Title:  Changed Mind
Author:  Kay
Feedback:  Do you really want to see me beg?
Series:  The Mummy
Pairing:  Rick/Ardeth
Rating:  NC-17

Disclaimer:  The Mummy and the characters of the show don't belong to me
in anyway whatsoever.  I'm not that lucky.  This story is written for
enjoyment, not for profit.  Again, I'm not that lucky.  Litigation would
be a waste of time, people.  I'm a member of the Starving Student Sect.
Summery:  What would have happened if Ardeth didn't leave Rick to wander
out of the desert alone, after the first battle at Hamunaptra? Warnings:
None, really.  Just note the ratings for each section - this is a slash
story, after all.

The blame for this story can be placed squarely on Karen's capable
shoulders. She hatched the plot bunny that inspired it.

Of course, Sandy acted as a go between and shoved aforementioned plot
bunny into my in-box, so she isn't blameless, either.

I suppose the moral of this is:  if you like the story, please, please
tell me, and you might want to mention it to these lovely ladies as well.

And Karen, Sandy:  I hope you enjoy this!


Cursing himself as a thousand types of fool, Ardeth Bey sorted through the
accumulated supplies piled on the rug inside his tent.  Water skins,
healing ointments, bedding, bandages, food, ammunition...he was ready for
anything and everything.  He swiftly bundled the gathered materials
together and placed them in saddlebags, then swung the bags over his
shoulder and walked out of his tent.  The chill desert air seeped in
through his robes.  Hard to believe that the burning desert could become
so cold once the sun descended below the horizon, but it was true.

He made his way through the sleeping camp of Med-jai warriors carefully,
not wanting to wake anyone.  This was his own foolish mission; he didn't
want any of his comrades to try to join him out of loyalty or friendship.

If he were to act a fool, he'd rather there be no witnesses.

Of course, the warrior standing watch over the horses saw him, but he had
expected it.  Ardeth nodded toward him, greeting him quietly as he walked
over to his own black mount.  "A quiet watch, Ahmed?"

Ahmed nodded, his dark eyes curious.  "Until I saw you, the desert was
silent."  His gaze wandered over the bags with which Ardeth was laden.
"Where are you going?  Is there some unfinished business with the cursed

The Med-jai leader shook his head.  "Not with the city.  Hamunaptra is
undisturbed once more."  He began to place his saddlebags on his mount,
absently rubbing the horse's nose as he did so.

"Then what could call you away from camp?  Nothing else requires your
attention.  Except - the survivor?  The one who walked away.  I thought
you wanted to let the desert take care of him?"

Ardeth shrugged uncomfortably.  "I did.  But I find my conscience will not
let me."  He met his friend's eyes frankly.  "That man showed remarkable
spirit and courage.  I cannot let him rot out in the desert, not when
there is the chance I could save him."

"The secret of Hamunaptra-"

"Will be protected.  With a day's wandering in the sun, he will not
remember the way there.  And if he does?  Few will believe him, and I
cannot believe he would wish to return to a place of so much death.  We
will be waiting, watching, ready in any case."  His voice firmed, taking
on the tone of leadership.  "You watched him fight, Ahmed.  Can you truly
say that he deserves the death the desert will give him?"

The other warrior gazed at him steadily for a moment, then nodded.  "Do
you wish for company?"

Ardeth felt relief course through him as he realized that his friend
wasn't going to fight him on this.  The other man's agreement led him to
believe that this wasn't quite the folly that he had believed.  "That
won't be necessary. If I cannot handle one sun-damaged foreigner, then I
am unworthy to continue as leader, am I not?"  He mounted quickly, not
wanting to linger and attract any other attention.  "Until I return, you
are in command, my friend."

The other man inclined his head in acknowledgment.  "Swift journey to you.
Return to us soon.  I do not like the way the battle this morning felt."

Ardeth nodded, staring across the sand, back toward Hamunaptra.  "I
understand.  It was almost as if I could feel the cursed one at one point.
Not a comfortable sensation."  He shook himself, returning his attention
to the moment at hand.  "I will return as soon as I am able."

He urged his mount out of camp at a swift walk, wanting to take advantage
of the cool of the night and the light of the full moon for as long as
possible. He also wanted to avoid encountering any other members of his
band.  Ahmed had agreed with him, but he knew some others would not; the
secret of the location of Hamunaptra was too crucial, and the foreigner's
courage would not persuade them that he should be spared.

A slight smile touched the Arab's full lips.  He had heard once that it
was easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.  The phrase had mostly
proven to be true, so he would go and find the foreigner now, and escort
him out of the desert.  He could apologize to his men later, and deal with
the consequences then.  For now, all he knew was that his conscience would
not allow him to just let the other man die, not if he could save him.

The ride through the night air kept the Med-jai awake; he may not have
participated in the battle earlier that day, but that didn't mean that he
hadn't been involved.  If the two opposing forces hadn't basically wiped
each other out, leaving the survivors to flee, then Ardeth would have had
to lead his mean down to the cursed city and kill the winners of the
skirmish, down to the last man, to protect the secret of Hamunaptra.  The
tension of wondering if he would have to ride into battle, the worry that
somehow the evil beneath the sands would be unearthed and awakened:  both
took their toll.  He found himself glad of the chill breeze that brushed
over his cheeks and tugged at his robes.

He found the foreigner's tracks easily; the wind was beginning to fill
them with sand, but slowly, so he was able to pick them out clearly with
the aid of the bright moon, full and hanging low in the sky.

As he rode, he gained a greater respect for the foreigner.  The man wasn't
panicking; he headed due east, toward the nearest village.  Judging by his
tracks, he had moved at a steady pace, not wearing himself down.

Still, all the care in the world would do him little good.  Ardeth knew
the stranger had been carrying no water, and had no shelter to use as
protection from the sun.  There was a chance that he could already be
dead, struck down by the sun that blazed a deadly path across the sky
every day, burning the desert free of all but the most scattered signs of

That thought at the forefront of his mind, the Med-jai prompted his horse
into a faster gait, not wanting to risk the stranger dying because he had
dawdled and not moved fast enough.  After a few moments, his sharp vision
revealed something in the sand up ahead.  A few moments longer, and he was
able to identify the shape as the foreigner, collapsed upon the sand.

Ardeth approached carefully, wary of a trap, no matter how unlikely the
possibility was.  The stranger was just what he appeared, however;
unconscious in the desert night.  The Med-jai dismounted and walked over
to the fallen man, glad to see the broad shoulders rising and falling
gently.  At least he was still alive.

The dark-haired man knelt in the sand, and carefully rolled the foreigner
over onto his back.  The man groaned softly, but did not wake up.  Ardeth
looked him over quickly, but there seemed to be no significant injuries;
the stranger had collapsed from either exhaustion or from the effects of
the sun.  Likely a combination of both, the Arab decided.  He stood,
trying to choose what the next move should be.

There was a small oasis not far from where they were; secluded and close,
it was the best possibility available.  Ardeth knelt once more, this time
pulling the other man into his arms, then struggling to his feet.  The
stranger was no light-weight; solid muscle and bone packed onto a tall
frame made him an unwieldy, uncomfortable burden.  The Med-jai staggered
slightly, then walked as steadily as he could over to his mount.  He
carefully slung the limp body over the saddle, then took the reigns and
began to walk toward the oasis.

After a short walk, he had found it, just as he remembered it to be:  an
unexpected pool of startlingly cold, clear water, with a few low trees
growing around it.  None but the Med-jai knew of it, so they would be safe
there, while he discovered how long it would take the stranger to recover.

Ardeth pulled the man off the horse, and laid him gently down onto the
sand. He then began to quickly set up tent, erecting a tent with the ease
of long practice.  That done, and with a fire burning brightly outside the
wide-spread entrance, the Arab carried the man inside, and laid him down
on a soft pile of blankets.

After a moment's hesitation, the Med-jai began to pull the foreigner's
clothing loose, examining him more closely for any sign of injury.  To his
relief, he found that the man had suffered a slight sunburn, and assorted
bruises and scrapes in the battle of Hamunaptra.  He seemed to be
suffering most from exhaustion, and the only cure for that was rest.

Setting up a pot to boil water for tea, Ardeth began to prepare himself
for a vigil, and wait for the other man to regain consciousness.  There
was little he could do for him, except to rub healing salve onto his
burns, bruises, and lacerations, then sit and watch and wait.

As the hours passed, his worry increased, as did the inexorable call of
 The Arab fought to remain calm, and awake, as each minute passed with no
change in the other man.  He began to worry that he would never awaken,
that there was some injury that he had missed finding, that was killing
the stranger.

His anxious gaze traveled over the man before him.  He was built like a
warrior, obviously suited for the soldiering life he had chosen.  His hair
was oddly colored; one moment it seemed blonde, the next brown, and there
were hidden shines of red concealed within it.  With his strong, regular
feature and fit body, the stranger was a truly handsome man.

Before Ardeth could become alarmed by the path his thoughts were taking,
the other man groaned more loudly, more distinctly than before.  The Arab
leaned forward, in time to see pale blue eyes drift open, and to be pinned
by a slightly fuzzy stare.  Brows snapping together in a frown, the
stranger attempted to rise, but fell back onto the blankets with a pained
moan.  "Shit!
 My head," the stranger rasped, hands coming up to cradle the offending

The Med-jai moved to his side immediately.  "Do not worry," he said, using
English as well.  "I am here to help you.  You collapsed in the sun, do
you remember that?"

Hands rubbing at his temples, the other man grimaced.  "Oh, yeah.  One of
my most treasured memories.  I remember."  He squinted up at the kneeling
man. "Who are you?  Why are you helping me?"

"My name is Ardeth Bey, leader of the Med-jai.  I saw you fight today, and
could not leave you to die in the desert.  I will help you reach
civilization, after you are well enough to travel."  Ardeth told the other
man as much as he could, to reassure him.

"You saw?  Wait, you were one of the assholes up on the ridge, watching as
the two of us groups slaughtered each other, and then watched me stagger
off into the desert?"  His voice was disbelieving.  "If I wasn't worried
that my head was about to explode, I'd get up and kick your ass."

Ardeth had no idea how to respond to that, so he did not.  Instead, he
backed away slightly, leaning over to pick up a water skin.  "Drink some
of this," he ordered gently, "but only a little.  Too much, too fast, will
make you ill."

The American, to judge by his accent, took the water skin reluctantly, and
began to do as Ardeth had directed.  After a few swallows, his grip on the
bag loosened, and the Arab took it from him.

The light-haired man fixed him with a pain-filled glare.  "As soon as my
head quiets down, I'm going to want some answers."

"And you shall receive them.  But sleep now, and ask questions tomorrow."
Ardeth watched as the other man gradually drifted off into a natural
sleep. He then began to work to close the camp for the evening.  After
checking on his horse once more, and putting out the fire, the Med-jai
returned to the tent, and crawled into his own bedding, knowing that he
needed sleep as well. As he gave himself up to sleep, he hoped vaguely
that the American would be in a better mood tomorrow.  Ardeth had barely
convinced himself to play the role of healer.  He didn't think he was up
to playing scapegoat the next day as well.


Rick groaned as he felt himself drifting toward consciousness.  While his
head no longer felt as though it were the staging ground for an epic
battle, it continued to throb dully, and the rest of his body ached.
Trying to escape the pain, and wakefulness, the American burrowed deeper
into the sand.  He wriggled around for a few moments before he realized he
wasn't surrounded by the gritty abrasiveness of sand, but rather by soft,
gentle fabric.

That wasn't right; he could distinctly remember collapsing to the sand,
beaten down by exhaustion, thirst, and the relentless hammering of the
desert sun.

He cautiously cracked one blue eye open, and waited impatiently for his
vision to clear sufficiently for him to be able to see.  His brow creased
in puzzlement; apparently, he was in a tent, lying on a bed of blankets.
That realization brought back a slight flood of memories:  waking to a
headache that made his head feel as though his skull was pulsing
sickeningly, in the tent and care of a strange Arab.

Carefully turning his head to one side, he found his odd rescuer.  The
other man had apparently fallen asleep sitting up, and was slumped forward
 His broad chest rose and fell slowly, moved by languid, sleeping breaths.

Rick knew this was his chance. If he wanted to make an escape, this was
likely to be the best opportunity with which he would be presented.  His
mind and his instincts screamed for him to move, to take action and save
himself.  Took bad his body refused to cooperate.  His head threatened to
return to its former state of agony, and his muscles and ribs got into the
action, reminding him of his activity from the day before, trying to out
maneuver the overwhelming odds in the battle in which he had fought.  As
he gave into his body's protests, the American told himself that it was
the rational thing to do.  He sincerely doubted that he would get too far
anyway, even if he did mange to steal whatever animal the Arab had.  Not
if this man was behind him, hunting him down.

He allowed his gaze to travel over the sleeping man beside him, mapping
lines, noting the shadows pooled in the hollows of eyes, cheeks, throat.
Dark, thick curls hung loose, tangled slightly by the light breeze that
traveled around the rather cozy tent.  Sun-bronzed skin lay smoothly over
muscle, and the dark tattoos stood out on the brown skin in sharp,
intriguing contrast.  Heavy muscle was solidly in evidence all through the
tall frame, implying impressive strength.

Rick licked dry lips.  The Arab was an extremely handsome man.  As a
leader in the chain of command of his unit, the American had avoided any
entanglements with the men under his nominal control.  Because of this, it
had been too long since he'd last known the pleasure of another man's
touch.  He'd have to watch himself, else he'd be completely distracted by
the physical promise of the Arab, placing himself in an even less
favorable situation.  How was he to go about getting himself out of this
mess, when all his attention was focused on wishing to experience the feel
and the taste of the other man?

Realizing that he was staring at the Arab's slightly parted, full lips,
Rick forced his gaze upwards.  He had to get out of the habit of staring,
else he'd get caught when the man awoke.

Too late.  He was found himself caught by a pair of dark eyes.  The think
brows above were quirked in a questioning pose.

The Arab was awake!  Flustered, Rick immediately relied on his usual
tactic whenever he felt cornered or unsure:  he went on the offensive.
"So now do I get some answers?" he demanded abruptly, tone slightly

One of the eyebrows arched upwards in surprise, but the Arab answered him
readily enough.  "I don't know how much you remember of our first
conversation.  My name is Ardeth Bey.  I am the leader of the Med-jai.
I'm here to try to get you back on your feet, and out of the desert."  His
voice was low, the accent lending an attractive, exotic slant to his

Telling himself to think with the head on his shoulders, Rick continued.
"You're here to help me," he echoed slowly, knowing that he sounded
skeptical, but he wasn't, not really.  He could barely remember the
conversation they'd had previously, and the Arab's body language fairly
screamed of sincerity and trust-worthiness.  Besides, he had been dying on
the sand, so this man had already saved his life.  "If you want to help,
then bring me a bottle of whiskey.  Or scotch.  Hell, anything with a kick
to it."

The dark eyes became disapproving.  "I do not have any alcohol.  You must
content yourself with water."

Water.  Less then a day ago, Rick had despaired of ever experiencing the
simple sensation of water sloshing around his mouth, and sliding down his
throat.  The act of drinking the clear liquid had taken on near-ecstatic
dimensions in his over-heated brain, and he had fantasized about endless
glasses of it.

Not that this Ardeth guy needed to know about that.  He sighed
long-sufferingly.  "If I must, I must."  He watched the black-clad man
fill a small mug with liquid and took it carefully, not wanting to risk
spilling any of it.  He took a sip, and concealed the bliss he felt as
parched tissues soaked up the moisture.  He saw the other man open his
mouth to speak, but beat him to it.  "I'm not an idiot, I know the drill.
Don't drink too much, too fast, or I'll bring it all back up.  Save the

The full lips twisted in annoyance.  "Yes, I should remember that.  You
are obviously not an idiot.  You only tried to walk out of the desert,
alone and on foot."

"I didn't have much of a choice, did I?" Rick shot back, anger flickering
within him.  His entire unit was gone, and he'd been out of options.  What
gave this man the right to judge him, or his actions?  "So what persuaded
you to come down off the cliff and get involved?"

The other man glanced away for a moment, uncertainty suddenly evident in
his frame.  Rick found the change intriguing, and endearing.  He forced
himself to listen to the words, not just to the deep voice that rumbled a
quiet answer. "We, the Med-jai, could see the battle from the cliffs.  I
saw you, and how you tried to save your men.  I saw you refuse to give up
until you were out of options, and then watched you face death with honor
and bravery few foreigners ever display."  A brief smile crossed the
bearded face.  "And then you walked out into the desert, not waiting for
death to come to you."  He shrugged, and met Rick's eyes.  "I could not
just let you die.  The courage and spirit you showed was worthy of a

Rick resisted the urge to make a flippant remark.  Ardeth was obviously
sincere, and the American found himself rather flattered.  The other man
was obviously a warrior, and to be judged as an equal to a man who had
grown up fighting and knowing battle was quite a compliment.  He cleared
his throat. "Thanks.  For saying that, and for coming after me."

The mood in tent felt too solemn for his comfort, so after a moment, Rick
grinned widely and relaxed back into the blankets that made up his bed.
"But I'll have you know that I was just taking a nap when you found me.  I
would have been up and on my way in an hour's time.  I appreciate the
help, though, unnecessary as it is."

A slow smile appeared on Ardeth's face.  "Then I must thank you for
allowing me to help you, or at least go through the motions.  I know what
a sacrifice this must be for you."

"Hey, how could you know that I'm invincible?"  A sudden thought came to
 "Ah, I think I've forgotten to introduce myself.  Rick O'Connell."

His extended hand was caught in a strong grip.  "O'Connell," the other man
repeated, testing the name.

Rick pulled his arm back, wincing as he did so.  "How bad off am I?" he
 He felt battered and sore, and knew that his skin had begun to burn
night had fallen.  The lack of water probably hadn't done him any good,

As if reading his thoughts, the Med-jai poured him another mug of water.
"You are bruised from the battle yesterday, but nothing too serious.  The
burns from the sun are mild, although they will be tender for the next few
days. The greatest danger you are in is from dehydration, and heat
exhaustion.  You must rest, and drink much water, for the coming days,
else you may relapse, more seriously then before."  His voice and eyes
were serious.  "After you are healed, I will take you to a caravan route
near here.  There, you will be able to find passage to a town, all the way
to Cairo, if that is what you wish."

The blue-eyed man made a sour face.  Great.  Stuck being an invalid was
not his idea of a good time.  No matter how attractive his nurse might

He watched as Ardeth began to busy himself in preparing a meal, the way
his large hands moved fluidly, gracefully from one task to the next.  He
vaguely resented the other man's clothing, because it concealed the lines
of his body, giving Rick the barest hints of what lay beneath the black

Realizing the course his thoughts had taken, Rick grinned sardonically.
Not just an invalid:  a *horny* invalid.  Oh yeah.  Then next few days
were going to be fun.  His gaze wandering back to Ardeth, the American's
smile grew more genuine as he reminded himself of the truly shitty past
few days he had experienced:  marching through heat and sand, a bloody
battle, wandering alone in the desert, without hope or direction.

Licking his lips, he figured his luck was about due for a change.


Ardeth tended to his mount, giving the horse a thorough rub-down as an
apology for the past days of inactivity.  The motions were as soothing to
him as they were to the black animal.  He was worried, a little confused,
and not sure how to deal with the situation.

He found himself far more comfortable in O'Connell's company than he ever
would have believed possible.  The American had an odd sense of humor; it
seemed he was always joking, so Ardeth had trouble telling whether the
other man was ever serious or not.  Still, he enjoyed the strange, usually
self-mocking comments; he believed he had laughed more in the past two
days than he ever had before.  When O'Connell made a joke, it was as if he
couldn't resist laughing along with him.

Couldn't resist...therein lay the problem.  He couldn't seem to resist
O'Connell at all, not when he told a joke, not when he made a request, not
when he smiled lopsidedly...

Ardeth had to admit it to himself:  he was fiercely attracted to
O'Connell. His humor, his courage, his spirit, all of them made the man
desirable.  His even features and blue eyes merely made him more
attractive, and got the Med-jai further into trouble.  How could he do
this?  He had nearly consigned the other man to death in the sand.  He was
supposed to be taking care of him, not lusting over him in secret.  As
disgusted as he was with himself, the Arab couldn't banish the feeling.
It ran too deep, had too strong a hold on him for that.

He was a fool.  First he follows the foreigner into the desert, and then
proceeds to want him more powerfully than he had ever thought possible.
In O'Connell's terminology, Ardeth needed "to get his ass kicked".  That
might get him thinking rationally again.

Feeling himself smile at the mere thought of the other man's words, Ardeth
shook his head in resigned disgust.  The feeling wasn't going to go away.
He would just have to ignore it, resist it, and hide it from O'Connell.
The other man would hardly be open to any advances; Ardeth was
half-certain that the American blamed him for his injuries.  How could he
then have any interest in sharing passion and pleasure with him?

As he finished grooming his horse, Ardeth looked up and watched the sun
slip below the horizon.  Evening had come up fast, and he still had much
to do. Leaving the horse with a final fond pat, the Med-jai gathered the
meal he had left warming by the fire and carried it into the tent.

Rick lay propped up by blankets, rubbing at his shirt irritably.  His
expression brightened when he saw Ardeth enter, and he took the plate
offered to him with a smile of genuine gratitude.  Even as he ate, he
continued to finger his shirt in a gesture that spoke greatly of distaste.

Finally, Ardeth could sit and watch no longer.  "Does something trouble
you, O'Connell?" he asked quietly, hesitant, worried about intruding on
private thoughts.

The American grimaced.  "I'm filthy," he stated flatly.  "My hair, my
clothes, my skin - it's all clogged with sand.  My flesh is practically
crawling." Plaintive blue eyes met his own dark gaze.  "Is this oasis big
enough for me to take a bath?"

"Yes, it is.  But you can't mean now?  The sun has gone down, and the
water will be cold."

"Who cares about cold water?  I'd rather freeze my ass off for a few
minutes then feel this grimy any more.  Just build the fire up and have a
towel waiting for me as soon as I get out."

"Ah, so now I am your servant, am I?"  Even Ardeth could hear the
capitulation in his own voice.  He wanted to continue to object.  The last
thing he needed to do was watch the other man bathe.  Never mind how much
he wanted to, it wasn't right, and it wasn't fair to O'Connell.  Still, he
couldn't say no to the man.  "Fine.  Give me some time to get the fire
roaring once more."

The Med-jai left the tent hurriedly, glad of the chill night air that
enveloped him.  Perhaps it would cool the heat he felt rising in his
cheeks. He tossed more wood onto the fire, and found some cloths to act as
towels.  He laid them near the water, then went back to check on the fire.
Ardeth then walked over to his bags and pulled out a fresh change of
clothing to lend to O'Connell.  As he did so, he was forced to admit to
himself that he was hesitating, like a fool, trying to avoid what he knew
was coming.

He walked back over to the tent, determined to control himself.  He ducked
through the doorway, and looked up to see O'Connell dropping his shirt to
the ground, and beginning to work loose the fastenings of his trousers.
Inhaling sharply, Ardeth swallowed hard.  "All is ready."  Oh, please
don't let his voice really have been that low.

The American cast a slightly puzzled glance at him, but nodded.  "Great.
I'm about ready to crawl out of my skin, if it means I won't have to feel
this anymore."  He rose to his feet, and slowly walked out of the tent,
brushing by the Med-jai.

Ardeth watched his progress carefully, pleased to see that he was steady
on his feet.  The day of rest had done much to restore his strength.  He
exited the tent as well, tracking O'Connell's path.

The blue-eyed man paused by the fire, looking at the oasis.  "It's going
to be cold, eh?  Then I'd best get it over with quickly."  He pushed his
trousers down over his hips, baring himself to the night.  Pale skin
fairly glowed in the flickering light of the fire, smooth and hard

Ardeth watched, captivated, the spell broken only when Rick disappeared
beneath the water.  He shook himself, and grinned as the American
resurfaced with a shouted stream of profanity.  "I warned you," he called,
placing more wood upon the fire.

His only answer was more profanity.  Ardeth watched surreptitiously as
Rick scrubbed his hair and body free of sand, quickly and efficiently.
Soon, the other man was emerging from the oasis, water running down his
skin with freedom and intimacy that the Med-jai envied.  As Rick walked
over to the towels, Ardeth's gaze traveled over his body, across the broad
shoulders, down the powerful chest, down the defined stomach,
down...realizing that he was staring, he jerked his gaze upwards, so he
met Rick's curious look.

Caught.  Humiliated, Ardeth waited for the accusations and demands for an
explanation to come.  They never did.  A number of expressions chased each
other across Rick's face:  surprise, speculation, and then, to the Arab's
disbelief, desire.  Toweling himself off roughly, the American walked back
over to the tent, over to the Med-jai, until he was standing only inches
away from the other man..

"Damn, but that water was cold," Rick said, his grin at odds with his
words. "Almost so cold, I'm not sure I'll ever be warm again.  Do you know
the best way to get warm?" he asked, leaning in close to Ardeth.

The Med-jai could see droplets of water sliding slowly down Rick's hair,
catching the light of the fire as they moved.  He could see the faint
tremors of the other man's naked body as the breezes of the night swept
over them. The Arab swallowed hard.  "I don't often have to concern myself
with staying warm."  He knew he should let it go at that, but still he
could not resist. "How?"  The question was dragged out of him.

"Body heat," Rick whispered, moving closer.  "Sharing body heat.  Skin on
skin."  His gaze traveled up and down the length of Ardeth's body.  "You
don't want me to catch pneumonia, do you?"

Pneumonia?  "Of course not!" he answered, unable to look away from the
blue stare.

"Then you'd best come in the tent and help me keep warm, hadn't you?" Rick
asked, with an inviting look and a broad grin.  The pale body disappeared

Ardeth stared for a moment, then realized he was moving toward the tent,
helpless to hold back, following the irresistible pull of the other man.

Once inside the tent, Rick hesitated for a moment.  What the hell was he
doing?  What if he had misread Ardeth, and was about to get his ass kicked
for propositioning him?  He turned to watch the other man walk into the
tent, and held the towel in front of himself, shielding himself from view
a bit.

Dark eyes met his, and Rick knew that he had made no mistake, judging by
the heat and hunger in the other man's gaze.    There was hesitation in
those eyes as well, a pleading for guidance that he couldn't refuse.
Thrusting his own uncertainty aside, Rick held the towel away from
himself, and dropped it to the floor of the tent.  His arm still extended,
he grinned and gestured for Ardeth to approach him.

The dark-haired man moved forward quickly, but stopped just short of
touching Rick.  He raised one long-fingered hand, and gently traced the
line of Rick's cheek bone with a finger.  "You are sure about this, O'C -
Rick?  This is something you want to do?"

Glancing downward at himself, Rick waited until the Med-jai also glanced
 He watched in delight at the startlement and lust that crossed the other
man's face as he saw the hardening flesh rising between them.  "I'd say
that was a yes," he replied, laughter clear in his tone.

Ardeth jerked his gaze upwards, a smile beginning to play at the corners
of his lips.  "I would have to agree," he said, hand sliding around to cup
the back of Rick's neck and pull him forward for a kiss.

At first their lips met clumsily, but unfamiliarity and nervousness faded
as heat and desire surged through both of them.  Soon, each men was
clutching the other tightly, hands roaming freely as tongues played and
dueled in long wet glides.

Rick tried to ease the other man out of his clothing, but found his
efforts frustrated by the seemingly endless length of black cloth that
enveloped Ardeth.  Finally, he pulled away from the kiss with a growl of
frustration. "Out of it," he panted, jaw firm.

Passion-glazed eyes stared at him bemusedly.  "Out of what?"

"Those goddam clothes!"

The Med-jai blinked, and began to laugh a little.  "It would be helpful,
wouldn't it?" he agreed, quickly stripping off his garments.

"Uh-huh," Rick responded absently, watching as the bronzed flesh was
revealed, dark skin smooth over impressive muscles.  He waited impatiently
until the last bit of clothing had been removed, and then pounced,
knocking Ardeth to the floor.

The Arab resisted, a challenging glint in his eye.  The two men tousled on
the floor, using the mock-wrestling match as an excuse for running their
hands all over the other, exchanging covert caresses in a disinterested
battle for dominance.

Finally, Rick came to rest on top, and he grinned down at the other man.
Ardeth met his stare evenly, breathing hard, more from arousal than actual
exertion.  "Now what do you plan to do?" he asked, and the blue-eyed man's
grin grew as he felt the deep voice rumble within the chest beneath his

"Let's make it a surprise, eh?" he said, before dipping his head down and
brushing his lips against the other man's ear.  Rick began to nip his way
down the body below him, taking his time.  He lingered at the other man's
nipples, sucking and biting lightly until they were wet and red, and
Ardeth had lapsed into one continuous moan of pleasure and need.  Grinning
to himself, the American continued his journey down, mapping out the hard
lines of muscle of the stomach with hands and mouth, before reaching the
dark thatch of curls at the other man's groin.

He glanced up, towards Ardeth's face, and saw that his head was thrown
back in pleasure, eyes screwed shut as he lost himself in the sensations.
Perfect. He turned his attention to the erection straining up before him,
and quickly lowered his mouth over it.  There was a sudden, stunned
silence, and then with a strangled shout Ardeth began to arch upwards,
trying to experience more of the wet heat.

Rick allowed it for a moment, before pinning the Med-jai's hips to the
floor. He also removed the hands that had buried themselves in his hair,
and placed them on his own shoulders, where they'd do less damage.  He
then returned his focus to the other man's hardness, and began to tease
him, doing his best to drive him mad with no more than his lips and

It worked; Ardeth began to moan once more, than speak hoarsely in a
variety of Arabic that Rick had never before heard.  After a little while,
the tone of his voice changed, and the Med-jai switched to English.
"Rick, I'm going to...you've got to..."  His hand tugged at the American's
shoulders, trying to draw him upwards.

Rick resisted the pull, and redoubled his efforts.  He was going to finish
this, never mind what Ardeth thought.  A few minutes more, and the Med-jai
came with a drawn out wail that seemed to echo out into the night.

The body beneath his relaxed into a boneless sprawl, and Rick slowly made
his way upwards, waiting for the other man to recover.  After a few
moments, brown eyes drifted open.  "Rick..."

The American kissed him before more could be said.  They lay entwined for
long minutes, kissing lazily until Ardeth was once more fully in control.
Which was good, because Rick's was slipping.  He began to rub his own
hardness against the other man's hip, grinding away in the pursuit of

Strong hands grabbed his hips, and held Rick still.  "I can think of
something better to do with that."  The deep voice was a little teasing, a
little breathless.

The blue-eyed man stopped, and watched as Ardeth fumbled in the tangled
blankets for a few seconds, before grinning in triumph and holding up his
prize:  the container of ointment he'd been applying to Rick's sun burn.
With a pleased smile, Ardeth handed the container to Rick.

The American held the other's gaze.  "You sure?"

"Now, Rick," was the order/reply.

No need to tell him twice.  Rick quickly began to prepared the other man,
taking the time to stretch out him out thoroughly, but not lingering over
the task.  That done, he quickly slicked his own hardness, and began to
press inside.  A few moments later, he was holding himself absolutely
still, amazed by the feeling of being within the other man.

Ardeth arched up beneath him.  "Move, Rick!"

He hadn't moved up the chain of command for nothing; Rick O'Connell knew
how to follow orders.  He began to glide slowly in and out of the man
beneath him, his thrusts gradually gaining speed and force as Ardeth urged
him onward. Soon, they were both slamming against one another, the Med-jai
hard once more, and straining to attain his second orgasm.

With a final hard thrust, Rick propelled them both over the edge,
suspending them in an endless moment of mutual ecstasy, before he was
spent.  He collapsed down onto the other man, feeling his bones turn to

Gentle fingers stroking through his hair gradually pulled Rick back to
awareness.  He didn't think he'd passed out, but he definitely come harder
than he ever had in his entire life.

"Rick, are you all right?"  The chest beneath his vibrated once more, the
tone in the voice more than a little concerned.

"I'm fine.  Just a little tired."  He looked up in time to see guilt flash
across Ardeth's face.

"I am sorry.  I shouldn't have...you are not completely healed yet.  It is

Rick silenced him with a hard kiss.  Once he pulled back, he stared
seriously down at the other man.  "You have nothing to apologize for.  I
was ready; I was more than ready.  Unforgivable would be if you were to
regret this.  I wanted it, and so did you.  So what if I'm tired?"  He
stretched out, feeling contentment and satisfaction throughout his body.
"It was worth it."

The Med-jai stared at him a moment longer, than nodded and smiled.  Rick
made no protest as the other man rose and fetched a towel, cleaning them
both up. Hey, Ardeth came *twice*.  It was the least he could do.  After
disposing of the towel, the other man wrapped them both up in blankets to
ward off the chill of the desert night.  Arms wrapped companionably about
each other, the two men drifted off to sleep.


Ardeth awoke slowly, felling the heavy languidness in his limbs that told
him what his past evening's actions had been.  Memory returned quickly,
and his eyes flew open.  Rick.  But there was no one with him in the
blankets.  The Med-jai scanned then tent, but the American was gone.
Ardeth began to panic. Had he driven the American away somehow?  Perhaps
Rick hadn't been as sure about what they were doing as he had seemed.  He
stood, wrapping a hastily clutched blanket around himself, ready to go and
find Rick, to offer his most abject apologies to the other man.

Before he could reach the entrance, the folds flipped back.  Ardeth
squinted into the sudden torrent of sunlight that struck his face.  A
shadow soon blocked out the over-bright light.

"Going somewhere?" Rick asked, a lopsided grin on his face.  Hair mussed
from sleep, he was wearing his pants and nothing else.  He walked into the
tent, and frowned, looking puzzled when Ardeth didn't respond.  "What?"

"You were gone," the Med-jai said simply, trying to adjust to the other's
sudden reappearance.

"Breakfast," Rick replied, holding up the plateful of food he had brought
into the tent with him.  "I figured if I was well enough for what we did
last night, I'm well enough to get breakfast."  He flushed a little.
"Besides, you looked...peaceful.  I didn't want to wake you up."

Ardeth continued to stare at him.  He was having trouble adjusting his
thoughts.  He'd been so panicked, thinking that he'd driven the other man
away, that he'd hurt him, or pushed him into something he didn't want,
that the truth was difficult to accept.  He watched mutely as Rick put
down the plate, and moved to stand in front of him, close enough that he
could smell the American's skin, the scents of sun and sweat mixing
headily upon it.

"Hey, what's wrong?  Did something happen?"

"You were gone,"  Ardeth repeated.  He licked his lips, and tried to
explain. "When I saw you weren't here, I thought that you had left, out
into the desert.  I though perhaps I had pushed you into something you
didn't truly want, or that I had hurt you somehow."

Rick's gaze traveled up and down the length of the other man's body.  "So
you were going to run out into the desert after me, wearing a blanket?
Now who's foolish?"

The Med-jai turned away, embarrassed and somewhat hurt.  He'd been so
worried, and now to be mocked for that concern...

There was a sigh behind him, and a barely audible mutter.  "Real good,
Rick. Very smooth."  Then a warm hand landed hesitantly, softly, on his
shoulder. "Can I ask you a question?"  The American's voice was gentle,
almost serious. Almost.


"Do you do this often?"

"What?  Wear a blanket?"

"No.  Rescue strange men, nurse them back to health, then go on to give
them one of the most pleasurable nights of their lives.  Is this regular
thing for you?"

Ardeth turned to face him, one eyebrow raised.  Where was the other man
going with this?  He could hear humor in his tone.  "Yes, it is one of my
most beloved past times.  I do it two, three times a week whenever it is
possible. Of course I do not!"

"Interesting.  Because I've never ended up having great sex with a man who
has saved my life."  Rick placed his hand on Ardeth's shoulder once more
and squeezed hard.  "It happened.  Both of us wanted it.  I know I enjoyed
it.  I hope to hell that you did, too."

Ardeth felt his irritation melt away in the face of the other man's
 "I did, too," he admitted, a broad grin crossing his face.

Rick's growl caught him by surprise, as did the other man's sudden lunge
and pounce that knocked them both back into the blankets.  Rick's tongue
invaded his mouth aggressively, and his hands pawed at the blanket wrapped
around Ardeth's hips, trying frantically to rip it away.

"What about breakfast?" the Med-jai gasped, his own hands working at the
fastenings of Rick's pants, forcing them down over the other man's hips.
He wasn't sure where the other man's sudden surge of lust had come from,
but he found himself caught up in it as well, helpless to resist its call.

"Fuck breakfast," Rick growled, before moving to attack the Arab's throat.

With a sudden burst of effort, Ardeth rolled them over, so he was sprawled
on top of Rick.  "No," he said, voice dropping an octave.  "Fuck *you*."
He watched Rick's eyes darkened, before leaning in to stage his own
attack.  He trailed wet, sucking kisses down the American's throat, then
moved to though attention to both his shoulders.  When he finally made his
way to Rick's chest, the blue-eyed man's hands came up to clutch at
Ardeth's long curls, attempting to direct his mouth over to one of his

The Med-jai allowed himself to be pushed, but when his head was finally
over the other man's nipple, he rebelled.  With a devilish grin, he bit
down.  Rick arched up, in surprise and arousal.  Ardeth caught his eyes as
he firmly removed the hands from his hair.  "This is my turn, Rick.  Try
to lay there and enjoy, hmm?"  The American groaned in protest, but his
hands stayed at this sides as he lay back down.

The dark-eyed man bent his head once more to the chest beneath him.  He
gently laved the nipple he had bitten, soothing away any lingering sting.
He moved to the other side, lavishing the same attention there as well.

He continued his descent until he was hovering over the other man's
erection. That smile returned to his face, and he breathed hotly across
the rigid length, delighting in he strangled moans coming from Rick.  He
repeated that action once, and then again, while his hands were busy with
the ointment, left forgotten in the blankets until then.

As he finally gave in to Rick's hoarse pleas and took the straining length
into his mouth, he also began to prepare the other man, taking his time,
enjoying driving the other man slowly out of his mind.  When he was sure
Rick was ready, he coated his own hardness with the ointment and began to
press himself inside.

Rick cried out, his voice a shout of pure pleasure and need.  Ardeth's
grin became slightly savage as he began to thrust, gradually increasing in
speed and force.  Soon, both men were breathing in harsh gasps.  Knowing
he couldn't last much longer, Ardeth reached own to take Rick's erection
in hand, stoking him, driving them both relentlessly toward completion.

Rick fairly screamed as he came, wet warmth bathing Ardeth's hand.  The
Med-jai followed him over the edge, crying out his own release.  Fighting
the urge to collapse onto the other man, Ardeth pushed himself off to the

After long minutes, Rick's eyes finally opened.  He looked over at Ardeth,
who was watching him.  The Arab could feel the sated smile on his lips -
he imagined it looked much like the one on Rick's.

"You've ruined me," lamented the American.  His tone didn't match his
words: lazily content, he sounded as though he hadn't a care in the world.

"You are not injured are you?"  Damn it.  He'd been so careful!

Before Ardeth could work himself  up, Rick's laughter reassured him.  I
don't know what I'm going to do when I get back to Cairo.  I'm having such
a good time here, how can anything there compare?"

Ardeth joined in the tired laughter.  "I suppose, my friend, you will just
have to look for it, search diligently until you find it."

The two men moved to lay together, settling down for a mid-morning nap,
uplifted by the laughter and friendship they now shared.


Rick slid off the back of Ardeth's horse, feeling the heat of the sand
through his boots the moment he set foot on the ground.  He looked up at
the other man, squinting into the sunlight, feeling suddenly awkward.

The past few days had been amazing - he and Ardeth had sex, slept, ate,
swum in the oasis, and returned to the tent to have the fun begin all over
again. Rick wasn't sure if a doctor would have recommend a steady regimen
of fantastic sex as a way to recover from collapsing from heat exhaustion,
but it seemed to have worked all right for him.

He had fallen into an easy friendship with the Arab, one of mutual lust
and admiration, of laughter and enjoyment.  Their conversation, and
caresses, had come so naturally for the past few days; what made now so
different?  Why did it suddenly feel as though he was with stranger?

Ardeth seemed uncomfortable as well.  His gaze constantly skittered away
from Rick's, a striking change from his usual confidence and familiarity.
His restlessness carried to his horse, causing the animal to shift and
sidle about nervously.

Why was this so hard?  They had both known it was coming.  Ardeth had told
Rick of the caravan of traders that they were going to meet, and that they
would escort him back to Cairo.  The Med-jai had even furnished him with
the money he would need to pay for his passage.  All that was left was to
say good-bye.

"I guess this is it," Rick said finally.  He'd always hated good-byes, and
this was no exception.

Ardeth sighed, and a sudden rueful smile crossed his face.  "This is
ridiculous.  I have never been fond of leave takings, but that is no
excuse for behaving like a child."  He dismounted smoothly, and moved to
stand before Rick.

The American let his eyes sweep over the other man, memorizing the way he
looked.  Dark hair curled around his face, long limbs moved gracefully,
and seductive lips turned upwards into a smile as the Arab approached.  He
took care to learn the other's features, the masculine strength and beauty
of them.

Rick raised his chin and grinned.  "You should definitely grow up, and say
good-bye to me properly.  Like a man."

A dark eyebrow arched elegantly.  "That sounds like a challenge," he said
softly, leaning forward to catch Rick's lips in a kiss.  Unlike the others
they had shared, this one wasn't a caress of lust and heat, but rather a
statement of regard, and farewell.

Rick returned it in the same spirit it was given.  He thought it was
appropriate - their relationship had been so physical, that it was right
that they should part with a kiss.  He pulled his head back, not drawing
out the contact.

Straightening his jacket, he took a step back, beginning the process of
breaking away.  Blue eyes met black and held.  A solemn moment passed
between them.  Rick was able to stand it for all of a minute.  "At least I
don't have to tell you to remember me."

Ardeth matched his grin.  "No, Rick, you have managed to make yourself
quite unforgettable."  The grin died away on his face, and his eyes became
serious once more.  "The caravan is waiting over that dune."  The Med-jai
straightened his shoulders, and his voice became deeper, more commanding,
albeit with a note of regret.  "I hope that this will be our final

What?  Rick stared at him in some shock.

"Hamunaptra is death, Rick.  O'Connell.  For everyone, including you.  Do
not come back."  The curly-haired man's tone was firm, assured.

It made Rick want to hit him, even if he did understand.  Still, he'd
never been a fan of being told what to do.  Orders not to do something
seemed to have the opposite effect upon him...

He nodded.  "I understand.  Good-bye, Ardeth."

"Be well, O'Connell."

With a final wave, Rick turned to walk over the dune.  Everything he had
said was true.  He'd never forget Ardeth, and he understood the command
never to come back.  He never agreed to abide by it, though.

As the American walked, he could hear the sounds of the caravan.  He
glanced back, but the Med-jai was gone.  With a rueful sigh, Rick knew he
was going to have a hard time topping his experience with the other man.
It was going to take some doing in Cairo to have as good a time.

Oh, well.  Rick O'Connell was always equal to a challenge.  He'd just have
to go looking for a *hell* of a good time.



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