AUTHOR'S NOTE: I find it weird that Moses never officially apologizes for humiliating Tzipporah. They really needed to talk and work through some things.
This is based on the film.
After Moses recovers in the Midian camp, he goes in search of Tzipporah.
The former prince, only at the start of his self-imposed exile, scans the tents. Life is simple here compared to the excessive luxuries of Egypt, yet now he finds he prefers it. The nomads wear wool instead of dyed silk and fine white linen, but they're far happier than the pharaoh's family he left behind. Moses, however, doesn't see the object of his search among the wanderers.
He does notice a boy watching him. The child can't be more than seven or eight, and his eyes are wide with awe. It's a feeling Moses admittedly is used to as a prince. A former prince, he reminds himself.
"Have you seen Tzipporah?" he questions the boy.
"Not since this morning," the child replies.
"Do you know–"
"Are you the prince who came from the well?" the boy interrupts innocently with a smile, missing a front tooth. He says it as if he thinks being Egyptian royalty is a good thing, and it makes Moses' gut clench like a viper.
"I… I was," Moses admits. "But no longer."
"Joshua!" the high priest's second eldest Ephorah calls.
Jethro joins Moses, and the pair watch Joshua dash after Ephorah, Ajolidoforah, and Jethrodiadah.
"Where is Tzipporah?" Moses asks the priest. "I must speak with her."
"She is with the flock, on the edge of camp," Jethro replies, and they hear Joshua laugh with Jethrodiadah. "It is good of you to be kind to Joshua. His parents Nun and Chavala died only just recently."
Moses is stunned. "Oh, how awful. He is so young."
"The arrival of a prince is the only news to make the lad smile," Jethro adds. "So I have another reason to thank you."
"It is I who should thank you, for taking me in," Moses insists. "Yet there is something imperative I must say to Tzipporah."
"By all means," the priest says with a knowing smile as Moses heads off.
Moses finds Tzipporah watching over her father's sheep.
He hesitates, but leaving isn't an option. To feel any peace among these people, Moses has to make things right with the priest's eldest daughter. He makes his way through the flock, who glance at him only to return to grazing. Out in the desert, at least the sheep don't judge him. Tzipporah, however, is not so at ease. She doesn't even look at him, but Moses sees tension lining her wiry body.
"May I speak with you?"
She still doesn't acknowledge him.
"If you wish for me to leave, I will," he says. "I only want to apologize."
She finally turns, raising an eyebrow. "A prince, apologize to me?"
"Yes, about when we first met," he explains. Her eyes harden.
"I am sorry for everything that happened," he begins. "I did not want you to be given to me, like a bauble. I had no idea you had been brought to the palace. I did not ask for you, Rameses made the order. And though you were already gone when I came to my chambers–"
She tenses again, and he doesn't blame her.
"–but please know I would never have harmed you, or forced you to… to…"
He has only ever bowed to one person before, his adopted father Seti. Moses had knelt at the statues of the Egyptian gods, most often Ra, and of course everyone below Moses in rank groveled to the adopted royal. Princes do not bow to peasant shepherdesses. But now the exile Moses kneels before Tzipporah in the dry grass. "I am truly sorry all of that happened, and I beseech your forgiveness."
Her silence is deafening.
"There is a part of me that doesn't want to forgive you," Tzipporah says at last. "You didn't stop the crown prince Rameses from sending me to your bed like a prize."
He keeps looking at the grass and thinks, That's it, she hates you, and for good reason. You tried apologizing and it didn't work.
"But you allowed me to escape, helped me to," she adds, and he looks up. "You kept the guards from finding me. You didn't ravish me, you let me go. And now you protected my younger sisters, not to mention our sheep who are our livelihood. You even willingly rejected Egypt's corruption. But I do have one question," she goes on. "Why did you leave? What made you flee such an opulent life?"
He sighs, running a hand through his hair. "I began noticing the horrific treatment of my father's slaves. I should have before, but Miriam and Aaron opened my eyes. I only just discovered they are my sister and brother, and that I am a Hebrew myself. I never knew before." Moses pauses. "Then I saw an overseer flogging a slave, a helpless old man who had done nothing wrong. No one else did anything, but I couldn't look away. When I intervened, I accidentally pushed the overseer off the scaffolding, and he… He died. I couldn't stay, not even when Rameses begged me to. Not only had I unintentionally killed a man, I knew I didn't belong at court. And I couldn't remain with the man I once called father, who ordered the murder of Hebrew slave children. I couldn't. So I fled into the desert dunes. My old life is dead. I can only hope to build a new one here, a simple and good one. But if you wish for me to leave, I will."
"You changed since we last met," she says after a moment. "I will not begrudge a refugee beginning a new life. If you want to start over with us, then you are free to do so. God spared you for a reason, and what that is, I don't know. But I won't turn you away."
"You are too kind."
Her dark eyes are a bit softer. "I find that I might forgive you after all."
She smiles at him for the first time. It's faint, only the corner of her mouth turning up, but it's there. "Yes."
"I do not deserve it, but thank you," he says gratefully as he stands. "May I…?"
She nods. As he sits beside her, he takes in her appearance for the first time, as a man to a woman. In Egypt when she'd been gifted to him, he'd hardly been able to look her in the eye. He'd certainly hadn't want to ogle her like other men gazed at women like pieces of meat. But now Moses appreciates her looks. She's strong, lean, and very capable of living in the harsh wilderness, unlike him. He is thin from wandering across the ocean of fire - but before crossing the desert, he'd been soft at the pharaoh's court in Waset. He'd never starved, suffered, or even worked a day in his life after being adopted by the royal family. Now he is even more aware of his shortcomings. Her cheek bones are sharp, her curly hair black as night, and body toned from a hardworking life. She is no soft and delicate whisp of a woman like Nefertari, the princess of Sheba who Rameses is intended to marry. Tzipporah is beautiful, but there's also a fire in her. Moses wants to kiss her, but now isn't the right moment.
She has every right to hate him. Yet despite how he humiliated her, they share another smile as sheep bleat around them. And Moses starts to hope that maybe, just maybe, he has a future here.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For years, I had a headcanon that the boy who Moses saves at the end of the Red Sea parting scene is Joshua, the successor of Moses who lead the Hebrews after him. Technically in the Torah and the Bible, Joshua was born a Hebrew slave and was freed in the Exodus, but I decided to include Joshua here as a Midianite. I've always imagined in the universe of The Prince of Egypt, that Moses and Tzipporah adopt Joshua.
Today the capital of modern Egypt is Cairo. Cleopatra ruled from Alexandria while Julius Caesar came to power in Rome. However, the capital in Seti's time was Waset (more commonly called by the Greek name Thebes). In history, the real Rameses moved the capital from Waset to Pi-Ramesses (modern Qantir). But in The Prince of Egypt, Rameses clearly still lives in his father's palace when he becomes pharaoh himself. So even though Alexandria or Cairo are more recognizable, I wanted to put in some real history into this fic.
Nefertari was likely Egyptian in real life, and probably was related to Rameses. However, in the original cast of The Prince of Egypt West End musical (which I am aching to see), Nefertari is portrayed as a black woman. This is all based on speculation about a show I've never seen, but I independently wanted to include Sheba, the land that the queen of Sheba (who once visited King Solomon) ruled. But I'll say this - sibling marriages and cousin marriages were the norm in the Egyptian royal family, but the real Rameses and Nefertari didn't seem to be closely related. So the musical might contradict what I came up with for Nefertari, but I'm keeping it for now.
And I just have to say, it took way too long for The Prince of Egypt to become a stage musical.