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Walking With The Dead

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter fourteen

 

It was verging on 2 am and Rowan still wasn't comfortable. Despite the fact that he was in his own bed for a change. Despite the fact that Sai was sitting propped up against the head of his bed, one hand leisurely stroking Rowan's hair, the other holding a book concerning Egyptian mythology and magic against his knees, occasionally reading passages that he didn't understand or that caught his attention to Rowan out loud. Rowan's head hurt just a little too much for reading. He was enjoying the stroke of Sai's fingers against his brow and the warmth of Sai's thigh against his cheek..

"This is all very confusing." Sai complained. "They seem to have had a god for everything."

"Hummm." Rowan agreed, wondering if Sai would let him have another percadin tonight. Sai's pajama's smelled good. Freshly laundered and fresh, like Rowan's sheets, which Sai had washed and fluffed and arranged before he'd let Rowan lay down in his own bed. Which meant Rowan had snoozed on the couch for an hour or two after they'd dragged into the house late that afternoon fresh from city and hospital and hours of dry discussion with their Egyptian expert.

Maybe that was why he couldn't fall asleep now. Or maybe it was subconscious worry. Or maybe it was the light, casual touch of Sai's fingertips.

"I'm still very uncertain about this plan of yours." Sai brought up for the umpteenth time.

"Can we not talk any more about it tonight?" Rowan asked, turning his face a little to catch more of Sai's warmth. "Let it rest tonight and maybe we'll get a new perspective on it tomorrow."

A sigh. Sai's knuckles brushed his cheek. "I wish you'd go to sleep. You need your rest."

"I'm trying. Just can't seem to find that essential bit of comfort that'll let me. If I had another pill ---?"

"No. You've already had the dosage for tonight. Does it hurt that bad?"

Rowan opened his eyes to find Sai leaning over him, full mouth twitching down in concern. Those big green eyes of his were so serious. Sai took illness very earnestly. Rowan couldn't help but reach up and pull him down by the ear for a kiss. A light brush of the lips that just felt -- heavenly. He twined his fingers in the hair at the back of Sai's neck and kept him down for a more thorough kiss. The fleeting brush of soft lips wasn't enough. Rowan had a taste for something more substantial. For the moist slickness of the inside of Sai's lips and the underside of his tongue, for the taste of the tea he'd had tonight and the simple flavor of Sai himself which Rowan hadn't sampled in just too damn long.

"Rowan----" Sai murmured, when they broke for breath. "-- we shouldn't. Your injuries --"

"Do you know how long its been since I've had sex that wasn't a solo exercise?"

Sai lifted a brow and canted his head to the side. "I have a notion."

"Yeah, well, you ought to."

Sai blushed a little and pulled back. Rowan lifted a somewhat desperate hand to his leg, running his fingers up the underside of Sai's knee and around to his inner thigh. He used the hold to keep Sai from bolting, because the look in Sai's eye hinted that flight was on his mind.

"Sai -- we haven't really talked about -- what happened with Seiji. I mean not about how you feel about it. Are you okay?"

"It wasn't Seiji, Rowan." Sai reminded him gently.

"Yeah, whoever. The point is -- is--" he didn't know how to phrase it. He didn't know how to ask whether this last attack by Seiji or the bitch who was walking in his body had fucked Sai up as much as the incident before with the murdering psycho who'd cut him up and tried much the same thing months ago.

"Rowan --" Sai placed two fingers over his lips and bent down to press his lips on Rowan's forehead. "I'm okay. I half wanted it to happen --- maybe more than half -- I don't know. I was so confused and he -- she was feeding all that confusion and all that anger and resentment towards you. Maybe it would be worse if it had been directed at all towards me. If it had been a personal affront, but it wasn't. She did it to hurt you and I just happened to be the handiest method of doing that. And I let it happen. I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry, Rowan."

"I told you I forgive you. I told you we were even." Rowan reminded him.

"But how can you, really? I wanted to -- to be with Seiji."

"So what? Like I wouldn't lay him if he gave me the chance. He's a fucking hot piece of ass when you get past the annoying personality traits."

"Rowan!" Sai sat back, a little offended furrow between his brows. "You haven't ---? Have you?"

Rowan smothered a grin. "Now you want me to give up all my secrets.'

"Rowan! Tell me!"

"Not since I've been with you. Not while I was sober."

Sai blinked. Sai thought about the time specifics of that answer. "While we were fighting against the Dynasty -- the first time around? You and Seiji --?'

Rowan shrugged. "Does it piss you off?"

"Nooooo." Sai admitted slowly. "I just don't understand how you found the time."

"I didn't say it was a long, drawn out thing. Like I said. I was drunk."

"Was he?"

"Uhhhh, pretty much."

"Oh, Rowan." Sai shook his head, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

"I'd rather have you."

"I know that." A little curtly.

Rowan's lips twitched and he let his hand slide up between Sai's legs. Sai squirmed a little and complained.

"We can't. I'll hurt you."

"No you won't. I'm hurting now just thinking about you. Here, feel?" he caught Sai's hand and drew it down between his own legs. Sai's fingers tentatively brushed the rigid flesh lying against Rowan's belly.

"I hope this is from thoughts about me and not all that talk about you and Seiji."

"Its all you, baby." Rowan promised and it was mostly true.

"No, we can't. You're not well. You've got broken ribs and all sorts of other damages."

"Oh, yes, I can. You do all the work and I'll just lie back and enjoy. 'Kay, Sai? Please?" He patted his thigh and gave Sai his most imploring look.

"I really don't think the doctor would approve."

"I know he wouldn't approve, but I don't wanna fuck him. I wanna fuck you." He urged Sai down for another lingering kiss, running his hand along Sai's back, drawing his nightshirt up so that he might have access to the smooth flesh underneath. Sai let out a breathy moan against his mouth. Sai was trying to not rest his weight on Rowan's torso, both his hands busy supporting his weight as he leaned over Rowan, which gave Rowan unobstructed roaming rights to his body. He had his night shirt unbuttoned and his pajama bottoms unlaced and halfway down his hips before Sai gave in and sat up, fumbling in the dresser drawer for the handy tube of lubricant. Rowan made a silent little victory fist when Sai's back was turned.

"You're not to exert yourself." Sai told him sternly, even as he was tugging at Rowan's boxers. Rowan lay back with a euphoric, clench-toothed, grin on his lips as Sai's clever fingers greased his twitching member with lube. He gasped and swallowed back the cry that wanted to burst from his lips as Sai straddled him and slowly, excruciatingly impaled himself on Rowan's flesh.

It did hurt. Sort of. There were obviously muscles and things in direct relationship to Rowan's loins that were not prepared for the sudden jolt of sensation and physical tumult that was taking place.

It was some of the best sex he could easily remember, regardless. Maybe it was the combination of the pleasure and pain that made it so. Maybe it was the long abstinence.

He wanted to commit murder when the phone rang. It broke Sai's rhythm. Sai's eyes opened and he faltered and Rowan thought if he broke it off now he was going to just die.

"Ignore it." He gasped. "Kento'll get it."

The phone kept ringing. "Kento could sleep --- gasp gasp ---through the house being bombed." Sai panted.

"Fine. They'll call back."

"But what -- pant pant -- if it's an emergency?"

"Fuck 'em."

"I have to get that." Sai did the unthinkable. Sai lifted his delectable rear and swung neatly off of Rowan. He could have plunged a knife into Rowan's heart and not been half so cruel.

"Now that did hurt!" Rowan wailed. "Nasty, round-eyed, British, son of a ---"

"Oh be quiet, Rowan." Sai was looking for the cell phone. "Where is that phone. I wish you were neater."

"Bitch." Rowan finished under his breath and rolled over to the other side of the bed to fumble around on the floor for the insistently beeping cell phone. He snatched it up and flipped it open.

"If you're trying to sell me something, I'm gonna fucking hunt you down and kill you." Rowan growled ominously into the receiver. "I may do it anyway."

There was, what might have been a long, stunned silence.

"Do you have any idea what you fucking interrupted?" he yelled into the phone, thinking wrong number or prank call. Sai frowned at him for his bad phone manners.

"Ro--rowan?" A hesitant, vastly uncertain utterance of his name from the other end of a faintly staticy connection.

He blinked and pushed himself up with a grunt of pain.

"Ryo? Zat you, Ryo?"

"You're alive?" Breathy. Afraid to ask the obvious.

"No, you're talking to my fucking ghost. Where the hell are you?"

Silence again. The sound of soft, uneven breaths being drawn. Like Ryo was hurt or upset or trying not to let on that he was crying.

"Fuck. Ryo? You okay. What's wrong?"

"Is that Ryo? Where is he?" Sai was hovering over his shoulder. He waved him off in annoyance.

"Talk at me, man."

"I'm okay. I thought --- I thought you were --"

"Yeah, well I'm not. Seiji tell you that?"

More silence. Ryo was upset. Maybe more. He could feel it over the line.

"Where are you?"

"Cairo. Japanese Embassy."

"Cairo? Egypt?"

"Yeah."

"Seiji's there?"

"Yeah."

"With you?"

Another long pause. "No."

"Can you find him?"

"No. Maybe."

"Okay. Don't loose track of him, Ryo. We'll get there as fast as we can. Understand?" He had to ask, because Ryo didn't sound like he was holding it together. Ryo sounded distraught and shell-shocked and without purpose. Ryo needed purpose to function, without it he would flounder. So Rowan gave it to him.

"Ryo if you loose track of him, we're not gonna be able to get him back from her, understand me? She'll take him over for good and he'll just be gone. You leave word at the embassy where you are or check back there tomorrow so we can hook up. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Hold tight, man. We're coming. We can fix this. I promise."

"- - - -Okay, Rowan - - - - is everybody all right, there?"

"Yeah, we're fine."

The connection clicked off. He sat there holding the phone to his ear, breathing hard. Sai sat behind him, impatiently waiting to hear what Ryo had said.

"Go make sure our passports are up to date. We're going to Egypt."

 

*

 

She sat before a scratched and peeling mirror and stared at a face that didn't belong to her. Not really. Not the one she had been born with that she could hardly remember. She might not have recalled the features of her old self at all, if not for the numerous cheap reproductions of her bust for sale in the markets of Cairo. She didn't know whether to be flattered or not. The busts, she thought, were somewhat more perfect than the real thing had been. Somewhat more idolized, but then again, she had been the wife of a god. But not a god herself. Not to the populace. Not like Anenhotep had styled himself to be.

She'd been beautiful enough. But Anenhotep hadn't married her for her beauty, he'd married her for the alliances she brought to Egypt. And in the end, she hadn't been pious enough for him, or obedient or faithful. And he had punished her for it. But she got the last laugh after all. He was marooned in hell while she was free to walk the earth again, empowered by a new beautiful body and a godsent little crystal that allowed her the power of the gods themselves. She was more perfect now than she'd ever been in her first life. More powerful. Freer than she might ever have imagined being. It came with her present sex. Times hadn't changed that much. Being a woman still meant a body had limitations. Being a man -- oh, that was very, very different. Being an affluent one, a beautiful one, a vastly powerful one -- why she might conquer worlds.

He didn't like the notion of that much. He stirred within the depths, restless and wary-- breaking out of the lethargy she forced upon him in spurts, then settling back in self-loathing when he could not break her power. She adored him, in a way. Loved the creature that he was, the grace of his body and the fire of his soul. She would keep him forever, bottled up and sedate inside her, always close. Always under her control.

She did not feel remorse, for he was beneath her in status. He was common, despite all the wealth and beauty and mystical power. And the commoners lived to toil for the elite. Was it not always so? Would it not always be, one way or another? The commoner that dared to deny or insult a queen of Egypt should be extinguished like a weak flame. Rowan had more than deserved it. Ryo did, time and time again -- but Ryo held a special place in her/his heart and might be allowed lenience.

He stirred again as her thoughts drifted down that path. Warning her of a struggle he couldn't win if she insisted on dwelling on all the discipline she thought ought to be dealt for the crimes against her. He'd fight her for Ryo and she had too many other things on her mind to lend attention to that. So she let her thoughts drift to other things.

Thought of the arrangements she had made for the river trip to Akhetaten, or as the modern world called it, Tel-el Amarna, the city Anenhotep had built when he'd insisted on moving the capital from Thebes down river. He'd had an abhorrence for the common man. For the common man's religious beliefs. They'd hated him for that; the priests and the politicians and all the wealthy who made their money off the worship of Egypt's old gods. She'd cultivated alliances with his enemies. She'd created a following of her own back then, which was by far more loyal than any Anenhotep had had. Loyal to the end and loyal through the ages. It had taken a bit of doing to find the ancestors of her loyal following -- even more to convince them who she was -- But she knew things. And the power of Halo had helped. A bit of mysticism to dazzle the minds of the religiously fanatic. A bit of ceremony to concrete it.

She lifted the stick of kohl to her eyelid, tracing the outside of eye, drawing a line up at the outside edge to lend it an exotic flavor. He had long eyes to begin with, with thick, gold tipped lashes that veiled the splendid ice blue of his eyes. The black of the kohl made a startling contrast against that blue. Against his pale cheeks. It made him seem hedonistic and lush, it made him seem something more than what he was and it made her feel reministic to apply it.

She let the hair she'd tucked behind an ear fall back down, veiling his eyes even more, lending an air of mystery to the kohl rimmed orbs.

There was a rap on the door. A tentative knock that she answered absently. The priest slipped in. He spoke a word in Arabic and she answered in the old tongue, because it pleased her to hear it on her lips and it awed him to hear this body she wore uttering it. He was the product of gods knew how many generations of legend and tradition passed down from father to son. Some of what he knew was twisted. Time did that. Frail human mentality changed the truth sometimes to fit the time and their own beliefs. He knew enough to satisfy her needs. He could get her to Akhetaten and the royal burial grounds beyond it. The only royal burial grounds that existed on the eastern side of the Nile. Another of Anenhotep's grand notions. But one perhaps that would work to her benefit if she were to reunite Ba with Ka. If she were to find that vessel that trapped an essential part of her and release it to become whole again.

He looked at her, this man, this grizzled priest, with fervent hunger in his eyes. She was the summation of his dreams, of all his beliefs, after all. No matter that she wore a man's body, he could hardly keep his eyes from her. His hands trembled with emotion in her presence, his heart raced. His sun weathered skin sheened with sweat. He would have worshipped this body as he worshipped the ideal of a long dead queen, if she'd let him. He might have desired it regardless of her presence for all she knew, young and smooth and golden as it was.

But for now, there was a ceremony to endure. More for their piece of mind than hers. She was beyond such things. She didn't dread it, she rather thought it might calm her nerves, soothe the agitation of having days yet to wait until she might achieve her final goal.

 

*

 

Ryo wanted nothing so much, as he stood listening to the incomprehensible babble of the two of the Japanese security consultants for the embassy as they talked quickly and agitatedly to two native police officers in the lobby of the Japanese embassy, as a simple hamburger. He was hungry. He hated the native food He despised the native food. His stomach was rumbling for something greasy and bad for him and decidedly American. Early years spent in America had forever effected his tastes for food. A second generation Japanese-American father had. It was where he got his eyes, that bit of American blood mixed in with the other. The officials at the Japanese embassy had looked on him suspiciously when he'd first come because of his not quite 100 percent Japanese looks, his eyes and his not quite perfect Japanese accent. It wasn't his fault. He'd grown up with English as a first language. He hadn't really started picking on his native language, as his grandmother had liked to put it, until his father had died and he'd been dumped into her care. Then when she'd died -- well, sometimes the other children in the foster homes would make fun of it and his eyes, and that had led to a stubborn determination to fit in when it didn't lead to fights.

Without a passport, or identification or money of any sort, he'd had to talk long and fast to get the help of the embassy. He'd realized about mid-way through the interview that they were getting highly suspicious of his presence here without a passport and had floundered for a few miserable moments until one of the helpful older secretaries who had been looking at him like he was some rather fetching foundling abandoned in the strange streets of Cairo, had asked in a motherly voice if he'd been robbed.

He thought he looked the part. Shoeless and battered and shocked. He'd slowly nodded in affirmation, thinking that the less he actually spoke the lie, the better chance he'd have of getting away with it.. He was not unaware of his inability to get away with falsehoods. He most certainly wasn't prepared to tell them the truth.

So, they'd called the Cairo police to report the abuse of a Japanese citizen. They'd let him call home and --- god, god, god, --- Rowan had answered the phone. Rowan wasn't dead after all, and he'd sat stunned over that fact for most of the call. So stunned in fact that he hadn't thought to ask Rowan to wire him some money, so that he wasn't at the mercy of dubiously kind hearts here.

Which left him here, slouched against a wall, answering questions from the harassed looking police, translated to him by the interpreters.

What did they look like?

Well, they were dark haired and sort of swarthy and looked really middle-eastern. Which covered 100 percent of the native population and was really not a lie, except that he left off mentioning the blonde one.

Where did it happen?

Uhhh, I'm not really sure. Everything sort of looks the same -- no offense, really. Again, that was pure truth. He was having a notoriously hard time getting his bearings and he was usually quite good at finding his way about strange places.

There was really not much they could do for him. If his fictional passport showed up, they'd contact the embassy. They left post-haste having by far better things to do. Ryo wondered what he was going to do, having instructions from Rowan -- a real live Rowan -- to keep track of Seiji. He was morbidly certain that he hadn't a chance in hell of retracing his path to the old temple. He'd not been in the best state of mind at the time of his flight. He'd paused once to throw up and several times after to dry-retch when there was nothing left to expel out of his stomach. The taste was still lingering in his mouth after all this time. If he ever saw that guy again, he was going to seriously consider committing murder.

It made him think of the hamburger again, in hopes of finding something to erase the ghost of the flavor lingering in the back of his mouth. One of Kento's thick, juicy numbers cooked out on the grill. Maybe a plate full of them in front of him and the TV set on ESPN all day long and a cooler full of cokes -- no, a cooler full of beer -- he thought he decidedly deserved a few six packs of beer to send him into happy oblivion, and he might be content. At least for a little while. At least until the memories resurfaced and the worries.

So with a few bills of the local currency loaned to him by the matronly secretary, he set out determinedly to follow Rowan's instructions. To try and retrace his path and hope that Seiji was still around and hope even more that he wasn't caught doing it. He wasn't quite ready to plunge himself back into that ordeal yet.

 

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