Author's Note: Happy Birthday to Nt A Clue Hw 2 Spll Annymus! As promised, one ficlet. Hope you like :) I know this is a cliché and been done lots of times but it's fun, and I like a bit of fluffy goodness every so often.
CHALEUR DU CORPS
"What now?" Evelyn asked O'Connell.
"We try to keep warm till morning. You do know how to cuddle, don't you?"
She smirked at him, arms folded over her breasts. "When the occasion calls for it."
- Max Allan Collins, "The Mummy" novelisation
The fire was crackling loudly as Rick stoked it, enjoying the warmth that was slowly seeping back into his bones. The quick dip in the Nile had done wonders for their tempers but the temperature had dropped quickly and since most of their belongings were at the bottom of said river, the ragtag bunch were left trying to find any means to keep themselves warm. Jonathan had curled himself into a small ball after about half an hour of moaning about the loss of his drink of choice (which Rick found changed from one moment to the next) and was fast asleep, whimpering quietly. To his left, the warden was flat out on his back, mouth hanging open as he snored inconsistently. Rick was surprised he didn't wake himself, but when he spotted the partially hidden bottle of alcohol tucked in the crook of the other man's arm, the surprise made way for scorn.
It was the third member of their unusual group that had most of Rick's attention however. Miss Evelyn Carnahan, contradiction extraordinaire. She was perched delicately next to him, as close to the fire as she dared in her flimsy nightgown. Rick had spent a fair amount of time admiring the body that she'd been hiding under her shapeless clothes, and much to his delight (and Evelyn's chagrin) her swim in the cold waters of the river had meant the nightgown had clung to her body, revealing more than she would have liked. She hadn't noticed until she caught sight of his slack-jawed expression, and then had started wringing out the water to cover her embarrassment. The blush staining her cheeks hadn't gone unnoticed by the soldier, and he'd filed it away for future reference. Even now, as she stared into the flames and lost herself in her thoughts (and what he wouldn't give to know what was in that mind of hers), she was unaware that Rick was happily taking in the view of her curves as the light from the fire turned the nightgown translucent yet again.
Rick had never been one to try and understand women, not even in the slightest. His experience was one of all soldiers; the women in the cities he'd been stationed in with the Legion had been conquests; weaknesses; a way to relieve tension. But there was something different about Evelyn. She'd caught his interest the moment she'd stepped over her brother as he lay in the sand after Rick had punched him in the prison. She hadn't stopped and flailed and fainted; she'd moved on with a single-minded determination that had both amused and (if he were honest) aroused him, both intellectually and physically. And the journey so far had been a chance for Rick to unravel the mystery that was Evelyn Carnahan...without much luck.
Evelyn stirred from her thoughts and Rick was brought back to reality. He realised that she was shivering and curling in on herself to try and preserve the warmth from the fire, and he spoke without hesitation. "You know, that offer of cuddling still stands."
Evelyn turned her head, but didn't move. "It's a very good excuse to get your hands on me, Mr O'Connell, but I'm fine thank you very much."
She was frustrating the way she blew hot and cold, he had to admit, but that made the challenge all the more interesting. "You're freezing. I can see you shivering."
"I'm sure I'll survive."
He knew it was her own twisted way of trying to make up to herself after that blatant flirting earlier, but he took pity on her anyway and picked up his jacket which was very nearly dry. He leant forward and draped it over her shoulders, deliberately brushing his hands down her arms in an attempt to encourage her, and as if it had been the signal she was waiting for, Evelyn scooted back a little. He caught her gently and tugged her against his side, one arm curled lightly round her waist, and she found that she didn't mind it so much after all. "See, it's not so bad."
She tilted her head up to him and gave him a searching look. Her hair was still drying out and she had pulled it to one side to keep it out of the way. Her heart-shaped face was framed by little wispy ringlets that had pulled free as they dried, and the effect softened her features. "I do hope you don't get too used to this, Mr O'Connell." But the words were tempered by a small smile lifting the corners of her full lips, and he chuckled in return.
"Surely by now you can call me Rick."
"But that would mean you would have to call me Evelyn," she countered, and his grin widened.
"Or worse – maybe 'Evie'," he replied, and she rolled her eyes. He merely tightened his grip around her as they quietened down and listened to the sounds of the desert at night. For a young Englishwoman, Evelyn seemed to be perfectly happy in the desert, which was something he'd never come across before. Most women hated the sand and heat, but she just took it in her stride. There was a Bedouin village not far from where they were camping that night – not quite half a day's walk – and he had a feeling she'd be right at home there too. Another facet to the uptight school-ma'am facade she had presented when they first met.
Evelyn yawned lightly, but he could see she was trying to rein it in, and he tapped a finger on her elbow. "Perhaps we should lie down. We've got a long walk ahead of us tomorrow." He felt more than saw her nod of agreement, and after a little bit of shuffling he lay down facing the fire with Evelyn's back against his chest, so he could ensure she had the fire keeping her warm from the front and his body heat from behind. He curled one arm over her rather tiny waist, and for a moment he thought she would have something to say but she kept quiet.
He was by no means an intellectual man, but that didn't mean he wasn't intelligent in his own way. A lifetime of working with or fighting against people meant he read them very well, and his observations often led to enlightenments regarding even the most subtle behaviour or comments. Evelyn was proving to be much of a challenge when it came to reading her, but he had already started unravelling the mystery. One particular thing of interest was that nightfall was her security blanket. She felt safer in being almost herself at night; she became bolder. Rules were slackened, little by little, and he knew that he just had to have patience. If he'd made any throwaway comments during the day she'd have shot him down in an instant, but here she was, lying in his arms, the excuse of sharing body heat a pitiful cover for the fact they were flirting and dancing round one another like two teenagers on the brink of a romance.
He shifted his head minutely and a tendril of her hair brushed his cheek. She was resting comfortably in front of him, her breathing evening out a little, and he took the opportunity to take a small sniff of her hair before moving back, suddenly feeling a little embarrassed at behaviour more suited to a sap. But he still admired the light scent of perfume that clung to her after her swim, a floral scent that would be overpowering in heavy doses but seemed perfect for her.
A soft huff of breath alerted him to the fact she was still awake, and he grinned. "Go to sleep. I can hear you thinking."
She let out a quiet sound that was almost a giggle before tapping her hand against his. "Don't try and pretend you're not thinking too."
He conceded that point with his silence, catching her hand in his larger one and smoothing a thumb across her soft skin. She fell silent again, watching their fingers entwine and explore, mapping each other's hands as the firelight flickered shadows over them. He leant closer to her ear and spoke once more, his breath ghosting over her. "Sleep. I'll wake you when we need to head off."
She shivered in response and he shifted uncomfortably, the feeling causing stirrings in him that would need to be ignored – for now. But she stilled just as suddenly, her small hand still caught in his, and her breathing deepening quickly as she allowed sleep to take control whilst she entrusted Rick with the job of keeping her safe. The rhythm of her breathing and the feeling of her in his arms soon had Rick following her into the darkness.
The hours before dawn were the darkest and also the coldest, as Evelyn discovered when she woke herself suddenly with a violent shiver. The fire had dimmed to a soft glow, and the heat had almost gone entirely. Both she and Rick had moved in the night and he was lying on his back with her tucked up to his side, her head resting on his shoulder. The jacket had slipped off when they'd moved and Evelyn's skin was raised in response to the chill.
"Mornin'," Rick's voice rumbled through his chest and she tilted her head to look at him. His eyes were half-closed as he regarded her, looking rather like the cat that got the cream. "Ready to start walking again? That'll warm you up."
"It's not so cold," she retorted, not moving from the comfortable spot she was in.
"Liar," he chuckled, "your body says otherwise..."
"Oooh!" she huffed, moving into a sitting position and rubbing her arms with her hands. Understanding that dawn was very near the morning and a return to her facade which she liked to uphold in front of all people, Rick rested one hand on her upper arm whilst retrieving his jacket and slipping it back over her shoulders.
"Take that for now. You can return it when the day starts heating up."
She nodded in assent and he stretched, moving over to kick both Jonathan and the warden. As the small camp started to awaken and move in preparation for their trek to the nearest village, Evelyn started to build up her walls and remember exactly why they were there. Rick flashed her a quick grin at one point and she allowed her lips to curve up in a smile before gathering the remainder of her things. She knew he wasn't the cad she'd thought he was when they first met – he'd proved that last night by being a complete gentleman. Granted, they'd had an audience (albeit a slightly drunk one that was mainly dead to the world) but even so he could have pressed his advantage and hadn't.
The trek to Hamunaptra would take a couple more days, and after they'd restocked with food, clothes, tools, tents and more in the Bedouin village, they'd still need to camp somewhere. The nights would still be just as cold, and she would certainly need to share body heat with a certain someone to be able to sleep and be ready for the long journey.
If anyone asked, she'd just say the occasion called for it.
Author's Note: This may end up going through a couple of revisions; it was actually more difficult to write them at this point in the movie than I thought!