Don't read this if you haven't seen TMR and don't want a few major plot
points ruined, K?
Taking a long draught of his scotch, Jonathan tilted his head back and
leaned it against the wall. He was exhausted. Rich, but exhausted. It
hadn’t even been saving the world that did him in, either. It had been
babysitting. He loved Alex, but his nephew could be a handful. Rick’s
courage, Evie’s boldness, Rick’s energy, Evie’s curiosity: they all
combined in a boy who was the brightest light in Jonathan’s life. He’d
understood Rick and Evie’s need for privacy, their need to reconnect after
coming so close to losing each other and losing everything. He’d been
pleased to watch Alex and spend some time with him, but the boy’s
relentless energy had left him drained.
He sighed. In the desert. Again. Just helped save
the world. Again.
Got rich and almost got dead. Again.
Alone. Again. He signed and raked his hands through his
bonelessly in his chair as he slumped back against the wall. He reached
for his drink and raised it to his lips.
“Are you all right?”
Jonathan swallowed wrong, the sound of that rich voice surprising him
completely. He coughed helplessly, grateful for the strong hands that
thumped him gently on his back. He stared up with watering eyes at the
man in front of him. “What the devil are you doing here?” he croaked.
Ardeth shrugged elegantly. “I have been designated by my people
sure that you and your sister make a safe journey home.”
Jonathan smiled, eyes crinkling up at the corner. “You want to
we leave without resurrecting or unearthing anything.”
“That too.” Ardeth’s agreement was easy, but he shifted his weight
way that spoke of discomfort.
Jonathan looked him over worriedly. He knew that the other man
to join the Med-jai and help them face down the Scorpion King’s army. Had
he been injured in the fighting? He stared at the other man more closely,
telling himself that he did so out of concern. It wasn’t because he’d
dreamed of this man for ten years, his fleeting contact with him providing
him with material for fantasies richer than the shallow reality he’d
experienced. His gaze traced over the long lines of the other man’s
limbs, his strong features, the barely hidden pain in his eyes... “What’s
“Hm?” Ardeth blinked and in a moment his gaze was shuttered.
you mean? I told you why I am here.”
Jonathan shook his head. He was too good a liar himself to be
There was no way he could let this man stand in front of him and hurt, not
when there was a chance that he could do something to help. “Sit down,”
he invited, pretending to accept the other man’s evasion. He signaled the
bartender, asking for two more drinks. He kept the conversation light
until the bartender had served them and left.
He watched Ardeth sipped at his drink, watched the dark gaze flit around
the room, never settling on any point for more than a moment. There was
tension in the larger man’s body. Licking his lips, Jonathan set himself
to trying to tease out the reason behind the pain in that lay hidden in
He listened as Ardeth spoke of the warriors of Anubis. A lifetime
obscuring the truth allowed him to hear what the other man didn’t say:
the fighting had been horrific and hopeless, and he was awed by the man
who had ready to die in order to turn back an unstoppable tide of evil.
“We lost many men that day.” Ardeth stared down at his hands.
Jonathan realized all over again how lucky he’d been that everyone he
loved had survived. He swallowed hard, remembering the tearing grief
he’d felt when Evie had died. Only the need to be strong for Alex had
stopped him from falling apart completely. Thinking of lost friends
reminded him of something else. “Men and friends...Horus, wasn’t it?”
Ardeth rocked a little, as if struck. “Yes, Horus,” he agreed,
The blue-eyed man nodded to himself. He’d thought about Ardeth
a lot over
the years, too much, probably. Not all of that time had been spent on
fantasies, all though those took up more than their fair share. He’d also
just thought about the man himself, wondering about him and his life.
Knowing rumors about Med-jai society, he suspected that Ardeth was often
lonely, living apart from his brothers as he worked to safeguard the
secrets of the sands. He remembered the gentleness in Ardeth’s hands as
he’d handled Horus, the softness in his eyes and voice when he’d spoken of
Greatly daring, he reached out and touched Ardeth’s arm. “I’m sorry.”
The Arab blinked and looked down at Jonathan’s hand, then lifted his
to meet Jonathan’s eyes. Not looking away, he moved his other hand to
cover Jonathan’s. “Thank you.” He inhaled deeply. “I was pleased when
you returned with O’Connell and your sister.”
“Hoping I’d mitigate the damage they did?” Jonathan joked.
“No,” Ardeth said seriously. “I just wanted to see you again.”
Chewing on his lower lip, Jonathan turned his hand over, pressing his
to Ardeth’s in a small caress. “Really?” He knew he had to make a few
admissions, meet the other man part way. “It was good to see you again,
as well. I found myself thinking of you. Quite a lot, really.”
A small smile tugged at the corner of Ardeth’s mouth, chasing some of
sadness from his eyes. “As I have thought of you.” His gaze grew heated
and he squeezed Jonathan’s hand.
Jonathan exhaled harshly. They needed to get out of this bar,
curious eyes that could watch them. “Follow me?”
“Wherever you lead.” The Med-jai’s response caused Jonathan’s
flutter even as a wave of heat moved through him. He rose quickly and led
the other man out of the bar, across the street to the hotel where he was
He decided not to mention the rest of his family in the rooms across the
way. No need to scare Ardeth off.
Once inside his room, the courage that had allowed him to approach the
other man began to fail him. Jonathan felt his hands began to shake as he
closed the door behind them. He fidgeted nervously beside his bed,
staring down at the floor. He had Ardeth here, but what the hell was he
going to do with him?
Warm fingers brushed over his jaw, stilling his restless movement as he
looked up at Ardeth.
“Sit,” the other man suggested quietly.
That was a good idea. He sank down onto the bed. Cursing
the flush he
could feel on his cheeks, he shrugged. “Here I thought I was going to be
able to do something to cheer you up and I end up needing you to calm me
down.” He laughed a little. “Guess that’s what friends are for, eh?”
“Friends? Yes...” Ardeth’s eyes were wide.
It was Jonathan’s turn to reach out to the other man. “Yes, friends.
least I’d hope that’s how you think of me.” He winced inwardly. Why
didn’t he just blurt out everything, maybe describe a few fantasies while
he was at it?
It seemed to have been the right thing to say. Ardeth relaxed
down beside him on the bed. “That is a part of how I think of you,” he
said with the hint of a smile. He laid a hand over Jonathan’s and his
smile became downright flirtatious. “It is certainly not the most
Jonathan smiled back at him, the heat in his belly curling outward,
warming him all the way through. His pleasure didn’t come solely from the
closeness of the other man; he could see the shadows in Ardeth’s eyes
slowly disappearing and the dark-haired man reached out to him.
How could he resist reaching back? They both needed someone; both
were alone far too much. Ardeth apparently was isolated even when he was
with his people. And Jonathan...he could never resent Evie’s relationship
with Rick and Alex. Never. He loved her, loved all of them too much to
ever feel that way. But when they had been on the pyramid and the whole
thing had been sinking back into the sands, he’d been as alone as he’d
ever been while the three of them had held each other close, drawing
strength from their love.
He leaned toward Ardeth, lips parted in a half-smile. “I’d like
about the more interesting parts.”
“Why don’t I show you?” Ardeth closed the distance between them
caught his mouth in a light kiss, a barely-there caress of lips and
Jonathan murmured happily and pressed himself closer to Ardeth, deepening
the kiss even as his hands burrowed within the other man’s robes. The
Arab returned the favor, slowly divesting him of his clothing. It wasn’t
like his fantasies: it was infinitely more gentle, more intimate. Naked
at last, they lay facing each other on the bed.
Blue-eyes roamed over sun-dark skin even as Jonathan traced a finger
the tattoos that decorated the smooth skin. Ardeth shivered beneath his
touch and Jonathan jerked his gaze up to his eyes. “This is...are you all
“More than all right,” Ardeth said, sliding his arm beneath Jonathan
order to pull him closer.
Jonathan gasped a little at the feeling of warm flesh against his own,
hard muscle pressing him into the mattress as Ardeth rolled on top of him.
He slid his hands up the other man’s back, twining his fingers in the
jetty curls as he kissed Ardeth again and again, feeding from the need and
lust and affection he could taste there. They rocked together in an
eternal rhythm, a slow build of friction and heat and want that drove away
lingering shadows of loneliness that haunted the both of them. Jonathan
came with a sigh, his release triggering Ardeth’s. The other man
collapsed bonelessly on top of him and the Englishman relished the warm
weight of him.
Jonathan reached down and snagged the blanket at the end of the bed,
pulling it up and over them before they could chill. He kissed Ardeth
again, lazy, lingering kisses that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to give up.
He settled deeper into Ardeth’s embrace. “You’ll stay?”
The dark-eyed man brushed a kiss over Jonathan’s collarbone. “So
you need me.”
Jonathan nodded. “What friends are for,” he mumbled.
“Friends...and lovers.” The words chased him down into slumber,
away nightmares and cradling him as strongly as the arms wrapped around