Malik checks the time again. Ishizu's plane is already an hour and a half late. He’s not worried, and he’s rather happy to be away from his father, but it’s not like he’s alone.
“This isn’t necessary, you know,” Malik mutters to Rishid.
“You don’t have to apologize either.”
Rishid bows his head and Malik scoffs but falls silent again. It frustrates him that Rishid won’t fight back, won’t argue, but picking a fight with his older brother won’t help. If it was up to Rishid he wouldn’t shadow Malik so often like this. It’s his father’s orders, and as Lord of the Tombkeepers, Rishid will obey.
Malik sighs even though he know the action will catch Rishid’s attention. It might even be enough to get Rishid to ask him if he’s alright. Rishid might be one of Malik’s favorite people in the world, his brother by choice instead of blood, but the way Malik is constantly forced to have someone as a bodyguard and never alone, it grates at him.
People start pouring out of the gate and Malik pushes himself off the wall as soon as he spots Ishizu. There are two other tombkeepers with her and once they see Malik, they go off to retrieve their luggage. A brief moment of semi-privacy but Malik will take it.
There are bags under Ishizu’s eyes and her hair is pulled up for the trip, but she brightens when she sees Malik waiting.
“It’s so good to see you,” she says, hugging Malik.
“You too. No trouble?” Malik asks, unable to say much more. Too many people around, and though Malik is sure none of them mean them harm, Rishid’s eyes still glance about.
“Only good fortune,” Ishizu says with a wide smile. “I did bring you something. Both of you,” she says to Rishid as well, and he doesn’t blush, but his look turns a little sheepish.
“None of that,” Malik says, rolling his eyes at Rishid. “You’re our brother, of course Ishizu would bring you something back. It’s something obnoxiously American, right?”
“Are American snacks obnoxious?” Ishizu asks sincerely with a laugh as they are joined by the other two who had travelled with ishizu. They begin to make their way to the rented car to drive to the hotel where the Ishtars are currently staying.
“They can be.” Malik launches into a discussion about cheese coated chips, chocolate dipped foods that had no business being mixed with sweets, and double stuffed delectables. Aimless conversation that serves no purpose except to be sure no one has anything to report back to his father.
Malik tries to suggest Ishizu rest, but she shakes her head and goes straight to their father’s room. Rishid walks them up to the room then waits outside. If it looks conspicuous, it doesn’t matter; Father never keeps Rishid closer to him than necessary.
“You didn’t call,” Lord Ishtar says to Malik as greeting, frowning as he looks up from his book keeping.
“My phone died,” Malik says blithely. He lies down and stretches out on his bed. At least he’s past the age of sharing a bed with anyone. There’s a pile of folders on the corner with his name on them in his father’s handwriting but he ignores them.
“I should have. I’m sorry,” Ishizu interjects, but their father just ignores her.
“I gave you that phone so you could keep in contact, Malik. Ishizu’s plane was late already. Something could have happened. Do not make the same error next time.”
“Nothing would have happened,” Malik mutters to himself low enough so his father wouldn’t hear him. With Rishid near stalking him, with the other tombkeepers who would shield him even if it cost them their lives, he would be safe enough. And it isn’t like Malik is worthless. He can protect himself.
Satisfied that his son is supposedly chastised, his father turns to Ishizu. Malik watches as she reports back. America, America; Malik had nearly been eaten alive with jealousy when their father had arranged Ishizu’s travel plans. And though it was for their duty and not for fun, still, his sister is always the one allowed to travel around.
Malik can only follow along beside his father. He supposes it’s better than being stuck to one place, like how most people live their lives, but there’s something about having a home that he yearns for. And it’s not like he’s travelling for enjoyment.
“Malik, pay attention,” his father snaps, and Malik tries not to sigh, as it would only aggravate his father more.
“The Boston Museum had no pieces of the Millennium Puzzle,” Ishizu reads off her notes. “We searched as much was possible-”
“Are you sure you did? I don’t want to have to go there myself when I sent you to do the job properly,” their father says.
Malik rolls his eyes now. Ishizu is nothing but devoted, downright fanatical in Malik’s opinion, and yet nothing is good enough. He tries to give her a sympathetic look but Ishizu is looking down, allowing herself to be chastised and scolded.
Malik scowls and sits up, but his father turns to look at him.
“Malik. I’ve decided to send you to the museum.”
“What?” Malik asks. He’s never been allowed on his own. He knows he will be accompanied but to go somewhere without his father or Ishizu will be something of a first. And to be entrusted with a task, to go and obtain an actual piece of the puzzle, he’d expected to be lord before that happened.
“Yes. You’re old enough. There are reports that the piece is being moved. Go and verify.”
Malik’s heart sank. Verify.
“But if you see the chance, seize it.”
A step then, in the right direction. Malik didn’t care about the puzzle. Let the pieces stay lost forever or get melted down. But for the chance to leave the trappings of the clan for a while, he would fake all the loyalty in the world.
“I’m honored,” Malik lies though his smile his genuine. He can see Ishizu giving him a bemused look, and he avoids meeting her eyes. She knows he doesn’t care for the puzzle, that he thinks their quest is a curse.
“Omar and Jamar will accompany you,” Lord Ishtar continues and Malik freezes at that.
All of the tomb guardians serve the Ishtars, either as skilled laborers or as servants. The Medjay, the police of the Ishtars, are different. They are the police of the tomb guardians. They serve the Lord of the clan. They will one day be under Malik’s rule as well, but for now, they are only loyal to his father.
“I don’t need the cro-Medjay to accompany me,” Malik says, nearly letting the insult slip. “I’d rather have Rishid.”
“You don’t need a servant. You need protection. And it’s time you started to command the Medjay.”
“They still see me as a child,” Malik says.
“Make them see you as an adult.”
Malik rolls his eyes silently. It’s easy for his father to say such a thing. But Malik can see it in the medjay’s eyes. They trust his father; they don’t have any care for him. He will never have their loyalty nor does he want it. The Medjay are the ones who hand out the punishments to the other tomb guardians.
And for those who wish to escape the clan, the Medjay are the ones who hunt them down, and burn their corpses, denying them a proper burial and their afterlife.
But his father won't allow him to choose Rishid over the medjay, and Malik doesn't even bother to protest again. With any other servant Malik would be able to get away with something but not with these people. They'll report every single action of his right back to his father.
A different cage then.
Malik tunes out the rest of what his father said and when Ishizu gets up to leave, having been dismissed, he gets up to accompany her. It's the closest he can get to being away from his father.
"I'm happy for you. This shows he's beginning to trust you," Ishizu says without preamble.
Malik scoffs and Ishizu sighs at him. He doesn't apologize for it though; he bites his tongue around his father enough. He doesn't want to have to start doing the same around Ishizu.
"If he trusted me, he would let me have my own room occasionally. I could share one with Rishid. But no, I'm always to share one with him, so he can keep his eyes on me," Malik whispers. There is no one else in the hallway, and the only person they passed was clearly a tourist, but there are ears everywhere.
"It's different for you, little brother. You're to take his place. He wants you to be ready. It's not an easy task." Ishizu knocks on the door to her room and a servant girls opens it up, bowing her head slightly and quickly moving aside to let Ishizu in.
"Your words are as wise as ever, big sister," Malik says with a mock bow, and he doesn't even have to lift his head to see that she's giving him a disapproving look.
She can always tell when he's hiding how he truly feels. Though in this case, he's made no secret of how asinine he finds their mission. The King is dead, the pieces will stay lost forever, and that is how the world will be kept safe.
Malik doesn't waste time and returns to his room. His father glances up at him, then at his watch, and resumes his work. If Malik had taken too long he would have been reprimanded but apparently he's been quick enough.
Malik reluctantly reaches for the pile of folders with his name. Apparently he has work to do. And if he fails it'll only be that much harder to take control of the medjay. As much as he doesn't want them for himself, he'd like them less as enemies.