Author's Note: For Nt a Clue Hw 2 Spll Annymus for the lovely review. I hope this is to the same standard as Butterflies.
MOTH TO A FLAME
If there was one thing he really didn't like about England, Rick O'Connell mused, it was the weather. Having spent most of his life in and around Egypt, he was used to the scorching sun, the oppressive heat and the parched land. At least there it was dependable, with the occasional storm thrown in for good measure. In London, however, the weather was changeable at the drop of a hat and could be anything from a mild fog to a heavy downpour.
It was currently late October, and although the rains were yet to appear the wind was whipping up a storm outside. From where Rick was sat on the large window ledge in the drawing room, it was like Imhotep had found a way to follow them out of Egypt and was rallying the air to do his bidding much like he had with the sand. Rick had found the drawing room to be a quiet sanctuary he could retreat to when he wanted to be alone; whether to absorb another facet of the society he'd just been introduced to, or just to think over his day. Evelyn had her library (which she rarely spent time away from) and Jonathan had immediately made a beeline for the cellar the day they moved into the mansion and hadn't been seen much since.
It had been a scant few months since they'd returned from Cairo, managing to sneak their treasure through and buying a large mansion on the outskirts of London. Rick would have been happier with something smaller, and to be honest from the look on Evelyn's face when she'd first seen the place she would have been too, but the thought that Jonathan could have his own wing, not too close to them but yet still be under their watchful eyes was the main reason they'd taken it. The rest of the treasure was secure in their safe and would be 'discovered' on various digs, to allow them to legitimately provide the British Museum with some of the more historically important pieces. One such piece had already found its way to the museum's collection, and in thanks there was a ball that night to bring all the patrons, benefactors and scholars together.
Rick tugged uncomfortably at the collar on his suit. They were supposed to be leaving in half an hour and he could hear Jonathan rattling around somewhere but Evelyn had gone suspiciously quiet. He supposed she'd stepped into the bath after a particularly busy day of rearranging the library – something she only did when highly stressed. He'd give her another ten minutes and then try to wrestle her into a dress so they could go off to face high society.
Having been an orphaned child in Cairo, Rick was more comfortable amongst the lower echelons, and his joining the Legion had only upped his social standing to just-above-the-lower-echelons. Since he'd come to England they'd been thrust into the limelight and had the cream of society calling at their door, if only to try to rub shoulders with those that had money, and it was something he hated with a passion. He had nothing in common with these people (except, maybe, Jonathan) and he knew their friendship would last as long as their money did. At least in Cairo if someone was holding a knife to your throat you knew where you stood with them. The museum's directors had been making noises about Evelyn's various applications but Rick could see they were stringing it out until she 'found' something else of value and he hated the way her face lit up every time they send through a 'letter of consideration'.
He missed the simple life he'd come from. Eat, sleep, survive. Even meeting Evelyn and Jonathan hadn't changed much; so he'd gained a love interest and her brother, but they were still in familiar surroundings and he knew who to deal with and how to deal with them. Here he felt way out of his depth and stupid when surrounded by Evelyn's peers. When they started off on one over some piece of pottery or another, they started bandying about words of five or more syllables that left him trying to figure out the first whilst they'd moved onto the next sentence, and it made him angry. Angry with himself, that he couldn't understand what they were saying, and angry with them for rubbing it in his face.
He checked his watch and sighed, one last glance out the window at the early evening sky dark with clouds revealing the wind was stronger than before, making him wonder if there wasn't a storm coming. He hoped it would wait until they'd returned to the house after the ball, to ensure they got home safely, but had suspicions they only had to step outside the front door to invite the rain that was threatening. As he stood and scrutinised his faint reflection in the glass, he had to admit that he scrubbed up well, but wished that he were in something a little more comfortable than the starched suit he'd been forced to buy by Jonathan. His wardrobe included some very comfortable suits but apparently they weren't for evenings, which had led him to question exactly why suits had a time-of-day attached to them. Surely they were just suits?
Another sigh escaped him as he made his way upstairs to find the bathroom conspicuously empty of the female form, and a check of the bedroom revealed a similar emptiness. The dusty clothes of the day were in a small pile by the entrance to Evelyn's dressing room, and it never failed to amuse him that whilst she was so neat and scrupulous in her cataloguing and work her absentmindedness lent itself to messiness in her everyday life.
He headed back downstairs again, knowing where to find her. She'd obviously spent some time changing and beautifying herself (he always argued that she didn't need 'beautifying' and it would gain him an affectionate but tolerant look before she ushered him away) before she'd gone back to the relative calm of her sanctuary.
As he stepped into the confines of the library, he saw a moth fluttering around one of the electric light bulbs, its wings beating ineffectually at the glass surrounding the lit filament. He was bemused to find himself feeling somewhat sympathetic with the moth; at times he felt Evelyn was his bright, alluring light bulb and he was merely fluttering in her periphery, although he knew this to be untrue. Evelyn was the light in his life, true, but she wasn't unreachable. He'd proved that when he'd proposed to her a few weeks after the Hamunaptra affair, in a move more suited to a romantic fop than an ex-Legionnaire, which had surprisingly sent Jonathan off into a long rambling speech about how his baby sister had finally grown up and that he would hurt Rick if he ever hurt her and would they please keep the kissy-kissy to a minimum around him?
They'd come to England as newlyweds, much to the horror of the ever-disliked aunt who'd spouted off about how Evelyn had married below her station and how she'd ruined the name of the family and she should have at least waited to get to England so she could have had a wedding befitting her and continued on in this vein until Jonathan had grabbed the receiver from Evelyn's hand and slammed it back on the telephone. Evelyn was still reeling from the bitter tone her aunt had used when Rick had taken her upstairs and proved to her exactly why she didn't need distant relatives when she had him.
He still enjoyed referring to Evelyn as his wife, and from the small smile that graced her lips every time she said the word husband, she still thoroughly enjoyed it too.
He moved further into the library, the stillness only broken by the soft sounds of pages turning and the wind rattling the windowpanes infrequently. He followed the rustling to find his wife perched on the edge of a window ledge, her lithe body clad in a soft silk dress that covered most of her yet left little to the imagination.
He sucked in a breath when he saw her hair curled up and pinned to reveal the nape of her neck. He'd always thought that he'd be more of a legs or 'décolletage' man, but the sight of her bare neck was enough to send his insides into paroxysms of joy and his fingers itched to trace the line of soft, pale skin. She hadn't appeared to have heard him, and he stepped up behind her to lean against the wall, resting his hands lightly on her shoulders and giving in to the temptation to brush his lips over her skin. She responded by slamming the book closed in fright, but didn't move too far from his touch. He grinned against her skin; she was learning.
"Darling, I didn't hear you come in."
"I know," he breathed in her ear, and she leaned back against his muscular body as his hands slid down her arms and crossed over her to hold her. "And you know we have five minutes before we need to leave."
She sighed softly, fingers tapping lightly against the book cover as it rested on the window ledge. "I'm sorry, I was ready but there was something I wanted to check..."
He grinned and tugged lightly on a lock of hair that had fallen free of the pins, and she tilted her head back to look up at him as he studied her. "Do we have to go?"
"Of course we do. Jonathan would never let us hear the end of it and the patrons of the museum are expecting us to be present," she replied, but he could hear the note of uncertainty in her voice. She was fidgeting with the fabric of the skirt and he knew how she hated these social events as much as he did. She was a woman in a male-dominated profession, which had encouraged her habit of wearing shapeless, covering clothes and delving into her books in an effort to make them take her more seriously. Rick had helped her find her feminine side, which had had the effect of dazzling some of the men more than her knowledge and work, and he was glad that she was still fairly oblivious and naïve to such advances. The ring on her finger helped, too.
They would both much prefer to be out in Egypt, digging and discovering (hopefully without reading another large book aloud), and it was this that Evelyn was thinking of when she next spoke. "I miss Egypt."
"Me too." Rick's arms tightened around her to comfort her, and she rested her forehead against his jaw. "We're going to spend Christmas out in Egypt."
"Really?" her face lit up and he knew that she missed it as much as he did, although he knew their reasons were different.
"We did kinda miss out on the whole honeymoon thing..." That was true; they'd returned to England straight after the wedding and been so involved in moving house and then presenting the museum with knowledge and treasure that they'd forgotten to take time for themselves. He'd already planned Christmas – with Jonathan's help – and they'd take a couple of weeks away from even him so they could have a proper honeymoon. He'd been planning to surprise her with it when they reached Cairo but he suspected she already knew something was afoot, even if she didn't know the details. Jonathan was never very good with secrets.
"I know." She sighed lightly, watching the first drops of rain catch on the windowpane. "Rick, I really don't want to go tonight. All those people...they're going to want to talk to me..."
There was the problem. She'd been so introverted for so long that even though she could hold her own in a lengthy academic debate, she wilted at the thought of being thrust into the limelight in a social situation, even if said situation was mainly academic. "Come on, Evie. You're brave, you just have to get through tonight and then we can think about Egypt."
She moved out of his embrace and over to a bookcase where she slid the tome she'd been reading neatly back into its place. "I'm not brave, Rick, that's you."
He crossed his arms over his chest and regarded her with a small amount of impatience. "Evie, you fought a dead guy bent on destroying the world. And won." True, she'd been the one to raise him from the dead in the first place, but no one really expected the Egyptologist's shouted warning to come true. Besides, when faced with the fact that said dead guy was walking about and gaining power, all Rick had wanted to do was run the opposite direction and she'd effectively stamped her dainty little foot and refused to budge. He suspected that said more about her stubborn morality than it did his self-preservation instinct, especially when he'd seen the fire-rain and found Henderson being finished off by the ugly son of a bitch and ended up staying to help her.
Apparently wanting to ignore this little argument they tended to have, one that came up often but with different sides being taken each time, she picked up a wrap that had been flung onto the reading desk and slipped it round her shoulders. "Fine. But this is the last one we're going to. Then we can start looking at our next dig."
That was fine by him. They'd agreed the best way to bring the treasures to the museum was by finding them in various digs over the next few years, which meant they had to go on these digs. Since the museum liked to see results, it had gone in their favour and they'd be able to get permission from the Department of Antiquities out in Egypt when they wanted (some smaller items would also find their way there just to keep the department on their side) they'd found a way to balance their life. They'd met in the midst of an adventure, and they both found that returning to England had somewhat dampened their spirits. The first few weeks had been a mild worry to both of them that they'd rushed into the marriage but he knew that the sooner they had a plan for their future, the better. And the digs were something that appealed to both his interest in treasure and her unwavering need to delve deeper into discoveries of historical importance.
Although he'd have to try and get her to attend a few more balls. Granted, they both hated the social scene but the sight of Evelyn in a gown was rare and he intended to enjoy it when he could. He reached out to her, giving her a quick hug as the sound of Jonathan's slightly off key singing gradually increased. He pressed a kiss to her forehead and smiled down at her. "Have I told you how beautiful you look lately?"
She blushed and smacked his lapel with the back of her hand. "You smooth talker you. Now, let's go so you can buy me a drink and pretend we know how to dance."
Grinning, he led her out of the library. As he passed through the doors he flipped the switch to turn off the lights, and the filaments in the bulbs dimmed before being extinguished. The door closed firmly behind him and the moth was left in near darkness.