting the world on his shoulders.

And Evy herself could lay aside all the implications of who she had been, who she was now, and just be the woman that loved both of these men.