The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Twenty-Five: A Little More than Friendly

July 2023
University of Richmond
Richmond City, Virginia

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

Morgan had been pleasantly surprised when Wahya allowed her to lead him out of Dr. Clark’s office. Perhaps her foreign words of reprimand from when he tried to stand earlier did get through to him. But now that they’ve made it to the artifact storage room, her thoughts on the matter are beginning to change. Wahya clears his throat nervously, then pulling his arm from her grasp, turns his body flush with hers and gently puts his arm around her shoulder, pulling her carefully into his side.

For a moment she thinks he might be hurting again, but his sureness in step and body clearly tells her that he’s not leaning on her for support. She tenses instinctively in response, not expecting his closeness in any other way besides medical attention.

Processing the situation, her mind races, “What is he doing...? Oh! Ohhh! I think he’s testing to see if I’m okay with him getting a little ‘friendly’! Okay, maybe a little more than friendly!”

Now her heart races in tandem with her mind, and she can feel the heat rising from her neck and into her cheeks. Unsure of what prompted Wahya to do so now, Morgan decides that his advances aren’t necessarily unwanted. Sure, she’d promised James and Samantha that she’d be careful, but she didn’t promise that she wouldn’t act on her feelings should the opportunity arise. Relaxing into him, she instead tightens her own arm around the back of his waist, non-verbally telling him that she’s very okay with this.

Meeting each other’s gazes, the two smile, an understanding flowing between them. Despite the very short time they’ve known each other, they’ve both accepted the definitive connection and attraction that had surfaced the moment they met, and neither has good reason to contain their feelings any longer.

“God, I only met him yesterday, but after everything we’ve gone through together so far, it feels like I’ve known him for such a long time! Just take it easy, Morgan. Don’t rush things... Ease into whatever this is...”

“You are feeling okay now, aren’t you?!” Morgan teases him, though a part of her still wonders if he really is okay. The look of pain written across his features when he spasmed had scared her. But even more so was the electrical charge in the air as it happened. The tiny electrical shock that zapped her when she initially touched him had been strange in itself. With all the humidity in the air, the chance of a random electrical charge should have been nearly impossible, she reasoned afterwards.

Then there was the faint, bluish electrical glow emanating around Wahya at that same moment. That had been right down disturbing! It had disappeared just as quickly as it came was so subtle that Morgan had been tempted to dismiss it altogether. But she knows it was there, and it was no trick of the light.

The pair enter the lab, still fixed on each other, and Emory flinches ever so slightly as Morgan forces her attention away from the handsome brave, turning her eyes to the intern. “We’re heading out now. He seems to be feeling a lot better now. Thanks for your help back there.”

Emory shifts as he takes the pair in and Morgan suddenly feels a little awkward. Before she can think much of it, Emory says in a friendly enough tone, “You don’t need help getting him down to the doctor? I can take him if you want?”

Morgan shakes her head, having told him in Dr. Clark’s office that she was going to take Wahya to a doctor when they were ready to leave, then deciding against it while filling Samantha in about the situation over the phone. The hospital would want some kind of identification, and who knows what might happen if they figure out that he’s not exactly from the here and now! They wouldn’t know what to do with time warp effects anyways - if that’s what this was!

“No, I think we’ll be just fine getting out to the car on our own. He seems much steadier now.”

Glancing back to Wahya, she sees the apparent look of distrust flashing in Wahya’s dark eyes, as he watches Emory and simultaneously tightens his grip around her protectively. His muscles stiffen not enough to be visible, but just enough for her to feel the difference.

Emory irritably counters her dismissal of his offer of assistance, “If something were to happen on your way down, you wouldn’t be able to carry him on your own - are you sure?”

Confused by Emory’s reaction she’s suddenly glad she hadn’t told him about the time portal, as she’d been tempted to open up to him completely back in Dr. Clark’s office just minutes ago. “What’s his problem?!”

She shakes her head, giving Emory a small, but grateful smile, “Yeah, I’m sure. We’ll be just fine. I’ll see you later, okay?”

Ushering Wahya forward again she considers Emory. Though his reaction to the mostly naked Cherokee in the lab yesterday was probably quite reasonable, the now-obvious testosterone competition between Emory and Wahya today isn’t lost on her. Stepping out from under Wahya’s protective arm as he releases her to close the door to the lab behind them and take the stairs down to the first floor, Morgan wonders, “Surely they’re not acting like that over me! I really didn’t think Emory liked me like that! And I definitely don’t like him like that!”

Then realization hits her, “Ugh! James was right! That’s why Emory came back to talk to me yesterday when we were up there looking at the wall! Trying to gauge my feelings for him! That’s probably why he really came in today, to see if I was working so he could try to find out what my relationship with Wahya really was?! The more we stay out of his way, the better!”

Nearing the bottom of the stairs, Morgan can’t help but compare the two men who seem to be vying for her attention. Even without Wahya as an option, Emory would never be someone she’d consider. He wasn’t her type.

Wahya, though had so much to favor. His handling of his very dramatic and scary predicament, having been launched into the future, and keeping his cool without panicking says a lot about him. And from what she’s seen, he seems to be a decent, kind, and reasonable person. She further reasons that she likes Wahya’s smarts. The way he’s learning to cope with 21st century life, picking up on English and modern concepts after only a few hours in this time period is admirable. She’s not sure she’d be able to do half as well as him if she were in his place for a month!

Last but not least, she concedes that Wahya is definitely everything physically desirable that she’d want in a man, and if he’s seriously interested in her, why shouldn’t they be able to explore their mutual feelings?!

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Morgan takes his strong, and much larger hand in hers. Trying to act as nonchalant as he had when he put his arm around her before, Morgan nearly jumps as she feels a spark - not a static charge this time, but one of intense attraction and desire in response to the warmth of his palm. While she still worries about Wahya’s episode upstairs, her worry is soon replaced with the realization of their budding relationship, as Wahya’s smile infectiously fills her with butterflies. He squeezes her hand before letting go to open the passenger door of her car, and Morgan breathes deeply as she goes to the driver’s side, now thoroughly torn between wanting him to be able to return home to his own time, yet not wanting to let him go.

~~~~~

“Are you sure you actually saw light coming from him?” James asks for the second time.

Morgan knew that James and Samantha would be alarmed about Wahya’s episode at the lab, and rightly so, “Yes! I touched him and he sparked me. Not bad, just like a regular static charge. But then it was like a light glowed around him.”

“Coming out of his body?” Samantha prods, not remembering Morgan mentioning this factoid when she’d called from the lab after it happened.

“Nuh-uh, it was more around him,” Morgan motions with her hands. “But just for a couple of seconds, then it was gone.”

Samantha looks at Wahya with concern from across the dining table, folding her hands in front of her now empty plate. He returns their stares with one of nonchalance, and Morgan swears that he’s wondering why they’re all so uptight about it.

“Wahya okay,” he declares in broken English.

“Yeah, he keeps saying he’s okay, and he seems okay now. And that was the strangest thing, too. He sat down in Professor Clark’s office, doubled over in pain, and then all of a sudden it was like he just quit hurting.”

“Hmm, it could have been stomach problems,” James wonders. “maybe he ate something that disagreed with him?”

“But that doesn’t explain the electricity!” Samantha reasons before nodding her head towards Wahya, “And I don’t think he’s having stomach problems eating like he’s doing now.”

The three of them watch Wahya consume another helping of Samantha’s homemade potato salad, relishing the flavors.

“No, you’ve got a point there!” Morgan laughs.

James still feels uneasy, telling Samantha mostly, “Well, I don’t like the idea of him going out to Redwater with you girls. What if it happens again out in the field? He can stay with me and Melia.”

Morgan nods in agreement, “That might be a good idea!”

Ready to go along with the rest, Samantha chimes in, “Yeah, we just need to take the gorget with us. Will he let us ‘borrow’ it?”

Morgan motions to Wahya as he sits next to her at the table, asking him for the gorget, which he quickly produces from his pocket. But when she holds out her hand to take it, he shakes his head determinedly and his eyes go wide as he grasps the stone tightly in his hand, holding it to his chest.

“No,” he says in English.

Confused by his refusal and fearful expression, Morgan looks at him pleadingly, “Please, Wahya? I’ll give it back!”

Wahya swallows, his own ebony eyes full of pleading, “Gor... Gorg...?”

Morgan finishes the word for him, and he starts again, worry paling his face, “Gorget, Wahya okay. No gorget, Wahya no okay.”

James rubs the back of his neck, “Does he think the gorget is what made him feel better? It seems to be a talisman of some sort to him and maybe he thinks it has healing properties.”

Morgan nods, understanding the anthropology professor’s summation. She looks at Wahya while pointing to her own stomach, “Gorget made you feel okay here? No gorget, not okay here?” She frowns and rubs her stomach as if she were in pain.

Wahya nods, clearly concerned that if he gives up the gorget, the pain will return.

“Well this makes things a little difficult,” Samantha frowns.

Putting her hand on Wahya’s arm, Morgan tries to reassure him, sincerely looking into his deep black eyes, “It’s okay. I promise to give it right back to you. And if you’re right, we need to know if the gorget is doing something.”

He swallows heavily, his trust in Morgan evident despite the lack of knowing what she’d just promised. Tentatively, he hands her the stone. She keeps her eyes trained on his, knowing how scared he must feel, and reassuringly squeezes his arm to let him know that she has his best interests in mind. After all, the gorget might be the key to getting him home.

All four of them sit very still for several moments waiting for something to happen. When nothing does, Wahya is the first to breathe easier. He smiles weakly, still feeling okay, and puts his hand over Morgan’s. She in turn smiles back at him, putting the gorget into his palm.

Turning her attention to the other two, she acknowledges, “I don’t know that he would like it much if we left him without the gorget. And even more so, what if it does have some sort of power?”

James breathes out heavily, “You think the gorget really healed him before?”

Morgan shrugs, “I don’t know. But I do know that if you told me I would be running around with a time traveler two days ago, I would have said you were crazy. We don’t have a clue about anything that’s going on, and we don’t know how the gorget is involved, just that he’s treated it like life or death ever since he’s arrived. And I don’t want to be the one to disbelieve anything at this point.”

“She’s got a point, honey,” Samantha nods to James.

“Yeah, I know,” James replies. “So why do you need the gorget to go out to Redwater?”

“We want Mr. Billings to look at it again,” Morgan explains.

James is about to ask another question, but his wife cuts him off, “And no, you can’t go in my place, so don’t even suggest it.”

“Oh! Of course not, dear! The thought never even occurred to me!” He smirks, giving his wife a teasing nudge with his elbow in the ribs.

Pretending to ignore him, she continues, “Well, we’re just going to have to take Wahya along, and pray nothing crazy happens. At least nothing more crazy than what’s already happened!”

“I still don’t like it. We could see if Kelly across the street can watch Melia, and I could go with you.”

Samantha pats his arm, “It’s alright, sweetheart, we’ll be fine! Plus, Kelly is at work, and I’m not ready to just let anybody watch Melia yet.”

Defeated in the argument, James simply nods, pushing back his chair as Melia starts to cry from her nursery, “Duty calls! You guys be careful and call me when you get there and when you’re on your way back, okay?!”

“James, don’t worry! We’ll be just fine! But I’ll call you regardless,” she answers before giving him a warm smile, her heart obviously melting at the thought of him worrying about her. Morgan hates to do it, but she breaks the spell between them as she gets up to help clear the table, all of them done eating and it being close to the time they needed to leave.

James shakes his head, telling her to set the plates back down, “Don’t worry about that. It’ll give me something to do while Melia and I worry about you guys.”

Standing, he turns his attention back to his auburn-haired wife, stooping to give Samantha a sweet kiss on the lips. Softly he says to her, “Scoot. You guys are going to be late.”

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