The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Twenty-Two: Please Pass that Towel, THANK YOU

July 2023
Morgan’s Home
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> MORGAN <-----{{{

Morgan knew Wahya was bursting with irritation at her goofed attempt to explain modern tooth-brushing. Not that she blamed him. She had tried her best to give him the space he wanted to get it right on his own. But she didn’t need to know Cherokee to understand that he was feeling frustrated and probably as though she were treating him like a toddler.

In her own defense, she remembers the nightmare it had been to work with her nephew, Andy, when he was smaller and trying to learn how to tie his shoes. “That had been much easier than this! Well... only because Andy actually knew what I was saying - though he definitely tried NOT to cooperate.”

She lets out a long breath as she wipes her own face with the hand towel, having just finished showing Wahya what ‘brushing’ meant by brushing her own teeth.

“Why didn’t I just demonstrate first?! Like I had done with Andy’s shoes. That would have been better than talking myself silly. He can’t even understand what I’m saying AND I was going to brush my own teeth anyways!”

Now that Morgan looks at him expectantly, Wahya grabs the tube of toothpaste, carefully squeezing the contents onto his toothbrush. Again, Morgan feels like she’s watching her nephews. Not because he’s doing it improperly, but because his movements are stiff, and she can almost feel the energy his concentration emanates. Despite this, he manages perfectly, setting the tube on the sink and looking up at her as though to say, See, I did it without your help.

Copying her exaggerated teeth-baring as he prepares to brush his teeth properly this time, Morgan figures he’s just trying to show her how ridiculous she'd made him feel, and almost slugs him in the arm, wanting to tell him not to be such a smart aleck. But then he unexpectedly growls. The low, primal tone is unexpected, and all thoughts of him acting like a child disappear as Morgan’s breath hitches ever so slightly.

She prays he hadn’t caught it, relaxing significantly when he finally smiles and laughs, lightening the mood drastically. Grinning in return, Morgan is relieved that his irritation is gone. She liked seeing his lighter side, though ‘light’ is far from the emotion she got from that sexy growl. Pushing the thought aside, she lets him get on with brushing his teeth, awkward as it is. “He’ll get the hang of it soon enough.”

She has to give him credit, he remembered steps whenever she showed him something, and she thinks that if he did understand English, he’d probably already have the hang of many things even after only one full day in 2023.

Rinsing the paste from his mouth, he rubs the lower half of his face with water.

“Okay, he’s got another one over Andy,” Morgan thinks as she leans her hip against the secondary sink watching his reflection in the mirror as he examines his extra clean and perfectly straight teeth. His equally straight hair hangs long, tied back with a hair band, ending at his waist, where his shirt meets his jeans, and Morgan admires how much care he seems to put into keeping himself tidy. “So much for the prejudices I didn’t realize I had about people living off the land almost two thousand years ago...”

While she’s wondering how he’d managed to get his shoes tied this morning, Wahya straightens, then moves to reach around her to grab the hand towel she’d set down behind her earlier. His arm brushes her shoulder, shocking the both of them, though it’s her heartbeat that quickens at his body’s sudden and close proximity. And she can’t move out of the way - not only because his arm literally blocks any way out, but because she’s frozen in place - her breath halted, but her lungs craving to deeply inhale his scent with his chest so close to her nose.

Only too soon he grabs the towel from behind her, moving back around to her front, and she feels the heady moment passing. Perhaps it was all in her head, she thinks. That is until he pauses en route, lowering his head next to her ear. He’s so close that his breath and the dampness of his still-wet face barely brush her cheek, warming not only her skin, but her insides as well.

“Wado,” he whispers low and seductively. Her insides spiral and she has a feeling that he’s thanking her for more than merely helping to clean his teeth. Her breath stops momentarily once again, and she forces herself to breathe, doing so deeply while inhaling his masculine scent mixed with the minty tone of his freshened breath as he begins to slowly move away again.

She’s overwhelmed by the pull of his presence and instinctively shifts her face towards his as he moves away. He pauses again as they come face to face, Morgan’s eyes finding his lips, wanting to feel his against hers more than anything. Her knees suddenly feel unstable, as he seems to read her mind.

Wahya glances to her mouth, then into her eyes, a soft smile coming over his features. Just when she thinks he might take her up on her desire, he pulls back completely, turning towards the mirror and wiping his damp face with the towel - the moment truly passing this time.

Finally, breathing again, Morgan is torn between feeling deflated that he didn’t follow through with a kiss, yet relieved that she didn’t have to break her promise to Samantha and James about keeping her impulsivity in check after making her promise only hours ago - for impulsivity would have been in rule had he followed through.

Deciding that taking it slow is probably best anyways, though swelling inside, she takes the toothbrush he still holds, plopping it into the toothbrush holder next to hers, and with a heated glow about her, ushers him out of the bathroom and into the living room. She needs to take a breather from him, and the necessity to shower and get ready to go to the lab soon is the perfect excuse.

She sets him down on the couch, grabbing the remote from the end table and sitting next to him so she can show him how to work the television while she gets ready to go. She can feel his eyes on her, and she’s not wholly sure whether it’s because he’s waiting for her to begin her instruction of yet another new technology, or if he’s really gauging her emotions from their almost-kiss.

Of course, that makes her just that much more nervous, and she struggles to figure out how to begin. Holding the remote control in front of them both so he can see what she’s doing, she presses the large, green power button, pointing it at the TV, “This is the television. It’s one of the most popular forms of entertainment in this era, so you might as well learn about it if you’re going to be here.”

Wahya leans in closer to get a better view - or maybe, simply to get closer, Morgan isn’t sure. She breathes a little easier as the large flat-screen television lights up in front of them, causing him to sit up straighter, his attention fully reverted to the screen.

She hesitates. “What would he even be interested in watching?”

Finally, she decides to go with a safe choice - the Home and Garden Channel - for the news might be confusing and a movie might be disturbing depending on the scene.

“You can raise or lower the volume with this button,” she points to the buttons. He watches her actions intently as she demonstrates the volume buttons, before handing the device over to him. In turn, he presses the buttons as she had, nodding with understanding and obvious interest.

Standing again, Morgan explains through motions that he should stay here and that she’s going to wash up, confident that he’ll be sufficiently entertained. An hour later, done in the bathroom, she comes out of the bedroom. The television in the living room is off and the house is quiet.

“Wahya?” She calls out, not too loudly.

Not hearing anything, she remembers that he had opted to go outside at James and Samantha’s earlier this morning and goes to look out the back door. Sure enough, he’s relaxing on the steps off the small back patio. “Well, at least he’s not a couch potato!”

He turns slightly to look up at her as she opens the door and smiles softly. She returns a sweet smile of her own, flutters from earlier reigniting at the quick interchange. Motioning for him to come back inside, she wonders what it is that he thinks about while sitting out here.

“We have to go to the lab now. We’re going to ride in the car again. Car,” she repeats the word, for if he understood anything she was saying, she knew that was one thing he did.

Wahya nimbly jumps up from his seat on the stoop, brushing his hands off on the back of his jeans, then follows her out to the car. An uncertain quiet still radiates slightly between them as they head down the road, and Morgan decides to alleviate it by showing Wahya how to change the radio station himself. His obvious interest in 21st century music is apparent as he plays radio DJ for a while.

“Music,” Morgan offers Wahya the English word. He repeats it very well, and she suddenly realizes that he seems to be learning more English words than she’s learning Cherokee. Speaking slowly, she glances over at him and asks, “How do you say ‘music’ in your language? Music?”

He obviously doesn’t understand, and simply repeats the word back to her in English. Shaking her head, she thinks, “Um, how do I ask this...? Oh!”

Picking the first Cherokee word that comes to mind as an example of translating, she says, “Wado.”

She realizes only too soon that of all the select few words she knows, she chose the one word he had just used to flirt with her earlier. “Dammit, why didn’t I pick ‘hello’ instead?!”

At first, Wahya looks at her quizzically, but only briefly, as the corners of his mouth twitch ever so slightly and a look of merriment sparkles in his eyes - the memory of him uttering that word to her softly in the bathroom still fresh on both their minds.

Morgan can tell he’s pleased at the thought that she’d probably been thinking about that moment, and she reddens, blaming her stupid mind for coming up with that particular word to use for her example. Swallowing her embarrassment quickly, with her heart thumping a little louder yet again, she presses on by repeating the word in Cherokee, then saying it in English, “Wado. Thank you.”

Then she says, “Music...” Leaving it open for him to insert the Cherokee word for music.

“Ah!” Wahya exclaims with enthusiasm as understanding dawns on him. She wants to learn his word for music! “Dikanogidv,” he pronounces the more elaborate-sounding word slowly for her.

“Music. Dikanogidv,” he repeats the two words together for her.

Morgan’s eyes widen, “That’s a pretty complicated word!”

He senses her distress, foreign languages never having been her best subject in school, and repeats it syllable by syllable for her until she gets it right.

“You know I won’t be able to remember how to say that tomorrow, right?” She laughs lightly, thinking how smart he must be to be able to concentrate on learning a foreign language and a foreign time period simultaneously, while she struggles to simply tackle a mere few words of his.

Despite this, between the very few words they both have learned of each other’s languages, and a lot of hand signals and miming, Morgan realizes that somehow, they get each other. And to her, that seems quite refreshing, making him just that much more likable than he easily is already.

“I hate to think it, but I wouldn’t mind having him around for a while. Not that I don’t want him to be able to go home. Does he even want to go home? Oh, the things I wish I could ask him!”

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