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The Charm

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I. An excavation west of Cairo, 1926

"I opened my eyes and she was pointing a gun—my gun—at me."

"Not at you," Marion protested.

"Well, I didn't know that, did I?"

"Not until you saw the snake."

Delighted hoots met Marion's reply: even those diggers who didn't speak English knew Indy's ophidiophobia well. Indy glared at the laughing brown faces and took a petulant slug of the strange liqueur that one of them had produced the instant Abner had gone to bed.

"He told me not to shoot," Marion continued. "Begged me."

"Between Scylla and Charybdis," Indy muttered, leaning forward to feed another log to the fire.

Marion, who was perched on his knee, did not appreciate the jostling. "Hey!"

He grabbed her hips and pulled her onto his lap. "Happy?" His tone was sarcastic, but there was something pleasant if uncomfortable about the way her back brushed against his chest.

She rolled her eyes and stole a swallow from his mug. "Anyway, I fired; he rolled away, and given his state of dishabille..."

"You gave Miss Marion quite the view, eh, Indy?" one of the overseers, a portly Arab named Sallah, asked, waggling his eyebrows lasciviously.

"There was no view," Indy insisted. "But it was some good shooting."

Marion pecked him on the cheek. "That was almost sweet." She looked back at the men and declared, "I think that's enough fun at Dr. Jones' expense for one night." She stood and held out her hand. "Walk me to my tent?"

Indy was a long way from drunk, but something, be it the blaze or the alcohol, had made his muscles loose, and he allowed her to pull him to his feet. "Goodnight, gentlemen," he told the workers.

They had to pass by his tent in order to reach hers, and her footsteps dragged as they approached his door. "So," she asked, "any plans for the evening?"

"Well," he hedged, "I guess that depends on you."

She reached up to swipe the hat from his head. "What about me?"

He grabbed the fedora and dropped it onto her hair: it slid down to almost cover her eyes. She pushed it up and pinned him with a raised eyebrow. "Aw, hell." He capitulated and kissed her. It was the latest in a series of escalations, and when the fedora fell to the sand, he didn't notice.

She shivered and asked against his mouth, "What do you say we continue this inside?"

He held the tent flap open for her, then lit the hurricane lantern, filling the tent with warm orange light. For a moment, they watched each other cast shadows on the sloping canvas walls. Then Marion kissed him, hot mouth and clever tongue. Indy pushed his fingers through her short hair; what had been a crop at the start of the dig had grown into a pageboy. He cursed the lack of furniture: he wanted to sit and neck for hours, take the time to learn her kiss.

Abruptly, Marion stepped back and unbuttoned her shirt. Indy remembered to close his mouth while she draped the blouse on the crate that served as a nightstand. The freckles on her face repeated across what chest her cami-knickers exposed. His gaze darted down to her hands—small, square, and rough—then swept up her arms: tanned forearms faded into milk-pale biceps. She worked as hard as anyone else on the dig, and she could shoot worth a damn, and he really needed to stop thinking about this before he screwed it up. He cupped her white shoulders and pulled her in for another kiss, his arms folding awkward and bird-like.

She broke the kiss, muttering, "For God's sake," and pushed his hands aside. She slid the straps of her cami-knickers down, then pulled her arms free. Standing stripped to the waist, she bounced, once.

This was what he did, wasn't it? Unearthed beautiful things that had lain hidden too long? Indy reached out with both hands: Marion's small breasts were incongruously but gratifyingly heavy when balanced on the pads of his fingers. He circled his thumbs against her areolae, brown and impossibly soft. Her nipples hardened with each circuit until he finally brushed his thumbs up, down, and across, drawing invisible crosses. He glanced up: she had closed her eyes and turned her face away. He kissed her breast, the corner of his mouth just touching her nipple. An unsteady breath hissed through her teeth.

He knelt. She'd foregone her work boots; he guided her out of the strappy sandals easily. Then he tugged on the drawstring of her pants. It gave way and he pushed them down along with the cami-knickers.

She stepped free of the clothes, commenting, "One of us is over"—he kissed her side of her knee—"overdressed."

He pressed a kiss midway between her bellybutton and the riot of curls; her hips jerked. He smiled and stood, looking down both to unbutton his shirt and to allow her to control her blush.

When he looked up, Marion was watching him strip down to his drawers. She'd recovered enough to brush her knuckles against the bulge there. Evidently he wasn't the only one who could tease. She slid a hand up his chest, winding it around his neck to pull him into a kiss. Her other hand carefully felt him through the cotton. If she would just...but she didn't. Instead, she murmured mock-sincerely, "You're making me weak in the knees."

He gestured at the cot pushed against the canvas wall. "Then I guess you should sit down."

She nodded, undid the first button of his drawers, and lay down. He took the hint, undid the others, and joined her. He excavated her pleasure: the bell at the bottom of her ear, the notch above her sternum, the soft breasts ending in tight nipples. She carried out explorations of her own: the muscles of his back, the pulse drumming in his neck, the strong thighs meeting at an impatient erection.

He reached into nightstand crate and produced a small tin. The front promised genuine liquid latex and inside was a full complement of rubbers, nestled like sardines.

"No luck lately?" she teased.

"Maybe it's a fresh pack," he shot back, "or maybe I was saving myself for you." The thought gave him pause. "You have done this before, right?"

She rolled her eyes. "Because I've been waiting for you."

"I'm worth waiting for," he insisted.

She pecked him on the lips. "I'm certainly waiting now."

He rolled on the rubber. He'd done this too many times to be this nervous. Marion sighed shakily as he spread her lips and pushed slowly inside. For a moment he was suspended, within her and without her, but he pushed gamely on until he could go no farther. He stayed sunken in the perfect narrow heat for as long as he could stand, but when he tried to move, she dug her heels into his ass. "Give a guy room to maneuver?"

She swallowed, throat convulsing, then spread her legs wider and shifted her feet to the small of his back. "Go on, then. Maneuver."

He looked at her quizzically, then bent to kiss her breast. She pushed her head against the thin pillow, moaning. "Indy," she gasped, tilting her hips to allow him farther inside.

Satisfied, he began to thrust. Marion jabbed her nails into his back and repeated his name as he drove deeper; he kissed her and felt her lips still moving. Control, he thought, but his thrusts became more and more reckless until Marion's litany ran into a moan and he came, grunting into her shoulder.

After a boneless moment relaxed against her body, he pulled out. There was blood on the latex and, yes, on the wool blanket beneath them. "I thought you were being sarcastic," he said stupidly.

She shrugged and began tugging the blanket free of their weight. "Can I stay here?"

"Yes." He thought about Abner, and what it would mean if he found out. "For a while."

II. An island north of Crete, 1936

Marion woke with her nose against Indy's throat. His head was tipped back: he was open-mouthed and fast asleep, snoring. Carefully, she slipped from his embrace and padded from the room. Officer's quarters, to judge from the bed and the privacy. But the officer wouldn't be back any time soon. None of the Germans would.

Deus ex arca, she thought hysterically: what her father had dragged her across the globe for. God from the box: what he had died on a Nepalese mountain for. If it had been God, anyway; she wasn't sure she believed that, or at least she didn't want to. Terrifying and unmerciful, it had disappeared every German on the island, plus one nosy Frenchman. But she had refused the answer her father had sought, so she had been spared. Ignorance meant survival as well as bliss.

She found the washroom. The shower was cold and fed from the sea, but she stayed beneath the spray, rubbing salt into her skin with a crumbling cake of soap. Finally feeling clean, she wandered the corridors until she located the laundry and exchanged Katanga's slip for a German uniform. Then on to the kitchen, where she realized she had no appetite.

That was where Indy found her: he shuffled in without a shirt on, his face still creased from the pillowcase. Her gaze traced the fresh cuts and bruises, plus the scars that hadn't been there ten years ago. If you loved something and it let you go, then it came back anyway, did that still make it yours?

"Hey," he said. "Morning."

She pushed him up against the industrial refrigerator and pressed her lips to his, eagerly drinking his breath. "You are not," she hissed, "leaving me again."

He opened his mouth for some glib retort, then sobered. "No."

"All right." She kissed him again, quickly abandoning his mouth for his jaw, his ear, his neck. She pulled at the waistband of his pants, paused to open the fly, then slid her hand inside his boxers. She skimmed her fingers along his shaft, teasing the head with her thumb, then reached back to cup his balls.

"Marion," he moaned in pleasure and surprise. She grinned; she'd learned a lot in ten years.

When he began to jerk his hips against her fist, she withdrew her hand and led him to the large butcher-block table. She patted the oiled surface. "All aboard."

He hopped onto the table top, then scooted to the center. She grabbed the hem of his pants and pulled them off; he quickly divested himself of his boxers. Then he leaned back on his elbows, hazel eyes twinkling.

"Jones," she said fondly. "Indy." She unbuttoned the German tunic and trousers, revealing her own boxers. He laughed; she chucked them at his head.

She climbed onto the table and straddled his stomach. He grabbed her hips, thumbs pressing into the crease where her thighs met her pelvis. She leaned forward: obligingly, he took a nipple into his mouth. When he sucked, she felt a corresponding pull on her clit.

Exhaling sharply through her nose, she leaned back. That talented mouth could lavish attention on her breasts some leisurely morning, but this was not it. Indy slid his hands down to her thighs; she lifted herself up enough that he could rub his thumbs maddeningly on the skin just beside her vulva. She clutched his shoulders, fingernails pricking in implied threat, and he brushed one finger over her clit before hooking it inside. "You seem happy to see me," he observed, running his fingertip across the wet wall.

"Don't get too cocky," she chided, rolling her ass back against his erection. She rose onto her knees and shifted backwards, then took his cock in hand and guided just the head inside. Slowly, inexorably, she lowered herself, feeling slick muscles yield to welcome him. Finally, he was nestled to the hilt, and she sat unmoving, hands idly running through his chest hair and over his small nipples.

"Marion," he groaned, trying to thrust against her weight.

She thought about counseling patience, but knew that she would only be denying herself. Instead, she began to move, and for the first time since Belloq had opened the Ark, she felt safe.

III. A hotel east of the Hudson, 1957

Staring sightlessly out the hotel window, Indy tied and retied the sash of his smoking jacket.

"Nervous?"

He startled: Marion had emerged from the bathroom wearing a pale pink slip. Her slate-blue eyes looked indulgent and amused.

"It was your idea to wait," she reminded him.

He cocked his head in acknowledgment, then said, "You look nice."

"You look handsome." She chortled delightedly. "You're blushing!" She sat on the edge of the king-sized bed. "Come here."

He did. She took his hands, looked into his eyes, and kissed him more gently than she had in the church that afternoon. She guided his hands to her waist: he began to learn her new silhouette through the silk. The kiss he already knew well, but the template of his tongue in her mouth was no less exciting for its familiarity.

His shoulders unknotted: he may have added years as well as mileage since their last night together, but this was Marion. The words had never come easily to him, yet he managed, "I love you."

She smiled. "I know." Then she decided to be merciful: "I love you, too, Mr. Jones."

He felt his face mimic hers. "Mrs. Jones."

He put his hands on her thighs and leaned in for another kiss; the slip steadily wrinkled beneath his splayed fingers. When Marion half-stood so that he could pull it off her body, he discovered she wasn't wearing anything underneath. She never had been coy.

Instinctively, his hands rose to her breasts, thumbs stroking the slope down to her sternum while his first two fingers rolled her nipples between them. Unsatisfied, he replaced one hand with his mouth, teasing with his tongue, tugging with his lips. He heard Marion panting through her nose and decided to change that to gulping breaths.

When she fell back against the bed, he diligently followed. He slithered down her body, over her ribs and the curve of her belly; her legs spread in anticipation. He knelt at the foot of the bed, shouldered her knees, and pressed his face to her center. Her piquant taste silenced his joints' protests: eagerly, he licked and nipped the folds of flesh while her heels dug into his back.

He had just touched the tip of his tongue to her clit when she put both hands on the crown of his head and pushed him away. It took a moment for language to return to her; then she said, "Together."

He took off the smoking jacket, pausing to wipe his face. She had issued him a challenge, and he never backed down from one of those. He kicked out of his pajama bottoms and boxers, then joined her on the bed. Tasting her had made him hard, and he slid easily inside. Quickly, they found each other's rhythm; it was the oldest dance and they knew all the steps. As Indy felt his orgasm build and heard the chant that foretold Marion's, he smiled: Together. That sounded perfect.