Ripples

Second Month - Eyes Opening

One morning, Atem groaned and stretched his back. He had gotten back from his run with Jouno and was just getting out of the bathing area. As servants entered to dress him, he asked, "Have you seen Tima?"

The head servant nodded. "Yes, my Pharaoh. She is fixing your breakfast."

Atem smiled a little. He had wanted to talk to her for the past month. Ever since she sat on him to try to cool a supposed fever that he had, she had taken to being very tense when she was around him. He tried to tell her that she was not in trouble and he was not mad at her but she had a hard time believing him. He only hoped that he would get through to her soon. As if on cue, Tima came in with his breakfast. The other servants bowed and left since Atem was fully dressed. Atem smiled and nodded at Tima. "Good morning, Tima."

Tima just nodded at him and set the tray in front of him. Atem looked up at her. "Aren't you going to talk to me?"

Tima winced a little and looked away, a little nervous. Atem sighed and started to eat his food. "I've told you many times: I'm not mad about what happened."

Tima looked at him. "How can you say that? I held you down…in that compromising position."

Suddenly remembering that, Atem blushed deeply. Tarra, who was cleaning her feathers, caught Atem's blush and laughed at him. Atem mentally glared at her and cleared his throat. "Um, yes…that position was…very unexpected."

Tima immediately got on her hands and knees, bowing her head. "Please forgive me…I deserve to be punished."

Atem sighed; he felt like they were back to square one again. He reached over and touched her head gently. She winced out of instinct as he said, "I will not punish. However, I wish to know why you did that."

Tima swallowed hard. "I've seen…Lapidos do it to Mistress…the Head Master told him that he could do that…since Mistress fights when she's sick."

Atem listened and understood. "So, because you've seen him do it, you thought you could do it as well?"

Tima nodded and tensed up again. "Please…forgive me."

Reaching under, Atem made Tima look at her. "I was never mad at you. But please do not do that again."

Tima nodded. However, it was still clear that she was still worried about being punished. Atem sighed softly and continued to eat his breakfast. He was now out of ideas about how to get her to come out of her shell again.

---

Later that day, Tima was walking around the palace, trying to find Atem so she could serve him. When she left him to make his lunch, he was in the middle of a meeting with the priests about the development on a new temple and possibly extending the kingdom. However, when she went to his balcony where he always ate to drop off the food, he was not there. She went by the meeting room but he had already left. So she left the food back in the kitchen to keep it from attracting flies and went on a hunt for Atem. She was still a little nervous about him possibly hitting her but their talk that morning did help her a little. As she was walking, she came across a male head servant, who looked a little frantic. "Are you okay?"

The servant looked at Tima and immediately asked her, "Are you busy now?"

Tima blinked a little in surprise. "Um…I'm looking for the Pharaoh…to serve him his lunch."

Taking that as an "I'm not busy," the servant grabbed Tima's hands. "Please, I need your help. One of the servants is sick and can't do his duty now. Please, can you do his chore for him?"

Tima wanted to protest but she knew that part of her duty as a slave was to help out when other slaves were down. Sighing mentally, she nodded. "All right." With that, the servant handed her a rag. Tima raised her eyebrow. "What's this?"

The servant started to pull her to another room. "What you need to do. You need to clean the gods and goddesses."

Tima immediately stopped, making the other servant stop as well. "What? What's wrong?"

Tima gave back the rag. "I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"I just can't."

"You said that you would help."

Tima shook her head, feeling conflicted. She knew that she had to obey an order but she could not disobey a commandment of her religion and thought that the servant would laugh at her for her beliefs. As the servant tried to get her to come clean about why she could not clean the statues, Roxanna turned the corner and saw them. The servant and Tima bowed their heads as the Greek asked, "What's going on here?"

The servant looked at Tima. "She said that she would help me by doing a sick slave's chore but now she's refusing."

Remembering that Roxanna helped her out of a similar situation in Greece, Tima looked up at Roxanna. "They want me to clean their gods and goddesses. You know that I can't do that."

To her surprise, Roxanna gave her a blank look, as if she did not know why Tima could not do that. Tima's heart sank as the Greek told her, "Come now, Tima. You were told to do a chore and you're to do it."

Tima did not even twitch. She was making it clear that she was not going to clean the idols. Roxanna glared at her and took a step closer. "Tima…do as you were told."

Tima paled and took a step back until she was against the wall. The other servant got a little nervous at Roxanna's actions; he knew that Roxanna had a reputation of being rough with the slaves but he had never seen her up close like this. Roxanna got close to Tima and glared. "I don't care how it was in Greece. We're in Khment now and you need to set a good example since I was nice enough to make you the Pharaoh's personal slave. Now do your job or you'll get punished."

Tima looked away, scared. Roxanna snorted and stepped back to administer the punishment when they heard a familiar voice: "What's the meaning of this?"

Everyone looked up and immediately bowed their heads in respect. Atem went up to Tima and asked, "Are you all right?"

Tima blinked and almost blushed in surprise. The Pharaoh was worried about a common slave like her, even after how uncomfortable she made him last month? She nodded as Atem asked the other servant, "What is going on here?"

Looking up, the servant said, "One of the slaves is sick and can't clean the statues of the gods and goddesses. I asked Tima to do so but she refused and Roxanna…was about to punish her for disobeying."

Atem glared a little at Roxanna, who shrunk back. She did not like his glare. Atem looked at the servant and explained, "Tima can't touch our deities because of her religion."

The servant looked at Tima. "Is that true?" After Tima nodded a little, he smiled. "Well, why didn't you say so? I'll go find someone else; if not, I'll clean them myself."

With that, the servant left, leaving Tima in a small state of shock. She did not expect that he would accept her different religion and its rules but she was grateful. Atem looked at Tima and smiled. "Not all the servants follow my religion so they're used to dealing with other beliefs. Now can you go get my lunch and meet me on the balcony?"

Tima nodded and went off to the kitchen. Roxanna was a little shocked as well but for a different reason. "Atem, how could you let her off like that? She disobeyed an order that was given to her."

Atem gave Roxanna a hard look. "As I recall, you were lenient about her refusing to touch your idols. So what has changed?"

Roxanna paled a little. She did not like being called on her words. "Well…she was given an order and refused it. That's a bad thing for the personal slave of the Pharaoh."

Atem's hard look turned harder. "You need to treat the servants with better respect, you understand me? No one in my palace will treat them horribly just because of who they are. Do I make myself clear?"

Roxanna squirmed. She hated to be scolded, especially when she truly believed that she did nothing wrong. When she looked up at him, she saw that he was walking around. "Atem, where are you going?"

"Tima has my lunch waiting for me."

Roxanna started to catch up to him. "Wait, I'll join you."

Atem narrowed his eyes. "No. I prefer to eat alone." With that, he left, leaving her stunned.

---

As he entered his room, Atem heard a female voice singing a simple melody. Pausing for a moment, he soon realized that it was Tima out on the balcony. As she kept flies off his lunch, she was vocalizing a tune. Atem stood still and listened to her. Her voice was beautiful and he felt himself almost go into a trance. This was different from the singers that performed at parties; for a reason he did not understand, her voice captivated him. He also noticed that her face seemed truly relaxed and at peace; he guessed that this was her true face. When she stopped, he applauded her, startling her. "Pharaoh! I…"

Atem approached her with a smile. "You have a lovely voice, Tima."

Tima blushed a little. She had never done just a melody before and she always did it in private since she once saw a male slave threatened to have his tongue cut off when he was singing on the job. "You…don't mind…me singing?"

Atem shook his head and started to eat his lunch, which was meat and vegetables with wine. "Why would I mind? You have a gift and gifts are not to be stepped on."

Tima had a feeling that there was another meaning to what Atem said since she was a gift to him from Roxanna. She started to leave him when he looked at her. "Going so soon?"

Tima looked back at him. "I don't want to bother you."

Atem smiled and shook his head. "I told you the day you arrived: one of the things you can do for me is keep me company. So stay."

Tima felt a little funny but joined Atem's side again. Atem sighed, still smiling, and said, "Talk to me. Why are you so nervous around me all the time?"

Tima lowered her head a little and fidgeted. She decided to come clean to him. "Years…with the Head Master…and Mistress…always being punished for doing wrong…even when they said they weren't mad…"

Atem immediately realized what she was getting at: she thought he was lying about not being mad about the position she put him in. He sighed and touched her shoulder, feeling her flinch. "Here, our word is our bond. When we say that we are not mad, we are not mad. So please, stop beating yourself. You're safe here, all right?"

Tima looked at Atem and saw the truth in his eyes. Finally believing him, she smiled softly and nodded.

---

That night, Tima was settling into bed when Kiko came in, finished with her chores. "Well! You finally look better."

Tima blushed a little and scratched the back of her neck. "Well…the Pharaoh explained that his word is his bond. That finally convinced me."

Kiko tackled her to the bed and put her in a playful headlock. "I've told you for the past moon! Why don't you listen to me, your friend?"

Tima laughed and got out of the headlock. Before she could explain, Kiko suddenly remembered and asked, "By the way, do you want to join us tomorrow morning?"

Tima tilted her head. "What's tomorrow morning?"

"Before sunrise, Atem usually goes running with the Captain of his guard and a few guards. I go with him to tend to theirs and the horses' water needs."

Tima's eyes widened a little. "How long has the Pharaoh been doing this?" After Kiko explained that he did this every morning, Tima got a little worried. "I'm the Pharaoh's personal slave…and I haven't been attending to his runs?"

Kiko waved it off. "Don’t worry about it. You can join us tomorrow. But you think you can handle it?"

Tima's face scrunched with confusion. "Of course. I'm bound to serve the Pharaoh and I can run."

Kiko shook her head. "That's not what I mean. What I mean…ah, why spoil the surprise? Get some sleep; we get up early." With that, she left to tend to something she forgot.

Tima did her evening prayer and laid back. She had no idea what Kiko was talking about but was still determined to serve the Pharaoh. Little did she know, Atem always took off his shirt for the run back and Kiko was a little curious on how Tima would react to seeing that…especially since she suspected that Tima was worried about what happened for more than just a slave overstepping boundaries with the Pharaoh.
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