Ripples

Fourth Month - The Start

Atem woke from sleep and sat up. He sighed and held his head. "What is going on with me?"

He knew that he was to marry Roxanna in two months. However, he could not stand her; he tried to get to know her and hated what he learned. But that was not the only thing that he was curious about: he was constantly thinking and dreaming about Tima. Why he did, he did not know, especially since most of his thoughts were of her just looking at him as if wanting to ask him something. Whenever he asked her to be open with him, he always woke up. He looked up and, seeing the sun starting to come up, got up and started to dress for his morning run. He started to remember that Tima would help and froze for a second. He then sighed and continued to dress. "I need to figure this out…"

---

In her room, Tima was stretching her legs. She wanted to actually run with Atem and Jouno this time. While she had gotten used to riding her horse (whom she named Sarah), she had wanted to be closer to Atem in any way that she could. She then sighed and looked out the window. It had been a full month since she realized that she had feelings for Atem. It was a struggle for her because she knew that Atem was betrothed to Roxanna and tradition/custom stated that royalty could only marry royalty. She told herself that every day but her feelings only grew. "God…give me strength to get through this."

Seeing the sun starting to come up, she left the room and started to head down to the staples. She hoped that she would not be late. However, she ran into Lapidos, who looked at her. "You're up early."

Tima nodded a little. "The Pharaoh runs every morning. I'm going to him now."

Just then, she heard a familiar female voice. "Atem gets up at this awful hour?"

Tima looked behind Lapidos and saw Roxanna sticking her head out from her room. This was a surprise to Tima since Roxanna never woke up until the sun was almost at its peak. "Mistress…"

Lapidos looked at Roxanna and reacted in surprise. "Lady Roxanna, if I may, what are you doing up?"

Roxanna groaned and rubbed her eye. "Couldn't sleep…been thinking about Atem…"

Remembering that she had to meet up Atem and the group at the staples, Tima turned to head to the staples. Seeing this and needing someone to vent to, Roxanna stepped out and tripped Tima. Lapidos looked away, wanting deep down to help Tima, especially when her knee got scrapped from the trip, but he knew better than to stand up to Roxanna. Roxanna squatted down and looked at Tima. "Did I give you permission to leave?"

Tima winced at her scrapped knee but still shook her head. "No…but…"

Roxanna smirked. "And did I give you permission to speak? It seems that you have forgotten your place with Atem taking care of you like he has."

Tima blushed a little. Roxanna did not notice but Lapidos did. He silently wondered why Tima was blushing when Roxanna sat next to Tima. "I don't know why Atem keeps you around. You are so troublesome, clumsy, pathetic, and (not that it matters) not much to look at. So why does it prefer your company over mine?"

Tima lowered her head. She had almost forgotten about Roxanna's verbal abuse. She always talked down to the servants when she was alone with them and they could not say anything because no one believed them since Roxanna always denied the accusations. The Greek chuckled and shook her head. "I still have a hard time believing it: Atem, my husband to be and the most powerful man in Khment, giving you attention and not me. I mean, I am the daughter of the most powerful politician in Greece and you're nothing. How does that work out?"

Seeing that Tima was getting hurt from the words, Lapidos stepped in to answer. "I do not know, my lady."

Roxanna nodded and yawned. "Mm…well, the wedding is in two months so I will make him spend time with me. I'll tear down the wall that's surrounded his heart and he and his wealth and power will be mine." She then yawned again and rubbed her eyes. "But later. I need to sleep."

Tima helped Roxanna up, keeping her head down. "Sleep well, Mistress."

Roxanna lifted up Tima's head with her finger and looked at the Hebrew. "Enjoy the company of the Pharaoh. Once he's mine, he'll never leave my side." With that, Roxanna went to try to sleep.

Tima lowered her head again once she and Lapidos were alone. "Why? Why must we endure her abuse?"

Lapidos sighed softly. "We should be grateful. She saved us from her father…"

Tima's head snapped up, showing her tears. "And she treats us horribly. It's not right." She then remembered the run and realized that they must have started without her. She turned and ran to the stables. Watching her, Lapidos sighed again. "What can two servants do to change this?"

---

Tima rode her horse out of the staples. She was ignoring the stinging pain that her scrapped knee was giving her and wiping the tears from her eyes. She knew that she looked like a mess and she did not want to see Atem like this. However, she knew she had to help with the run, even though Roxanna's verbal bullying still rang in her head. Just as she shook her head to try to forget them, she saw the group at the first rest stop. She raced up to them and slid off Sarah to her hands and knees, whimpering a little at her scrap. "Pharaoh, I'm so sorry!"

Atem blinked in surprise. When she did not show up, he assumed that she slept in and decided to let her sleep. He went up to her and bent down to her level. "Tima, look at me." When she peeked up, he picked her up and smiled. "There's no need to be afraid, all right? I'm not upset."

Tima looked at him, trying unsuccessfully to suppress the blush that was slowly rising on her face. "But…I'm very late."

Atem shook it off as Jouno smiled from where he was. "One of the guards wanted to go find you but Atem told him no, to let you sleep."

Tima now could not hide her blush. Atem was not only not mad, he defended his assumption? She almost told Atem the truth but then remembered that she and other slaves tried to turn in Roxanna for her abuse in Greece and were brushed aside. Mentally sighing, she nodded. "Yes. I…slept in today. I'm sorry."

Atem raised his eyebrow; seeing her actions, he did not believe her. "Then why are you crying…and why is your knee scrapped?"

Tima looked down and noticed that her knee was starting to bleed. She then looked away. "I tripped…when I saw how late I was."

Kiko started to come forward to demand that Tima tell the truth but Atem held up his hand, stopping the Cetria. He then got close to Tima and whispered, "Did Roxanna do this to you?"

Tima peeked at him. Her face clearly showed her deception as she responded, "She…"

Atem started to hate Roxanna all over again. He could not stand her treating the servants bad but he could tell that Tima got the bulk of the bullying. That alone made his blood boil as he pulled out his handkerchief and wiped her eyes, smiling softly to hide his anger. "As I said before, Tima, a girl with cute eyes like yours should never have tears coming down."

Tima smiled sadly. Atem then looked down at her bloody knee. "Now we need to fix that."

Tima tried to say that he did not have to worry about it when he nodded to Kiko. Kiko came forward and quickly lifted Tima's knee a little. Now having a perch, Tarra landed on Tima's thigh and shed a few tears on the wound, healing it. Tarra's eyes sparkled at Tima as the phoenix nuzzled her. There. We don't want you to get hurt now, do we?

Tima smiled and hugged the phoenix so she could put her leg down. She then looked at Atem. "Have you gotten water yet, Pharaoh?"

Atem nodded. "But I think Sarah need some."

The brunette smiled and nodded. Letting Tarra go, she went to get water for the horse. While she was doing so, Kiko looked at Atem. "You know that Roxanna did something to scrape her knee, right?"

Atem nodded. "Of course. What I don't understand is why Tima is defending her."

Kiko shrugged a little. "Who knows? Maybe that's what she was taught to do." She then looked at Atem. "We need to get rid of that Greek bitch."

Atem nodded. "I wish we could. But we're stuck with her and you know what could happen if we send her back."

Kiko groaned but had to agree. Like the rest of the court, war was the last thing she wanted. She turned to suggest something when she noticed Atem's look. He was looking at Tima, who was now giggling with delight as Sarah was nuzzling her as thank you for giving the horse water. He seemed at peace and wanted to help her. Tapping his shoulder to get his attention, she took a gamble: "Atem, this may be bold but…I can't help but hear the voices of the Planet and they're telling me that you have feelings for Tima."

Overhearing them, Tarra flew to Atem's shoulder. She's not the only one who has noticed.

Atem blushed a little and wanted to say that maybe Kiko was wrong. However, he remembered that he tried that line once in the past and got a lecture from the Cetria about how the Planet never lies. Feeling the stare of Kiko and Tarra, he sighed and looked at Tima. "Let's just say…she's caught my interest."

Kiko immediately started to grin. "Oh really? Your interest?"

Atem did not want to go more than that since he still did not know how he felt about his personal servant. Thankfully, Jouno announced that they were ready to continue the run. The Pharaoh hoped that Kiko would not bring up the subject again. In a way, he got his wish because Kiko never brought it up again but he spent the rest of the day wondering about how he felt about Tima. His thoughts only grew stronger at dinner. Not knowing his problems or his fury towards her bullying the Hebrew, Roxanna prattled on and on about the upcoming wedding. Atem did not listen to her and only reacted when Tima came in to refill their wine. He smiled at her. "Thank you, Tima."

Tima smiled and bowed her head. That sent a tingle of jealousy down Roxanna's spine. Atem would not even acknowledge that she, his betrothed, was in the room talking about their big day but he gave his attention to Tima, a lowly slave? She looked away from Tima when the brunette refilled her glass but, when Tima turned to return to the kitchen, the Greek quickly stuck her foot out, tripping Tima. Tima landed on her hands and feet but did not get hurt. That's when she realized that she did not have the jug of wine. Fearing the worse, she slowly looked up and saw her worse fear: the jug landed on Atem, covering him with wine. Another servant hurried over and started to wipe off the wine as Tima cowered at Atem's feet. "I'm so sorry! I beg your forgiveness!"

Roxanna had a very small but very dark smirk on her face. Not knowing but suspecting that Roxanna tripped Tima, Atem noticed the dark smirk and glared a little before turning to Tima and speaking to her in a gentle tone. "Tima…get up off the floor."

Tima slowly obeyed but kept her head down until Atem reached over and made her look at him. "No need to be afraid. It was an accident, nothing more." Tima wanted to protest but Atem held up his hand, stopping her. "No buts. You are human and accidents happen. Now can you get me some more wine?"

Tima nodded and hurried off to help him. Thanks to Roxanna bullying her earlier, she was worried that he would snap at her. Atem stopped the servant who was cleaning his shirt, stating that he would wash before bed, as Roxanna looked at Atem. "Are you sure she shouldn't be punished? I mean, she did stain your shirt." Atem shook his head so Roxanna continued. "Atem-darling, surely something like this should not go unpunished."

Atem gripped his goblet and stared at her with a cold, hard stare. "Roxanna, it is different here. I would have suspected that you would have learned that during your four moons here. Here, we do not punish servants for accidents such as that…nor do they cause bodily harm to them for no reason."

Roxanna raised her eyebrow, noticing that he did not call her "Lady Roxanna." "What are you talking about?"

"When Tima arrived at our resting point, she had a scrapped knee. She said it was from tripping…but her demeanor clearly showed that someone hurt her, both physically and emotionally." His eyes narrowed as he said, "If you do not learn to respect others and stop tormenting the servants, you are not meant to be Queen material."

Atem did not know if the rest of the servants were being treated as badly as Tima but he figured that he could stand up for all of them with that statement. With that, he stood up from his chair. "Now if you will excuse me, I shall retire."

Roxanna watched him, stunned that she was scolded by him. Tima, peeking in from the kitchen, was surprised to see Atem so upset by this. But she did like it, feeling her heart swell.

---

The next morning, Atem woke up a little groggy. He had a hard time sleeping the previous night since he was still very upset at Roxanna for treating Tima horribly and since Tima occupied his mind all night again. He groaned and clutched his head. "Tima…why do you own my thoughts?"

As he rolled out of bed and started to change into his running outfit, he heard a knock at the door. Suspecting it was a servant, he finished dressing and said, "Enter!"

To his disgusted surprise, it was Roxanna, dressed in a short dress. "Good morning, Atem!"

Atem's eyes grew wide with shock. "What are you doing up so early?"

Roxanna grinned. "I'm going to run with you."

Atem could not believe what he was hearing. The one time of day where he did not have to worry about running into Roxanna and here she was at his door, proclaiming that she would run with him. He stood up and started to go to the door. "Roxanna, I mean no disrespect but do you want to have a little more sleep?"

Roxanna rubbed her eye, trying to hide the fact that she was exhausted. "No. As your future wife and queen, I should go with you."

Atem wanted to protest but it was clear that Roxanna was going to be stubborn. He only hoped that everyone else would be able to handle her.

---

At the stables, Kiko was fuming when she saw Roxanna there with Atem. Jouno was mentally cursing and glaring as Tima was preparing Sarah to be ridden. She could not believe that Roxanna was up and wanted to run with them. Like Atem, she saw the run as a time to be away from the horrible Greek woman. Roxanna put on her fake happiness mask, even though she was starting to regret her decision; she hated "unnecessary" exercise such as this and she hated being surrounded by servants. "This is going to be a wonderful run, don't you think so, Atem-dear?"

Atem's eyebrow twitched at the nickname. He knew that she was trying to be sweet to him, especially after his scolding yesterday. "With due respect, Roxanna, have you ever ran like this before?"

Before she could stop herself, Tima snickered; she knew that Roxanna had never ran a day in her life unless she was late for an appointment. Thankfully, her back was to Roxanna so the Greek did not see who laughed. After looking around to find the source of the laughter, Roxanna recovered and nodded. "Of course I have."

No one believed her, even if Tima had not snickered. Atem looked at Kiko and mouthed 'help me.' Kiko grinned and stepped forward. "Then show me your thighs." Roxanna blushed and opened her mouth to protest but Kiko continued, "If you are a runner like you claim, then your thighs will show that. Besides, as the future queen, you must be able to keep up with Atem."

Roxanna looked at Atem, hoping that he would defend her. But he smirked, mentally thanking Kiko, and looked away from Roxanna. "If a woman is not in proper shape for me, then it's not worth it for me."

Jouno agreed. "Damn straight, 'Tem. Who wants a girl who's out of shape?"

Roxanna blushed with anger. She did not like the accusation that they were giving her, even though they were almost right; while she was not completely out of shape, she was no runner. Seeing that, Kiko got on her horse and directed it towards the door. "Ready when you are, Atem."

Atem broke away from Roxanna as Tima got on her horse as well. "A beginner should not start out with a vigorous run. Maybe you can start with running around the palace. For now, you can go back to sleep." With that, they left Roxanna standing in the stables, stunned that she was denied something she wanted and caught in a lie.

Once they were away from the stables, Jouno laughed. "Thank the gods! We got away from the bitch!"

Atem laughed, also relieved. "You really hate her, don't you?"

Jouno nodded as they continued to run. "Of course! We all do!"

Before she could stop herself, Tima blurted out, "I don't blame you."

The humans smiled with pride and the phoenixes chirped happily: Tima finally let out her feelings about Roxanna. They knew that this was a big step for her and were very happy. Atem was especially happy since he knew that Tima had it rough with Roxanna's family. Jouno noticed Atem's look and, remembering Tima always blushing around Atem, knew that he had to ask at the resting point.

---

While Tima and Kiko were watering their horses, Jouno approached Atem with a few rags. "'Tem, can I talk to you for a moment?"

Atem took his rag and started to wipe off his sweat. "Yes, what is it?"

"That was pretty cool, you and Kiko getting rid of Roxanna like that."

Atem chuckled as he took off his shirt to dry his chest. "Of course. This is the only time of day where we're safe from her. I wish there was a way to get rid of her completely."

Jouno chuckled, taking off his own shirt. "I got a suggestion: find someone else."

Atem gave him an amused look. "And where am I supposed to find a woman of royalty in the next two months?"

That statement made Jouno turn serious. "Who says she has to be royalty?"

Atem blinked at Jouno, neither expecting that question nor the look on his face. "Well, it's taboo…and tradition…"

Jouno sighed. "Who gives a damn if it's tradition? Love is love. As long as the girl makes you happy, you should be able to be with her, whether she's a princess or a slave."

Jouno did not know about Atem's mind being owned by Tima but Atem peeking at Tima gave it away. The blond captain followed his look and smirked. "Ah…so you have your eye on Tima."

Atem blushed and slapped Jouno's chest with his rag, making the blond laugh. "Jouno, don't put words in my mouth."

The blond shrugged. "I call them as I see them. But you have my blessing." Before Atem could protest, Jouno cut him off with, "Call it a feeling: I think she's the real deal and I say that without knowing her that well. Just give her a chance." With that, he went to Kiko to both get water and flirt.

Atem finished drying himself off and watched Tima laughing as Kiko pushed the water sack in Jouno's face to deny his flirts. The Pharaoh sighed; he still did not fully understand how he felt about his slave. All he knew was that he never wanted to see her sad again, wanted to protect her, and wanted her to always smile. He also knew that everything she did, whether it was her emotions or her actions, affected him. No one, not even his closest female friends Kiko and Mana, affected him as Tima did. He only hoped that he could find a name for this mystery.

---

After they came back and Atem had bathed and clothed, he started to head to his daily meeting. Seeing Tarra fly to him, he smiled and offered his arm as a perch. "Nice to see you up, Tarra."

Tarra cooed and nuzzled his head; she had a hard time sleeping the night before so Atem let her sleep in. Thank you, Pharaoh. Have a good run?

Atem paused for a moment, thinking about the talk he had with Jouno. Tarra noticed that and was about to ask him to explain when they heard Tima singing from the gardens (she had given him privacy for his bath and lost track of time). Feeling as if he was under a spell, Atem stood at the entrance of the garden and watched Tima, who did not notice him because her back was to him. This song was very different from the prayer he heard last month: this song was powerful in its delivery and almost mournful in its message. While he did not understand her language, he could feel himself being pulled into the song, as if he was transported to another world. He could feel the pain and sadness behind the music but there seemed to be a glimmer of hope there as well. He could not believe it: not even his best entertainers could move him like this. Not only were her words hypnotizing, her dances were enticing. The way her hips shook, her body twirled, and her hair flashed, her body seemed to be one with the song. Atem could only whisper, "Tima…"

Towards the end of the song, the song became more mournful than the rest. If her voice did not convey the sad emotions, the tears falling from her eyes did. Atem's breath was taken away, still hypnotized and almost forgetting that Tarra was on his arm. After a beat, Tima started to sing the chorus of the song. Tarra looked at Atem and got a big surprise: he had tears coming down his cheeks as well. A little worried, she nuzzled him. Atem?

Atem woke up a little as Tima ended the song on her hands and knees, trying to catch her breath. Atem noticed the tears and touched them in surprise. He looked at Tima, who looked up and noticed him standing there. She saw his tears and thought it meant a bad thing so she got up and started to run but Atem stopped her. She paused but did not look at him. "Forgive me…I should have not have done that…"

Atem cupped her chin and lifted her head. "Don't apologize. That song touched my heart."

Tima's eyes widened in surprise, making Tarra laugh. We didn't understand the language but your voice had him hypnotized and moved to tears.

Tima noticed his tears and wanted to wipe his tears away with her handkerchief that she kept wrapped around her wrist. Recognizing it as the handkerchief he gave her when she told him her life story, he took it from her and wiped her eyes. Tima blushed deeply at his actions and found herself leaning in close to him, her body moving on its own. Atem noticed her actions and stayed still, allowing her to do so. However, she took his stillness as not wanting it and pulled away. "I'm sorry…you're my owner…I can't do that…"

Atem was about to ask her to explain when she turned and ran away. The Pharaoh stood there in disbelief. "Why did she run away?"

Tarra looked at Atem. She seemed to want to do something.

Atem looked at his phoenix and wiped away his tears with the handkerchief. "Yes…but what was that?"

Tarra had a theory. Maybe she wanted to kiss you.

Atem blushed bright red and started to leave, intent on leaving Tarra behind but the phoenix continued to follow. What? What did I say?

Atem continued to ignore her and, unfortunately, that meant that he was not paying attention to where he was going. He ran right into a female servant who was carrying a bowl of recently mashed grapes. His shirt became covered with the goop and the servant paled. "Pharaoh, I am so sorry!"

Atem waved it off. "It's all right. I wasn't paying attention. It's not your fault."

The servant sighed with relief and asked, "Shall I change your shirt?"

He shook his head and started to leave. "I can do that. But do send Tima to my room with some wine." He wanted to talk to her about the song.

---

When Tima came to Atem's room with a goblet and pitcher of wine, she entered, assuming that he was in the bathing area. Alas, he was in the room and was changing his shirt. The Hebrew turned around and saw him frozen, caught with his new shirt in his hand. She immediately got down on her hands and knees. "Pharaoh, please forgive me! I did not mean to come in unannounced!"

Settling his blush, Atem put on the clean shirt and went to her. "Tima…" Seeing her waiting to be punished, he sighed. "No need for you to act this way. Stand up."

Nervously, Tima stood up but she kept her head down. She was blushing madly and was afraid that it would show all. Atem reached over and cupped his chin. "Look at me."

Tima adverted her gaze, still nervous. After a minute, though, she looked at him and saw that he was more concerned than mad. He smiled softly and reminded her, "Stop thinking that I will harm you. I'm not like Roxanna, praise the gods."

Tima had to smile at that, making Atem's smile widen. "That's better but we need to break you of this habit. Can you think of anything that can help you remember?"

Before she could stop herself, she blurted under her breath, "Kiss?"

Atem saw her lips move but did not hear the words. "What was that?" When Tima did not answer, he asked again, "What was that you said?"

Tima took a step back, her lips sealed and tears starting to form. Her feelings were starting to come out but she still believed that it could never happen. 'I can't tell him…I can't…'

She turned to run away but Atem quickly yet gently grabbed her arm. "Tima…stop running away."

Tima turned and look at him, making Atem freeze. The look on her face was the same face that he always saw in his dreams. After biting his tongue to determine that he was not sleeping, he knew that he would finally get the answer. "What is it?"

Tima took a deep breath. "Permission to act freely?"

Atem was a little confused by the question, not expecting it, but he still nodded. Seeing the nod, Tima quickly hugged him. Atem froze again: she was hugging him. Feeling him freeze, Tima assumed that he did not like what she was doing and started to pull away. That's when he moved in a way that she did not see coming: he wrapped his arms around her and held her close. Feeling his strong arms protecting her, tears formed and started to fall as she leaned into his chest. He felt the tears and tightened his hold. "Ssh…it's all right, Tima…" He heard her apologize and started to stroke her hair. "It's all right…I got you…"

Tima cried for a few minutes and then finally settled down. She pulled her head away and sniffled. "I'm so…sorry…"

Atem wiped a stray tear away. "It's all right, Tima. You don't have to apologize." He let her go and led her to the bed. Sitting her down, he got down on one knee so their heads could be level. He continued to wipe her tears away as the look of want came back on her face. But she figured that her luck would not let her have two things she wanted. She lowered her head and Atem sighed. It hurt him when she was so locked up; he wanted to make her smile and could not when she was like this. "Tima…tell me what's on your mind."

Tima looked up. "Why?" Seeing his confused look, she elaborated. "Why do you care about me?"

Atem blinked a little, not expecting her to ask. He still had no idea what the feelings were but he knew that they felt right: he wanted to protect Tima and keep her smiling. He reached up and touched her cheek, making her blush. "You've been through too much. You've been sad since you lost your family, right?" Seeing her eyes lower, he continued, "I want to take away your sadness and have you smile."

Tima looked up and knew that he was telling her the truth as she touched his hand. He smiled. "From now on, Tima…if you have something on your mind, don't hesitate to tell me."

Tima knew that she wanted one thing and sighed. "I can't…you'll never understand…"

She tried to look away but his hand made her look at him, deep in his eyes. "Try me."

Taking a deep breath, Tima decided to tell him by inching forward. Atem saw her and leaned in himself. They kept inching forward until their lips met each other. The kiss lasted for about a minute until Tima's mind screamed at her that this was not right and she pulled away. She was mentally freaking out, thinking she crossed the line, when Atem gently asked her, "Why did you stop?"

She looked at him and saw that he was smiling. He leaned forward and kissed her again, which she responded. But she could not help what came out of her mouth when the kiss broke: "What have we done?" Seeing his confused look, she covered her eyes and lowered her head. "You and I…we're not supposed to…"

Atem put the pieces together. "Be together. Is that what you're thinking?" Tima stayed silent but it spoke volumes. He gently removed her hands. "Tima…please stop this. Stop hiding from me."

Tima did not look up so Atem got an idea. He sat behind her and hooked his arms around her waist. Her head snapped up in surprise as he held her close and started to nuzzle her neck. Tima gasped and blushed but she was still worried. "Atem…we'll get in trouble…I don't want anything to happen to you."

Atem closed in to her ear and whispered, "Forget your worries." Feeling her lean in, he smiled and put his head on her shoulder. "Don't worry about us. We're all right."

Tima nodded and put her hands on his arms. But she still wanted to know, "Why me?"

Atem smiled. "You're different…more than different." He looked at her and continued, "I have never felt this way before…this way that you affect me. From smiling to singing, to your happiness to your sadness…no other woman has had that effect on me."

Tima blushed, feeling her feelings swell. "Tell me…how do you feel about me?"

Atem squeezed her gently and came clean. "In all honesty, Tima…I don't know how to describe the way I feel in words. Whenever I'm around you…I feel as if there was a hole that was filled; you filled that hole. I feel at ease when I'm around you. When you're happy, so am I; when you're sad, so am I. You…mean that much to me."

Tima reached behind her and touched his cheek. "I feel…the same way. I've always wanted to make you happy, even more than a servant should want. The way you protect me, make me feel happy and wanted…you have made my heart go to you."

He smiled sweetly and kissed her again. Tima kissed him back, no longer afraid. When they broke for air, she leaned her head into his neck and then realized something. "What will people say about this?"

That got Atem to thinking and knew that there was a problem: though he had feelings for Tima, he was still technically betrothed to Roxanna and the court might not appreciate the Pharaoh choosing a servant to be with. Tima pulled away to look at him as he said, "I don't care what people say."

Tima was worried still. "But…what happens if they find out? They might try to separate us."

Atem shook his head. "I won't allow it."

Tima then quickly suggested, "Let's keep this a secret."

Atem was surprised that she suggested that. "Tima, do you really want that?"

Tima was surprised at herself as well and thought it over. Was it even possible for them to keep their relationship a secret? She looked at Atem and determined that, even in secret, being with him would be worth it. "Yes. If it means being with you…"

Atem held her close and smiled. He knew that this was probably the right road to travel, at least until they found a way to get rid of Roxanna. They stayed like this for a moment until they heard Tarra (who saw the exchange from the rafters). I am very happy for you, Atem, but you still have that meeting to attend.

Tima hid her face with embarrassment as Atem looked up at his phoenix. "Do you mind?"

Tarra tilted her head. Don’t shoot the messenger. I figured that it was better for me to say it than someone to barge in and see you two this way.

Atem nodded and let go to Tima. He stood up and put on his cape. He reached for the door when he felt Tima hug him from behind. He smiled and closed his eyes. "Tima…"

Tima smiled. "Thank you…Atem."

Hearing her say his name instead of "Pharaoh" made his smile widen. He turned and kissed her deeply, which she responded to. He then left for the meeting, leaving Tima smiling in his room. While keeping this relationship a secret would be rough, they knew that it would be well worth it in the end.
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