The hot sun beat down upon him, relentless and merciless, sweat beading upon his brow and dripping down his nose, but Ameen did not notice. It was here, he knew it was here. He'd studied the old maps, the paintings, deciphered their hidden secrets, and now he was going to find it. It didn't matter that they hadn't had enough money to send him to school, that he worked as a common laborer just as his father had. One day he was going to be a great archaeologist, starting right here, with his very first find.
Wiping his brow, Ameen surveyed the pit he'd dug with some measure of pride. It had taken a lot of hard work, but he had to find the temple before the sands changed and hid it once more. He'd been digging since before sunrise, and so far the pit he stood in was all he had to show for it. But soon, very soon he'd find the temple, and then-
A faint rumble was the only warning he got before the earth suddenly dropped out from beneath Ameen's feet. He yelped as he fell, a rush of sand and stale air around him, then just as quickly as it had begun his fall ended with a rather bruising landing on hard stone. For a moment he simply lay there, catching his breath, then slowly he got to his feet and looked around.
It was dark, the only light coming from a small hole high above, but what little light there was revealed strong stone walls embellished with elaborate murals. A few paces away he could make out a pillar with an old torch sitting in a worn sconce. In the area where he'd fallen, there was sand and a few chunks of rock on the floor by his pack, but further away the floor was bare. Untouched by the elements.
Ameen felt elation rising in his throat. He'd found it. He'd actually found the temple. He would be famous, and finally be able to go to school to become a real archaeologist. Only...
The air was very stale, closed inside for so many centuries. The hole Ameen had fallen through was allowing fresh air in, but from the smell of things, it was the only hole to the outside. If he didn't find a way to climb back out again, then there was a good chance that he would die here in his temple. For the first time, he felt a sliver of fear.
Swallowing it down, Ameen picked up his pack and fished out his torch, switching it on. A rush of relief sped through him as the beam of light appeared in the darkness; it had not been damaged in the fall.
The light revealed more of the temple, elaborate carvings interspersed with paintings, and not too far away he saw a doorway. Perhaps there would be something deeper in the temple that he could use, something to help him escape.
He could only hope.
Shouldering his bag, Ameen made his way to the doorway and beyond, looking for anything that might be useful. He passed from a large room into a smaller one, then another smaller still. This one actually had tapestries hanging, still vibrant in the torchlight, and he was careful not to touch them as he edged around them to find out what was behind. Gold glinted, and he very nearly dropped the torch as he suddenly found himself facing a man-sized statue with the head of a jackal. It had been painted from head to toe, making it seem almost lifelike, an illusion only emphasized by the very real jewelry it wore. Gold, of course, from the hands of skilled artisans, at wrist, arm, neck, and head.
Ameen frowned. One of them looked out of place amongst the rest. This was an Egyptian temple, but the small golden pendant hanging from a cord around the statue's neck looked more Greek than Egyptian, and the craftsmanship was not the same. Curious, he reached out to lift the pendant. It was heavy in his hand, cool to the touch, and that sense of wrongness pervaded. When he gave an experimental tug, the brittle cord snapped and he stumbled backwards with the pendant in hand.
Somewhat wryly, Ameen tucked the pendant into a pocket and looked up at the statue. It looked better now, without its pendant, though he was certain a real archaeologist wouldn't have desecrated a find like that. Still, he couldn't quite bring himself to be remorseful. It felt right.
He made his way back out of the inner chamber, past the tapestries, and took a different doorway than the one leading back to the chamber he'd first found himself in. He still hadn't found anything useful, for although there were many tables and benches to be found, they were all too heavy for him to move alone. He was just about ready to give up and return to the first chamber when he came around a corner and drew up short at the sight of a man.
He was tall, taller than Ameen at least, with skin so dark that the minimal light from the torch made it appear jet black. Yet his features were not African, and his hair fell in perfectly straight lines to his collar. He was also, Ameen noted in mild confusion, wearing nothing more than a white linen kilt and sandals.
"Er, hello?" Ameen greeted, uneasy. How had the man gotten down here? Was there another way into the temple that he had yet to find?
The dark man regarded Ameen curiously, holding himself in utter stillness for a long moment before gracefully holding up one hand. He spoke, though the words were not any that Ameen had heard before, not even from all of the tourists that moved through Egypt every season.
"Do you speak Arabic?" Ameen asked hopefully. "Or English?" He wasn't very good at English, since he'd never gone to school, but he'd picked up enough from the various researchers who were perpetually in the area to make himself understood.
The dark man frowned, murmuring something to himself, then gestured somewhat imperiously toward Ameen and spoke again in that strange language.
Ameen shook his head. "I don't understand."
With a faint sound that could have been a growl, the man took several steps forward and gestured at Ameen's clothes. "Dirty."
Ameen blinked. "You do speak Arabic!" Then what the man had said registered. "I've been digging in the sand to find this temple, of course I'm dirty."
The man scowled, apparently affronted by this, and looked Ameen over slowly. In the dim light, now that the torch was not shining directly on him, he was nearly invisible in the darkness. The only spot of color on him was that of his eyes, shining a soft gold and almost appearing to glow.
Unnerved, Ameen looked away.
He had to be a lost tribesman of some sort. That would explain his clothing, or lack thereof, and his strange language. Though how he had gotten here in the first place remained a mystery.
Abruptly the man spoke again, fluid syllables flowing off his tongue, and he gestured sharply at Ameen before turning and striding from the room. Feeling a little lost, but with nothing better to do, Ameen jogged to catch up with him.
The dark man led them through the twists and turns of the temple, into what might have once been a kind of courtyard in its prime. The far end, however, disappeared into a wave of sand, and the way the dark man drew up short killed Ameen's hope that perhaps he might know another way out.
Although Ameen still didn't understand the words the man spit out, the meaning behind them was pretty clear. Swear words were pretty universal, really.
Done swearing at the sand, the dark man looked toward Ameen, eyes doing that strange trick of the light again. "You came how?"
Ameen rubbed the back of his head. "Er, I fell."
The dark man looked puzzled, so Ameen gestured and led the way back to the room with the hole in the ceiling, pointing up. "I fell through there."
"Saaa..." the dark man said softly.
"Yeah." Ameen grimaced. "And I doubt anyone will bother to come looking for me, so unless you happen to know another way out, we're probably going to die here." He only had enough water for one day, and that only for one person, after all. He was going to die of thirst in the most important find of his life, with a lost tribesman for company.
So lost in his own morbid thoughts was he that when the dark man spoke again, Ameen jumped.
"Do you wish for death?"
Ameen frowned, then shook his head. "No, of course not. There's still so much I want to do with my life."
The dark man regarded him thoughtfully, then tipped his head up to eye the hole in the ceiling. Ameen followed his gaze, though it still looked as it had since he'd fallen through. Only the angle of the sun had changed. It was getting late, and night would fall soon.
"Come," the dark man said abruptly. "Into the temple we must go. A storm comes."
"A storm?" Ameen repeated, scanning the sky through the hole again. Still no change.
"Can you not hear it?" the man asked, already heading for the inner chambers.
Although Ameen listened carefully, he could hear nothing out of the ordinary. Still, he didn't particularly wish to be caught in a sandstorm. Death by suffocation was bound to be even more unpleasant than death by dehydration. So he checked to make certain he wasn't leaving anything behind, and jogged to catch up with his mysterious companion.
The dark man was waiting for him at the first turn, and they traversed the rooms in silence save for the soft patter of their footsteps. They stopped in the inner alter room, though the dark man did not go behind the curtains. Instead, he sat down upon the floor with a great deal more grace than Ameen was capable of, leaning his back against the wall and closing his eyes. After a moment Ameen followed suit, wiggling to get comfortable, unable to find a good spot on the hard stone. At last he bunched his pack up and used it as a pillow, settling down with a quiet sigh.
Barring a miracle, he would probably never see his family again. In a couple of days the desert would take him and add him to its collection of dead. Maybe in another thousand years someone would find his dried body and wonder who he'd been.
As the darkness of sleep finally began to overtake him, he could just barely hear the faint sound of whistling wind from far away, muffled by the thick stone walls. It seemed the dark man's storm had come after all.
When he woke, Ameen was alone. His things had not been disturbed, not even his water, and Ameen took a long drink before getting up gingerly. The stone floor had not been the most comfortable to sleep upon, but at least it was clean. That, and the pristine condition of the wall murals, led him to believe that the temple had been very well cared for in its heyday.
Abruptly Ameen realized that he could see the murals, indeed the whole room, without the aid of his torch. There was light spilling in from the doorway, and it was not the wan light of a torch. His heart racing, Ameen swept up his pack and dashed to the doorway, following the lure of the light around one corner, two, and then suddenly he found himself blinking in the middle of an elaborate courtyard as bright sunlight streamed down from overhead.
As his eyes slowly adjusted to the change in light, Ameen stared at the unearthed temple around him. Somehow, during the night, the sandstorm had blown away all the concealing layers to leave the temple just as it must have been centuries ago, untouched by time.
Movement nearby drew his attention, and Ameen veered off to the left where he found the mysterious man from before, kneeling on the ground next to a square stone box which looked to have been a pool of some sort in ancient times. Dry now, of course, but otherwise intact.
As he approached, the man looked up. "Sabaah el kheer. Did you sleep well?"
"Sabaah el nuur," Ameen replied automatically, dazed. "I, uh..." He looked around. "This is incredible."
"What the sands take, the sands can also give back," the dark man responded cryptically. It might have simply been Ameen's imagination, but it almost looked like he was smirking. "Since you are not dead, what now will you do with the life you have been given?"
Ameen shook his head slowly. "I don't know... I want to be an archaeologist, study ancient things. I was hoping the discovery of this temple would help, earn me enough money to go to school. But now that it's unburied, it's only a matter of time before..."
He trailed off as the glint of sunlight on water caught his attention. Before his eyes the long dried out pool was filling with water so crisp and clear that he could see all the way to the bottom. It was impossible. And yet, there it was, clear as day, while the dark man sat on the edge and trailed his fingers in the water.
"How..." Ameen's words caught in his throat. "How did you do that?"
The dark man looked up, a faint smile playing about his lips. "Hmmmm?"
Ameen swallowed. "A sandstorm can do a lot, but... but not all this," he gestured around them, "And it certainly cannot make water come up out of the ground into a pool that has been buried for millennia." He licked his lips, which were quite suddenly very dry. "Who are you, really?"
In the sunlight, the man's golden eyes didn't seem quite as eerie, though they still glinted in a manner that was far from reassuring to a sane, rational mind.
"You may call me Seshem." He moved his fingers through the clear water, causing ripples that spread out across the pool. Although he appeared to be watching them, at the same time he didn't appear to be looking at them at all. "The water was meant to be here."
Ameen frowned. "Meant to be here? What does that mean?"
Seshem looked up at him, the light catching his eyes. It made Ameen want to take a step back, or perhaps forward, he wasn't sure.
"The sand comes and goes, but it cannot change what is meant to be." Seshem spoke softly, but there was a strength beneath his words. It allowed no room for denial, for argument, as though what he said had to be the undeniable truth.
"Now that the water has come," Seshem continued in a more normal voice, "will you bathe?"
What? Ameen looked at the water, then at Seshem, and shook his head. "No, I... I need to be getting back. Mother will be worried."
Seshem sighed, apparently still harboring some lingering resentment over Ameen's unwashed state, and got to his feet. "I will guide you to your home."
Ameen blinked. "No, that's fine, I know the way." He still wasn't sure what to make of the mysterious Seshem, who didn't speak Arabic and then did, whose eyes seemed more animal than human, and whose minimal clothing left entirely too much of his toned body exposed. It had been harder to see in the temple, where Seshem's dark skin blended into the shadows, but out in the bright sun every sleek line seemed to be on display.
He looked away, so as not to be seen staring.
"The desert can be dangerous for the unwary," Seshem announced, once more in that tone which brooked no argument. "I would be remiss in my duty if I did not see you safely home."
Giving in, Ameen adjusted his pack so that it lay comfortably, and set off toward the city. Seshem hadn't harmed him the prior night, though he'd had every opportunity to do so, and Ameen did have some less than savory areas of town to walk through on the way back. There was safety in numbers, and Seshem didn't exactly look like an easy target.
Not that Ameen was looking at Seshem.
They walked in silence, but it was an easy silence rather than the awkward kind. Every so often Seshem would steer him around a particular patch of unassuming sand, and Ameen acquiesced rather than argue, as it was never a large detour. Strange, but everything about Seshem was strange.
Ameen wondered again how Seshem had gotten into the temple, as it didn't seem to have been the same way Ameen had. He'd just appeared, as though he'd always been there, though of course that couldn't be right as the temple had been buried for thousands of years. Then there was the thing with the water, which was downright impossible, and the way he'd known the sandstorm was coming long before Ameen had been able to hear it.
Was he some sort of con man? Had he somehow engineered all of those miraculous feats? But that didn't make sense either, since Ameen was no one. It would be pointless to go to so much effort to impress him. Unless Seshem had been waiting for someone else, but that didn't make sense either as no one else thought the temple was even there.
So just who was Seshem?
And, perhaps more importantly, what did he want?
It was a puzzle Ameen was no closer to solving when the reached the outskirts of the city. Curiously, Seshem kept pace with him perfectly as they navigated the streets, seeming to know the way to their destination as well as Ameen despite it being Ameen's house and not Seshem's. Which then begged the question of, had Seshem been watching him?
He was jolted rather abruptly out of his thoughts as he rounded a corner and ran smack into someone. Unbalanced, he started to fall only to be caught by a pair of strong, dark hands that swiftly had him back on his feet. The man he'd walked into didn't need any extra aid to stay vertical, though he seemed to have quite a bit of support as several more men appeared from nearby.
"Ah, I'm sorry," Ameen apologized. "I wasn't watching where I was going."
The man he'd run into, a street tough maybe only a year or so older than him, scowled. "You got me dirty, stupid dog."
Ameen looked at his feet, hoping not to irritate the man further, but the way his friends seemed to be forming a loose semicircle around them certainly wasn't very reassuring. "My apologies, I did not mean to disturb you."
"No?" There was some movement, then Seshem's hands landed on his shoulders once more, and everything seemed to slow to a halt. When Ameen looked up, the street toughs' eyes were wide, all staring at something behind Ameen.
One of the toughs took a step back, then shook his head. "I'm outta here." In moments, the street was clear.
Ameen took a step forward, then turned to look at Seshem. His eyes were doing that strange thing with the light again, but otherwise he didn't look particularly unnerving.
"What did you do?"
Seshem smiled, baring his teeth ever so slightly. "I advised them that it would be not to their advantage to pick a fight."
Ameen frowned. "But you didn't say anything."
Seshem chuckled quietly. "Not all communication needs be in words." He gently steered Ameen back in the direction they'd been heading before the interruption. "Come, your mother waits for you."
Not quite ready to let it go, but sensing he'd get nothing more out of Seshem, Ameen slowly began walking again. There was something going on, and he didn't know what, but he was going to find out.
When they stopped right outside his house, Ameen was not surprised. He didn't know why anyone would go to such elaborate lengths for him, but surely there had to be a reason. Was it something his father had done? Or one of his siblings? Perhaps his mother would know more.
He stepped inside, Seshem following as far as the threshold, though no further. Some odd measure of politeness to counter the lack up until now?
Ameen shook his head. "Ummi, I'm home!"
There was a sound from the cooking area, then his mother appeared in the doorway. "Ah, there you are. Out all night, you must be..." She trailed off, the bowl she was holding sliding from her hands and hitting the floor with a clatter. By some miracle it didn't break, though she hardly seemed to notice.
There was a soft sound from just behind Ameen, then Seshem swept past him to kneel at his mother's feet, carefully picking up the bowl and depositing its contents back inside before rising and placing it gently back into her hands with a smile.
"You..." His mother found her voice again. "You are... more than you seem."
Smiling, Seshem gently kissed her cheek. "Indeed."
Ameen found himself scowling. "All right, I've played along this whole time, but this is too much. Who are you, really? Why are you doing all this? What do you want?"
His mother gave a sound akin to a stifled gasp, but Seshem simply looked amused. "I told you, I am Seshem."
Ameen frowned, crossing his arms. "So you said. But there's a lot more to it than that. Seshem isn't even really your name, is it?"
This time, his response was a low chuckle. "I never said it was."
Making a frustrated sound, Ameen only barely resisted the urge to stamp his foot. "Then who are you? What game are you playing? I'm no one; I don't know what you expect to get from me."
All of a sudden Seshem was far too close, though Ameen could hardly even remember him moving. His vision was filled with the sight of dusky skin, and impossibly gold eyes. Somewhere in his mind he knew he should be backing away, should be afraid, but somehow he wasn't. For all his mysterious motives, there was nothing in Seshem to instill fear.
A heartbeat passed, then Seshem's lips curled upward in ever so slight a smile as Ameen failed to react. "You don't even realize, do you?" he murmured. "You found me, you set me free, and you don't even know what it is that you have done."
Struggling to pull himself away from that hypnotic gaze, Ameen shook his head. "What are you talking about? I didn't free us, that sandstorm did."
Seshem's eyes shimmered. There was no other word for it. "Of course." He stepped back, putting him not quite so immediately in Ameen's space, and Ameen had just started to relax when everything tilted, heat and spice and oh great gods of his mother Seshem was kissing him.
He barely even noticed when Seshem pulled away, his head still reeling. It wasn't until that rich voice sounded from somewhere behind him that Ameen managed to pull himself together enough to turn. Seshem was standing in the doorway, backlit by the sun, making him appear as an ebony shadow with golden eyes.
"I will return for you, when the time is right, my unknowing Priest."
Then he was gone.
When the hand touched his shoulder, Ameen jumped and spun. His mother let out a little squeak, taking several steps back and holding her hand close to her chest. They both stared at one another for a long moment, then Ameen let himself relax and moved forward to take her hands in apology.
"I'm sorry, Ummi. I didn't mean to startle you."
His mother shook her head. "You, that man..."
Ameen felt his cheeks fill with color. "That... I didn't expect..."
"His is an ancient soul."
Ameen blinked. "What?"
Her eyes were intent. "He knows time, but it does not know him. Step carefully, my son."
"An ancient soul?" Ameen frowned. "What does that mean?"
She reached up and touched his cheek. "I have told you before that the stories are real. Now you have brought them home, and still you do not believe. If that one cannot teach you, you truly are hopeless."
Ameen frowned, but she did not let him speak.
"Go, get washed. You are going to be late to work."
Starting, he realized that she was right. He'd been so overwhelmed by all the things that had happened, he'd nearly forgotten that he had a job and if he wanted to feed them, he needed to do it. It was real, it was the life that he knew, but for a moment, it had felt as though it belonged to someone else, and there was something much greater out there.
As he rushed to get cleaned up and off to work, he attempted to force all thoughts of the mysterious Seshem out of his mind. It was just a bit of trickery that had no place in the real world, best to forget all about it and go on with his life.
But even after he was hard at work, he could never quite put the image of golden eyes out of his mind.
Three weeks passed, and though golden eyes still haunted his dreams, in the daylight hours Ameen had nearly managed to put all thoughts of Seshem from mind. The museum still would not acknowledge him, and the university simply laughed. Every day he expected to see someone else get credit for his find, but there was nothing, no news of a newly-discovered temple, no frantic hiring of digging crews, not a word. Surely someone had to have noticed it, and yet, nothing.
"What the sands take, the sands can also give back."
What if the sands had again taken away, and buried the temple in a sea of featureless gold once more? Perhaps that was the reason no one had found it. It seemed a great leap, but nothing else could explain what was happening. Or not happening, as it was.
He needed to go see for himself. He had a full day off tomorrow, he could go out to the temple and see-
Ameen stopped dead, staring at the image which had caught his eye. Staring back at him from the pages of a newspaper that hadn't quite manage to capture the full force of his golden gaze was Seshem, no longer practically naked but dressed to the nines. Tearing his gaze away from that so-familiar face, Ameen forced himself to read the caption.
Sufyan Ali Musleh, the reclusive businessman who has recently been at the heart of a whirlwind restructuring of some of the biggest names in Egyptian commerce.
If anything, Ameen felt even more confused than before. The rest of the article detailed out some of the things Seshem, Sufyan, whoever, had been doing, but the majority of it went right over his head. One thing, however, did not.
Fury rising up in him, Ameen crushed the paper in his hand, his feet already moving well before he realized where he was going. By that point, his course was set, and there was no altering it. They looked at him askance as he stormed into the building, but it wasn't until he attempted to enter the elevators that they tried to stop him.
"Where is he?" Ameen demanded, wrenching his arm out of the grip that had held it. "Sufyan or Seshem or whatever he's calling himself!"
They struggled for a few moments more, until a rich, familiar voice caused everyone to freeze.
"Hmm, you're early."
Ameen turned to find Seshem regarding him thoughtfully, filling out a perfectly-tailored suit better than any man ever should, his silken hair pulled back into a loose tail. He held out a hand, and Ameen was utterly unsurprised to find himself moving forward to take it. Seshem whisked them both into the elevator, and the doors slid shut.
"You..." Ameen pulled away, frowning, trying to regain the anger that had driven him here. "What do you think you're doing? That was my find, my temple, and now you've bought up half the excavation teams in Cairo! Just what-"
The rest of his tirade was cut short as Seshem pulled him close and kissed him, his mouth moving in entirely too pleasurable ways and leaving Ameen helpless to do anything but succumb to it. He was only vaguely aware of it ending, Seshem's hands on his arms the only thing keeping him upright.
"So much beauty and passion bottled up inside, it is remarkable that no one has seen it. I think they are all blind."
Ameen blinked slowly, then his brow furrowed in confusion. "What are you talking about? You never make any sense."
Seshem laughed, low and rich, and the sound of it sent shivers down Ameen's spine. "Of course not. You have not yet learned to listen properly. But you will."
"I listen just fine," Ameen muttered, but at that moment the elevator doors slid open again as they reached their destination. Seshem stepped out first, though he only made it a few paces before stopping dead.
In the middle of what appeared to be a very expensive office stood a man. He was dressed like someone out of a history book, in strange armor with a sword at his back, a helmet resting on a nearby table. His features marked him as a foreigner, not remotely Egyptian, though the best Ameen could guess was European of some sort.
The strange man smiled coldly at them. "Anubis. So nice to see you again."
Seshem did not smile back. "Ares."
Ameen frowned. Ares? Anubis? What game were they playing at?
"It's been a while," 'Ares' said, the easy, casual words at odds with the way he held himself, as though tensed for a fight.
"It has," Seshem agreed neutrally.
"However did you get out?" Ares inquired, smiling through his teeth.
Seshem smiled back, just as chillingly. "That which is meant to be, will be. You should know this by now, for all that you struggle against it."
Ares scowled. "You and your riddles. You're as bad as that damned Sphinx."
"Given the relative intelligences of you and the lady and question, I shall take that as a compliment," Seshem replied dryly.
"You insult me, sand dog," Ares snarled, reaching up to grasp the hilt of his sword.
Ameen tensed. Whatever was going on, it was getting to the point where he'd rather be somewhere else. A glance at Seshem, though, showed that the dark man seemed utterly unconcerned with the weapon-wielding madman in his office. Just as he'd been unconcerned when they'd been trapped in the temple, or when those street toughs had threatened them.
Who was Seshem? Ameen's own mother had said he was 'more than he seemed', but what did that mean? And did it have anything to do with the way this Ares guy was calling him Anubis?
Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the dead. There had been a statue of Anubis in the temple, the one he'd removed that odd pendant from. That Greek pendant.
Slowly, so as not to call attention to himself, Ameen slid a hand into his pocket and wrapped his fingers around the object he found there, eyes still on the two men standing stock still, poised on the edge of conflict.
Seshem had shown up after Ameen had removed the pendant from the statue of Anubis. The Greek pendant, on an Egyptian statue, and now there was a man calling himself after a Greek god asking how Seshem, or Anubis had 'gotten out'. Of the temple? Or...
Fist wrapped tightly around the object in his hand, Ameen carefully slid it out and surreptitiously looked down. The golden pendant was exactly as he remembered it, including the pervading sense of wrongness. He couldn't believe he was even considering the idea, but the longer he looked at it, the more certain he became, no matter how impossible it might be.
His mother had been right all along. There were gods in the world, and they were real.
In fact, they were about ready to tear one another to pieces.
Fist closing again, Ameen drew in a careful breath and took a step forward. "Ares? Is that your name?"
Attention briefly diverted from Seshem, Ares' glance barely acknowledged him before returning to the only real threat in the room. After all, Ameen was only human. It wasn't like he could actually do Ares any harm.
At least, Ameen thought with an internal smile that did not show on his face, that was what Ares believed.
"I don't suppose you want to tell me what's going on here?" Ameen continued, pulse racing, scarcely able to believe he was deliberately approaching a madman with a sword. "This guy," he jerked a thumb at Seshem, "is crazy as a monkey, saying all these weird things, and now you show up claiming to be Ares, and calling him Anubis, and you don't really expect me to buy this, right?"
Frowning, Ares spared him the briefest of glances again, and made a slight shooing gesture with his free hand. "Go away, little mortal. I have not the time for you right now."
Ameen slid a step closer, then another, keeping his breathing as steady as he could make it. "Yeah, I got that. I just wanted to ask you one thing before you two continue your little spat..."
Irritated, Ares finally looked directly at him. "What?" he growled.
Ameen smiled and slowly raised his hand. "Is this yours?"
Seshem's bark of laughter snapped Ares' attention away from Ameen and back to himself, and Ameen promptly took the opportunity to slap the golden pendant against the armored man's chest. Part of him kept insisting that this was crazy, that he was way too close to a lunatic with a sword for his own continued existence, but another part of him, the greater part, knew that it was right.
Although Ares' head wrenched back down to stare at Ameen, the deed was already done. A greyness spread out from the place where Ameen's hand held the pendant against that armored chest, swiftly overtaking the man's entire body until all that remained was little more than an exquisitely detailed marble statue wearing remarkably authentic Greek armor, a sword in one hand.
Cautiously, Ameen slid his hand away to reveal the golden pendant, now fused to the metal of Ares' breastplate. He stared at it for several long moments, then slowly turned around to face Seshem.
Who was smiling broadly, those impossible golden eyes all but sparkling with mirth and something else.
"I knew you were special," Seshem stated, far too smug for his own good, but Ameen had no chance to call him on it before he found himself kissed once again, and it was all he could do not to melt into a boneless puddle as his mouth was plundered with far too much skill.
When at last they parted, Ameen discovered that it was only the strength in the dark arms wrapped around him that was keeping him upright. He flushed, although he didn't pull away.
"So, Anubis, huh?" he managed, looking up at Seshem.
Seshem scowled. "Anpu. Those fools never could pronounce our names, so they made up their own."
Ameen hid a snicker. "I see. So what does Seshem mean, then?"
"Guide," Seshem replied with a smile. "One of my many roles."
"Guess that explains the walking me home," Ameen muttered, looking away so that he didn't have to deal with those eerie golden eyes.
Seshem's strong fingers gripped Ameen's chin, turning his head back so that their eyes met again. "You are upset."
Ameen shook his head, surprised when Seshem's grip lessened enough that he could do so. "I've just seen a man turn to stone before my eyes, and been informed that, by the way, gods are real. And have absolutely no concept of personal space."
Laughing again, Seshem finally let him go, carefully placing his hands behind his back. "Better, my feisty little Priest?"
Ameen scowled. "Why do you keep calling me that? I'm not a Priest."
Seshem smirked. "Of course you are. I chose you, so you are my Priest." He moved closer again, and Ameen merely glared at him rather than back down. "Who else but a true Priest would be able to release me from my cage after finding my temple in a sea of endless sand?"
"That was just luck," Ameen protested. "I was looking for a temple, but not specifically yours. I didn't even know you were there!"
"And yet you found me anyway, and freed me. You knew exactly which amulet to remove, and left the rest in peace."
The protest died in Ameen's throat, for he truly had nothing to say to that. He'd known that particular pendant didn't belong, and he'd removed it, despite also knowing that he shouldn't deface artifacts like that. There was no rational explanation for what he'd done, he'd just known somewhere inside him that it should happen.
"Have you any more objections to make?" Seshem inquired, entirely too smug, and Ameen half wanted to wipe that smirk right off his face, but the only methods he could think of to do so were, well, about as bad as the smirk itself.
When Ameen stayed silent, Seshem took that as permission to invade personal space again, though fortunately he refrained from the dizzying kisses. There was only so much of that Ameen could take and retain his sanity. Although, considering all that had transpired, perhaps his sanity wasn't good for much anyway.
"You will stay with me, yes, pretty Priest?" Seshem asked lowly, the rich ripples of his voice making Ameen shiver despite himself. "Keep me company in this new world that does not know me."
Ameen shook his head slowly. It was too big of a decision to make so quickly. "Why me?" he asked. "I'm just... human. Shouldn't you be hanging out with other gods?" He paused, gaze darting briefly to the large statue in the middle of the room, then wryly amended, "Ones that don't want to kill you, anyway."
There was a soft sound, and Ameen was startled to see traces of sadness in Seshem's eyes, where before there had only been that confident arrogance.
"The others abandoned this world long ago. Only I am able to move freely between this world and Amenti. For the rest, such a thing is simply not possible."
Ameen swallowed, trying and failing to imagine what it must be like to be the last of your people in the world. His siblings had all moved on to other things, but at least they weren't gone, and he had his mother.
He wasn't alone.
Slowly, questioning his sanity with every passing moment, Ameen reached up trace the line of Seshem's jaw. "Fine, I'll be your Priest, but on a trial basis. You learn to behave, or I'm out of here."
Seshem's golden eyes glowed with a positively devious light, right before his strong arms wrapped firmly around Ameen's waist.
Ameen's scathing reply was lost in the depths of Seshem's mouth as the man -god- kissed him again, and while he couldn't really object that much when Seshem did it so very well, they were going to have a discussion on the matter of personal space.