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Valley of the Queens

Chapter Text

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As a young girl, Christen Press ached to understand the meaning the of the soul mark on her arm, these strange drawings that made no sense to her. With the help of her wonderful fourth grade history teacher, they had discovered it’s origin. Realizing the hieroglyphs were not the typical ones seen in their history books, her teacher had dug deeper to discover it was classically known as Middle Egyptian. The font was a series of hieroglyphs and that ignited her fascination with all things Egyptian, especially in the time of the Pharaohs.

Christen had always been fascinated by the pyramids and the romance of Pharaohs and Queens ruling the lands of old. Known for her vivid imagination, she often played with her sisters and friends about being a queen and having servants and ruling Egypt. She felt a strange connection to the era she didn’t understand and acting out those times provided her comfort. Sometimes others would want to be queen and Christen didn’t like that at all. As she grew older she resorted to writing fanciful tales instead and keeping it from others from her childhood through her adolescence.

Christen grew up bi-lingual, speaking English and Spanish. Her school was bi-lingual and her parents and sisters all spoke Spanish as well. When she discovered her soulmate mark was Egyptian, that sparked her interest in learning new languages and it also reignited her childhood fantasies about being a queen. When she found articles about female consort rulers and the small group of women who actually ruled as Queen or Pharaoh, she felt a strange kinship. As if she lived in that time before. Her high school Spanish teacher helped guide her passion to learn Egyptian dialects and introduced her to a professor of Afro-Asiatic languages.

Dr. Nandi, a kind hearted professor from the University of California out of Riverside, was immediately impressed with fourteen year old Christen’s seriousness and passion for learning. After meeting with Christen’s parents, they arranged for a private tutor to begin her lessons. Christen started with learning current Arabic first, since it is the commonly used language in Egypt besides English and has many commonalities to the ancient languages of Egypt. Dr. Nandi has remained an important figure in Christen’s academic career. Over the years, they have grown close and Christen views her fondly as a favorite aunt and her mentor. After Christen got her driver’s license, she would often drive up to Riverside to meet with the woman to visit, talk about school and languages. It was then she explained her true reason for her desire to learn the languages she had been studying. Dr. Nandi found Christen’s mark fascinating having heard of marks being placed in other languages, yet never in an ancient language, especially Coptic, one that was classified as dead.

She encouraged Christen her language studies and to consider studying abroad while in college, perhaps in Egypt. Maybe being there would be helpful to decipher the meaning of her mark and give her direction with her life. Maybe she would meet her soulmate.

Young Christen had already wanted to go to Egypt, her parents had promised her a family trip there after her high school graduation. The idea of possibly studying there weighed heavily in her mind. She hadn’t considered it before. It made sense, she needed to be where the language was spoken, well, had been spoken in order to meet her soulmate.
That catapulted her academic career in motion. She spent her sophomore year of high school researching colleges with archeology programs. Archeology seemed like the best option to get her to Egypt and besides, she had found the idea of archeology to be fascinating. From the documentaries she had watched with fascination, the meticulous nature of the profession would suit her interest in science and the excitement for the unknown, not to mention the possibility of the travel experiences. If her soul mark was in Coptic, why not go and learn and discover what it was like to live during the time Coptic was spoken. Since she was a young girl she had felt drawn to the romantic stories of Pharaohs and Queens and mummies and remains. This only enhanced it further.

It didn’t take long for her professors at Stanford University to recognize they had a very special student in Christen. The fact that the freshman was proficient in Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew and had a working knowledge of Greek was impressive. Her desire to learn Coptic wasn’t surprising to them in the least. She was one of those rare students who exuded the passion for their work and it opened doors to opportunities other students may not have had.

Her sophomore year of college she travelled to London to study at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archeology for a semester through an exchange program. Upon her first visit to the museum she was deeply moved by everything- the smell of age throughout the building, the sounds of her footsteps on the worn wood floor, the glass cabinets filled with artifacts, jewelry, statues, canopic jars, the gold laden lids of sarcophagi that filled room after room. It called to her. She was enthralled. She was amazed. She felt a deep sense of familiarity she’s never felt in her life before when she stood so close and later when she handled the artifacts. She firmly believed this was where she was meant to be.

She spent many evenings while in London for that semester, writing in her personal journal wondering if, perhaps, she had a past life during the time period she was so drawn to. She often felt these relics seemed so familiar to her. It wasn’t uncommon for people to feel vaguely aware of their past lives. She’d read about it before when some celebrity realized they were some former historical figure. It happened to regular people, those not in the spotlight of fame became aware of a previous life. She wondered if she was member of royalty with how these items she held in her hands would feel so familiar to her. Maybe she was a potter making the jars. Maybe she was an artisan crafting the jewelry or furniture left in the tombs and chambers to enable the Pharaoh to the Afterlife. Those nights alone in the pub, kindly fending off those who wished to hit on her, sipping on a dark beer and writing her thoughts left with her with many questions. Why her soul mark would be hieroglyphs instead of written words. Why would she have a mark in a dead language. Why did all of these languages come so easily to her. Why was she wired this way. She was left with many unanswered questions regarding her soulmate mark.

But she learn much about herself during her years in college, post grad and her doctoral preparation. She was on a purposeful quest to make archeology her career. She learned she liked order and neatness and liked having a plan. She wasn’t big into surprises, yet she knew that they were part of life and certainly part of exploring on expeditions. She learned she could adapt and be flexible with plans and not everything had to be specific. She learned she enjoyed creating long term plans, mapping out benchmarks of goals she’d like to attain at certain times of her life. Starting a little late to the dating game, Christen didn’t discriminate between men or women, she discovered she was certainly bi-sexual although she gravitated towards women more often than not. She sadly realized her strong will and desire for her studies left the few women she had dated feel as if they came second to her. She felt badly with how those relationships ended yet knew they would since they were not her soulmate. She felt as if she had come into her own self yet missing that one item she thought she’d have before finishing school: her soulmate.

When she finished with her schooling, after her internship was complete, she was offered an incredible job at Stanford University teaching multiple classes in the archeology program. She was successful in acquiring funding for expeditions, which delighted the university. She was successful on her expeditions. She found she liked to be in the field, sweating and working with others towards their goals. She found she really enjoyed preserving the pieces she found, reading countless articles on the science behind it to improve her skills. She had a close friend group and was able to maintain a healthy balance between work and her personal life. She had two dogs, Morena and Khaleesi, who often stayed with her parents while she was out of the country. She was happy and mostly content, often feeling a pang of emptiness when her friends would find their soulmate and she stood witness to their relationship blooming.

She had some short-lived relationships, but her heart was never fully into them. Unfortunately, they always seemed to be placeholders until Christen would meet her soulmate. It wasn’t fair to either of them and she struggled keeping things casual. Sometimes she was consumed by the thought of who her soulmate was. How interesting they must be if their mark was written in Coptic, a language only used now in ceremonial Egyptian Christianity. She often wondered if her soulmate was a teacher of the language or maybe a priest or another religious figure. Would they find love and passion or would their relationship be built with their minds? What if her soulmate was a man or a priest and she was destined for a life without a soul partner to be intimate with?

In the months following that sophomore year experience, Christen slowly begins to think less of her situation, turning to her studies and focusing on them instead. Sure, she talks with her friends about soulmates, she gushes with them when they’ve found theirs, yet she doesn’t allow herself to wallow about it. Her Mom reminds her that you only meet them when the time is right, so it’s useless to worry about it. She stops thinking about it, stops daydreaming about it and soon it’s out of her mind for the most part. Lately, she hadn’t been thinking about it at all, yet as this expedition approached and she was writing out her packing list or emailing the expedition outline to the team, she found herself daydreaming about meeting her soulmate somewhere out there in the desert.

She had seemingly everything.

Except the identity of who’s soul mark was on her arm and those words she longed to hear spoken to her.

Would she ever find love?

 

XXXX

 

May 15th

 

Christen wakes with a start to the darkness of the room, something vague lingering in her mind that she can’t exactly recall. She groans to herself as she rolls to her side, eying the clock radio on the nightstand, the red digits indicating she has only two minutes before her alarm will sound. She eagerly springs from the bed of her hotel room and shuts off her alarm, excited to get her day started.

Her new adventure awaits.

Thirty minutes, with one bloody nose from the intensely dry climate and an unsatisfying protein bar washed down with barely drinkable hotel room coffee later, Christen is waiting not so patiently for her driver to arrive. At this early hour she isn’t accosted by anyone trying to sell her trinkets or postcards for the few minutes she’s waiting. Once she’s settled in the backseat of a Range Rover, headed for her destination, she begins to get excited once again. Thankfully, this driver steers the vehicle in a leisurely manner, enjoying the light traffic and not subjecting Christen to the hyper-aggressive way most drivers typically adopt in this part of the world. They pass the string of hotels and restaurants and she sees the bazaar area slowly coming to life with the vendors opening the stall doors and filling their carts. Soon the shopping area gives way to houses and she relaxes once they hit the highway and she looks out the window, past the signs pointing out the historical and tourist spots to gaze into the vast darkness. Since it only takes a few minutes from leaving the comforts of the hotel to get out into the desert, she breathes the cool air in deeply, her stomach jumping with excited anticipation to start her day. The stars are still shining brightly, illuminating the wide flat expanse before the sloping mountains become defined in shades of grey. The silhouettes of pyramids grow larger as they drive towards them but that’s not where she’s headed. She’s going up further, into the high ground, past the parking lot for the Valley of the Kings. It will take under an hour to arrive to her destination. She smiles at her reflection in the window, seeing her smiling reflection and giddy with her luck in being here.

It was a touch of luck, but it truly was the hard work and talent brought her to this continent, as the recently tenured Dr. Christen Press is well on her way to becoming a very notable figure in the field of archeology. Once, she was teasingly called the ‘Female Indiana Jones’ in an article featured in Archeology Today that told the tale of an incident where, as an undergrad student on a field study in Nicaragua, Christen stepped in to speak the native language with angry locals over the removal of items from a native burial ground, soon charming the unruly group and calmly quelling a very tense situation. The exciting incident from a different expedition of her racing through the jungle while carrying a heavy box packed with a nearly intact early Inca pot which was recently exhumed and three jungle cats chasing her back to the camp was another story to earn her fearless reputation. Soon, she gained numerous mentions in multiple journals and magazines applauding her work in securing funds for expeditions on behalf of her university and applying for grants to improve their school program.

Word had gotten around about the whip smart young archeologist with a knack for ancient languages and skilled ability to find financial backing. She had pursued her Doctorate in Egyptian Studies, having spent multiple seasons in the desert where she had no problem sweating under the hot sun by day and fascinating potential investors into making sizable donations in elegant restaurants by night. She was known for putting in the hard, thankless work while being an incredible leader in the field and how she willingly shared her extensive base of knowledge with the students lucky enough to be selected to work with her on expeditions. Her peer supported reports were certain to include the entire team that worked on each expedition and endeared herself to them by honestly stating exactly how items were uncovered and never taking credit for anything she never personally found. Her peer reviewed expedition notes were published in multiple journals, earning her acclaim and more potential investors. Some of them were rich young bachelors who more interested in getting into her pants, but she fended them off easily and usually still charmed them enough to procure funds for the university’s program. Five years ago, when a donor who had a passion for all things Egyptian had approached her about donating money for an archeological research and preservation building to Stanford University, Christen, while pursuing her Master’s at the time, may have had a behind the scenes hand in guiding how those resources were to be spent by laying out an elaborate plan for the future.

Now comfortably ensconced in Stanford University’s Archeology Center as one of the Excavation Directors on the team, Dr. Christen Press was fortunate to have brokered an amazing coup for the university: search for the remains of Hatshepsut’s funerary items and return to Stanford with them for research and preservation in preparation for their return to The Egyptian Museum in Cairo for display. It’s the most involved expedition to be undertaken by a Stanford archeologist to date and it has created much publicity. The arrangement between Stanford and the Eygptian government was most unique.

While the relics are under Stanford’s care, the public would be welcome to view the preservation and preparation process in the viewing gallery of the preservation lab. Christen and the other professors would be working with the Stanford students in the Archeology program who would learn firsthand the art and science of preservation techniques on campus with actual antiquities. Christen and the other preservation specialists on her team would be giving a series of lectures on each of their specialties, discussing the discovery and updating the work being done to catalog, preserve and prepare the finds. Other large scale plans are in the works, although those would not be implemented until one pivotal act occurs.

Christen must find definitive evidence of Hatshepsut’s belongings that were long thought lost due to grave robbers and time. Some have been found on past expeditions, but there is a strong theory out there that all items had not been discovered over the centuries. There was chatter of possibly an unopened, long hidden chamber or possibly another tomb holding her possessions that had been moved after her death. Christen agrees with both theories, having seen evidence of it occurring multiple times over the years how many sarcophagi have been moved when the funerary pyramid has been completed years after the Pharaoh’s death. Rameses II was most famously known for moving many of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings so he and his ego would be prominently displayed after his death.

The other theory Christen holds closely is that the tomb in which Hatshepsut originally was interred has another chamber holding her remaining possessions. Somehow this theory is the one that resonates with her the most. She feels in her heart that deep down in her original tomb with her husband Thutmose the Second, there lies an undiscovered chamber. She hopes with new technology that hasn’t previously used on the site, they will uncover the chamber that has been untouched by time.

The Egyptian government is excited about this arrangement as well, Hatshepsut has long been known to be one of the few Queens who actually took the throne as King after her pharaoh husband, Thutmose the Second, had died. It was not uncommon for Queens to reign as regnant, acting as the intermediary until the heir to throne was of age to do so. Hatshepsut had opted to take charge as Pharaoh, most likely due to her son, the heir, being a small child at the time. Her long reign of over twenty years brought peace and improved the country. She is held in high regard by archeologists and historians alike and new artifacts would renew interest. Confirmation and new relics would bring a windfall to the area if they are able to promote a powerful female Pharaoh. Egypt would love it if they had reason to exploit a female king who ruled effectively in her time. It certainly would boost tourism in the area which has been hit by civil unrest nearby and lowering the number of visitors in the area.

Christen is not blind to the economic opportunities this project affords. In fact, she is quite aware and that worked greatly in her favor when she shrewdly presented the idea to the Egyptian government. Brokering it to leverage the educational opportunities for all parties involved only made it easier for the Egyptian Museum to accept with pleasure.
All parties involved are cooperating in this joint effort. The Egyptian Museum is sending a team of six student archeologists to be led by Christen and a labor crew of four engineers to consult on safety, perform the sonar scanning needed and to provide the heavy machinery for any new possible rooms to be explored. She’s been assured that security will be provided for the duration of the expedition. They had not announced when the expedition would take place, not wanting to draw attention to their work. The security team will close the only road in to the area they will be working and provide discreet coverage twenty-four hours a day. The group is prepared to camp on site with the security team to ensure their safety and the Head of Antiquities of the Egyptian Museum will be personally involved as well.

She’s also not blind that her looks have opened many opportunities even before people knew of her education, skill and ambitions. Many a time, usually in the company of older, rich men, she heard the alleged compliments of being as smart as she is pretty and other comments intended to offer praise and only they turned Christen ruthless in her negotiating skills. It has gotten much better over time with her name and her razor sharp arbitration skills becoming more well known.

Christen is eager to meet the team she will be working with on this expedition. She’s been in contact with them all via email and video chats, getting a sense of each member’s personality, background, experience level and areas of interest in the field. The group consists of six university students who are doing their undergrad or post grad internships with the museum, so the museum is benefitting greatly from having Christen teach them during this expedition.

She was surprised to find the engineers assigned were names she’d heard before, mostly from journals she’s read and documentaries she’s watched on expeditions in the Valley of the Kings. They are four of the most skilled and talented, the ones who typically work with the Cairo museum and head up the repairs on such areas as the entrance to King Tutankhamen’s tomb. Language will not be barrier for Christen speaks fluent Arabic and most of the students and engineers speak very passable English.
She feels the vehicle make the turn to the dirt road leading into the Valley of the Kings it’s a short cut only official crews can use and while they travel, she sees how the sky is turning pink with the sunrise, beginning to cast deep shadows over the valley. As they near the destination, Christen absently rolls up the sleeve of her fleece jacket, looking at the
words inscribed on her inner forearm like a black tattoo.

 

Its beauty pales in comparison to yours

 

These are to be the first words her soulmate speaks to her. Now, normally she would reason this is a classic pick up line that she would, and has, heard many times in her thirty-two years. But there’s something special about her marking. Something incredibly special.

Her marking is written in Coptic, which is the language used in ancient Middle Egypt with the distinction of being known as one of the oldest languages in the world. It has been classified as a dead language, one in which she is one of only about three hundred people that currently speak it today. She’s one of the few archeologists and historians to know it fluently, the remaining are religious leaders who recite the old spiritual texts used today for special religious ceremonies.

 

XXXX

 

Since she landed at the Cairo airport two days ago, Christen has held this nervous energy, this feeling, this certainty, that she will meet her soulmate on this expedition. Her thoughts on her future soulmate are erased when the vehicle makes the familiar climb up the smooth paved road up the mountainous area in the Valley of the Kings. Excitement consumes her when they pass the summit and continue to where KV20 awaits. The feeling rushes through her when driver stops the vehicle on the side of the road. The area is lit with portable lights and a small group is milling around a tent that has been set up on the sandy terrain just off the road. Three people approach as Christen gets out of the vehicle, calling her name.

This area is typically open to the public to drive through although it’s been closed for the duration of their expedition. Most of the tombs are closed, having their contents removed and displayed at museums. In the next few years, the plan is to reinforce the tombs to make it safe for visitors to tour and see the remains of carved reliefs left on the walls on many of the tombs.

Excited greetings are exchanged, the type that happen when you meet someone you have spoken to for many months and finally see them in real life instead of a computer screen. The students are excited to get started and are not so patiently waiting the arrival of Dr. Sweiss, the Egyptian Museum’s Head of Antiquities, who would serve as Site Administrator. Christen is in the tent with a few others, enjoying a good cup of coffee and talking about her arrival two days ago with the students when Dr. Sweiss arrives. After the thin middle-aged man greets everyone personally and makes them feel welcomed and valued, he begins.

“I’m well aware you all are proficient with the history of our subject,” he begins with a charming smile, “but I’d like to start this expedition with a short recap of her history. I’d appreciate your indulgence.” He takes a sip of his coffee and then clears his throat.

“Hatshepsut’s life covered 1507–1458 BC, give or take a few years, and she was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. She was the second historically confirmed female pharaoh, the first being Sobekneferu. Various other women may have also ruled as pharaohs regnant or at least regents before Hatshepsut, as early as Neithhotep around 1600 years prior.”

“Hatshepsut came to the throne of Egypt possibly in 1478 BCE. Her rise to power was noteworthy as it required her to utilize her bloodline, education, and an understanding of religion. Her bloodline was impeccable as she was the daughter, sister, and wife of a king. Her understanding of religion allowed her to establish herself as the God's Wife of Amun. Officially, she ruled jointly with Thutmose III, who had ascended to the throne the previous year as a child of about two years old. Hatshepsut was the chief wife of Thutmose II, Thutmose III's father. She is generally regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty."

He pauses and smiles when he sees how the group of eleven is enthralled.

“Hatshepsut was the daughter and only child of Thutmose I and his primary wife, Ahmose. Her husband Thutmose II was the son of Thutmose I. Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had a daughter named Neferure. After having their daughter, Hatshepsut could not bear any more children. Thutmose II with Iset, a secondary wife, would father Thutmose III who would succeed Hatshepsut as pharaoh.”

“Dating the beginning of her reign is more difficult, however. Her father's reign began in either 1526 or 1506 BC according to the high and low estimates of her reign, respectively. The length of the reigns of Thutmose I and Thutmose II, however, cannot be determined with absolute certainty. With short reigns, Hatshepsut would have ascended the throne 14 years after the coronation of Thutmose I, her father. Longer reigns would put her ascension 25 years after Thutmose I's coronation. Thus, Hatshepsut could have assumed power as early as 1512 BC, or, as late as 1479 BC.”

“The earliest attestation of Hatshepsut as pharaoh occurs in the tomb of Ramose and Hatnofer, where a collection of grave goods contained a single pottery jar or amphora from the tomb's chamber—which was stamped with the date "Year 7". Another jar from the same tomb—which was discovered in situ by a 1935–36 Metropolitan Museum of Art expedition on a hillside near Thebes — was stamped with the seal of the "God's Wife Hatshepsut" while two jars bore the seal of "The Good Goddess Maatkare." The dating of the amphorae, sealed into the tomb's burial chamber by the debris from Senenmut's own tomb, is undisputed, which means that Hatshepsut was acknowledged as king, and not queen, of Egypt by Year 7 of her reign.”

“Hatshepsut died as she was approaching what we would consider middle age given typical contemporary lifespans, in her twenty-second regnal year. The precise date of Hatshepsut's death—and the time when Thutmose III became the next pharaoh of Egypt—is considered to be Year 22, II Peret day 10 of her reign, as recorded on a single stela erected at Armant or 16 January 1458 BCE. No contemporary mention of the cause of her death has survived.”

“Hatshepsut had begun construction of a tomb when she was the Great Royal Wife of Thutmose II, but the scale of this was not suitable for a pharaoh, so when she ascended the throne, preparation for another burial started. For this, KV20, originally quarried for her father, Thutmose I, and probably the first royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings, was extended with a new burial chamber. Hatshepsut also refurbished the burial of her father and prepared for a double interment of both Thutmose I and her within KV20. It is likely, therefore, that when she died she was interred in this tomb along with her father. During the reign of Thutmose III, however, a new tomb located at KV38, together with new burial equipment was provided for Thutmose I, who then was removed from his original tomb and re-interred elsewhere. At the same time Hatshepsut's mummy might have been moved into the tomb of her nurse, Sitre In, in KV60. It is possible that Amenhotep II, son to Thutmose III by a secondary wife, was the one motivating these actions in an attempt to assure his own uncertain right to succession. Besides what was recovered from KV20 during Howard Carter's clearance of the tomb in 1903, other funerary furniture belonging to Hatshepsut has been found elsewhere, including a lioness "throne", a senet game board with carved lioness-headed, red-jasper game pieces bearing her pharaonic title, a signet ring, and a partial shabti figurine bearing her name. In the Royal Mummy Cache at DB320, a wooden canopic box with an ivory knob was found that was inscribed with the name of Hatshepsut and contained a mummified liver or spleen as well as a molar tooth. There was a royal lady of the twenty-first dynasty of the same name, however, and for a while it was thought possible that it could have belonged to her instead.”

“In 1903, Howard Carter had discovered a tomb which is now known as KV60 in the Valley of the Kings that contained two female mummies, one identified as Hatshepsut's nurse, and the other unidentified. In the spring of 2007, the unidentified body was finally removed from the tomb by my friend Dr. Zahi Hawass and brought to Cairo's Egyptian Museum for testing. This mummy was missing a tooth, and the space in the jaw perfectly matched Hatshepsut's existing molar, found in the DB320 "canopic box". Her death has since been attributed to a benzopyrene carcinogenic skin lotion found in possession of the Pharaoh, which led to her having bone cancer. Other members of the queen's family are thought to have suffered from inflammatory skin diseases that tend to be genetic. It is likely that Hatshepsut inadvertently poisoned herself while trying to soothe her itchy, irritated skin.”

He dramatically pauses again and looks around the group.

“It’s a tragic ending to an amazing figure of history,” he says somberly, “I am excited to find more of her artifacts so we can give her the prominence in Egypt’s lineage of rulers she is due and give her the rightful respect she deserves.”

He looks to Christen and smiles, giving her a nod. “There’s been some speculation that some of the relics within here actually do belong to Hatshepsut and haven’t been properly identified. They haven’t been inspected in many years, so we’ll start here and review them, being certain we are looking for her cartouche.”

 

 

They are now standing before Tomb KV20 which is simply a nondescript entrance to an underground burial chamber. Thutmose I has a tomb located just a short walk down the corridor. The one that Hatshepsut intended for herself and her husband was at the end down a long narrow corridor.

“There is also speculation that there may be new chambers within,” Christen shares, “and our engineering team is going to investigate that.” She pulls out her small day journal, the one she keeps on her when she’s on archeological sites so she can jot down notes.

“Let’s review our roles in this,” she suggests, “and then we’ll get started. Dr. Swiess,” she defers to him out of respect.

“I’m Ari when I’m in the field,” the man smiles easily at her and then the group, “please, just call me Ari.”

“Ari,” Christen gives him a warm smile, loving how down to earth he is despite his prestigious title, “will supervise the tomb review,” she states, “Jurgen,” she points to the young Swiss student who is holding a camera and filming, “you will be recording this, so please feel free to ask myself or Ari with any questions or share ideas you may have on how you’d like to film this.”

Christen continues to assign tasks and before long, the group is ready. They take a few minutes to gather their gear and then file into the tomb. Christen is nearly vibrating with excitement and she can’t wait to get started.

She has this strong feeling that this expedition is going to be incredible.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

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Christen feels the coolness rush at her as she enters the small entranceway of the tomb. This area is newly constructed for the tourists to have a little shelter and listen to their guide before entering the depths of the actual tomb. While the air is cool, it’s also stale. This tomb has been closed to the public for a few years due to financial issues. With tourism down, staffing was down and that led to the less popular tombs being closed down. One of the engineers chocks the door open to get some air circulation into the area, mentioning they’ll get the air pumps and lines in once they arrive later today from Cairo.

Christen reminds the students to wear their helmets and turn on their headlamps and then Ari spiritedly leads the students into the darkness of the corridor down to the end where the tomb of Thutmose II lies. Christen grins at Jurgen who smiles and wiggles his eyebrows as his head pokes out from behind his camera as he walks past her. She remains in the entry area with the engineers while the noise of the group begins to slowly fade as they walk down into the dark corridor.

She slides her backpack off and unsnaps the long cardboard tube from it while two of the engineers set up a table and she opens the end of the roll to let multiple papers slide out onto the table. They smooth it out and place four small rocks in the corners to view the schematics of the tomb. They consider where they should start looking for a new chamber, rehashing old tales from the past and bringing up chambers found hidden in other pyramids. They look at the high-resolution images taken last week with a drone, trying to determine if there were any depressions or unusual ground formations that would be a clue. Nothing is obvious. The problem with finding a depression or anything unusual is the sudden slope of the mountain that isn’t far from the tomb opening. They know the corridor works down in that direction, so finding something behind it would be challenging.

Christen has no problem when they decide the methodical approach is best and that two of the engineers will use ground penetrating sonar and work the perimeter of the tomb outside, seeking any abnormalities in the layers under the sand and rock. She knows these four men are the best in the Egypt and she's lucky to have them on this trip. She knows Ari pulled strings to have them join this expedition and she very easily agrees with thier opinions and suggestions. They are complete professionals. They’ll begin with an inspection of the ground structure around the tomb where Hatshepsut’s body was originally found and work their way back this entrance on the off chance there is an off shoot from the corridor. Christen and the other two engineers will perform a physical inspection the inner chambers, starting with the main corridor, looking for any possibly previously missed secret entrances to an undiscovered chamber.

The KV20 location was built in two separate times with Hatshepsut adding to the existing tomb when she had been elevated to ruler. The original tomb, the one only a short walk down the tunnel, was constructed for her father, Thutmose I. It’s thought the second one was intended for Hatshepsut and her husband, Thutmose II. While two of the engineers are outside and the other group of students are with Ari in the newer tomb where Hatshepsut’s coffin was originally placed, Christen and the two other engineers decide to each work a third of the corridor and Christen offers to take the final third of the corridor.

She's glad she remembered to bring her fleece jacket this morning, the air in here, while somewhat stagnant, is cool. The plan is to do a physical search first, looking for changes in the walls, a variance of patterns in the chisel marks or anything that might indicate a subtle difference in the existing walls. If anything looks suspect, they’ll mark it and use the sonar to detect if there’s a void behind the area. If they don’t find anything, then they’ll begin to examine the reliefs carved within the tomb walls, looking to see if there are any clues indicating another location of the remaining burial items.

The corridor walls are approximately four feet wide and seven feet high, certainly large enough yet still giving her a slightly claustrophobic feel as she slowly treks down. Her headlamp is bright, reflecting light and allowing her good footing on the slightly uncertain floor. The echoes from the Ari and the students ahead of her still bounce off the walls, Ari probably stopped along the way down to talk about the construction of the this channel. The ceiling is cut from limestone and is smooth and in good condition, having been excavated in the early 1900’s in an effort to find the tombs and burial cache.

This burial site is rather unique in that the walls and floor are from shale. The walls are fine but the floor has flaked off over the years and become slightly unstable and Christen uses care as she navigates deeper down. The slivers of the rock that has flaked off crunches underfoot. The makers of this tomb followed the natural line of the limestone as it somewhat sharply slanted down, the workers finding it stronger for the ceiling and the shale was softer to cut through with their primitive tools for the walls and floors. The shale isn’t conducive to having reliefs carved into them since they're so soft and they’re plain with a consistent slightly wavy look from the chisel marks and age. She’s disappointed there are no reliefs attached to these walls, thinking of the amazing stories they would have chiseled into the stone telling the story of Hatshepsut’s reign. She slowly picks her way to the very end of the tunnel, just in front of the final burial chamber. When she glances at her watch, she realizes it took almost thirty minutes.

She pokes her head in the chamber, smiling as she hears Ari giving instructions to the six students about how to handle the relics available and producing a laminated sheet of the cartouche of Hatshetput’s name. The interior burial chambers typically had reliefs adorning all of the walls, but since the walls are shale, limestone slabs were transported in and affixed to the shale walls. In this tomb, only one wall has panels affixed to it.

Beams of light from headlamps flash around the room as the students are digging into their packs to remove their white cotton gloves and fine haired paintbrushes, excitedly chattering about actually being here and doing this and it makes Christen smile. She steps deeper into the chamber to address them, “You know,” she grins wildly at them when they turn to look at her, “what you’re feeling now,” she says knowingly, “it never goes away.” Ari loudly agrees in a near giddy tone, sharing the same sentiment. The students exclaim with happiness and rush to prepare themselves for the work at hand, their eager voices echoing off the walls as Christen departs after sharing a smile with the dark haired, middle-aged man.

Just outside of the chamber, Christen, still smiling, shrugs off her backpack and squats down, setting her flashlight on the ground while she opens the pack and pulls out her notebook, a pen and a piece of chalk to mark the wall in case she finds something during her inspection. She sets the pack along the wall and adjusts the headlamp to her safety helmet, wearing one due to the nature of the being so deep in the tomb. It’s not that she’s in grave danger of falling stones or a cave in any time soon and normally it wouldn’t be an issue, but since she’s technically leading this team, she wants to instill best safety practices for the students to mimic. Plus, with the flooring being rather uneven, it would be easy to slip and fall. One can never argue about being safe, she thinks, even if the plastic construction helmet is making her scalp itch already as the tunnel begins to get hit with the warmth of the day.

Their voices are hushed after that as Ari and the students set to work, the same with the engineers up the hallway and out of her sight, leaving Christen to feel as if she’s alone. The tunnel curves and dips upward so she can’t see anyone and she’s surrounded by complete darkness. She’ll work her way up to the curve and then down back to the chamber. From start to finish this corridor is over nine hundred meters in length. She’s got a three hundred meter section to inspect and that includes both sides and the ceiling and floor.

She begins. She lets out another huff of disappointment that the walls are blank, still regretting the lack of additional reliefs would possibly tell the story of Hatshepsut or at least Thutmose I or II. She’s hoping to find a seam or an indication of any marks in the wall as clues to possibly a riddle or a tale that would elicit some clues to Hatshepsut’s possessions. She works methodically, using the powerful flashlight to methodically scan the interior hallway wall and ceiling. As she begins, she sees no evidence of manmade seams, no evidence of any unusual marks left by the chisels that would lead her to believe another chamber exits behind the surface. The chisel marks are consistent, there’s no changing of direction or any detectable difference. There’s actually some beauty with how consistent the work is, it looks almost machine like in its perfection.

She plans to do the ceiling and the left side of the corridor, working her way up to the sharp turn. She would only need to scan just the wall and floor on her return to the tomb going back down. She figures her adrenalin with being here would carry her up to the curve, so she chose to do the ceiling with one side of the wall. Having to do just the other wall and floor second would be much easier on her neck and back. It’s the little things like that she’s learned over the years from more experienced archeologists and she likes to share those tricks with the students she works with.

As she scans the wall, she imagines what it would have been like when this channel was being constructed, the darkness, the workers chiseling by hand under torch light. How the amber firelight would flicker and illuminate the walls with the harsh sounds of Coptic being spoken as they worked. A bucket brigade constantly moving and sweeping out the gravel, the workers perhaps singing a song while they performed the tedious and repetitive movements. The noises echoing off the walls as the talented stone workers finish the tunnels to make the walls as smooth as possible and for fit royalty. A look at the ceiling shows the remnants of soot from the torches in spots and nothing but smooth limestone.

In her head she begins to let the language come back to her. She had read her notes about Coptic imagery and speaking while she was on the plane hoping she’d get a chance to use it while she was here. Hoping it would come in handy. Especially if she finds her soulmate.
When she hears something echo in the hallway, her head turns swiftly to her left, back down towards the tomb. She shines her light to cut through the darkness past the light of her headlight, but nothing comes into view. It sounded as if some loose rocks had moved, the noise is similar to when she shifts her feet to move up the corridor. Perhaps Ari or a student stepped out of the tomb and into the hall for some fresh air, she reasons. She takes a moment to remove her fleece jacket, it’s getting much too warm now. She ties the sleeves around her waist and adjusts her helmet back on her head. Something draws her to look over to her left again, she isn’t sure why, but she doesn’t see anything in the inky blackness.

An hour later, she estimates she’s only a quarter of the way to the curve. She’s in complete silence, the only sound is from her feet shifting on the shale when she moves. She’s no longer hearing the mumbling echoes from the students and nothing from the nearest engineer, yet she still feels drawn to keep checking over her shoulder towards the noise she heard earlier. She had briefly contemplated pulling out her earbuds to listen to music while doing this monotonous task but dismissed it. She wants to be present in the moment. They didn’t build this tomb with music and she feels it would be disrespectful to examine it with earbuds now.

Another hour passes and she’s thirsty and aggravated with herself for not bringing her water bottle with her. It’s sitting in the mesh side compartment of her backpack that she left down the hall near the tomb entrance where the students are. She pauses in her search to roll her neck and shoulders, the repetitive nature of her looking at the wall and ceiling is beginning make her muscles stiff. She decides to take a break for moment and carefully sits down on the rocky ground, bending her neck down to her chin.

“Ugh,” she sighs, “I’m so thirsty,” she mumbles, unaware she spoke aloud in Coptic. She's been reciting lines from Coptic poems in her head to keep herself focused as she works.

Slowly she does head circles, loosening up the muscles and shrugging her shoulders to relax herself. She hears the noise again not far from her, swiveling her head quickly to the left, her headlamp shining on the walls and seeing nothing. While she hasn’t seen or heard any small animals down here, the noise certainly sounded louder than a mouse or rat. It resembled feet on the loose stone floor. She turns on her flashlight with the intent to inspect the floor for scat. She gasps.

There sits her water bottle.

To the left and right she sweeps her flashlight, suddenly not feeling alone anymore and then looks in front of her. It’s her bottle, a beaten up Hydro Flask that's weathered and scratched from use. She extends a shaky hand to grasp the metal container. How did it get hear, she wonders? Have I been carrying it with me and am just being scatter minded, she wonders? Her bottle does have a carabiner on it, perhaps she attached it through her beltloop, doing it by habit and not registering she was even carrying it because she was excited to get started? She certainly would have heard it fall to the ground. Is the heat getting to me?

She unscrews the cap and drinks from it, relishing the cold water. She takes another moment to gather herself and then stands and makes sure to clip the bottle to her belt, still uncertain on what just happened. She dismisses it as being excited about starting this task and just forgetting that she had her bottle with her. She gets back to work.

 

She’s now maybe halfway to the curve of the wall. She’s beginning to feel this is a fruitless task, yet a necessary one. It doesn’t take away from her becoming careless; she remains meticulous in her work. This is the monotonous part of her job, the type of menial tasks usually left for students to perform but Christen didn’t want to do that to them. She wanted them to get right in it, to examine the artifacts from the display and treat them equally. She’s been on enough expeditions as a student and remembers how she would want to be treated and she’s making sure to provide them with a mix of responsible and menial tasks equally. They need to eliminate the possibility of a secret opening on this main corridor and she doesn’t mind being part of the crew to determine that.

She does want to get into the tomb at some point and refresh her memory of the items left there. She’s only seen them in photos and she wonders how different they look from her memories of them. Something in her wants to inspect every single item herself, but that would defeat trusting the students to take their job seriously. She also intentionally chose for the students to enter the tomb first as a matter of respect to them and their abilities and as a sign of trust. She doesn’t want to make them feel as if they’re only contributions to this expedition will be ones of grunt work and boring tasks. She knows and trusts Ari is there to supervise and he would be certain to catch anything that remotely looks interesting to their project and he has such a fun nature, he will certainly keep their spirits up. They set guidelines and the student know that any items with any questionable markings would set aside for her or Ari to look over. She trusts this group, their egos are in check and their willingness to admit not knowing something is evident. They are a cautious bunch and very much aware of the importance of their work here.

Christen notices a change in the somewhat stagnant warm air surrounding her. A scent is lightly wafting towards her. It’s clean, like a warm towel from the dryer with a scent of salt water. It raises the fine hairs on the back of her neck. She turns to look down the into the darkness, shining her light and again, seeing nothing. While she sees nothing, she feels something.

“Who’s there?” she calls out, tilting her head as if it would improve her vision.

Nothing.

She shakes her head, thinking she’s just experiencing a phenomenon of being in the dark for too long and goes back to work. It happens.

 

She’s now about a quarter of the way to the turn and taking another water break when the scent returns and draws her away from the wall. It's stronger this time and again, the hairs on the back of her neck stand and she feels goosebumps break out on her sweaty arms. She caps her bottle and clips it to her belt and then slowly turns, not even using the flashlight, just her headlamp and she vaguely sees something a few yards away. She raises her flashlight slowly and trains the light on it and gasps.

There’s a figure leaning against the wall looking at her and it’s not anyone from the group.

Christen screams.

Then she faints.

 

XXXX

 

Christen is she’s lying on her back on the rocky uneven floor, aware of a cool hand on the side of her cheek, gently caressing her jaw. Her eyes flutter open and she sees a woman, the woman who was leaning against the wall and she’s wearing a white tunic with an intricately embroidered collar, looking down at her. A short necklace dangles from her neck as she looks down at her, the colorful beads catching Christen’s eyes following them as they lead to a gold ankh pendant swinging gently to and fro. The headlamp on her helmet illuminates the stranger’s face and she sees warm brown eyes exuding kindness, squinting from the bright light as she looks down at her.

“Be still,” the woman speaks calmly, her voice low and comforting. Christen realizes she’s spoken to her in Coptic and her mouth drops open, dumbfounded and yet feeling calm. The stranger gives her a closed mouth smile, removing her hand from her face and turns to look over her shoulder. Christen blinks rapidly, struggling to make sense of what is happening. She hears the scramble of rocks echoing from both directions of the corridor and the calling of her name as the crew rushes to her. She pushes herself up on her elbows, she as she sees the scared faces of the Jurgen and Vero approaching and she turns her head to the side to see the stranger.

The woman is gone.

“Are you alright?” Vero shouts as she scrambles over the uneven shale floor.

“Yeah,” Christen replies, slowly sitting up and feeling slightly bewildered. She doesn’t feel in any pain, nothing hurts. She’s not sure how she ended up on the ground, yet she’s not very concerned either, which is highly unusual for her.

“What happened?” Jurgen asks breathlessly as he comes to her side, rocks sliding under his feet.

“I don’t know,” Christen shakes her head, “I thought I saw something,” she furrows her brow, “then I was on the ground.” She realizes how ridiculous that sounds and decides to not say that again. She doesn’t want the team to think she’s crazy or something.

“See a ghost?” Vero asks, her lips curl into a smile.

“I guess?” Christen shrugs with a chuckle, brushing it off. She extends her hand and Jurgen assists her in standing.

“You didn’t hit your head, did you?” Asim, one of the engineers asks with concern.

Christen shakes her head and then removes her helmet and runs her hand on the back of her head, smoothing her straight hair down to the low ponytail she had put it in this morning. “No, I feel fine,” she reports honestly, “no headache or anything,”

“Maybe the heat,” Vero murmurs, bending down and retrieving Christen’s water bottle and offering it to her. Christen could have sworn her bottle was clipped to her belt yet decides not to question it in front of everyone.

Christen takes it and uncaps it, “Thanks,” she says and swallows down a heathy amount, “I’m fine, guys,” she assures them, “I don’t know what that was, but really,” she nods at them, “I’m good.”

“Well,” Asim scratches the back of his head, not looking completely convinced, “we’re both almost done with one side of the corridor,”

Christen nods, jerking her thumb over her shoulder, “I’ve got to end at the curve and I’ll have this side and the ceiling done,”

“Need a buddy?” Vero asks, trying hard to not let her crush come across.

Christen smiles at her, already embarrassed at the incident occurring and the attention it’s bringing, “Thank you, but I’m fine,” she states kindly, “we should get back to it,” she nods at them.

Asim lays a hand on her shoulder, “We’ll get lights in here tomorrow,” he promises, “I should have gotten them in here for today,” he adds apologetically.

Christen gives him a warm smile, “It’s fine,” she states, “we’re all too excited to get started,”

“How about we break for lunch when you finish the first half?” Ari suggests, looking at her with concern.

“Yeah, that sounds fine,” Christen agrees easily, giving him what she hopes is a reassuring smile.

The group disperses with the Asim walking up the corridor and Ari and the students shuffling off down the corridor with Vero looking back and giving Christen a cheery nod. Christen takes another drink of water, her thoughts on the woman she saw. Did she encounter a ghost or did her own mind make the image materialize? She just disappeared into thin air. Her touch felt so solid against her cheek. She clears her mind, deciding to think about it later knowing she needs to focus on her work and twists the cap back on her water bottle, frowning at her shaky hand. She takes a few deep breaths and then clips the bottle to her belt, adjusts her helmet and picks up her flashlight, intent on getting back to work.

Hours later, they shuttle down the mountain to a camp city that has been constructed for them at the foot of the road where the ground is level. It’s here they will base their operation. Situated just off Kings Valley Road, which the security team has closed off down at the parking lot for the duration of the expedition per norm, it’s a flat piece of the desert, partially shaded at times by the height of the Theban Hills which rise sharply to the west. Looking to the east, the views of the desert is dotted with other tombs and mortuary temples. It’s located at the halfway point between the KV20 and the parking lot and out of sight from tourists in the area. It’s an intentional, semi-permanent camp location with water, electrical and internet access connected to the tents for the professionals that come to the area.

In the mess hall, they gather around a large table, enjoying a delicious meal from the kitchen staff. It’s the heat of the day and that means lunch time is extended for four hours. Christen is grateful nobody brings up her incident, instead they speak about he items in the tomb they cleaned and examined, the thrill in their eyes about handling artifacts from long ago. Tired from the heat in the tombs and corridor, they use the break to retreat to their tents after lunch. Christen and Ari having their own and the others grouped in pairs per tent.

There are twelve tents total, the large mess hall with kitchen area, separate men’s and women’s showers and bathrooms, Christen’s, Ari’s, three for the students and two for the engineers. The security team has one tent and the kitchen crew has the other. The mess hall will be used for meetings and gatherings during the evening. The tents are constructed from heavy canvas, with flaps and zippered window screens for ventilation, updated and yet similar to the those used by expedition crews since the early 1900’s. The mess hall is located in the center with the men’s bath tents followed by the men’s tents spaced along the right side. The left side is similar, with the women’s tents and bath facilities. The tents are spaced about thirty feet apart to allow for some privacy.

Christen is informed by Ari that her tent is the final one in the row, the one with the best view, he had said with a charming smile. It’s the first time Christen has her own tent, she usually shares with the other women on expeditions. She knows Ari arranged this as a sign of respect to her and she appreciates it. He had quietly asked her if she was alright during lunch and she had brushed it off, joking that her imagination had been working overtime and she was fine. He gave her a weighted look before smiling and nudging her shoulder and telling her sometimes the corridors and tombs played tricks on people.

Her tent is on a wooden platform and she takes another step and hears her boots clunk on the wooden floor. She opens the wooden door to enter and takes a moment to let her eyes adjust to her surroundings. The side flaps have been lifted to allow fresh air into the tent, the hot breeze gently blowing through and hitting her skin. She looks up to see the wooden frame construction of the tent and how the canvas is affixed and lashed to it. A single light is in the center of the pitched roof with a pull cord dangling from it.

In the east corner is a plain wooden desk with a chair and a small lamp with a power stick on the floor and a plug for internet. A queen-sized poster bed is in the center with mosquito netting draping the four uprights. The bedding looks fresh and clean and the bed looks comfortable. There’s a nightstand next to the bed with a small lamp and an ancient looking fan with large blades to circulate the hot air. Next to the nightstand is a wooden wardrobe with three drawers at the bottom for her clothes. Her luggage rests on the floor before the wardrobe. A small rectangular wooden table with two wood chairs complete the sparse furnishings of the tent.

She sets her backpack on the table and then unties her fleece jacket from around her waist and drapes it on the chair and pulls out the other one to sit down. She unlaces her boots, removes her socks and curls her toes, thankful for the fresh air hitting them. She stands up and unbuckles her belt and removes her pants, draping them over her fleece, intending on wearing them when they resume their work. She sheds her shirt, grimacing at how damp it is and walks over to the wardrobe, opening the door and balling it up and tossing it in the corner. She’ll get her laundry bag out later.

She walks back to the table and opens her pack, removing a t-shirt to wear later and leaves it folded on the table. She pulls her hair up in a messy bun and then grabs her phone and walks over to the bed, using her hand to pull back the netting and slides onto the mattress. She sets an alarm for a two hour power nap and lets the phone drop on the mattress beside her. For a minute she lays sprawled out on her back, the breeze cooling her skin. She’s only clad in her sports bra and no nonsense panties. She rolls on her side, breathing deeply with her eyes shut. She’s worn out from the heat and is too tired to let her mind linger on her strange incident. It doesn’t take long for sleep to find her.

The second session goes without a hitch. As they had gotten back to work, nobody brings up Christen’s scream and fall and she’s grateful not to have to explain it again. She considers what she would say, that she saw a ghost? Who would believe her? Perhaps she would confide in Ari, maybe ask him if he’s ever had some strange experiences within the tombs. She’s heard stories about uncanny incidents happening within the tombs before and while she used to dismiss them as being far reaching coincidences or people being over superstitious, now not she’s not so sure. She doesn’t exactly want to broadcast what she saw either for fear of any of the crew being superstitious and leave the expedition.

While most scientists have dismissed the curse of King Tut’s Tomb as being a string of normal illnesses and accidents, there are those who still believe in it.

While she doesn’t see anything unusual, she feels a different atmosphere in the corridor than before. She senses something lingering in the darkness. Like someone watching her. She doesn’t feel threatened, however. It’s an almost peaceful, calming presence. It keeps her company as she works, working on her wall inspection without finding anything amiss.

The first official day ends with dinner in the mess hall, everyone talking about their day with the students mostly leading the conversation, talking about the artifacts left in the tomb. It ignites an interesting conversation about how the ancient Egyptians would entomb their dead with most of their possessions, since those items would help them in the afterlife. Ari regales them with tales of the unusual items he’s found within a tomb. The mummified remains of beloved pets and horses. Large jars of grains and beer, primitive board games and sex toys. He speaks of an elder in one family of importance whose reliefs depicted his lover, another man, and how the love story of the two were carved into the walls sharing their passion for one another. He proposed that back in the day, as long as a Pharaoh took on a wife or wives to produce heirs to the throne, it wasn’t unusual for same sex couples to have a relationship.

 

XXXX

 

May 16th

 

Day two of the expedition brings more of the same. Christen in the lonely corridor as she inspects each square inch of her section, methodically looking for any clue to an opening. The students are still in the tomb with Ari, inspecting and cleaning the items left for display. The engineers are still outside in the heat, using their sonar equipment to inspect the perimeter of the tomb with Jurgen bouncing back and forth filming the work being done in the corridor and tomb. The air system had yet to arrive to place in the corridor and Asim promises it should arrive before nightfall from Cairo.

Yesterday, she met with the engineers Asim and Dakarai who had nothing of substance to report and honestly, none of them expected to. Manu and Ziyad, the other two engineers were speculating on any ground disturbances using a drone and ground penetrating radar and have some areas of interest but nothing obvious or concrete. They agree to meet and discuss it further after dinner tonight in the mess hall when they can show their findings on a computer screen.

In the afternoon, Christen lets the engineers take off back to camp so they can analyze the footage and prepare to present what they’ve found after their meal. She joins Ari and the six students in the burial chamber, anxious to get a close up look at the relics she’s only seen in photos. She slips on her white cotton gloves and begins to look over the nearly four thousand year old funerary items. The majority of the cache that was found by Howard Carter in 1903 when he discovered the tomb and had been taken back to England and some items sent to Cairo’s Egyptian Museum for display. After the body of Hatshepsut have been removed in 2007 and positively identified, the Museum placed some of her belongings back in the tomb for display to the public. There was nothing new here that hadn’t been carefully examined by previous archeologists. What they brought back for display is an interesting mix. There are canopic jars that once held Hatshepsut’s organs. A small footrest that still had the stitched cushion attached. Jewel encrusted gold plated jewelry. A brass chalice encrusted with jewels. A series of statues depicting Hatshepsut and Thutmose II. There was a beautiful knife with a grip with intricate leatherwork. It seems rather random to Christen, there is no rhyme or reason to the items chosen to keep under glass cases.

All of the items were in cases under lock and key and Ari held the keys. He would open each item and remove the case from the pedestal, allowing the students to stand and examine each artifact. The cases and glass would be cleaned and the artifact dusted and examined. They would return each item to the correct case and it would be locked up again. It was a time consuming process yet necessary. They wanted to leave no stone left unturned. Literally.

Ari explains that in the next five years, he plans to renovate this tomb redone as a proper tribute to Hatshepsut and Thutmose II. First, they’ll have to safely put in flooring for visitors with lighting and a ventilation system. In time, he wants all of the public to have access to all of the tombs but gathering the proper relics will take time to track down from the multiple museums the antiquities are displayed. With frustration he speaks of the delicate relationship they have with the British Museum system who had taken so much from their tombs in the past and were not exactly willing to send them back now.

They have an interesting discussion down in the tomb about the political and religious implications of archeology and how countries work together now by loaning artifacts for a set period of time. Museums around the world are now communicating much better than before and creating calendars for touring collections to pass throughout their countries before being returned to the country of origin. The British are typically the ones who have held out of this with the explanation that Egypt had been a colony of theirs when the items were discovered. It’s a thin excuse and one that is now being objected to by many of the influential British archeologists themselves. It’s the Monarchy that is holding them back.

Not incredibly disappointed they didn’t discover a new clue in their efforts, the group takes pride in knowing they have given the artifacts a proper cleaning and return down the mountain to their camp, hungry for dinner, anxious to hear if the engineers found anything and ready to get a good night’s sleep.

 

XXXX

 

 

“So, here’s the image,” Manu says as he clicks the remote. A sonar image is displayed on the large flat screen monitor. “It shows a disruption at a hundred and three meters.”

“Wow,” Christen’s eyes widen, “I wasn’t aware you could get that far down,” she says, feeling impressed with their work already. The whole group has stayed after dinner to hear their findings.

Ziyad smiles bashfully, “We drilled down,” he admits humbly, “and then sent a sensor down the tube,” he explains. “It’s relatively new technology.”

“So, what are you thinking about this disruption?” Ari asks.

“Let me show you this,” Manu nods, clicking the remote again. “Here you see I’ve overlaid the map of the tomb, showing it’s depth how it tunnels down.” He explains, “What we find curious is that the void or disruption, is about three feet wider than the tomb.”

The next image shows the diagram of the tomb and tunnel system and the marker of the disruption they found. It clearly shows that there is a void of some sort going past the tomb they were investigating.

“Now,” Ziyad picks up again, “the terrain won’t let us scan the rest of the area effectively. There is only a small area of flat land and then the rocky slope sharply leads upward to the ridge and prevents us from getting any additional readings. So, we can’t say for sure how large the void actually is. This could be a short tunnel to the opening of a new chamber or it could be an anomaly.”

They group nods, wondering how they could figure out where the entrance would be to this void. Ari speaks up. “What would you propose for us to get in there and open it up?”

“We would have to find the entrance,” Manu shrugs, “if we just start going through the wall, we may damage whatever is on the other side. There has to be a clue to get in there. Plus, we have to respect the existing relief panels in the tomb.”

Christen stands up and moves to the side of the screen, looking at it thoughtfully. “They would tell us somehow,” she murmurs, “there’s always a clue.”

Ari stands beside her, nodding as he contemplates the image, deep in thought.

“We must look at the reliefs within the tomb, no?” Vero asks, “Maybe they tell the story?”

Mark, another grad student nods, “It would be coded or something,” he states, “like, so grave robbers wouldn’t know how to get in there.”

“Jurgen,” Christen states, “how about first thing tomorrow morning you take some high res photos of the reliefs, panel by panel.” she suggests, “We’ll take some time to analyze them and see if there’s anything unusual, like a repetitive story or an out of place symbol,”

“Perhaps something cypher like,” Ari suggests, “maybe transcribe the reliefs and run them through the analytics.”

“I don’t remember that being done before,” Christen comments, “this tomb hasn’t had as much attention than some of the others,” she nods, “It might turn up something,”

“You’re going to need some larger screens,” Manu reminds them, “this isn’t something you can do with the laptops,”

“I’ll have everything we need here by ten tomorrow morning,” Ari promises, then he cracks a smile, “I’ve got some pull.” They chuckle with him, as Head of Antiquities, his word goes.

“Okay,” Christen turns to the group, “let’s discuss the tasks at hand and assign duties.”

Together they come up who feels more confident strictly transposing the reliefs and who would review them and look for anomalies within the writings. The group of students are genuine and Christen appreciates their honestly of their own strengths and weaknesses. After the students have their assignments for tomorrow, Manu and Ziyad propose that they will work with the sonar tomorrow on the tomb up near the front, the one for Thutmose I, Hatshepsut’s father. They would look to see if the ground showed any disruptions for a possible unknown chamber off that tomb.

“I will be going to the city,” Ari announces, with a quick glance to his watch, “I’ll rush the permits for a possible excavation.”

Christen is thankful he would be taking care of it as she isn’t a fan of the paperwork involved. Ari arranges for Manu to email him the presentation so he can expedite the permit. He expects to have all of the proper paperwork in hand in two days when he returns to the worksite on Thursday. Christen considers what she should do and feels an overwhelming urge to return to the tomb and try to interpret the reliefs as they stand. Maybe she’ll be inspired by the ambiance of her surroundings to find the answer.
If there is one to be found.

“Wait!” she exclaims, startling the group, swiveling quickly to face them. “Hatshepsut was originally found with her nurse in KV60,” she states, raising an index finger, “is it possible that the nurse’s funerary items might hold a clue?”

Ari looks at her with surprise. “I never thought of that,” he admits, “many of her items are at the museum,” he states, “while I’m there, I’ll have a group look the over. They can email us their findings.”

“I’m going back to the KV20 to look over the panels as they stand,” Christen declares, “see it with a new perspective.”

“We’ll get you lighting down there in the morning,” Manu promises.

Satisfied they have a solid plan for the next day, Christen bids everyone good night and exits the mess hall. She intends to unwind and write in her journal and record the events of the day. She likes having a calm evening before she sleeps. She didn’t do it last night and doesn’t want to fall behind. She hears the students laughing when she’s steps away from the hall, overhearing the “wine” and “late morning”. She knows they won’t go overboard and be irresponsible or hungover in the morning. She likes that they want to socialize. She thinks she’ll join them tomorrow night for a bit. She packed a few bottles of wine and some bourbon she had purchased at the hotel. Tonight, she wants to write down her thoughts and analyze what happened in the corridor with the woman she saw. She needs to get it on paper before tomorrow begins and sweeps away the details of the incident. She didn’t do it last night because she lingered after dinner too long and was exhausted by the time she got her tent. She needs to do it tonight while the details of yesterday are still fresh in her mind.

She walks along the hard packed sand to her tent, the sky black and the stars bright. Each tent has a dim light above the door. She’s grateful for it because she doesn’t have a flashlight on her. As she stands outside her door, she takes a moment to look out on the starry sky above, thinking about how different and yet similar it looks here than it does from California. The thought stray thought enters her mind about how the Egyptians held the number seven in high regard and viewed it as lucky. It was due to them being able to only see seven planets in the sky. She smiles when she recognizes the constellation of her zodiac sign in the northern sky. Capricorn, the Goat of Fear, portrayed as a goat’s head with horns made of simple lines.

She looks to the horizon and a something catches her eye. About thirty yards away she can barely make out a figure in the desert. She isn’t startled, thinking it’s one of the security team doing a nightly walk around camp. But then the figure moves towards her and she holds her breath. It moves closer and Christen sees the distinct white tunic.
It’s the woman from the corridor.

When she comes to a stop about thirty feet away, Christen still isn’t scared. She’s curious. In fact, she doesn’t realize she takes a few steps towards the woman, now standing about ten feet from her. Silently they stare at each other and then the woman takes a few steps closer and Christen does as well.

She catches her fresh scent with the breeze, inhaling it unconsciously, feeling calmed by it for some reason. The woman’s white tunic nearly shines in the moonlight and Christen begins to notice details. She’s barefoot and has muscular legs. Her hair appears long in a braid over one shoulder. She has an amazing jawline, sharp in the moonlight’s shadow. It’s strange that she’s wearing a typical men’s style tunic as opposed the women’s gown, although she wouldn’t argue how good it looks on her.

“I am not here to harm you,” the woman speaks, her voice low, yet earnest in timber. It’s in Coptic again, Christen notes.

“Thank you,” she replies back to her in Coptic and the woman gives her a soft smile, as if she's grateful to be understood. Christen suddenly hears laughter spilling from the students exiting the mess hall.

She glances back at them, wondering how long she’s been standing here.

When she turns to face the woman again, she’s gone.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

Christen looks to her left and right and the woman is nowhere to be seen. It is as if she has completely vanished. She recognizes Vero’s throaty laugh and she scurries back to her tent and enters it swiftly. She doesn’t want anyone questioning her being outside. She stands with her back against door, her heart beating rapidly, briefly wondering if she is going crazy. She dismisses it as soon as she thinks it. She’s not crazy, she’s just tired and it’s been a long day. She just has an overactive imagination, that is all. Maybe something is pulling memories from all those stories she wrote as a youth about Egypt, those fanciful tales mixing with her yearning to find her soulmate. In this setting of the Valley of the Kings, it’s making her see things she wishes she could have. But then she remembers how the woman’s fingers felt on against her when she was on the ground. It felt solid. Real.

She shakes her head with confusion, she decides she needs to do something to take her mind off it.

She unpacks her clothes and feels soothed by the action. After her clothes are organized, she showers quickly and changes into sleepwear and grabs her bottle of Tullamore Dew. She pours herself just a tad over two fingers to drink and walks to the desk where her journal lies with one of her favorite pens. She seats herself on the surprisingly comfortable wood chair, takes a sip of her drink and then picks up the pen.

She looks up and stares at the window screen, hoping to possibly see the woman out there yet unable to see anything with the darkness outdoors and her mind turns back to the mystery woman. Flipping open her journal to the current page, she begins to write.

 

XXXX

 

May 17th

The strange woman is still on her mind when she wakes the next morning. She prepares for her day, needing extra focus as she gathers the items she’ll need for her review of the reliefs in the tomb. Then she joins the others for breakfast, relaxing enough with the energetic students to enjoy their rousing recap of their evening after the meeting last night. She tells them she has a nice wine to celebrate any major finds to share with them and they express their gratefulness and eagerness to discover something of importance. They talk about the tomb and random ideas they have about finding a way into the mysterious chamber if it exists.

They ask Christen questions about past expeditions and how she treated and handled artifacts in poor condition. Christen begins a casual lecture on handling antiquities and some of the more challenging items she’s worked on to restore to their original condition. They have a leisurely breakfast, lingering over coffee before someone from the museum arrives with the large monitors for the students to use in their review of the relief panels. Jurgen has returned and he’s at a separate table in his own little world as he concentrates editing the photos he took early this morning. He had hitched a ride to the tomb with Asim and the other engineers who were going to get lights and ventilation system in the tomb.

With Ari in Luxor applying for the permits, Christen thinks it’s fine to have an easy morning. She likes the students, enjoying their fresh passion for the field of archeology. They’re all smart, engaging and interesting. She does her best to remain equal in her conversations with them all, especially Vero. She recognizes how the Spaniard looks at her. She doesn’t want to lead her on.

When a van beeps its horn outside, they file out and help the driver unload the monitors and accessories. To their surprise, there’s a couple of high-resolution scanners and printers in there as well. Christen lifts a box and sets it down, smiling at Ari’s generosity. Shani, an Egyptian post grad student specializing in cultural anthropology and who Christen feels is a natural leader just from their conversations, does take the lead, genially suggesting arranging the tables and how to set up their workspace. The others gladly follow her lead, Vero producing a pocket knife to open the boxes. Mark and Brigid, an English exchange student, begin to move the tables together while Hasani and Shani unbox the towers.

Christen brings a tower over and feeds the power cord to Vero, who is under the table. It takes only a few minutes for them to get the area set up with ease. Jurgen is still editing, lost in his own world, earbuds in and Christen isn’t positive if he’s aware they’re moving about the space his concentration is so focused.

He snaps out of it to exclaim he’s ready, standing up and oogling the new monitors. The group sits down and sign in to their computers, linking to their student account and the expedition file. Jurgen shows them how the access the photos and they discuss how to begin. Shani and Hasani offer to transcribe the panels and run the algorithms and Vero, Mark and Brigid easily agree.

As Jurgen is pulling his camera out, he looks up at Christen. “Are you heading out now?” he asks.

“About thirty minutes,” she replies, “I need to get my gear together.”

“Wanna go together?” he asks, “I want to do some shots here first,” he explains, sweeping a hand towards the workstation, “but then I want to go watch the guys,”

She nods, “Yeah, take your time,” she encourages, “I’ll come back here and then we can go, yeah?”

“Awesome!” he grins.

 

Forty-five minutes later they arrive at KV20. They both see the four engineers down the slope about the three hundred meters from the road, near where the sand abruptly shifts upward into rocky terrain. Christen leaves her backpack by the entrance to the tomb and joins Jurgen to walk down and check in with them. Jurgen films while Christen listens to Asim and Ziyad discuss their work and their progress so far. The entire team is aware that this expedition is being filmed to benefit both schools and a future documentary and all have signed off permission to be filmed. When they finish, Christen is off to the tomb while Jurgen prepares his drone to film some overhead shots and then planning to come down to interview her later in the tomb.

Christen appreciates the lights in the corridor that assist her keeping her footing steady as she traverses deeper into the tomb. She hears the quiet whirring of a fan at the entrance of the tomb, it’s connected to a long hose drawing in air to circulate it throughout the small room. It helps to keep the temperature down and she’s grateful for that. It’s already warm and she has about two hours to work before leaving to return to camp for lunch.

She gets to it. She opens her backpack, removing her water and notebook and placing her trusty pen in the chest pocket of her Columbia shirt. She redirects the lights so they’re reflecting on the back wall to make it easy for her interpret the ancient hieroglyphs. There are seven panels within the tomb, the only ones remaining. It is said that when Howard Carter was here in 1903, he didn’t remove these panels because he couldn’t find a safe way to get them out of the tomb. They were much too large and he was perplexed with how they had gotten in here. Christen is pleased that they remain, having a strong feeling that them being here is significant.

The first thing she does is grab her tape measure and takes measurements of the height and width of one of the panels. She writes down the measurements in her notebook. She walks to the doorway and unsheathes her tape measure to the length of a panel, frowning when she attempts to move the small aluminum shaft through the doorway, attempting multiple times by changing the angle of the ruler. She realizes there is no possible way the entire panel could fit through the door. The corridor is much too narrow and any angle she attempts will not allow it.

Next, she examines the entrance, thinking maybe Carter burst into the tomb and didn’t expose the full entryway. Maybe there was a wider one that would allow the pieces to slide through. She inspects the left side, seeing the usual markings notifying one of the presence of royalty. She frowns when her flashlight shines on the right side, seeing the same markings and looks up to see the same uncracked, smooth limestone. The entrance is original. She can only make one conclusion from this information.

The panels must be in two pieces.

She writes her findings in her notebook, the scratch of her pen competing against the whirr of the fan. The relative quiet is calming and Christen enjoys it. She grabs her penlight, intent on finding the seams on the panels and detours to her backpack to remove her thin cotton gloves. She doesn’t want to contaminate the panels with the oils from her hands. She can’t find anything, not even a hairline crack from the occasional shifting of the earth, not a crack or a chip in the surface to indicate a seam. All she feels is the smoothness of the stone when she runs her hand up and down the surface with her gloved hand. She sits with her back against the sturdy platform holding the footrest across from the relief panels, removing her gloves and writing her findings down. She draws her knees up and sits with a forearm resting on her knee while she absently clicks the pen as she thinks. An idea enters her head and she quickly scribbles it down, making a note to speak with Jurgen when he comes down after he finishes up working outside.

She reaches for her water, uncapping it and taking a few sips before screwing the lid shit and placing it next to her. ”What secrets do you hold?” she asks aloud in Coptic as she stares at the wall. The now familiar slightly sweet scent enters her nostrils, making her take a deep and calming breath. She feels someone else is with her, she can feel the presence of someone. She hasn’t heard any rocks shifting from someone walking down the corridor, so she concludes it must be the woman.

”Who’s there?” she calls out, turning to see the entrance empty. She frowns with disappointment, wishing the mystery woman would make an appearance. She sighs and looks back at the wall.

”It is I,” the low voice she’s becoming familiar with replies.

She turns and sees her leaning against the entryway. She notes her outfit is different, she’s wearing another tunic, yet this one has long sleeves. It’s beautifully made, maybe silk she thinks, with fine, colorful beadwork around the collar area and at the ends of the sleeves and a colorful belt accentuating a thin waist that draws the eyes to the colorful hem of the tunic where it ends just above the knee. It’s an interesting outfit, again it’s more defined as a classical men’s tunic as opposed to a women’s gown. Christen glances up and notices the woman is wearing the same necklace with the beads and ankh pendant.

”Hello,” Christen greets her, her voice friendly, ”will you come in?” she invites. Strangely enough, she isn’t afraid, it’s quite the opposite, she feels drawn to the woman. There is something inexplicable that makes her feel comfortable when she knows, rationally, she should be at least concerned that she’s facing what she thinks is an apparent ghost.

The woman stares at her with a neutral expression, as if considering her invitation. Christen takes the time to really look at her. First off, she’s solid, like a real person, she notes when she sees the shadow cast on the floor and back of the entrance wall. Not some apparition or a mist of an image, which is curious. Then, there are her features. She’s very tan, similar Christen’s own skin tone. Her hair is down today, the brown hair is long and lays over one shoulder. She notices a thick, one inch long transverse scar on the exposed left side of her thin neck. Her arms are loosely crossed with one hand casually resting on her other forearm, showing off long, thin fingers and simple gold bracelet around her narrow wrist. She has a relaxed, alluring look about her, as if she’s very comfortable in her own skin, her surroundings and being here right now. Her eyes are brown and her expression makes Christen want to look deeper into those eyes. There’s a deep intelligence behind those eyes as they bore into her, yet the feel of her gaze isn’t critical. It’s contemplative, yet also curious and complimented with long lashes. She has a narrow nose, similar to most Egyptians and her lips are chapped and slightly plump. She has a jawline that is sharp, suited to her thin frame. Her lower legs are muscular and so are the leg muscles she can see just above her knees before the tunic cuts off her view. Her ankles are solid with thin toes and short nails.

When she moves, it startles her, making Christen flinch in her place on the floor. The woman chuckles and gracefully eases down to sit across from her, kneeling down with her rear resting on her calves, letting her hands fall easily into her lap, looking at her inquisitively.

”What is your name?” Christen questions her in Coptic as she looks at her. Those eyes are amazing she thinks now that she has a close up view. In the powerful lighting in the tomb, Christen can see how warm her brown eyes are with flecks of lighter yellows and gold.

”I am known as Sitre In, daughter of Jefri, nurse to Hatshepsut,” she replies softly, her voice low and gentle.

”My name is Christen Press,” She extends her hand to shake, ”It is a pleasure to meet you.”

Sitre In looks at Christen’s hand curiously and then slowly lifts her hand to lightly grasp hers. Immediately Christen feels a charge shoot through her body, not enough to make her flinch, yet enough to send a warmth through her all the way to her toes and she smiles at the feeling.

”This is a typical introductory custom,” she explains, giving her a soft smile. She gives Sitre In’s hand a gentle squeeze and then releases it and draws her hand back. Sitre In returns her smile and nods, retracting her hand and glancing down at it as if she too felt what Christen did. She lets it settle back in her lap. Christen notes how cool Sitre In’s hand felt, it felt real. Solid. As if she was a living being.

”May I kindly inquire as to what it is you are doing here?” Sitre In politely asks, slightly tilting her head as she looks at Christen with interest. Her question isn’t asked with anger, just pure curiosity.

”My team and I here are to learn more about her highness, Hatshepsut,” she explains, ”we are examining her belongings and trying to find the remaining ones that have been lost or hidden.”

Sitre In’s brows furrows and she’s slightly frowning. ”Why are you disturbing the holy mausoleum of the King?”

Christen contemplates her answer carefully. ”We study the dead to learn about how they lived. Your society is fascinating and so advanced.”

Sitre In purses her lips as she considers this. ”Did you not consider our needs for these items to successfully navigate the afterlife?” she questions honestly, without contempt or anger.

Christen nods, ”It has been nearly four thousand years since your society was thriving,” she answers carefully, seeing Sitre In blink at the date with slight surprise,

”We assumed that the process of transitioning from death to living in the Field of Reeds would be completed and there would be no need for these items.” Christen explains, hoping she’s convincing. She feels uncomfortable being confronted about it.

The ancient Egyptian culture had a set of complex beliefs concerning death and the afterlife which evolved and was refined over the years. In Hatshepsut’s time, the Egyptians envisioned the afterlife as a continuation of one’s earthly life. To them, death was not a final state, it was a transitional stage in the cycle of life leading to the world of living in the world of the dead. There were strict protocols for burials and funerary rituals to ensure the dead could continue their existence in the world beyond.

They believed that preserving the body through mummification, the corpse was transformed into a new body that was destined to rise again. The preservation of the body was essential because it was believed that the soul and individual personality of the deceased continued to live in the body after death. The body was needed for the soul to exist.
Organs were removed to preserve the body, the parts individually placed in canopic jars and remained within the tomb. Only the heart remained within the mummified body for it was connected to the soul. Food, weapons, money, prayer books and personal belongings were all placed with the dead, as they would need these things to navigate the afterlife. At times, favorite pets were mummified to accompany the dead and in special cases, servants were sacrificed to aide the dead as well. Most of the time, the servants were not exactly willingly sacrificed as evidence has shown. They were murdered. There were some instances of beloved servants willingly choosing to aide their master on their path to the Field of Reeds.

The route to the afterlife was complex and dangerous. The deceased had to pass a series of difficult tests in the Underworld, aided by instructions from the Book of the Dead, protective amulets and talismans they were buried with. Final judgement took place before Osiris, the god of the dead. In the final judgement, the deceased’s heart was weighed against the feather of truth. If the scale balanced, Osiris permitted the deceased to enter the Field of Reeds, a paradise and world of plenty. If the heart was heavy with sin, the crocodile headed monster Ammit, the Eater of the Dead, would devour the deceased and their afterlife ended with torment and shame.

Christen is worried that Sitre In feels upset by the team and her being there, pilfering their belongings. Interrupting their spiritual journey. ”We do not mean any disrespect!” she says hurriedly, ”We do not mean to commit sacrilege.”
Sitre In nods slowly, taking a moment to look around the tomb. She licks her chapped lips and then turns to looks at her. ”I was called here from the Field of Reeds,” she states mildly, as if she’s unsure why she’s here.

Christen is dumbstruck, she doesn’t know what to think. Sitre In suddenly tilts her head and then stands up. ”We can continue this another time.” she states hurriedly and exits the tomb, leaving Christen alone and sitting there in shock from her revelation. A moment later she hears the unmistakable sound of the shale shifting under the weight of footsteps. She hurriedly stands up and moves towards the entrance.

“Christen?” a voice calls, “It’s Jurgen,” he announces.

She abruptly pokes her head out of the tomb and sees him approaching, “Oh, hi,” she says breathlessly.

He looks at her, “Are you alright?”

“Oh, yes, yes,” she dismisses his concern as he follows her into the tomb. “I was just taking a little break,” she explains, “and lost track of time.”

He smiles, “It’s easy to do here,” he says easily, looking around. “Find anything interesting?”

She nearly rolls her eyes with his unknowing loaded questions, but recovers quickly and shares with him her work on the panels and conclusion they must be in two pieces. “I could not see anything myself but I was thinking,” she continues, “perhaps you could shoot each panel with the thermal gun? Maybe see if there’s any slight draft or temperature difference?”

He nods and sets his large camera bag on the floor.

“Also, isn’t there something about shooting a photo in the negative that might show details unseen to the naked eye?” she asks him.

“Oh, yes,” he nods enthusiastically, “I can do that,” he grins, “it’ll be wild,”

She grins at his excitement, “Awesome,” she says. She’s feeling conflicted and slightly panicked about it now, the chance of finding a new tomb or corridor. She wonders when she’ll see Sitre In again. She wonders if the woman is upset with the group being here. She shouldn’t be. This isn’t her tomb, she was buried at KV60. Is it because of Hatshepsut? Is she going to try and stop their efforts? Even though she feels safe around her, can she trust it? Is Sitre In here to defend her Queen or King so to speak? Why was she pulled out of her version of Heaven to come here?

Jurgen is talking to himself as he sorts through his gear, finding the proper camera and lens for the photos he will shoot. “I thought I’d shoot this how you want and then we can go back and get lunch,” he looks over his shoulder at her.

“Yeah, sounds good,” she says half-heartedly, “I’m going to pack up,” she mumbles, bending to pick up her notebook. She thinks about how Hatshepsut chose to be King and ruler while she raised Thutmose III until he was of age to take the throne. Are they truly disturbing the ancients in their afterlife? Are those rumors and tales of curses true?

 

She’s in her head during lunch, only half listening to the table talk as she thinks about her short exchange with Sitre In. She’s doubting her sanity at this point, it sounds ridiculous to think it even happened, now that she’s sitting here, out of the tomb and in the daylight, enjoying a wonderfully prepared lamb dish. But how Sitre In stated she was called to the tomb from being in the Field of Reeds, which would equate to being in Heaven for Christians, it makes her think. Are they disturbing the dead?

“How about it, Christen?” Shani asks her eagerly.

“Oh, sorry,” she shakes her head, “I wasn’t listening, just thinking.” She straightens up, “How about what?”

Vero elbows her gently from her left side, “We’ve booked rooms at the Hilton Luxor for this weekend,” she explains, “plenty of room for you if you’d like to join us?”

“They have a pool bar,” Jurgen grins, “and a dance floor,” he shimmies in his chair.

“I’m getting a massage,” Brigid adds, rubbing the back of her neck, “and maybe a pedicure,”

Christen frowns and gives them a shrug, “I think I’m obligated to stay here,” she explains apologetically, “but I was thinking,” she says, “while you’re there, check out the other hotels,” she gives them a smile, “or let me know if the Hilton is the best. We’ll plan another break for all of us.” She gives them another smile, “I know Ari would love to hang out, he tells the best stories.”

They seem satisfied with her counter proposal with only Vero looks slightly disappointed. Christen knows she’s got to be on her toes around that one.

 

Her body is refreshed by the short nap she’d taken. Somehow, she was able to relax enough to sleep for an hour and a half, although her mind begins to stir with thoughts as soon as she wakes. She wishes Ari was here for her to speak with. Surely, he’s had to face the question of religion versus preserving artifacts. She shakes it off and prepares for her afternoon session down in the tomb. She still wonders if Sitre In’s purpose is to dissuade them from their work.

While still in bed, she grabs her phone, intent on finding some answers to a few of her burning questions. She’s curious about the jolt she felt when her and Sitre In shook hands. She’s never experienced that before and wonders if it’s possible that Sitre In is her soulmate. She opens her bookmark she’s kept on her phone about soulmates, also wondering what happens if your soulmate hasn’t yet spoken your soul mark yet. She wonders what you actually feel your soulmate when you meet them. The answers are somewhat comforting. Yes, you can feel your soulmate and begin to have that deep unexplainable connection when you’re in their presence. You certainly can fall in love with them as well. There are a few situations when your soulmate might not speak your mark. One of them being their own emotional baggage, another of timing and finally your soulmate being oblivious.

Christen is slowly beginning to believe that she has found her soulmate in the strange woman. She doesn’t know why and she certainly feels it’s unusual to say the least. But she can’t deny these feelings she has when she’s in the woman’s presence. First, the handshake. There is no denying something happened between them when they shook hands. Christen has never felt a rush go through her body like that before and she’s met plenty of people in her line of work. This was something special. Something significant. Each time they’ve spoken, though short and always interrupted, Christen can feel herself growing attached to her. Yearning to be with her. But why wouldn’t the woman speak her words back to her, she wonders. Christen discounts the last one, she feels Sitre In isn’t oblivious, the woman was a nurse in her life, she would have a level head. Her past emotional baggage and timing seems to be the case. Oh, and that one little detail of maybe being a ghost. That is probably a huge factor as well. She Googles “when your soulmate is a ghost” and the returns are mostly links to fanfiction stories and a few parapsychology articles leaning towards having a mental illness. That’s no help.

She considers calling someone, maybe Dr. Nandi or one of her sisters. Maybe one of her friends. Perhaps it would be good to talk to someone about this. Maybe not mention the part of Sitre In being a ghost, they might think she’s absolutely nuts, went insane in the heat of the desert. She decides to think about it later, she’s got to get moving now. She’s still uncertain if Sitre In is her soulmate or if she’s just feeling the affects of being around the supernatural. She’s going to have to devote some time to seriously consider what is going on. She’s a woman of science and she’s not equipped with the emotions she’s feeling with this enigma of a woman.

The thought of it being an environmental issue crosses her mind, perhaps she’s more sensitive to the CO2 levels in the corridor and tomb than others. Then she remembers the oxygen indicators that Asim and Manu have in the corridor and tombs and how no alerts have been issued. Maybe she’s just unconsciously harboring these feelings of guilt or confusion about taking religious items and it’s manifesting itself in Sitre In appearing to her. Maybe it’s all in her head. Perhaps she really should talk to Ari and get his opinion about this. Maybe he has heard of this happening to others.

Not getting any closer to a believable answer and not willing to explore her possible mental issues further, Christen leaves her bed to prepare for the afternoon session.

 

 

Jurgen excitedly finds her near the mess hall, grabbing her elbow excitedly. “I’ve found something!” he exclaims, “On the photos!”

That causes a stir as he leads her into the hall where the group is huddled around a monitor. They step back for Christen to sit down in the chair to view it. On the large screen is an image in negative of a panel, enlarged to clearly show a thin seam in the limestone.

“They are in two pieces,” Christen whispers in wonder. She looks up and around to everyone gathered and grins, “this is good,” she nods happily.

“What’s next Christen?” Shani wants to know.

“Well,” Christen pushes back from the table and stands, “I’d like prints of these,” she states, “and we’ll get measurements for the exact locations of each seam that’s shown.” She holds out a finger, then sticks out another one, “then Asim and the guys will evaluate how they are attached.” A third finger, “We compare the sonar to which panel has a possible opening, if any.” A fourth finger, “And hopefully we get the panel off and find plaster behind it.”

Finding a plaster wall was an excellent sign of an entrance being covered. Behind the plaster, which usually was tinted to match the rock color to hide it, would usually be bricks used to seal the vault or tomb or new corridor. They wouldn’t know what they had until they got it opened.

“Should we cancel this weekend?” Hasani asks prudently, “It wouldn’t be a problem.”

Christen looks to Asim who shrugs, “I wouldn’t foresee us being at the point to make any attempts at gaining access until next week,” he informs them.

“It would take us time to remove any panel properly,” Dakarai adds, “and we’d have to move the existing relics and stands in the tomb for safety.”

“We can’t do anything until Ari is back with the permits,” Shani states.

“It’s settled,” Christen nods, “the weekend plans stay in place,” she announces, “and we’ll still need your work on the panels, your input might locate the one which should be removed.”

The students nod, promising their best effort.

She pulls her cellphone out of her pocket and smiles, “I’m going to text Ari the news,” she wiggles her eyebrows. “Jurgen, would you email him the images?” He nods and moves to the computer.

Ziyad laughs heartfully, “Listen close,” he directs, “we’ll probably hear him yelling from Cairo!”

They all laugh, knowing that Cairo is over six hundred kilometers from their location.

After she sends the message, she turns to Asim, “What do you want to do?”

“Come with you and take measurements, locate the seams,” he states, “Dakarai and Manu will continue outside and Ziyad and I will assist you.”

She nods, “Let’s meet at the car in thirty, okay?” They nod.

“I’m coming with to film this!” Jurgen adds.

 

They’re on the fourth of seven panels when Christen catches the familiar scent. She turns to look at the entrance while Asim and Ziyad are searching for the seam to see her leaning against the entrance, a passive look on her face as she watches the men work. Her eyes find Christen’s and she holds her gaze. Christen offers her a timid smile that grows when Sitre In responds with one. She lets out a sigh of relief that she doesn’t look angry and directs herself back to the men who call to her to confirm the seam they have discovered. They begin to use painter’s tape to mark the location while Christen marks it on the photo, scribbling down the exact numbers of centimeters of it’s location.

She’s involved with the next three panels, only able to glance back a few times to see she’s still in the entrance, looking on with curiosity. Christen is very aware of Jurgen and his camera and makes sure to not be obvious. She finds herself with more questions as to how Asim, Ziyad and Jurgen seem to have no clue of her presence. She smiles as she works, knowing Sitre In there. She feels comfortable and not at all claustrophobic in the small tomb.

“We should get the air indicator and the tools,” Ziyad nudges Asim and he nods in agreement with Jurgen. Asim turns to Christen, “We’ll be back in a few,” he states, “smoke break and get the tools,”

“Sounds good,” she nods. She holds her breath as the three men exit the tomb, her jaw dropping open as they walk past an amused Sitre In as if she wasn’t there. Sitre In turns to look at Christen and gives her a soft smile. She enters the room and walks over to the panels and examines them.

Christen takes this time to examine Sitre In again, noticing her broad shoulders and how her tunic trails down to her thin waist and narrow hips. Christen realizes she’s attracted to her, there’s something about her that makes her want to know her. Be with her. She can’t explain it and she knows it’s crazy to feel this about what she can only believe is a ghost. Be these feelings are there and they are growing.

Christen waits until the echoes of the men in the corridor begin to fade before she speaks. “Sitre In,” she begins and watches her turn to face her and holding up a hand, palm forward.

”Sitre In is my appointed name, my title.” she says quietly, ”Please, call me by my given name. I am Tobin.”

Tobin, Christen considers, liking the sound of the unusual name and wondering what it means.

Tobin explains before she can ask. ”It means ‘She Who Is Calm’ I’m told,” she gives her a shy smile which Christen finds adorable.

”I like it,” Christen smiles, ”it suits you.”

Tobin smiles wider at her and then lets her head fall bashfully.

”I want to explain something to you,” Christen states quietly, not wanting her voice to carry up the corridor, ”Why we are here, doing this. It’s not to rob the tomb of it’s treasures, it’s to study what your life was like during your time.”

She goes on to give an abbreviated explanation the significance of studying past cultures, consisting of studying the foods they ate and how they dressed, how they constructed their tombs and honored their dead. The religions they believed in and it played a role in their death culture. She went on to quickly share with how important it was that they left so much history of their leaders for them to learn how they ruled and what their civilization was like.

Tobin listens carefully, looking at her thoughtfully as Christen speaks earnestly in hushed tones. The sound of echoes emanates down the corridor as Christen finishes.

”Can we continue this later? Perhaps tonight?” Tobin asks, regarding her seriously.

Christen nods, ”Of course, we’re going to try to figure out which panel to remove and how to remove it.”

Tobin glances over at the panels as the noise in the corridor gets louder. ”Do you know which one you’ll choose?” Christen shakes her head.

”What number is regarded highly in my culture? Do you know?” Her eyes showing a glint of playfulness.

”Seven.” Christen replies with certainty.

Tobin glances over at the seventh panel in the far corner and then turns back to her, a knowing look on her face. ”With good reason,”

”Is there something behind it?” Christen whispers excitedly.

Tobin shrugs and looks amused, ”I was here when they dug this,” she arches an eyebrow and gives her a mysterious smile, ”I would look there.” She lifts a hand and leaves the tomb.

Jurgen enters excitedly chattering about filming them look at the panels and how he thinks it will be such great footage. He begins to arrange the lights how he wants them, leaving Christen standing there as she tries to collect her thoughts.

Had Tobin just told her another chamber was behind the seventh panel?

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

The group in the tomb is stymied in their efforts to justify which panel should be chosen to pry off. Christen is frustrated because they can’t find anything obvious about the seventh panel and she feels Tobin had given her the clue. She needs something more than a hunch to insist on removing that panel right now. Asim suggests using a side scanner to try and see if there are any voids behind the wall. They decide to break for lunch and get a status report of the students’ work before returning to make another attempt.

As Christen sits in the back seat on the way to camp, Tobin is on her mind, wondering what they will discuss when she sees her later. She looks out the window, feeling mentally drained from her morning’s work. The heat just saps all of your energy. Even being down deep within the tomb, the hot air gets stifling. Even with a fan. She looks forward to taking a nap for a little bit before going back to work later this afternoon.

 

“Something is off with these panels,” Brigid states, when the group straggles into the mess hall. “I cannot put my finger on it,” she explains, “but something is different on those from any others I’ve seen.”

“You look beat,” Mark observes as he looks at the sweaty group entering the mess hall.

“It’s hot down there,” Christen says tiredly.

“Why don’t we eat,” Shani suggests, “and you guys can take showers and relax and then we can review what we’ve found so far before you leave for your second session.”

“Sounds good to me,” Jurgen nods aggressively, “I could eat my camera I’m so hungry.”

Christen feels better while she sits and eats. She can feel herself relax and after her third water and makes a note to herself to make it point to drink more water while she’s down at the tomb. They’ve placed portable toilets outside the entrance so if she had to pee, she could go there and not all the way back to camp. Maybe that’s why she has a slight headache, she’s slightly dehydrated. She finishes eating and with the promise to be quick, she leaves the group to return to her tent and prepare to take a shower.

 

“The algorithms show nothing,” Mark reports, “at least, nothing I can figure out,”

Christen hums as she looks at the screens, the images of the panels on them. “Hey Jurgen?” she questions, gesturing for him to come close, “Is it possible for each screen to show one panel and you can place the overlay of the seams on it?”

“Can do,” he replies, “Shani, Hasani, will you help me?” he asks and the three move off to his table where his computer is. He directs them to line up all of the monitors side by side while he prepares the images.

“Are you thinking there may be a message on the line above or below each seem?” Vero questions shrewdly, her arms crossed as she looks at one of the screens.

Christen shrugs, “It’s possible,” she says, “maybe a hidden message revealing which panel is the opening.”

“Very clever,” Asim praises, “it will be interesting to see what they’ve written on those lines.”

Dakarai chuckles, “Ari will be sore he’s missing this,”

“Ah,” Ziyad shrugs, “he’ll be back tomorrow,” he states, “plus he’ll have the permits.”

“I just have a feeling it’s the seventh panel,” Christen murmurs. She looks over as Jurgen is carrying his monitor over to the main table while Hasani clears space for it. “What can we do to help?”

“Let’s get these all lined up?” Jurgen requests and immediately they all move to assist him. Minutes later, Jurgen sends the overlay to the other units and the students pull up the new images for viewing. They all huddle around the monitors, trying to read the highlighted line above the seam. Shani looks over her shoulder and sees Christen looking on with an amused grin.

“You should be here,” she insists, pulling the center chair out so she can sit in front of the screen.

Christen shakes her head, “Why don’t you each interpret the lines above and below the seam,” she suggests, “and I will as well and we’ll see what theories we can come up with.” She retrieves a bottle of water, intent on staying hydrated and pulls her notebook from her backpack and patiently waits for them to finish.

 

“A whiteboard would be wonderful right now,” Christen sighs to herself as she waits for the printer to spit out the final document. When in the field, technology isn’t always at your disposal, she reminds herself grinning a little, ya gotta make do. She’s using this as a critical thinking lesson for the students because she truly wants them involved in each aspect of the expedition and also because the more eyes on this, the better chance they have of finding an answer. She still believes panel number seven is the one, simply by what Tobin shared with her. In reality, a gut instinct isn’t going to be enough to convince Ari. She needs some form of evidence, at least something that would tenuously point in that direction.

Quickly she handwrites the sentence in English of each line above the hieroglyphics, showing the interpretation on the horizontal 11” x 17” enlargements. Then she instructs the students to minimize the images on the computers and tapes each sheet at the top of each monitor. It will have to do.

“Maybe try looking at the first word of each sentence,” she suggests, “or a spiraling pattern,”

Christen finds a chair and gets comfortable, holding her notebook in hand. She sips her fresh water, as her eyes roam across the papers. Nothing jumps out at her quickly, none of the heiroglyphs on the lines give an immediate clue. The subject matter isn't suspicious and she can't determine if any of the words are forming an underlying message.

Hours pass yet it feels like minutes when the dinner service begins. Christen is roused from her reading, she had gone to her tent to retrieve one of the books she had brought about Zahi Hawass’ prior work in the Valley of the Kings, hoping to glean some insight on his interpretation of panels in other tombs. He had shared some of the unique methods the workers used to hide clues in panels and make secret messages.

As they eat dinner, Asim reports that the results from their scan in the tomb were inconclusive. He points out that the side sonar only has the capability to read up to three feet thick due to the density of the rock, so there is the possibility something could be there. History has shown that the ancients had filled passageways with bricks and blocks to deter grave robbers. He states the top foot of the seventh panel does show something, not a complete void, but an inconclusive blur. It’s a blow to her hopes but Christen still stands firm that there is another corridor or tomb down there. Especially knowing what Tobin shared with her. She just needs to find a way to justify the dig. Just something, a sliver of a concrete clue to convince Ari to proceed.

Nothing comes to her after dinner, even with the three glasses wine she consumed. She’s a little tipsy when she saunters back to her tent with Vero insisting on walking her. The woman has been subtly trying to get her alone and Christen has been pretty successful in fending off her quiet advances until now. The two are walking in the darkness and Vero keeps bumping her shoulder as they walk. They are only a few feet away from Christen’s tent when Vero suddenly stops in her tracks.

“Christen, I like you,” she states, “and I think you like me,”

“Oh, Vero,” Christen shakes her head, trying to be as kind as she can, “you are a wonderful person,” she says genuinely because she means it, “I don’t get involved with anyone on expeditions or who are students. I just can’t.”

Vero gives her a sly grin, “Can’t or won’t?” she asks.

“Both,” Christen states firmly, being a bit more bold than she usually is, perhaps due to the wine.

“Even if I come to Stanford next semester to complete my doctoral?” her grin grows wider.

“Please don’t even consider doing that because of me,” she shakes her head and chuckles, “it will never happen.” She knows it won’t happen because she’s one of the instructors who reads the applications for the program. Vero’s name hasn’t been submitted before the deadline for next semester.

Vero chuckles, “Worth a shot,” she shakes her head. “Goodnight, Christen,” she steps closer and Christen steps back, looking over her shoulder to see a figure in the darkness. She straightens up as she looks.

“What’s wrong?” Vero turns to look out at the desert. She faces Christen, “You alright?”

“Yes,” she nods, stepping onto the porch and opening her door, “goodnight.” She enters her tent, blindly feeling her way to the desk to snap on the light and set her backpack down and moving directly to the screen of the window, hoping to see Tobin out there in the desert. She’s disappointed when she doesn’t as she scans the area lowly lit by the moonlight. As she stands there looking and hoping for a glimpse of Tobin, she removes her hair from the bun she had put it in earlier after her shower this afternoon, shaking out the wild curls that spring from it. When she turns away, her hand flies to her chest as she gasps seeing Tobin in the dim light sitting at the table.

“Oh!” she breathes out, her heart pounding in her chest. “You startled me,” she states in Coptic with wide eyes.

”It was not my intention, Tobin says apologetically, half rising from the chair, looking alarmed, ”please forgive me,”

Affection surges through Christen’s body, “Of course,” she smiles broadly, ”you are welcome here.”

Tobin returns her bright smile as she lowers herself back down.

”Would you mind if I change out these clothes? I have been in them all day,” Christen asks, walking to the wardrobe. ”You can stay here, I do not mind,” she adds, secretly hoping she would stay. She doesn’t want her to leave, she can’t explain this strong urge she has to be around her.

”As you wish,” is the low reply, that sounds slightly shaky to Christen, maybe even a little nervous.

Christen grins to herself, wondering why in the world she’s trying to show off in front of Tobin. She’s a ghost or a spirit, there’s no way she should be feeling what she’s feeling towards her. Especially after only knowing her for three days. But if she’s somehow her soulmate, she considers, this would all make sense to be feeling this. She glances over to see Tobin looking down at the table, intentionally keeping her head down. She slowly unbuttons her shirt, shrugging it off and placing it in her laundry bag. She turns and looks into the mirror on the inside of the wardrobe door and sees Tobin staring at her. She holds her gaze as she removes her bra and takes her time selecting her sleep shirt before she slowly sliding it on. Just as slowly she discards her pants and puts on loose boxers. When she faces Tobin again and walks across the tent to retrieve two water bottles from the case near the door and sits at the table, she grins when see realizes Tobin is blushing furiously. She finds it endearing and feels desired by the effect she has on her.

”Hello,” she greets her, offering her a water bottle, ”I am not certain you can drink?”

Tobin smiles and accepts the bottle. ”I can. What is this?” she examines the bottle curiously.

”It is water,”she explains, ”it is safe to drink.”

Tobin watches carefully as Christen twists the cap off and removes it. She slowly repeats her action and sets the cap on the table. She watches as Christen demonstrates taking a sip.

Tobin grips the bottle too hard, squeezing it and some water overflows, startling her.

”Just hold it gently,” Christen nods with a smile. Tobin nods and tries again, bringing the bottle to her lips and taking a drink. She sets the bottle down and smiles at her.

”It is delicious,” she nods, clearly impressed. ”Is this from the mighty Nile?”

Christen shakes her head, ”It is not. The Nile water is not safe to drink.”

Tobin nods with understanding and a smile, ”That is why we consumed beer.”

Christen smiles and then turns serious, ”I want to know if our being here in the tomb has disrupted your time in the Field of Reeds,”

Tobin suddenly turns nervous, ”I do not know,” she replies, ”I was told to return.”

Christen feels Tobin may not be telling her the whole truth. She lets it slide right now. Instead, she pulls her chair closer to the table and sits upright facing the woman. Once again, Tobin mimics her movements, even how she interlocks her fingers and rests her elbows on the table. She looks at her expectantly, as if she is pleased to finally have some uninterrupted time to speak with her.

”Will you tell me about your life? How you came to be nurse to Pharaoh Hatshepsut?” Christen asks, making sure to add the title of respect for her leader.
Tobin nods, ”I was born to a family of privilege,” she begins, her voice low and steady, ”My father was a doctor and his father was a doctor as well. I was the third child born of the family. My two older sisters died when I was ten. There had been a sickness and my Father could not save them. Somehow, my Mother, myself and my younger brother were spared.”

“My Father’s Father served as personal physician to Amenhotep. My Father served Thutmose the First. After my sisters died, I vowed to learn to ways of the doctor and begged my Father to teach me. He did. He saw I was a serious student. Thutmose the First was a kind ruler and he was generous to my Father. I accompanied him often to the see Pharaoh. As my schooling progressed, I had many of the same tutors as Hatshepsut. We became friendly while we pursued our studies.”

“When I reached adulthood, my Father proclaimed I was a doctor and his associates would test me about diseases and sicknesses and how to set bones and heal wounds. They tested me often and found me to be just as skilled as other male students. It made sense I should care for females. Nurse was the term they used, yet I was a female doctor. It had not been accepted as yet, though I received the blessing of Pharaoh Thutmose the First. He was a shrewd man and thought of the future.”

“I was ordered to attend to Pharaoh’s wife, Ahmose and their daughter, Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut was a sickly young woman although she possessed great beauty and strength and did not look ill. I spent much time with her, studying her symptoms and finding the best treatment for her.” Tobin pauses and takes a sip of water. Her eyes shine with affection when she speaks of Hatshepsut.

Christen is mesmerized by Tobin’s tale. ”Please, continue,” she urges.

Tobin nods, ”Over time, Hatshepsut would claim I was her greatest friend and we would socialize together. It was accepted because of my family’s status in the city. We spent much time together, often discussing politics and how to make improvements in our society. She was interested in my work and would often ask her Father to introduce me to physicians from other provinces so we could discuss treatments for injuries and illnesses. It improved my abilities greatly and I was grateful for that. Hatshepsut’s health improved and Thutmose the First was very pleased. He titled me official Nurse and I received my name Sitre In.” Tobin licks her lips and drinks again. Christen was aware of how bright Tobin’s eyes were as she spoke of Hatshepsut and she feels maybe there was something more to the story. That they possibly had something more than just a friendship. But then she feels the energy shift and sees how Tobin’s posture changes and she looks sad.

”Hatshepsut was courted by Thutmose the Younger as it was expected and they married. Soon she bore a child, a daughter, Neferure. She was unable to carry to term after that, suffering two lost children. Her heart broke. Thutmose the Younger took on Iset as a second wife who bore Thutmose the Third shortly after. As was the way, Hatshepsut raised the boy along with his Father, teaching him how to be a leader. Hatshepsut was sick with grief when Thutmose the Younger died from a grave disease that mottled his skin. No doctor in the land could heal him and the country was in mourning.”

“Hatshepsut insisted to rule, she was very capable and her time at the throne allowed our people to prosper through trades and peacefully acquiring new lands and crops. Unfortunately, she too fell ill. Her skin was dry and would itch terribly. I learned of a salve that reduced her symptoms and she found relief. She suffered with periods of malaise and fatigue often. When I could convince her to eat, she felt better. There was a complex issue with her diet and how her body responded was perplexing.” Tobin looks down at her hands, her face showing sadness and frustration. ”She was sensitive to foods yet when she was very confused in the mornings, something sweet would help her recover and become aware. It had been that way since her youth and had only gotten worse as she grew older. I wrote many a letter to doctors in far off lands explaining the symptoms and seeking a successful course of action. There was none.”

Tobin’s face falls with deep sorrow. She stares at the water bottle for minute before speaking again. ”She complained of pain in her joints and had trouble walking. Her hip was painful to touch. Her symptoms changed and she too became covered with scaly skin that would itch terribly, like her husband had. I found success with a special blend of medicines to sooth the itch, yet she grew weaker. Her stomach became larger and appeared she suffered with an enlarged organ in her body by her hip. Possibly from her troubles with having babies. She agreed to surgery, yet I couldn’t remove the large mass. It was tangled with many organs within her and I feared if I cut it, it would release its sickness through her whole body. I wrote again to the doctors in far off lands, asking for treatment options and tried some. The tumor grew. Finally, Hatshepsut told me to stop trying to heal her and just keep her comfortable and free from pain. She was ready to move on to her next life and Thutmose the Third was of age to rule. I agreed with a heavy heart. Her teeth went bad and she asked I remove one. After I removed the tooth, she refused to eat and days later went to sleep. She never woke.” Tobin’s voice trembled and she looked away to wipe at her eyes.

Christen could see Tobin’s grief as she spoke about Hatshepsut. ”I am very sorry your loss. She sounded like a wonderful person and friend. You went to great lengths to keep her alive. We know now that she did have a very serious sickness. It’s a sickness we still have today and doctors can not always save their patients who have it. It is called cancer. Also, the diet issue you spoke of sounds like a condition called diabetes that can be very difficult to treat without specialized medication.”

Christen impulsively reaches across the table to grasp Tobin’s hands, ”You did everything you could with what was available to you,” she finishes earnestly, seeing Tobin’s eyes water at her words. Tobin holds her gaze while tears fall from her eyes. Christen is overwhelmed with how beautiful the woman looks even in this deep grief she is feeling. She can’t get over this powerful connection she feels towards her, she doesn’t understand it. Right now, all she wants is to comfort her. She makes the decision not to share Hatshepsut’s cause of death. She feels it would destroy Tobin in this delicate state.

Tobin nods slowly and bites her lower lip, looking away as she blinks back her tears. Christen watches as Tobin’s chin quivers for a moment and then she takes a few deep breaths. She looks back at Christen and gives her a sad smile. ”Thank you,” she says, her voice shaky, ”I did not realize how comforting your words you would be. You are so kind to share that with me.”

Christen squeezes her hands once more, ”You did the best you could with what you had available to at the time,” she repeats heartfully, ”please do not doubt yourself. You did everything you possibly could.”

They simply stare at each other for the next two minutes. Christen breaks first, when she notices Tobin shiver slightly. ”Are you cold?” she asks attentively, releasing Tobin’s hands and rising from her chair. She lifts her fleece jacket from the back of her chair and brings it around to Tobin. Tenderly, she drapes it over Tobin’s shoulders, leaning in close and rubbing her hands along Tobin’s arms. Tobin looks up at her and smiles appreciatively, ”Thank you,”

Christen moves her hands and squeezes Tobin’s shoulders before moving to sit back down.

”Tobin,” Christen begins, her voice laced with concern, ”Are you here to impede our work because the Gods are angry with us?”

Tobin twists her mouth, trying to hide her amusement and then clears the throat she shakes her head, ”No,”

”I thought you were upset about your possessions being taken away for study or to be placed in museums,” Christen is confused.

”Once the prayers are read from the Book of the Dead,” Tobin states quietly, ”we are on our path in the Underworld. We have everything we need. I do not believe anything you are doing here is harmful to my people,” She gives her a shrug and a rueful smile, "Who knew that our possessions were not needed in the Afterlife?"

Christen considers her answer for a minute before tilting her head and looking at her, perplexed. ”Then… why are you here?”

Tobin searches her eyes before she licks her lips and nods, ”To assist you,” she simply states.

Christen’s eyes widen with that, unsure of what to say. She heard the honesty in Tobin’s voice and sees it in her eyes.

”What progress have you made today?” Tobin inquires, indicating she’d like to change the subject.

Christen honors her silent request, tucking a leg under as she shifts in her seat. ”Well,” she begins, ”we’re reviewing the panels still. We’ve discovered they are constructed from two pieces of limestone, so we are focusing on the lines written above or below the seams for any clues.”

Tobin gives her a mysterious smirk, ”And have you found any clues?” she inquires. Christen shakes her head and covers her mouth as she yawns and Tobin stands.
”There is a saying of my people,” Tobin states, ”that the path to paradise is paved with gold.”

”Interesting,” Christen murmurs tiredly and stands as well, stepping forward to stand before her. ”May I embrace you?” she asks, not knowing if there is a word for hug.

Tobin smiles and spread her arms wide, welcoming her as Christen steps against her. It’s not a typical goodbye hug. It’s not just an affectionate hug. It’s intimate. There’s something deep in this hug and Christen is feeling it immensely. She’s enveloped in warmth, not just from Tobin’s radiating body heat, but from emotion as well. She feels safe. She feels a comfort and safety like she hasn’t ever before, yet it seems familiar. It’s as if each time she’s in Tobin’s presence, her feelings for the woman grow deeper.

Tobin releases her first, stepping back handing her back her fleece. ”Goodnight,” she smiles.

Christen walks with her to the door. It’s on the tip of her tongue to ask her to stay, but she refrains, unsure of where they stand. Tobin gives her a look and Christen sees a longing in her eyes, as if she doesn’t want to leave her and was just being polite. Christen decides to take the chance.

”Stay?” she asks in a breathless rush, taking hold of Tobin’s arm.

Tobin looks at her, a slow smile spreading across her face, letting out a happy sigh as she nods. Christen slides her hand down from Tobin’s arm to link their fingers and leads her to the bed. ”I must go for a moment,” Christen says, unable to remember how to convey she needs to pee, ”I will return in three minutes,”

Tobin simply nods, ”I will wait here,”

Christen grabs her shower caddy and after a quick visit to the bathroom tent, where she hurriedly performs an abbreviated version of her nightly ritual, she returns to her tent. She finds Tobin still at the table, studying her pen, clicking it repeatedly. Christen smiles and sets her caddy in the wardrobe and then stands next to her at the table. She pulls her notebook from her pack and opens it to a page in the back.

”It is a writing instrument,” she explains quietly, ”stroke the paper with it.” She sets her hand on Tobin’s shoulder, watching as she slowly makes a line of black on the paper and hears her softly gasp. Tobin looks up at her quickly, her eyes shining with excitement. She looks back down and begins making broad strokes on the paper.

”Do you like to draw?”

Tobin nods, ”It was my favorite hobby,” she nods quickly, ”along with painting. I do not know why I have not thought to do this in so long,” she says quietly, mostly to herself Christen thinks.

She how much Tobin is enjoying herself, Christen gets an idea. She walks over to her second suitcase and kneels on the floor, sorting through items until she finds what she’s looking for. She returns to the table and sets down a sketchbook and a pack of pencils and pens.

”You are welcome to use these any time you would like to,” she offers warmly.

Tobin looks up to see the book and looks at Christen as she slowly reaches for it, a shy smile on her face. She opens the book, turning the blank pages and then rubbing a corner between her fingers. She pushes her chair back from the table, standing and hugging Christen, ”You are so kind to me,” she says, her voice filled with emotion, ”thank you.

Christen breathes deeply as she feels Tobin hold her close and lets her hands run up and down her strong back. ”You are very welcome,” she replies. They sit back down and Christen explains to use the pencils, showing her how they shade the paper. She instructs her on how to use the pencil sharpener and invites her to come to her tent whenever she would like to draw.

When Christen yawns again, Tobin stands and takes her hand and leads her to the bed. ”You must sleep,” she murmurs to her, drawing down the thin cover and gesturing for her to lie down. Christen keeps hold of her hand and smiles warmly as she gives her a tug and Tobin follows her, watching her with interest as she shuts off the lights and returns to the bed. Tobin chuckles as she lies down next to her. They instantly draw near to each other, fitting together perfectly.

Christen feels a content and relaxed and safe in Tobin’s arms and her final thought before sleep takes over is the thought of if this is how you feel once you’ve found your soulmate.

 

XXXX

 

May 18th

She wakes on day four with the gold on her mind, Tobin’s words echoing in her mind. Tobin is gone when she opens her eyes and she’s disappointed but not very surprised. Her instinct tells her Tobin was being thoughtful by leaving before she awoke since she is working and Tobin probably didn’t want to interfere with her morning. It’s a strange sixth sense that’s developed and she’s positive it’s because Tobin, even under these unusual and pretty insane circumstances, is her soulmate. She doesn’t understand what this means, since Tobin feels real, solid like a living human being, yet she’s certainly from another time. Like nearly three thousand years ago. Before she spirals into a confusing and slightly depressing mood, she leaves her bed to prepare for the day.

Hastily she dresses, throwing on yesterday’s pants and a fresh shirt before trotting to the mess hall. She greets the group distractedly, immediately searching for the printed copies of the panels with the seam overlays. She flips through the pages and pulls out the seventh panel, her eyes scanning it.

“That’s it,” she murmurs, looking on the desk and finding a red pen. She circles the image.

“What is it?” Shani asks, making her jump. The group is standing around her and Christen had no clue since she was so focused.

“Gold,” she announces, holding up the paper. “This panel has the only mention of gold on the whole wall. It is on the seventh panel.” She explains, giving a head nod to Ari as he enters the mess hall. “What is the number Egyptians of the time held as sacred and lucky?”

“Seven,” the group replies in unison.

Christen smiles and nods, tapping the red pen on the paper. “And guess how many spines hang from the collar?” The image hastily circled by Christen’s red pen shows the hieroglyph of the symbol for gold. It’s a collar with the ends hanging off the sides with seven spines pointing down from the middle.

“Holy shit,” Mark laughs, “that’s insane.”

“Really?” Brigid asks, stepping forward to get a closer look. “Well, I’ll be,” she marvels.

“Makes sense,” Shani states with a form nod.

“The seventh panel is the one that has the anomaly at the top,” Manu nods as he looks at the picture, “perhaps we’ll see something unusual when we get the panel off,” he smiles as he glances around.

Christen looks to Ari who is smiling broadly. “Looks as if we’ll be preparing the tomb for excavation on Monday,” he declares, “nice work.”

Asim and Dakarai high five each other as Ziyad fist bumps Vero.

“Looks as if I’ll need to be writing procedure and assign tasks this weekend.” Christen grins broadly.

“Oh,” Ari waves a stack of papers he’s holding, “I also received permits for excavating KV60,” he states, wiggling his eyebrows. “That tomb hasn’t had a thorough review since sonar technology came out. I thought maybe you’d like to add a few days or a week to check it out.”

Christen’s mouth drops open, completely unexpecting the chance to review the tomb, “Really?”

Ari nods. “Since we seem to have made amazing progress here,” he shrugs and grins at her.

“Ari, that’s incredible,” Christen gushes, “thank you so much,”

He blows on his knuckles and then buffs them on his shirt, “It was nothing,” he says, his voice full of amusement, “plus, I want to play in the dirt, too, you know,” he chuckles.

“So, the seventh panel, it is!” Asim speaks loudly, clapping his hands, “Christen, do you want us to go there and evaluate removal of the panel and create a plan to move the existing relics in the room?”

Christen nods, “Yes, that would be a good start,” she states, shifting into her leadership role, “Ari, would you like to check in on them after you get settled back in? You can officially sign off on the plan.”

Ari gives her a salute with a broad smile, “Yes, ma’am,” he grins. He turns to Asim, “I’ll come down in about an hour,”

Asim nods, “Okay, we’re going to take a van and head up there,” he announces and the group of engineers depart.

Jurgen has been filming this entire exchange, grabbing his camera as soon as he saw Christen enter the mess hall looking so determined. He’s so glad he caught it all. He continues filming, stepping back to get another group shot.

Christen thinks for a moment, “Okay,” she says, “let me get my notebook and when I come back I’ll assign some tasks.”

“And eat breakfast,” Vero reminds her.

“And eat breakfast,” she nods and exits to return to her tent.

 

XXXX

 

”You are radiant like the sun,” Tobin states as she looks at Christen with awe. Her hands are on Christen’s upper arms having just released her from a close hug. ”A good day, yes?”

Christen nods, unable to contain the smile on her face, ”One of the best yet,” She didn’t see or feel Tobin’s presence today and she missed it.

Tobin smiles broadly, ”I am pleased for you,” she tilts her head as she examines her, ”Are you tired? Should I leave?”

Christen shakes her head, ”I am tired, but please stay? Maybe we can lay on the bed and talk?” When Tobin nods, she takes her hand and leads her to the bed, gesturing for her to lie down. Then the turns to her wardrobe and strips off her shirt and sports bra, once again feeling Tobin’s eyes on her back as she changes. Upon returning to camp after their long and exciting day, Christen had immediately showered before joining everyone at dinner.

The lay on their sides staring at each other, small grins on their faces, both feeling a giddiness within that comes with finding one’s soulmate.

”Will you tell me what your life is like?” Tobin questions, her curiosity evident.

Christen smiles wide and nods, eager to share herself with the Egyptian. She begins with explaining how her soul mark led her here and how she felt she would meet her soulmate on this trip. Tobin hangs on every word as Christen discusses her childhood quest to discern what language her mark was in and the people in her life who helped her and ignited her passion for being an archeologist. She speaks of her schooling and travels and how her job educates people and protects historical areas and reveals historical events.

Tobin questions her about the lands she visited, prompting Christen to leave the bed and seek out a book from her luggage that contained some photos of ancient maps to show her. They sat up discussing regions and politics of Tobin’s time and how Hatshepsut negotiated land agreements and treaties with other nations. When they exhausted their discussion their civics conversation, Christen left the bed to set the book on the table.

“Will you tell me what your childhood was like?” she asks softly as she slides onto the bed.

Tobin looks at her fondly and nods slowly, considering how she would start. Christen snuggles close to her, lying her head on Tobin’s chest while Tobin speaks. Tobin speaks with happiness in her voice as she shares about her family and their personalities. She talks about her schooling and how interesting it was to be the only female yet how she held her own against them. She talks of the sports she played and her love for being outside. Christen yawns against Tobin, she’s very tired but doesn’t want this night to end.

”You should sleep,” Tobin gently suggests as one of her hands softly makes soothing patterns on Christen’s back.

”I don’t want to,” Christen resists, mad that’s she’s so tired.

Tobin chuckles and brings her other arm around her to hold her and sighs with amusement. ”I will tell you the tale my Mother told me when I was a child and refused sleep,” she offers and then chuckles, ”it worked every time.”

Christen lifts her head and nods and smiles, leaning close and kissing Tobin sweetly. She settles back in, drawing the covers over her shoulders as the cool breeze enters through screens. She doesn’t know when her eyes begin to close, but she feels so relaxed as she feels Tobin’s fingers lightly running over her back and she hears is the low timber of Tobin’s steady voice as she speaks of a fanciful tale of youthful adventure.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

May 19th

 

Christen awoke hugging a pillow, frowning when she realizes she’s alone. She opens a bleary eye when her alarm sounds, reaching to shut it off. She wishes Tobin had stayed. She can’t explain it, she just wants to be around her. She rolls on her back, stretching limbs lazily, thinking of Tobin’s tales of her childhood last night. She hung on every word she said until she couldn’t keep her eyes open. Being so close to her, feeling the heat she radiated, there was no doubt she was human. Yet how could she disappear and be invisible to everyone else? She must be a spirit, Tobin admitted it herself. She had come from the Field of Reeds, sent back here to assist her for some unknown reason.
Why does she feel she’s falling in love with a ghost?

Her morning is spent double checking the assignments the students turned in. They created action plans for relic identification, handling and packing. It was a little presumptuous to have in hand since they haven’t found anything yet but Christen viewed it as an onsite learning experience and it would come in handy if or when they found anything of note. Brigid has now been assigned to assist Jurgen with the filming, implementing a two camera operation. Vero and Hasani are with Ari in the tomb, carefully moving the display items against the far wall. Mark and Shani are updating the daily notes of the expedition and including the actions for the engineers and the team.

With the comforting sound of fingers on keyboards in the background, Christen sips her third cup of coffee, trying her best to not let her thoughts drift back to Tobin. She needs to focus on her job and get her act together. She directs her attention to the documents Ari had given her about the export procedure, jotting down details on her notebook. She’ll have to get a copy of the shipping manifest so she can submit it to her coworker Becky so she’ll know how large of a truck Stanford will need to use to pick up the artifacts from the freight airline.

Since security is present, they will transport any artifacts back to the mess hall for final numbering, identification and packing for the international flight. Items will be crated and packed with the upmost care. Ari will supervise the process, co-signing off with her on each item they will ship out. Depending on what type of items they discover, if any, Ari will decide what will be sent back to Stanford. Christen is aware that some items may be so delicate the chance of breakage would be too great to allow it to travel further than to the Egyptian Museum. She doesn’t believe they will find any large items since the corridor is so narrow yet there have been instances that large items had been discovered. Back then, the workers would disassemble them and bring them into the tomb or chamber and reassemble for the dead to use in the Underground. There have been wagons, thrones, tables and beds found in tombs before. Either way, anything they can bring back will be amazing to work on, so she’s not worried about being disappointed with that.

She is worried about finding an empty room but has that nagging sensation in her head of Tobin’s mysterious words and how she alluded to something being there behind the seventh panel gives her hope they will find something.

An hour later, her and Mark and Shani join the others at the tomb, jumping in to assist where needed. At lunch, they discuss how to handle the removal of the panels and question Asim on what it would entail. He informs them of past projects he was involved in how they differed. He admitted he was perplexed about the sonar readings and felt if there was indeed an additional room, the entrance could be blocked fully with bricks or even possibly a cave in. That would explain why the readings are confusing.

They shorten their rest period to eagerly return to the tomb, anxious to have it prepared for Monday and their first attempt at removing the seventh panel. They are sending down an airline and it’s tedious work, connecting shorter portions of the flexible line and feeding it down the corridor. It will be attached to a generator with an intake fan to ensure the air quality is safe while they work. Hours later, after hauling down heavy tools, wagon loads of packing material, small tables and additional lights and fans, they finish. They’re all sweaty and exhausted. Ari locks the tomb entrance and declares they are officially done until Monday morning.

Once they arrive back at camp, the group gather to find cold drinks and relax for a few minutes.

“I’m going to head to my home for the weekend,” Ari announces, slowly hefting himself from his chair, “My grandchildren will be coming over.”

“I’ll walk you out,” Christen offers, gathering her courage and a water bottle and follows him outside.

“This has been going incredibly well, Christen,” Ari states as he leisurely strolls through camp towards his truck.

“It has,” Christen agrees nervously, “I do have to ask your opinion about something,”

“And what would that be?” he asks genially. Ari is an easy man to talk to. He’s very down to earth and approachable.

Christen stops walking to look at him, “What has been your experience with seeing things you can’t explain?” she bravely asks him.

He chuckles softly, linking his arm through hers and directs the towards his pickup truck. “I’ve seen many things,” he admits, “sometimes the walls talk even.” When they arrive at his truck, he opens the tailgate and hops on the back to sit, gesturing for her to join him. Christen obliges, uncapping her water and taking a long drink while she waits for him to hopefully continue.

“I’ve seen lights I couldn’t explain,” he finally speaks, “and would swear on all that’s holy that I heard voices.”

“Have you seen anything?” Christen asks urgently, “either in the tombs or on the desert?”

He nods slowly, “I have,” He takes his time removing his pack of cigarettes form his shirt pocket, shaking one out and offering it to her. She declines with a shake of her head and he nods and produces a lighter, bringing the smoke to his lips and lighting it with a deep inhale. He exhales loudly with a sigh.

“I know you speak Coptic,” he shares with her, “perhaps the Gods are trying to speak to you,” he offers.

“What would they want with me?” she asks, looking at him closely.

He shrugs slightly, “Perhaps to guide you to a new tomb,” he offers, “perhaps they feel you are worthy of telling the story of Hatshepsut. It would be like them to want a woman to do it,” he smiles, “They are big believers in setting things right,” he chuckles, bringing the cigarette back to his lips.

“What if you don’t know what they want?” Christen presses, now that she’s talking to him about this, she needs answers.

“You must be patient,” he advises, “they play chess while us lowly humans play checkers,”

She thinks about that for a minute. “What if” she starts, “what if a…spirit was emotionally affecting someone? Have you ever heard about that happening?”

Ari side eyes her for a moment, taking another drag off his smoke before answering. “I saw a spirit once,” he nods, raising the hand holding the cigarette to gesture up the road, “thirty-two years ago at KV57, Horemheb’s tomb.” He inhales deeply and exhales slowly, “Scared the shit out of me,” he admits, smiling at her.

“What happened?” Christen asks with wide eyes.

“I was alone in the deep tomb,” he explains, “A beautiful woman pushed me forward out of it,” he explains, “she pulled me up on my feet and dragged me up the corridor.”

“Did she say anything to you?”

He shakes his head, “Just as we get a few feet from the tomb entrance,” he says, “a tremor came through the ground. A big one. Rocks began to fall from the ceiling and we ran.
She didn’t let go until we got to the mouth of it. She held my arms and told me to go town and visit my favorite pub tonight. I had to stay to eat dinner.”

Christen tilts her head at him. “Really? Did you go?”

“Yep,” he says and abruptly slides off the tailgate, offering her a hand as she slides off. “I went. I certainly wanted a drink or two after nearly being killed in a collapse. So, I went and I stayed. I met my future wife. She had a drink with me at the bar and then joined me for dinner and the rest is history.”

The two are quiet for a moment.

“I don’t need to know what you’ve seen or heard,” he says warmly, “just follow your instincts. Your gut. They won’t lead you wrong.”

Christen swallows hard and nods, “Thanks,” she says shakily.

He pats her shoulder, “Don’t fret too much on this,” he smiles at her, “you aren’t going crazy.”

She nods and then straightens up, “Have a nice time with your grandchildren,” she smiles.

“I don’t know if I’ll see you Sunday night or Monday morning,” he replies, grinning as he moves to the door, “but have a relaxing weekend.”

“Okay,” she smiles, feeling lighter even though she still has many unanswered questions.

“See you,” he says with a wink and enters his truck. Christen walks back to the tent, joining the students and engineers relaxing around the table. Christen offers to shower last, encouraging the other females to go first so they can leave for the hotel. She assures everyone she’ll be fine on her own, security is still on patrol and the kitchen staff have left her access to make her own meals. She’s looking forward to just shutting down and relaxing. And hopefully spending time with Tobin, a small detail she doesn’t share with anyone.

 

When she enters her tent after her shower with an armload of her dirty clothes and a smile on her face, she’s met with Tobin sitting at her table, returning her smile. Christen dumps her clothes on the table and spreads her arms apart, giving Tobin an expectant look as she waits for a hug. Tobin stares at her for a minute, giving her a once over before her eyes are drawn to Christen’s erect nipples pressing the material of her t-shirt out and then she stands and obliges, holding her close.

”You smell exquisite,” Tobin murmurs against her ear and inhales deeply.

”So do you,” Christen says breathily. They pull back a little bit, still holding on but far enough to look at each other. Christen touches the necklace Tobin is wearing. She fingers the round colorful gems, curious as to what they are. Then she lets her finger slide over the ankh, the smooth gold cool under her fingertip, letting it linger on Tobin’s dark skin.

”This is beautiful,” she compliments, ”it is so pretty.”

Tobin beams at her, ”Thank you,” she says softly. She reaches across to brush back Christen’s damp hair from her eyes. ”You worked very hard today,” Tobin states knowingly, as if she had witnessed her, ”very physical labor.”

Christen nods, ”We are ready for Monday,” she says with a happy sigh and small smile.

Tobin smiles, ”Wonderful. Now you rest until then?”

”Yes,” Christen replies, looking at her fondly, ”Would like to eat something? I need to eat,”

Tobin agrees and follows her out of the tent and to the kitchen. She marvels over the kitchen, touching the stainless steel surfaces with wide eyes. She is fascinated by the refrigerator, opening and shutting the door, watching as the light goes on and off, amusing Christen to no end. Silently she watches as Christen moves around the kitchen selecting items for their meal. She agrees easily to eat whatever Christen prepares, willing to try any of her food. Christen chooses an easy fish dinner, wanting it use the final fresh filets available and feeling it would be something similar to meals Tobin had eaten in her time.

Tobin bashfully admits she has never cooked, claiming that the family servants and then later, the royal staff always saw to her needs. She’s looking around at the counter and offers to help if Christen would direct her how to do it properly and Christen lets her do simple tasks. Tobin is in awe of the chef’s knife, holding it with reverence and amazed at the craftsmanship and Christen warns her to be careful with it. They return to the tent to eat, Tobin asking her about the spices she used and they discuss their favorite foods. Christen introduces Tobin to the wine she brought, explaining the flavors and the basics of how wine is made and she adores how Tobin’s face flushes after a single glass of Malbec.

”Would you like to lie on the bed and talk?” Christen rather boldly questions, feeling the wine a little. Truth is, she just wants to feel Tobin next to her. Stands up and takes Tobin’s hand, ”Maybe you could borrow some of my clothes and be comfortable?”

Tobin looks just as mesmerized as Christen is feeling as she nods slowly and follows her to the wardrobe. Christen selects a t-shirt and mesh shorts for her and steps away to give her some privacy. She doesn’t mean to but Christen stares as Tobin turns her back to her and strips off her long sleeved tunic and gently lays it on the chair. She’s completely nude and Christen sucks in air in between her clenched teeth and feels herself growing aroused. Tobin’s ass is tight and powerful looking just like her legs are. The muscles on her back and shoulders ripple as she puts on the t-shirt. Christen holds back a chuckle as Tobin nearly loses her balance as she struggles to put the shorts on. When she turns around, Tobin’s eyes are looking down, one hand pulling at the shirt and the other feeling the silkscreen of the faded Stanford logo.

”This feels nice,” Tobin smiles shyly at her, walking to meet her at the bed. As she slides onto the bed, Christen gasps. ”Your arm!” she nearly shouts as she scrambles to her knees.

Tobin looks down at the writing on her inner forearm and looks back up at her, looking apologetic and suddenly slightly ill.

Written in English on the Egyptian woman’s arm is the question Who’s there?

”I said it to you! Twice!” Christen exclaims, ”I have been feeling all sorts of things about you and I thought maybe you were the one but you have not said it back,” she angrily spits out, thrusting her arm out to show Tobin her soul mark. ”Why have you not said it?” she asks, her voice cracking with emotion. Christen aggressively shuffles on her knees towards Tobin as Tobin backs away until she’s leaning against the headboard looking terrified.

”Why have you not said it, Tobin?” Christen heatedly demands, tears forming in her eyes and her chest heaving with emotion. She’s angry and confused and wants to know why Tobin hasn’t said her words in return.

Tobin’s eyes are wet when she slowly looks up at her, ”I have wanted to,” she says in a whisper, ”I have wanted to so badly,” her voice cracks.

Christen looks at her miserably, ”Why have you not?” she cries, feeling tears roll down her face and her stomach knotting up.

”I cannot,” Tobin explains helplessly, ”I am not of your world,” she cries, ”You are my soulmate but I cannot be with you,” she sobs in anguish, bringing her hands to her face as she cries. Her body shakes as she cries and how inconsolable she sounds startles Christen out her own anger. After she wipes her eyes and when looks at Tobin her first emotion is heartache for her. Christen can hear the absolute devastation in Tobin’s cries, the sorrow is palpable and Christen cries right along with her, feeling the same emotions. Why would this happen? Why have soulmates meet if they can’t be together. Christen soon becomes more aware of Tobin’s devastating grief, hearing the hurt coming through loudly as she sobs and suddenly all the anger leaves Christen and she only wants to comfort the woman. Tobin’s heartfelt sorrow only strengthens Christen’s belief there is far more to Tobin’s story, she just doesn’t know what it is. She slowly slides off the bed and finds her towel from her shower. She wets a corner of it with water from her bottle and brings it back to the bed with the water bottle. She sits on the side of the bed next to Tobin, who is now sniffling, her breathing uneven with her hands still covering her face.

Christen softly grips Tobin’s forearm, ”Please,” she urges quietly, bringing Tobin’s hand from her face. Tobin lowers her other hand, looking devastated and timid as she hiccups and sniffles. ”I am not angry,” Christen clarifies, ”I want to understand,” she says as she tenderly wipes Tobin’s face. Tobin takes the end of the towel and wipes her face, letting out a deep sigh as her shoulders slump.

”When Osiris called for me and told me to find you,” Tobin sniffles, ”she told me my quest was to help you find your treasure. I was not to speak the first words in my mind when I saw you. I was not to reveal to you I was your soulmate then.” Tobin’s chest heaves she breathes deeply, tears continuing to slowly rolling down her face. ”I can not commit myself to you until I am of your world. The Gods will not allow it.”

”Why would they even bother to send you if you could not say your words?” Christen is confused and frustrated, it seems so cruel.

”It is time for the story of Hatshepsut to be told,” Tobin explains, swallowing hard. Christen offers her the water bottle and she takes a drink, curling her legs up to her chest and wrapping both hands around the bottle. She’s still shaky and her voice sounds ragged. ”The Gods want you to tell her story, they have been waiting for you.”

”I do not understand,” Christen shakes her head as she looks at her. She can feel tears prick at her eyes. This doesn’t seem fair. Why would she develop such a deep connection to Tobin without her ever speaking her words, she shakes her head with frustration, why would this happen. She doesn’t think this is how meeting your soulmate works.

”The Gods did not explain this to me. They simply told me to come and help you,” Tobin states, her voice cracking, ”I then must go back to the Underground to find you in your time.”

Christen's mind is whirring with questions and she misses Tobin's last sentence. She leans back and sees how broken Tobin looks. She’s pale and her eyes are red rimmed from crying and she looks absolutely spent from emotion.

”Do you have any idea why this happened this way? It seems so unfair to us both,” Christen asks, curious as to what the Egyptian’s theory would be if she had one. The strangeness of this has overtaken her other emotions.

Tobin nods and licks her lips, slowly uncapping the water and taking another drink. ”I think I must explain my relationship with Hatshepsut to you so it will make sense.” She states. She shifts to sit cross legged and Christen scoots from the side of the mattress to in front of her.

”As Hatshepsut and I grew up, we became best friends. We shared everything, we studied our lessons together. Socialized with the same people. As we grew into adulthood, I realized I was in love with her. We had said the words of our soulmarks to each other and we were convinced we were soulmates. I stayed by her side as she courted Thutmose the Younger, as she must because of her royal lineage. I offered her support and felt my love would never be returned. It hurt, but I understood my place and accepted my fate. Thutmose the Younger and I shared the same soul marks which was strange yet not uncommon and it was thought it to be because of the bloodline. After Hatshepsut married, we still were best friends. After she birthed her daughter Neferure, she had difficulty conceiving another child. When she did, her pregnancy was not successful. It happened two more times and then Thutmose the Younger took on Iset, as was the way and she birthed Thutmose the Third. While Hatshepsut raised Neferure and Thutmose the Third, she and her husband grew apart and he devoted his time to Iset and ruling the land.” Tobin clears her throat and drinks from the water bottle.

”Our friendship grew even closer. She professed her love to me and I did as well. We consummated our love. We were together for years, happy and in love. I did my best to care for her complex health issues. When Thutmose the Younger died, together we supervised the construction of their tomb and mine as well. When Hatshepsut became so ill and the end neared, I vowed to be with her as she travelled the Underground and assist her to the Field of Reeds. Hatshepsut did not believe she had the power to demand I be buried with her, she would be buried with Thutmose the as was the custom. We vowed to find each other in the Underground and spend our time in the Field of Reeds together.” She pauses to take a breath and another drink.

”After her death, once I was certain all of Hapshetsut’s funerary plans were certain, I sacrificed myself for her.” She points to the scar on her neck and Christen gasps with shock. Tobin nods solemnly, ”I never saw her in the Underground,” she says sadly, her eyes looking large and forlorn, “When I finally came to meet and stand in judgement before Osiris, I was frantic. Osiris took pity on me and asked what troubled me. I explained my situation. Osiris listened to my story and then weighed my heart and found it to be light and full of truth and goodness. I was then sent away. When I was called for, I was in the presence of Osiris who had called on other Gods. Isis, Horus, Anubis, Ra, Hathor, Seshat and Thoth. Qebhet offered me cool water before I told my tale again.”

”Tobin,” Christen whimpers, reeling from her story, reaching out to hold her hand.

”I was terrified as I told my tale for the second time. Pausing to answer questions the Gods had about me and Hatshepsut. They inquired about my soul mark and Osiris said that Hatshepsut and Thutmose the Younger had the same mark. Osiris told me Hatshepsut and Thutmose the Younger had proclaimed their love in the Field of Reeds when they reunited. The Gods could not believe this had happened. They sent me away again. I was given food and drink, but I could not eat. I was sick with grief. They called me again and said I was to go to the Field of Reeds and enjoy every pleasure offered to me. They would call on me when my soulmate was ready.” < /p>

Tobin slowly lifts her arm and runs her fingers on her mark and then looks at Christen, giving her a half smile, ”Five days ago this appeared on my arm and I was called to stand before Osiris. I was told to return to the tombs for I was to meet a beautiful woman, my soulmate. She would have eyes more amazing than the finest emeralds and she would be kind and beautiful and smart. She would have her soul mark written in my language and I was to wait before I was to say them. I was told to help her complete her task and then return to stand before Osiris a final time.”

”Why can’t you stay? You are here now, stay with me!” Christen urges, not wanting to let her go. This whole thing seems to be unreal to her.

Tobin’s eyes glisten, ”I wish I could, but I am not of this world.” she says, her voice full of sorrow and regret.”I must go back to the Underground and find my way to you. I will be someone who lives in your world and only then can we be together.”

Christen slides into Tobin’s lap and Tobin immediately places her arms around her to hold her tight. ”Osiris has said I will find you when the seasons change and the air blows cool. You will say yours words to me when we meet,” She gives her a tender look, ”and I will say my words to you in return.”

Christen looks at her, crestfallen, her heart beating wildly, yearning for her to touch her. She takes Tobin’s hand and guides it to her jaw, allowing the Egyptian to hold her. Tobin’s touch is tender, her eyes bloodshot yet gentle and now calm that the truth has been revealed.

”I think I am falling in love with you, Tobin,” Christen whispers, leaning in close, ”you better come find me.”

Tobin smiles at her, her eyes crinkling with affection, ”I vow to find you, my love,” she says just as softly as she leans in to kiss her. ”It is our destiny to be together.”

”When must you go?” Christen asks before she kisses her again.

”When you have safely found your treasure,” Tobin whispers and kisses her deeply. As they kiss full of desire, Christen moves her hands to cup Tobin’s breasts, the contact making Tobin moan softly in her mouth. When she begins to massage her breasts, Tobin suddenly comes to her senses and pulls back, breathing heavily as she looks at Christen. The woman is looking back at her, her eyes blazing with lust and her chest heaving.

”Christen,” she breathes out, ”we should stop,” she cautions, ”as much as I want this…”

Christen nods as she bites her lower lip, ”Perhaps we should not tempt fate,” she agrees with regret. She slowly removes her hands from Tobin’s breasts, bringing them up to tenderly cup her face, her expression becoming serious. Tobin looks at her lovingly, ”Please know,” she says tenderly yet firmly, ”I will do everything I can to find you, I vow this to you.”

Christen feels overwhelmed by her, she wants this so badly. She wants Tobin to find her. ”I am frightened I will not know it is you,” she admits her greatest fear.

Tobin gives her a reassuring smile, removing a hand and gently lifting Christen’s arm, her other hand softly stroking her skin covering her soul mark. ”You will know,” she nods at her. Her hand now moving to place her palm on Christen’s sternum, over her heart, “You will feel it here and will be certain.”

Christen nods through her tears, her chin quivering and desperately wanting to believe her words with all of her heart. It’s nearing the end of May and she takes Tobin’s promise to mean she’ll find her in the fall. She looks up at Tobin and sees how she’s looking at her with such devotion. She’s never felt like this before, she feels like chest could burst from the emotions running through her. She feels as if she’s totally truly, deeply in love with Tobin.

”You. Better. Find. Me.” She threatens, half in fun and all in earnest, poking at Tobin’s sternum with each word.

Tobin gives her a dazzling smile, ”You. Better. Find. Your. Treasure.” she replies, lightly tapping the tip of Christen’s nose with each word.

Christen scrunches her nose, showing her teeth as she shakes her head slightly, enjoying this humorous side of Tobin. Then she sighs and smiles at her. ”If I were to tell anyone about this, they would think I have lost my mind,”

Tobin half shrugs as she juts her lower lip out and nods. ”Perhaps you should not speak of it.” she suggests, lifting an eyebrow.

Christen sighs heavily once more, running a hand through her curly hair before she drops both hands in her lap and looks at her again. ”Will you stay with me until I work again?” she asks, wanting to spend as much time with her until she has to go.

”I will.” Tobin husks, giving her a shy smile, dropping her chin and looking up at her through her long eyelashes. She reaches for Christen’s hands and gives them a reassuring squeeze.

May 21st

Monday morning comes much sooner than Christen would like. Her and Tobin spent Saturday and Sunday together with Tobin vague hints of where to look in her own tomb in KV60 for a few special items. She worried if they would survive the passage of time, finding it hard to believe how many years have passed. Christen gets her to share what her time in the Field of Reeds was like, if it was the paradise they believed it to be.

Tobin explained how the Underground was a series of tests, some physical and most about her character. She felt it was specific to each person and it was as if episodes of her life was being flashed before her and she was reviewing and explaining the choices she made in those moment. When she was accepted to the Field of Reeds, it was fine to her, seeing her loved ones that had died long ago, especially her sisters. It was as if each day was a vacation and never the same as the day before. While it was a joyous time, it left her feeling empty at times since she did not have her soulmate with at her side. She repeated quietly a few times how she didn’t blame Hatshepsut for making the decision to be with Thutmose the Second, since they were King and Queen it would have been highly unusual for her to choose someone other than him.

It shocked Christen how compatible they were even when they were clearly from different times. They never seemed to run out of topics to talk about and then, when Christen needed to do some reading before Monday, they could both do their own thing. Tobin enjoyed quietly sketching in the notepad Christen had given her, challenging herself with using the different pens and pencils to create the drawings she insisted Christen not to look at. Christen spent her time researching more documents from the Egyptian Museum about KV60- Tobin’s burial chamber, researching previous dig permits and jotting down what they discovered.

The air between them was comfortable, as if they had been doing this for together for years. Christen would look up from her laptop to look across the table and see how Tobin was concentrating on her work. How she would squint at the paper, her forehead crinkled with singular focus. How the tip of her tongue poked out from her mouth. How her left hand grasped the pencil in an almost painful twisted way with fingers jumbled around the wooden shaft. Tobin would glance up and give her a shy smile, her eyes silently questioning her.

Christen would return the smile and then go back to her laptop screen, jotting down the cache of goods found in the tomb of the woman sitting across from her. The irony of it was not lost on Christen. She would shake her head a little at times with how ridiculous it seemed.

They couldn’t keep their hands off each other, kissing frequently and deeply, neither escalating their touches into something more, respecting their agreement that they shouldn’t consummate their love just yet. They sleep curled into one another, bodies touching and providing heat during the chilly nights.

Now, Monday morning comes and Christen is resolved to not break down as she watches Tobin slowly gather her tunic and pull it over her head. She resolves to remain strong and take comfort in knowing she’ll see Tobin again in a few months’ time. She resolves not to cry and give in to the nearly overwhelming sadness that is threatening to erupt in any moment. But when Tobin turns to face her as she smooths down the silky material and gives her this somber look, that expresses all of the sadness Christen is feeling, that all goes out the window.

The tears come and Tobin takes three big strides to gather her in her arms, whispering soothing words to her. It takes a few minutes before Christen can nod against Tobin’s shoulder and draw apart from her, holding both her hands in hers. They give each other sad smiles and then Tobin gives her a lingering kiss.

”I will find you,” she promises earnestly.

Christen nods and drops her hands, ”I must go,” she states hollowly, her feet feeling heavy and desperately wanting to remain frozen here with her.

Tobin nods, ”I will see you once more,” she winks, ”you have a big day today.”

XXXX

“It’s plaster!” Asim exclaims, excitedly running his hand along the cream colored wall. The group is huddled around him, cheering with his confirmation. With a surge of enthusiasm, they move quickly into place, gathering the tools and buckets while Brigid and Jurgen film the ensuing activities. With the utmost care, four rows of bricks are revealed at the very top of the opening. Below the bricks is a chunk of solid limestone. As Asim and Dakarai steadily scrape the plaster away, more rock comes into view.
The work goes slow due to being methodical while holding back the urge to just tear into the material. The students are using brooms and shovels to remove to the fallen plaster, transferring them in buckets to the waiting wagon in the corridor outside the tomb. They move slowly so as not to create much dust even though the air is circulating through the pipes they ran down from outside. They don’t want to create a poor work environment and have to resort to wearing respirators.

Even with the air moving, it’s hot in the tomb with all of them in there and it’s making Christen sweat. It’s been hours since they began their morning with successfully removing the two sections of the seventh panel. Christen felt she hadn’t let out a breath until the panels were safely covered in heavy blankets and leaning against the side wall safely out of the way.

After the four rows of bricks were discovered, the group broke of lunch and a rest. It has been a physical morning with all of them taking their turn on removing the plaster, Asim and Ziyad giving each of the students a chance to learn how to safely remove the layers until they reach the block of stone. They also all take turns pulling the wagon up the long steep corridor to be deposited on a tarp to right of the opening of the tomb. Christen uses this as teachable moments, talking about how thinking ahead to set up the space for the refuse is important and to make sure it is far enough from the entrance to not interfere with removing any relics they may find. Security is evident with their increased patrols making sure the area is clear for them to work without worry of any black market groups wanting to take over and steal any of their finds.

Food and showers and the group is back at it, painstakingly using hand trowels to remove the two-inch thick plaster, finding smooth limestone below the bricks at the top. It soon becomes evident that two intimidatingly large carved stones were placed in the entrance to block future grave robbers. The four rows of bricks are only about a foot high, making it an extremely tight area to try to get through. The entrance is roughly two and half feet wide, much smaller than other entrances to chambers of the time.

Manu, since he’s the tallest of the group, is able to reach the top row of bricks and begins to chip away the ancient mortar to free the slightly reddish rectangular brick. Each brick is about three inches in height and nine inches in length. They wonder aloud about how far back it will go before it opens up into the chamber.

XXXX

Christen is trying her best not to think of the three hundred plus feet of rock that’s above her as she works on removing the bricks in the small space she’s currently crawled into. She’s actively trying to keep the thought of being crushed to death with one errant tremor in the layers of rock above her. She’s using a small trowel to break the bricks free of the mortar as she slowly makes progress through this entryway to the unknown. She’s soaked with sweat, making her hand slippery on the wood handle of the trowel, but she’s getting it done.

Manu had gotten as far as about three feet before he couldn’t get in the opening any further. Christen immediately stepped up, knowing her small frame could fit in the one foot high by two and half foot channel. Armed with the trowel, her hardhat with headlamp and a respirator from the dust swirling in the small enclosed space, she hefted herself up into the opening with the help of Manu and Asim holding her legs until she was able to move enough bricks to rest her knees on the limestone block. Now, Vero is half in the opening now on a ladder, bent at the waist retrieving the bricks Christen is pushing back, who hands them off to Manu while the others stack them in the wagon to remove them from the area. Ari hands Vero a water bottle to send up to Christen and encourages her to take a break.

“I’ll just stay here,” Christen states, not wanting to shimmy back and deal with the hassle of getting out the tight quarters. She uses the trowel to brush the mortar rubble along her side where Vero would use a short handled hoe to capture it and pull it out of the small area. Then she twists her hips and shoulders to get barely on her side so she can open the water and take a drink. She feels a wave of panic in the tight space, feeling the need to hustle out of there. Just as she considers her options to shimmy out quickly, the familiar scent of Tobin fills her nostrils and immediately calms her. She breathes it in deeply, thinking briefly of it being similar to taking a deep inhale of marijuana. She doesn’t smoke often, preferring edibles, but she’s smoked enough to know that feeling of relaxation when the weed hits the lungs. Now completely at ease, Christen takes a short rest, drinking more water and then she gets back to it. She feels with certainty that Tobin is on the other side of the bricks she’s pulling out, just waiting for her in the new chamber. She maneuvers herself to get back on her belly, stretching her arms in front of her to chip away the mortar and loosen more bricks. She continues to pick away at it, sending back more dirt, debris and bricks for Vero to remove from the area.

“This brick is loose!” she exclaims through the respirator as the top left brick easily moves from its location. She takes it out and the brick next to it is disinterred just as easily. “There’s a void!” she shouts out excitedly, twisting her neck to look back at a grinning Vero, “We’ve broken through!”

Christen hears the group cheering behind her as she looks back to face the remaining bricks, her eyes on the black void and her mind wondering what she will find behind it.

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

“This is incredible,” Ari breathes out as he looks at the monitor. Jurgen has affixed a camera on a monopod and Christen is in the shaft, lying on her stomach with her arms extended into the blackness moving it slowly around the chamber. The rest of the crew is huddled around a flat screen monitor, eying the results. After Christen does her careful overview of the chamber, she backs out of the corridor and gets some assistance in freeing herself and getting back on solid ground in the tomb.

It’s nearly eleven o’clock and dinner time has long since passed and even with the excitement of the new find, the crew is tired from exertion and the heat and hungry. Now that they’ve gotten a chance to see the dark interior of the new chamber, they call it quits for the day. They decide to head back to camp to eat in the mess hall to stage their next plan of attack down in the new chamber tomorrow.

 

Christen’s last thought before sleep overtook her was that she missed seeing Tobin today.

 

XXXX

 

May 22nd

 

Christen gives them a wide eyed look as she crawls backwards in the narrow shaft, “Okay,” she says, the smile that hasn’t left her face since they first broke through earlier today widening with excitement, “here goes nothing,”

The plan they’ve devised has Christen entering the chamber the first with Vero and Brigid and following her. Since the opening is so narrow, they are the only three of the group small enough to fir through. Asim and his crew will work on removing the large limestone slabs to allow more access while the three evaluate what is inside the chamber. The engineers have Christen rigged up in a harness with a line for safety and there’s a short ladder leaning against the limestone slab in the interior of the newly opened chamber. The safety line is there in case Christen slips off the ladder while on her way down. It will be an awkward movement to perform on her own. Christen does a very ungraceful backwards crawl in the narrow area until her feet hang over into the void. She slows her movements, creeping back until she can bend her waist and her feet find a stabilizing slat of the ladder she had put in place earlier. Soon she stands in the dark chamber, her headlamp flashing on her surroundings.

“I’m on the ground,” she calls out and Vero begins to climb up inside the tight passageway.

The perimeter of the room is loaded with artifacts. With her headlamp, she sees a what she thinks may be a wooden wagon with its dusty wheels leaning against the side with an ornate table beneath it lined with jars on the far wall with dust coated crates and bundled items spread on the floor before it. To her left is a throne along with a carved relief of statues on each side of it. The floor here had about a foot and a half of dirt piled out about three feet. She imagines it will take weeks for them to remove everything safely.

A rush of cool air refreshes her warm sweaty skin and she turns her head to the right and smiles when the beam of her headlamp falls on a smiling Tobin.

”I am very proud of you,” Tobin whispers, aware of Vero entering the narrow shaft and is preparing to crawl towards them. Christen steps to her with her arms out, needing to feel Tobin once more. She kisses her hard, needing to convey her emotions to her. She feels how Tobin skillfully probes her lips with her tongue and opens her mouth to accept it and moans softly at the sensation.

Vero makes noise as she crawls, her boots scraping against the limestone and the two break their kiss.

”I will find you, my love, I promise,” Tobin whispers urgently, her lips brushing against Christen’s cheek.

Christen nods, ”I will be waiting for you, my sweetheart,” she replies. They kiss and hug once more before Tobin steps back.

Christen has tears in her eyes, a deep sadness filling her as she looks at Tobin once more.

“Hey, Christen,” Vero calls out, making the woman turn towards her voice. She sees Vero’s legs moving freely as she attempts to find the ladder.

“Here,” Christen says, grabbing hold of one of her legs and guiding it to the ladder.

When Vero is standing next to her, her headlamp falls on Christen’s tear stained face, the tracks of wetness cutting through the dust she’s covered in.

“Are you okay?” she asks with evident concern.

“Yeah,” Christen sniffles, nodding and wiping at her eyes. She gestures to the room, “It’s just so beautiful,” she says emotionally, hiding the truth from the woman. She turns her head, letting her headlamp rest in the empty space Tobin last occupied and reminds herself to be patient.

They’ll meet again.

 

XXXX

 

 

July 4th

“So, Christen,” Becky smiles at her from across the table, “just how may skids of freight do I have to expect for pick up at the airport?” The attractive blond in her thirties is Christen’s coworker and is actually Dr. Rebecca Sauerbrunn, Head of Preservation in the Archeology Department at Stanford University.

Christen is making her first social appearance outside of her home, at the backyard holiday celebration since arriving home three days ago from Egypt. She’s been gone for just over two months on the expedition and was mentally and physically exhausted upon her return. She spent over twenty hours in bed before she even considered calling her Mom and announcing her return. It was only yesterday when her parents showed up at her house with the lunch and her dogs, anxious to hear about her trip in more detail than the sporadic emails, scarce phone calls and the evening news announcing her amazing finds.

Their visit stretched out to the evening and Christen ordered food in, enjoying their company and catching up on what she missed while she was gone. Her sister Channing had called earlier in the afternoon and made it for dinner, excited to see her sister and had anxiously and not so patiently for dinner to be over and the second or third glasses of wine to be poured before she leaned across the table and stared at her sister.

“What?” Christen had asked, wondering if she had food remnants on her face, self consciously wiping at it with her napkin.

“Did you meet your soulmate?” Channing had asked with large eyes.

Christen had, in fact, prepared for this question from her family ahead of time. Yesterday, while she was lounging in bed, thinking of Tobin, she weighed the pros and cons of how a truthful reply would be perceived as opposed to just lying and saying she hadn’t met her soulmate. Obviously, she went with the latter.

“No, I didn’t,” she had answered, seeing a brief moment of disappointment on her parents’ faces. She has never before blatantly lied to her family about anything before and she felt guilty about doing it now, yet she didn’t want to face all of their questions about Tobin. She knew that having to explain her mystical situation to them would make her begin to doubt if Tobin would ever find her. She was lying to them for her own self-preservation and keeping her hopes alive that she would meet Tobin sometime in the fall.

Channing had sweetly reached her hand out across the table and squeezed her forearm, giving her an optimistic nod full of confidence. “It will happen,”

Christen gave them all a relaxed smile, “I know it will,” she had stated calmly with conviction and without a trace of disappointment in her voice, “it will happen when it’s meant to be.”

If the cool confidence she had in her voice shocked her family, they did an excellent job of hiding their surprise. Usually she would fret about the topic, leaving them all feeling anxious for her. Not tonight. Maybe they thought the trip had changed her, made her realize some things, but they didn’t speak of it. Her Mom politely changed the subject and they moved on to other subjects and didn’t circle back to the topic.

Now it’s the Fourth of July and she’s at her co-worker and good friend Alyssa Naeher’s house for a late afternoon barbeque and to watch the fireworks. “Well,” she starts to answer Becky, her lips curling into a smile, “a thirty-two foot box truck should do it.”

Becky’s eyes grow large, dilating slightly, “Really?” she asks, her mouth left slightly open as a grin appears on her face.

Christen nods, glancing over at Alyssa who had let out a low whistle. “Six skids from KV20 and two from KV60.”

Alyssa, whose specialty is Ethnoarcheology, which is the study of past societies with special regard to social structures and religious beliefs, looks excited. The beliefs of the ancient Egyptians is her favorite culture to study. She leans back in her chair and rubs her hands together, “Tell me you brought back some funerary items,” she says, wiggling her eyebrows and it makes Christen laugh. She’s certain Alyssa’s had a few beers, since this is a bit out of character for her.

“We’re all going to have our hands full,” she smiles at them, “there’s actually a few boxes we found that we weren’t able to open in the field,” she explains, “so we’ll have some mystery pieces as well.”

“No bones or organs?” Sydney Leroux-Dwyer asks before she takes a sip from her wine glass with her pinky out. Her specialty is Forensic Archeology, studying the dead or their organs. What ancient cultures ate, what made them sick and how they died are what she looks for, hence wanting to know if there are any body parts.

“Possibly,” Christen nods with a coy smile, “we have plenty of jars we suspect are canopic. We recovered over five hundred artifacts, I'm shocked Ari sent us so many.”
Just then, a slim woman with long black hair, carrying a wrapped tray of sort of edible delight Christen assumes, approaches their table with another woman in a wheelchair trailing behind her, a blond with short hair and both arms sporting tattoos who has a beer in a drink holder on the arm of the chair with her strong arm muscles flexing as she pumps the wheels. Becky, Crystal and Alyssa immediately stand to greet her, so Christen does as well.

“Ali,” Alyssa greets and then nods to Ashlyn, “Ashlyn, so glad you both could make!”

“Thanks,” Ali, the tray carrier gives them a dazzling smile, “I brought some appetizers,”

Alyssa takes the tray, “Thanks so much,” she says, “what do we need to do with them? Heat them or no?”

“Twenty minutes at three hundred and twenty-five degrees,” she replies. Alyssa nods and gives Ashlyn a fist bump as she walks away to enter the house.

“Ali, Ashlyn,” Becky states, “I’d like for you meet Dr. Christen Press, freshly returned from a dig at Luxor,”

“Christen, please,” she smiles warmly at Ali as they shake hands, then she moves to Ashlyn to do the same.

“Christen Press,” Ashlyn whistles, “I’m a big fan,” she states, “the article you wrote about the dig in Greece was something else,”

Christen’s smile brightens, “Oh, are you also an archeologist?”

“No,” she laughs, “that one is,” she points to Ali, “I’m an athlete,” she jerks her thumb at Ali, “this one’s the archeologist.

“Dr. Ali Krieger,” Becky supplies, “our new preservationist and researcher.”

“Ah,” Christen nods as the pieces fall into place, she knew her department was hiring someone before the upcoming semester, but hadn't kept up on it while she in the field. “Nice to meet you. How are you settling in?”

“Anxiously awaiting for your return with artifacts, preparing lesson plans for my fall classes and ready to get started,” Ali smiles brightly. They offer her a chair and move another one out of the way for Ashlyn to join them and then they all sit down.

“Well, welcome to the team,” Christen grins, “I can’t wait for the shipment to arrive,”

“I bet,” Sydney laughs, “Ali, can I get you something to drink?”

“What are you drinking?” she asks.

“Sangria,” she replies.

“I’d love one,” Ali smiles at her, “thank you.”

“Another beer Ashlyn?” Sydney offers, looking at her expectantly.

“I’m good for now,” she nods, “but thanks,” Sydney gives her a nod and leaves for the garage where one of the bars is set up.

“So, what sport do you play?” Christen asks Ashlyn, turning to face her.

“She’s an Olympic Gold medalist for para basketball and pro women’s sled hockey,” Ali states proudly. “She plays for the San Francisco Steel.”

Ashlyn gives them a shrug with an amused look, “What can I say,” she says, her grin becoming a wide smile, “I love sports.”

“That’s pretty awesome, Ashlyn,” Christen smiles as she sips her sangria.

“Yeah, I’ve been super lucky with opportunities to get where I am today,” Ashlyn states genuinely.

“You should hear her podcast, Chris,” Becky encourages, “it’s super interesting and really fun,”

Christen glances over at the tattooed blond who looks slightly embarrassed with the attention. “I love listening to podcasts when I’m working out,” she replies, “send me a link for sure,” She doesn’t miss the wink and silently mouthed thank you from Ashlyn who then lifts her beer and takes a drink. She likes the woman already, she thinks, her and Ali.

She asks Ali about her favorite expedition and most interesting classes she’s taught. The group gets to learn more about the newcomer as Ali happily shares some stories.

“Oh, Christen,” Ali says, pulling her from her thoughts, “it was years ago when I was in Egypt, but I remember seeing photos from KV20. Just where was the new chamber located?”

Christen launches into an abbreviated version of their dig, trying to make sure Ashlyn wasn’t bored with the conversation. She’s surprised with how attentive and involved in the conversation Ashlyn is, who easily explains it as another one of her passions and asks her a slew of interesting questions. After she answers all of their questions, talk turns to pets when Becky asks her how the dogs responded from her being gone so long.

“Khaleesi ignored me until bedtime,” Christen laughs, “she was so mad. Morena just whined and barked and then wouldn’t leave my side for most of the day.”

“Ali,” Sydney nods, “show Christen your puppies,”

Christen looks from Ali to Ashlyn, “You have puppies?” she asks them with wide eyes.

It’s hours later and the professional fireworks show has long since been over, the occasional colorful explosions now lighting the sky from individuals in the neighborhood.
Christen, Ali and Ashlyn really connected during their time together, the three feeling that special chemistry when meeting a new person. That instant friendship and kinship that doesn’t happen often in life. Before they leave, phone numbers are exchanged and plans are made for dinner at Christen’s house during the week and a play date for their dogs.

When Christen leaves Alyssa’s house that night, she feels like she’s made two new friends and she can’t wait to work with Ali.

XXXX

 

July 10th

“That’s all of them,” Christen announces and she gets a confirming nod from Becky who is holding a clipboard and makes the final checkmark with a flourish. “One hundred and ninety-seven artifacts,” she announces as she sets the clipboard down on the table.

“It’s incredible,” Ali marvels, looking at the ten tables lined against the wall that hold the safely wrapped items in odd shapes.

“I want the body parts,” Sydney declares, rubbing her gloved hands together, “I want me some ancient spleen,”

Ali crinkles her nose in mock disgust as Christen and Alyssa chuckle. “Alright,” Becky reigns them in, “I’ve organized the artifacts list into proper sections of areas of studies,” she states, “so let’s go through this and organize the items in the lockers for storage until they are brought out for study and preservation.” The women get to work and end up staying an hour late to finish and all the items are under lock and key within the preservation lab until Monday morning when the team will begin their work. The amount of items will keep them busy for over a year to preserve them properly.

 

July 27th

 

“So,” Sydney swivels in her office chair to face Christen, “what about your soulmate?” she asks frankly. It’s been weeks and Christen hasn’t mentioned a thing and she believes it’s because something actually had happened in Egypt. Christen just doesn’t have the same spark in her since she’s returned from her expedition and that behavior is very uncharacteristic, especially since the expedition was such a success. She’s concerned for her friend.

Christen sighs, “Syd,” she says heavily, “you’re gonna think I’m crazy.”

Syd studies her carefully, seeing how suddenly exhausted Christen looks and it has nothing to do with the interviews she’s been doing with the national and local TV news crews. The news is out that they've found a new chamber and Christen has been in high demand to speak about her experience. She patiently waits for her best friend to speak.

“I met her,” Christen finally admits flatly and frowning.

“Did it not go well?” Syd asks cautiously, leaning forward in her seat.

“No,” Christen sighs, “I fell in love with her,” she says dejectedly, shaking her head as she picks at the hem of her shirt. She glances around Syd’s office, seeing the others through the open blinds over the glass windows at work at their stations. “Listen,” she says evenly, “I’ll tell you all about it,” she states, “but not here. Dinner at my place tonight?”

Syd nods, “Of course.”

----

“Wait, wait, wait,” Syd says, shaking her head and holding a hand up, “you met her and said your words, but she never said hers and yet you fell in love? And she says you’re not just soulmates but you have a soulbond?”

“Yes,” Christen nods, sighing heavily again, “and I won’t meet her again until the fall,”
Sydney eyes her, still having a feeling there is more to the story. If they were in love, she knows for a fact her best friend would be a hell of lot happier and she would be texting and video chatting her soulmate. Something’s off.

“I’m gonna go let the dogs out,” Christen announces morosely, needing a breath of fresh air and rising from the sofa. Speaking of her situation is upsetting her and she needs a break. She has been sinking herself into her work and doing her best not to think about it and maintain some sort of blissfull ignorance to the whole situation. Now, after talking about it, she feels a bit hopeless and suddenly doubtful that Tobin would ever find her. First, there’s the geographic reasons, Tobin is in Egypt and she’s in the United States. Then there’s the whole thing about how in the world would Tobin find her when there’s over three hundred million people living in the United States. She doesn't even want to try and analyze the whole issue about Tobin being a ghost either.

As soon as Christen leaves the room, Sydney pulls out her phone. She realizes something is very wrong with this. She needs reinforcements.

 

“Hey Alyssa,” Christen greets with surprise and confusion at the woman standing before and seeing Ali and Becky pulling up in front of her house as well, “ah, come in?”

Alyssa enters silently with a nod, giving Syd a questioning look and Syd just stands up and motions her to follow her to the kitchen. Christen waits by the door, greeting Ali and Becky, noting Becky has a six pack of beer in her hand and Ali is carrying two bottles of wine. They follow Syd’s voice to the kitchen and all sit down, Christen busying herself with getting wineglasses and an opener and stashing the remainder of the six pack in the refrigerator.

When she finally sits down with a glass of Malbec, she sees all eyes on her.

“Tell them,” Syd nods and Christen releases a heavy sigh and nods. She knows these are her good friends, she’s known Syd from undergrad here at Stanford and became friends with Becky and Alyssa during her post grad work years ago and since she’s met her, Ali has fast become a very close friend.

She tells them everything, starting with her soul mark and how it’s in Coptic and how she felt she would meet her soulmate on the expedition. She tells them about Sitre In and for some reason keeps Tobin’s given name to herself. That part she wants for herself. She tells them how she would appear and disappear and how nobody else could see her. How Sitre In finally admitted to being sent there to her, to help her.

She tells them about Sitre In stating they are soul bonded and she’s scared to really research what that means. She shares how she has fallen in love with a ghost and how this spirit has promised to find her in the fall and she’s now doubting herself and feeling like she was a little crazy. When she finishes, she drains her glass and leaves the table to refill it, figuring it’s a Friday night and she may as well get just drunk to deal with her emotions about all of this. The table is quiet while she does this, exchanging concerned glances as if they are trying to silently communicate who should speak first to her.

“Well,” Alyssa starts, then she clears her throat and wraps her hand around her beer bottle, “it’s possible,” she offers, “things like this do happen.”

“People fall in love with ghosts?” Christen asks sarcastically, “And how does one have a relationship with Casper?” she snorts.

Alyssa rolls her eyes and then gives her questioning look, “Really?” she asks, “Casper?” she shakes her head, “Chris,” she says softly, “soulbonds exist. You remember the stories we’ve heard of people who felt they had past lives? In their interviews, they speak of things with such detail, there's no doubt they lived in past cultures. It's rare for someone to remember more than one period of their past life, but the ones they do, they speak of them with authority.”

“And how about how you’re always telling us how familiar you feel about Egypt?” Becky questions softly.

“But how does it work?” Christen questions, growing frustrated. “I don’t get it,” she says, her fingers twirling the stem of her wineglass, “are you saying Sitre In and I had a relationship in a past life? Who was I? Hatshepsut?”

Again, the women around the table exchange looks before Sydney speaks. “It would make sense.”

Christen rolls her eyes at the absurdity of the idea. She’s no queen, she dismisses it immediately.

“Christen,” Ali says gently, “I have to admit,” she says rather hesitantly, “how you speak of Hatshepsut’s reign and when we were unloading her belongings a few weeks ago,” she shrugs, “you sounded like you owned some of them.”

“Yeah, remember when we were working on the bracelet?” Syd joins in nodding her head rapidly, “you said you thought it wasn’t her favorite, like you knew. Like it was yours. I heard it.”

"That's just because I saw them all already," she tries to defend herself.

The group just rolls their eyes at her and snicker. Christen huffs slightly as she lets their words sink in. She respects their opinions and she knows that of all the people in the world she could speak to about her particular situation, the ones around her kitchen table right now are possibly the most qualified. Alyssa, who specializes in studying cultures and religions and the whole soulmate phenomenon. Becky, who has her own interesting soulmate story and had researched relentlessly the topic while trying to understand it. Her mate met her, professed his love and left for three tours in the Marines, seeing her only twice for less than a week in three years’ time. They are happily together now but Christen witnessed the longing and confusion Becky went through during that time. Sydney, whose mate Dom immediately wanted babies and family life when Syd wasn’t ready to even marry him yet. They went through a lot of emotional anguish before really communicating their wants and desires and eventually finding a middle ground they were both satisfied with.

“The idea of a soulbond is that two people share one soul and over time, with each reincarnation, you meet.” Alyssa explains, “It sounds like something happened during the time of Sitre In and Hatshepsut, especially if Hatshepsut choose Thutmose the Second in the Field of Reeds. For Sitre In and Thutmose the Second to have the same soulmark could have been some mistake. You said Sitre In and Hatshepsut spoke their words and consummated their love, so even if Hatshepsut chose Thutmose the Second in the Field of Reeds, the Gods must have realized some kind of mistake happened. There must have been an interruption of the soulbond cycle and now it’s being re-established.”
“She did say that the Gods were confused how it happened,” Christen slowly shares, “Sitre In and Thutmose the Second had the same soulmark,” she says quietly.

“And they were both Hatshepsut’s soulmate in her lifetime,” Ali mentions, “I wonder what anguish she went through when she was in the Field of Reeds and had to decide between Sitre In and Thutmose,”

An unexpected deep sorrow pulls at Christen’s chest, “I’m sure it wasn’t easy,” she comments. She grabs her glass and takes a drink. Then explains to them in detail what Sitre In had told her what the Gods had said and what the plan was for her.

“I would think if the Gods pulled Sitre In out of the Field of Reeds and sent her to you and she told you she would find you, then it’s going to happen,” Sydney says with confidence, “The waiting is going to suck, but it will be worth it.”

Christen isn’t completely convinced. “It just bothers me that she didn’t say her words back to me,” she says with a sigh, “I feel like it isn’t complete,”

Ali nods knowingly, “I know what you mean,” she takes a drink from her glass, “Ashlyn didn’t say it for months after we met,”

“Really?” Alyssa says with surprise, “you two are so amazing together.”

Ali nods, “We are now,” she says, “but Ash was hesitant. At the time, she wasn’t fully at peace with her disability and hadn’t grown into the person she is today. She thought I wouldn’t be able to commit to a life with her being in a wheelchair and didn’t want the heartbreak.”

“Was she in an accident and that’s how she ended up unable to walk?” Sydney asks her and Ali nods.

“How did you guys work past that?” Becky asks curiously.
“With a lot of patience and persistence on my part,” Ali crinkles her nose, “but Ash finally accepted I wasn’t going anywhere. Then we started getting close, nothing physical but talking every day. Her best friend finally convinced her to continue physical therapy and went with her almost every session and things changed for the better after that.”

“That’s some best friend,” Alyssa remarks approvingly.

“Oh, she’s something else,” Ali chuckles warmly, “She’s amazing.”

“But wait,” Becky says suddenly, turning to Christen, “you said Sitre In stated she couldn’t say it back because she has to go back through the Underground to find you. So, she’ll say it when she meets you in a couple of months, right?”

“I guess so,” Christen replies with uncertainty.

Sydney slings her arm around Christen, pulling her close, “I think you’re scared,” she states, “and it’s because this is a scary thing. Especially now,” she says, “because you’re waiting. And it’s killing you because your mind keeps pulling out random thoughts and making you doubt yourself and your feelings you have for her now that you're back home.”

Becky gives her a sympathetic smile, “I know this waiting,” she says, “but you’re going to be so busy with the artifacts, the time will shoot by,”

Christen nods, beginning to feel better. “Yeah,” she says slowly, “you’re right.”

“And we’re here for you,” Alyssa reassures her, “any time you need to talk,”

Christen gives the woman around the table each a grateful smile, “Thank you guys,” she says heartfully, “I’ve had this,” she runs her fingers over her soulmark, “on my mind for so long and now, having met her and fallen in love,” she shrugs her shoulders, “and it not being the fairy tale I thought it would be,” she shakes her head, “It’s been making me doubt everything. I’m questioning if she’ll be the same person I fell in love with in Egypt.”

“It’s her soul you fell in love with,” Ali reminds her, “and I’m sure you’ll feel it the moment you meet.”

Sydney gives her a squeeze, “Well,” she touches her forehead to her, “we’re all here to keep you thinking positive.”

Christen lays her head on Syd’s shoulder and looks around at her friends, “Thanks you guys,”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

August 19th

Christen looks through the magnifying screen before her, concentrating as she delicately brushes the dust from the golden scarab, gently using the soft sable brush tip to remove the particles away to display the inscription. It’s an ornate dung beetle, which was one of the manifestations of the sun god. It’s small, measuring only a half an inch long by a quarter inch wide and an inch and a quarter inch high. Christen believes it is carved from soapstone due to it’s light red-brown coloring which is native to the Luxor region. As she works, she can see the appearance of a green-blue glaze covering the amulet.

The item rests on a soft bed of thick cotton resting upside down and is surrounded by a clear plexi-glass box that covers the top, bottom and sides, leaving open one side for Christen to easily get her hands in there to work. The purpose of encasing the artifact is to protect from being knocked off the table or lost and as well as for the dust to stay within the area for easy clean up. She is working on the bottom side now and has started at the bottle left and is working her way methodically across the surface. She has her airline ready to give a gentle puff of air to clear the dust she’s dislodged of the item. It’s taken her two days to completely clean the top of the tiny object. The work is tedious and needs complete concentration, especially when she’s forced to use the metal dental pick to carefully remove any stubborn dirt.

Currently, she has a student sitting next to her at another station who is using a sable brush to clean a near twelve-inch square and two inch thick tablet covered with hieroglyphs. Christen is supervising her work, checking in by occasionally looking over the woman’s shoulder and giving her an approving nod. It’s quiet work, only interrupted when Sarah, the student, has a question about the tablet or if she should skip over an exceptionally stubborn area.

A quiet timer chimes and Sarah sets down her brush with a sigh. “I don’t want to leave,” she admits with a chuckle, “it’s so soothing,”

“It is, isn’t it?” Christen agrees, pulling back her brush and setting it down as well. She looks over at the tablet, “you’ve made some nice progress,” she says approvingly.

“Thanks,” Sarah says and pushes back her chair, “I’ll see you next week,” she says as she removes the white cotton gloves she’s wearing.

“Yes,” Christen grins, “remember, there’s the online quiz due by Tuesday,”

“I’m going to take it tonight,” she replies with a smile, “that way I can have a fun weekend,”

“Well, good luck on the quiz and have a great weekend!” Christen enthuses as she sits back in her chair, covering her mouth to let a yawn escape.

“See ya!” Sarah waves as she makes her way to the glass door to depart. Christen watches her pass through the double doors of the small foyer of the temperature a controlled lab area and heads for her locker where her personal items are stored. She turns her head to see Becky across the way at another table, scowling down at what she’s working on. Christen decides to take a break and leaves her chair, stretching her back before walking over to where Becky sits.

She taps the table with her gloved hand before she gets close so as not to startle the woman. Becky looks up and crinkles her nose at her. “This is being difficult,” she complains, dropping the instrument in her hand and pushing back from her chair, “I think I’ll need to give it an electrolysis bath to remove the light rust,”

Christen nods as she looks at the dagger Becky is working on. “That would probably help it,” she agrees.

“We should take a chocolate break,” Becky proposes, standing up and nodding at her. Christen smiles, “Yeah, sounds good.” She knocks on the table a little louder and Ali pops her head up, looking at them expectantly.

“Chocolate break,” Becky announces and Ali smiles. The three women remove their gloves and proceed to the exit.

Exiting the airlock into the office area, Christen pokes her head in Alyssa’s office, pulling the woman from her computer screen to join them in their break room. It’s late in the day and there are no longer any visiting public coming through to watch them work behind the glass of their department. Usually, when there are a few people gathered in the gallery that stretches along two sides of the lab, staring at them silently behind the glass windows, Christen or Becky will grab the headset and speak to them through the intercom in the viewing area. They will explain what they are working on and where the item was found and answering their questions for a few minutes. Often, they will grab the camera to give a closeup on a particular piece as they speak about it, allowing the visitors to view on the flat screen monitors in the gallery. It’s great public relations and there are quite a few students who pop in as well.

They haven’t even opened the bag of Ghirardelli chocolate when Sydney strolls in, setting her briefcase on an empty chair. “Chocolate break?” she asks, pulling out a chair and joining them. Becky opens the bag and randomly selects a wrapped treat and passes the bag to Alyssa.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Ali exclaims and removes four small envelops from her apron pocket, “I’ve been meaning to give you guys these all day,” she remarks as she passes them out.

“Aw, a Labor Day party? Awesome” Sydney exclaims with a grin, “Dom and I have no plans, we’ll be there,” she states, “What can we bring?” They dip into a second piece of chocolate as they discuss the party and appetizers before deciding to get another hour of work in before calling it a day.

 

----

 

“Yeah, Mom, I’m doing alright,” Christen speaks as she stirs the chicken she’s cooking on the stove, “everything has been going good,” she assure her.

“Well, you’ve certainly had your face all over the news,” her Mom says proudly. “I can’t wait to see more photos of the things you’ve found,”

“Well, I’ll be over Sunday for brunch, so I’ll show you then,” she promises, “my dinner is almost done, so I’m going to let you go,”

“Okay honey,” her Mom says, “give my little grand puppies a treat from me,”

Christen smiles, “I will, give Dad a hug and a kiss from me and I’ll see you Sunday.”

After her chicken dinner was eaten and the dishes cleaned, Christen decided to finally unpack her extra bag from her expedition. Yes, it had been over a month, but she’s been so busy with everything going on, she just tucked it in her spare bedroom and kind of forgot about it. So, now she’s got the aluminum suitcase open on the bed, sorting through the reference books and heavy clothing she had brought just in case the weather turned cool. As she shelved the books, she noticed the sketchbook. The sketchbook Tobin had been drawing in. She can't believe she forgot all about it, but she reasons with getting back and working in the artifacts plus preparing for her lectures on the expedition, doing press and teaching her classes, it slipped her mind. She shelves the other books in her study and returns to the spare bedroom and sits on the bed, taking a breath before opening the sketchbook.

The first couple of pages are simple doodles, the ones she saw of Tobin practicing and getting the feel of the pencils. She flips through and sees more defined sketches of the pyramids which was the view in the daylight from her tent. She continues to turn pages, seeing house, a dramatic drawing of a pair of eyes and then one that makes her hold her breath.

It’s a drawing of her, lying casually on the bed, reading a book. The detail is indescribable, capturing her concentrating as she read. It’s incredibly accurate, down the faint scar on her shin from a soccer match years ago. How she captured her curls, making them so natural and her body so well proportioned and not awkward as some drawings can be. It was impressive.

There’s one more drawing a few pages after the one of her on the bed. It takes her breath away. It’s a woman in full ancient Egypt royal attire. A long white gown, with the delicate neck piece and what looked like beaded trim work on the ends of the single short sleeve and the bottom of the gown. A thin belt draws the eyes to a thin waist. A decorative armor breast plate emblazoned with the uraeus, the upright form of a cobra, the symbol of sovereignty, royalty and divine authority.

The woman’s strong arms have bracelets at the wrists and biceps, most likely of gold, and are holding the classic crook and flail in her hands crossed over chest. She’s looking face forward with a regal expression, her eyes made up with the Eyes of Horus make up, which the symbolism for it was intended to protect the pharaoh in the afterlife. A beaded false beard completes the elements of traditional ceremonial attire. As she looks it over closely, Christen realizes it’s her own eyes she’s looking at.

As she scans the paper, she realizes it’s in fact her, her features in the face, her limbs, her body. She’s impressed with Tobin’s talents, especially since she only had a few days to learn how to use the pencils. She thinks they must have had similar writing utensils, perhaps the pencil marked the paper in a similar fashion the quills did to the papyrus they used. She wonders if Tobin drew her this way to connect her to her own time period, in clothing she would find attractive. But then, why would she draw her as royalty? Either way, it’s an extremely wonderful drawing and Christen knows exactly where she’ll put it.

She makes a note to purchase a black frame with a white mat when she’s out this weekend. She wants to hang this up for display. She figures she’ll explain it away as paying a street vendor for the item, down plying it down as a touristy thing she purchased. She closes the sketchbook, holding it to her chest and thinks of Tobin. Oh, how she hopes she finds her. Soon.

After a few minutes, she finds her fleece jacket, frowning at the thought of it being in here. She thought she had already unpacked it and now she should wash it before she’ll want to wear with the cooler weather approaching in the evenings. She lifts it up and feels something in the pocket. When her fingers feel something smooth in the pocket, her heart begins to race. Slowly she withdraws a necklace.

Tobin’s necklace. She marvels at it, cradling it both palms, her mouth open with shock. She begins to cry, her hands now shaking, bringing her closed hands to her chest.

“Please,” she cries out in her empty room, “please, find me,” she urges.

 

XXXX

 

September 4th

Christen looks in the mirror one final time, checking that her straighten hair looks good, satisfied with how it turned out. Ali had said it was a casual affair, they have a pool and it was certainly nice enough to swim. She’s packed a swimsuit in case it gets hot, but she’s unsure if she wants to swim. Either way, she’s got her bag near the door holding the suit, a change of clothes, a sweater that goes with her outfit, sunscreen and whatever else she thought she’d need. She wants to be prepared for whatever this Labor Day party may bring. Her small purse lays in top of the bag. All she’ll have to do is grab it on her way out.

She’s nervous. Very nervous. So nervous that she changed her outfit three different times before settling on this white sundress with flowers on it. It’s one of her favorites, she loves how it flares out and it’s comfortable to wear. It shows of her complexion which has only grown a little darker with her weekends at her parent’s pool.

The reason she’s so nervous, is that when she was in the shower this morning, this noticed something. Something huge.

Her soulmark has changed. Just slightly. Nothing dramatic but it’s worded differently. Ever since she was a child, she had memorized the hieroglyphs, often drawing them on construction paper.

Before it stated, Its beauty pales in comparison to yours which she has always found as romantic.

Now it states, That’s nothing compared to how gorgeous you are

Similar statement, yet maybe not as romantic. She wonders if this means Tobin will be at Ali’s party today. If today will be the day she meets her.
While she is nervous, she’s not going to let it distract her from having a good time. She leaves her bathroom, lets the dogs in and says goodbye after she gives them each a Kong with stuffed with organic peanut butter to keep themselves occupied for a while after she leaves.

She grabs her foil covered tray of tortilla wraps, picks up her keys and her bag and is out the door, ready to have a good time. And maybe meet her soulmate.

 

----

 

“You make the best drinks,” Becky gushes as she takes another sip of the tropical beverage Christen has just handed her.

“Thanks,” she says, lifting her glass, “Cheers!” They clink glasses and drink.

“If only they had those little umbrellas,” Sydney comments, looking over the bar area that is set up near the sliding glass doors leading to the patio.

“Your wish is my command,” a voice from behind makes them turn around to see Ashlyn wheeling towards them, “I don’t know why I didn’t think to pull them out,” she says as she deftly maneuvers behind the long table to a cabinet. She tosses a plastic baggie on the table, “Have it at,” she grins, “nothing says goodbye to summer like drinks with umbrellas,”

“Yay!” Sydney cheers, grabbing at the bag and plucking umbrellas into everyone’s drinks.

“Thanks,” Christen laughs, “would you like one?”

“Nah, not right now,” Ashlyn replies, “I’m gonna blaze up with some friends,” she says, “any of you want to join us?”

“I will,” Becky nods, “I brought some real smooth Hawaiian if you want to try it,”

Ashlyn’s eyes grow big, “What strain?”

“Durban Poison,” she replies with a sly smile.

“Ooh,” Alyssa cuts in, “what that the one we smoked last weekend?”

Becky nods, “Lead the way Ash,” she says and then looks at Sydney and Christen, “we’ll find you guys later.”

Ash looks over her shoulder as she wheels out onto the patio, “I haven’t had Durban in forever,” she comments.

Sydney and Christen look on with amusement. Both of them smoke occasionally, Christen preferring edibles and not being high with a bunch of strangers. Syd isn’t smoking now because and Dom are trying to get pregnant, so she’s laid of the drug.

“Do you remember that time we were in Egypt at that hookah bar?” Sydney giggles.

Christen laughs at the fuzzy memory, “I can’t believe we thought hash was weaker than pot,”

“I can’t believe the room service bill when from the hotel that night!” Syd roars at the memory.

“What’s so funny?” Ali asks as she approaches, a smile on her face.

They give her a condensed version of the story, making her laugh hard at their antics. She looks around for Ashlyn. “I wanted her to get the grill started,” she frowns.

“She’s smoking somewhere,” Syd informs her.

“We can grill,” Christen offers, “it’s no problem.”

“Really? That would be so helpful,” Ali says gratefully, “she’ll be pretty stoned and starving in a little bit,”

“Yeah, just show us the way,” Syd smiles, “Chris is a grill master,”

 

There is a crowd at this party, Christen notices from her spot on the patio, and all of them are having a great time. She admits to herself that she’s been scanning the crowd quite a bit in hopes of possibly catching sight of Tobin but she hasn’t seen her. Maybe they won’t meet tonight. Other than that, she’s having fun, it’s so nice when there’s a mix of people and they all get along, there’s just this good energy in the air. She’s met Ali’s brother Kyle who is a fitness trainer, some of Ashlyn’s friends and teammates from her basketball and hockey teams and then there’s the university group.

Over the sounds of voices and mixed with the music playing, Christen can hear the rowdy sounds coming from the driveway. A group of Ashlyn’s friends are playing basketball with shouts of scorn and cheers as they shoot the ball. Occasional crashes of wheelchairs colliding gives her the impression this isn’t a casual shoot around. There’s much laughter and swearing coming from the lit up two car width blacktop area. She notices the game has come to a close, five players holding their arms up in victory while the others hurl colorful and hilarious insults and accusations of cheating at them.

There’s about ten players and huddle together and soon Christen can see smoke wafting into the air. Smoking pot isn’t unusual around here. It’s California and has been legal forever it seems and Christen has been surrounded by it all of her life. It’s like alcohol, some people prefer to drink others like to get stoned. She doesn’t like to get stoned as much as she likes to relax and she’s grateful that there are so many options of different strains and potency levels that she can when she feels like it. She feels it’s safer than taking a Xanax or other prescription medications and offers the same relaxation effect and helps her when her anxiety is high.

“Christen,” Ali calls to her, making her turn to head, “what do say we make another round of drinks? I think Ash would like to try one of yours now,”

“Sure,” she smiles, thinking she would make one for herself. It would only be her second of the day and the evening is young. She’s pacing herself since she’s driving and if there’s a chance she’s going to meet her soulmate, she wants to be sober.

A few minutes later, she’s following Ali out the back patio door, noting how the ranch house has smooth transitions to accommodate wheelchairs, to present Ashlyn with her colorful tropical drink, complete with an umbrella and garnish of an orange slice.

As they approach, she hears someone cough and low voice that stirs her stomach. “Yo, Ash, what the hell is that? I’m so fucking stoned?” and musical laughter follows.

“You’re a lightweight Heath,” Ashlyn laughs over her shoulder, then turning and seeing Ali and Christen approaching and wheeling towards her to the edge of the driveway. The others are following her, some still jawing about the game and others pulling their drinks from cup holders on their chairs.

“Nice game babe,” Ali says and leans down to give her wife a kiss. “Christen made you a special drink,” she announces, turning to gesture to her.

Christen takes a few steps forward, holding Ashlyn’s drink forward and presenting it with a flourish. “Isn’t it a beauty?” she boasts playfully, chuckling at the sight of the obnoxious looking thing. If Ali had a coconut glass it would have been even funnier.

”That’s nothing compared to how gorgeous you are,” a low drawl states earnestly in Coptic.

Christen’s eyes widen and her head shoots in the direction of the voice and she sees the woman who said it who is looking just as shocked by her own words. It’s Tobin and she’s in a wheelchair next to Ashlyn, her voice was the one asking Ashlyn a few minutes ago what they were smoking.

“Yo, Tobes,” Ashlyn laughs, one hand pushing Tobin’s shoulder and making her sway in the chair, “you must be really fucked up if your talking in your wacky language again!”

Tobin’s eyes are on Christen, half lidded and bloodshot, but showing as much focus as they can muster at the moment. Christen lets her eyes crawl over the woman, noticing her backwards baseball cap on her head, her long brown hair pulled over one shoulder. The whiteness of her v-neck t-shirt contrasting against her dark skin. The yellow shorts with what she thinks are colorful palm trees and surfers on them giving way to her smooth tan legs that look much too muscular for her to be in a wheelchair. As her eyes travel upwards, she notices the same scar on Tobin’s neck, about an inch long and rather thick, in the exact same spot when she last saw her in Egypt. When their eyes meet and Christen smiles, she sees how Tobin’s eyes widen with a mix of joy and wonder.

“She’s been doing that ever since the accident,” another woman shoves Tobin’s other shoulder nearly making her fall out of the chair. But Tobin keeps her eyes on Christen and they stare at each other, soft looks giving way to shy smiles.

”I could say the same thing about you,” Christen replies back in the dead language and Tobin looks like she’s about to faint.

The group has gone silent around them, taking in the exchange without knowing what’s being spoken. They watch as both women look down at their arms, their smiles widening when they read their soulmarks and look back to smile even wider at each other. It’s a special moment and not one many get to witness. It’s not every day someone meets their soulmate.

”My name is Christen,” she states calmly, unaware of the audience they have, ”are you Tobin?”

Tobin nods slowly, her smile growing as she pushes her wheelchair towards her, oblivious to those around.

”I can not believe I found you at last!” Tobin exclaims, giving her chair a final push to roll in front of her, extending her arms out. Christen blindly sticks her arm out to the side, hoping someone takes her drink and the second it leaves her hand, she’s bending over, hugging Tobin and falling into her lap. They hold each other close, both crying as the emotions overflow.

Christen buries her head into Tobin’s shoulder, feeling Tobin’s hands on her back, soothing her. A moment later, she hears a sniffle and then Tobin’s hands are gone and she’s aware of the sensation of moving, the chair expertly scooting past the crowd, the noise of people and music growing quieter. She inhales deeply and Tobin smells clean like the salt of the ocean mixed with her unique scent, just like she did back in Egypt.

“How…how are you here?” Tobin asks, smiling at her with disbelief as if she’s uncertain this is all really happening. She wipes at her eyes.

“I work with Ali,” she explains, “who do you know here, Ash?”

Tobin nods, “She’s my best friend,” she states, “we went to college together,”

“What the hell language are you two talking?” a voice asks from behind them, it’s one of Ashlyn’s teammates.

“Uh,” Tobin shakes her head, blinking exaggeratedly a few times like she’s trying to clear her head. “I don’t know,” she says, briskly wheeling her and Christen away from the group to a quiet corner of a small patio near a pond.

“How ,em>do you know Coptic?” Christen wants to know. It’s a very small circle in the US of teachers of the deal language and she’s curious about it.

“Uh, Coptic? What is that?” Tobin tilts her head and squints at her.

“It’s what we were just speaking,” Christen explains, confused Tobin doesn’t seem to know. It’s as if the spell has been broken and it upsets her a little.

Tobin looks at her as Christen slides off her lap and onto a nearby bench. Tobin starts to scratch at the back of her neck, looking uncomfortable, “It’s just something I know I guess,” she drawls, licking her lips and then away as her mood shifts.

“Tobin, I” Christen starts, then realizes she doesn’t know how to exactly state what she wants. She knows Tobin is high right now and seems like she doesn’t want to talk about knowing Coptic and it’s confusing her. So, she shuts up.

“Chris?” Tobin asks quietly, waiting for her look at her. “Listen, I’m super high and I…this has all caught me, like, totally off guard,” she admits openly, “I feel like I’m making a lousy impression on you and I’m super embarrassed,” she finishes shyly and Christen can hear how genuine she comes across. Christen is actually pretty impressed that Tobin would be sensitive enough to share this with her and choose to just tell her the truth and not make up a lame excuse or something.

“What would you like to do?” she replies with her own question, thinking she should let Tobin dictate what they should do. She suddenly feels that Tobin may not remember seeing her in Egypt possibly, since getting interrupted and they’ve stopped speaking in Coptic, she’s acting nervous, as if they’ve just met instead of seeing her a few months ago.

“Well,” she drawls and licks her lips as she considers, “it’s still pretty early. What about getting some drinks and snacks and coming back over here and just chill? Like, get to know each other?” she gives her a hopeful look. Christen looks into her expressive eyes and nods.

Christen smiles, liking that idea. It takes the pressure off them both and allows them to take things slow. She can maybe figure out what Tobin remembers or doesn’t and take it from there. “I like that idea very much,” she says warmly, nodding at her. “How about I get the snacks and you take care of the drinks?”

Tobin smiles brightly and nods her head, “What would you like?”

“I’ll take a water or a juice or something,” she responds easily and stands up. “we’ll meet right back here, okay?”

Tobin nods, “See you in a few,” she smiles and wheels away.

 

“Tobin is your soulmate?” Ali gushes excitedly, practically bouncing behind Christen as she determinedly makes her way to the kitchen where the food is laid out.

“Yes,” Christen confirms, her eyes darting around seeking for the largest plate available, “this won’t be big enough,” she mutters under her breath, feeling that Tobin might be actually starving and won’t be satisfied with an array of light appetizers. She didn’t see her when she helped Ali and Syd put out the hot foods earlier and she’s isn’t sure when she arrived here today.

“Here,” Ali shoves a large, decorative metal tray towards her. “I’ll heat up some stuff, alright?” she offers, sensing Christen’s anxiety of what to serve Tobin. “She loves fruit and give her some of those cookies,” Ali helpfully informs her as Christen selects items.

A minute later the microwave beeps. “Here,” Ali sets a plate laden with small portions of warmed up steak and chicken.

Syd walks in with a large smile on her face, “Girl,” she starts loudly but sees the look of near panic on Christen’s face and immediately changes tactics. “What can I do?”

“Plates, napkins, silverware,” Ali orders and turns to Christen who is staring at the array of food on the tray. “Hey,” she gently touches her arm, making Christen look at her. “Tobin is an amazing person,” she says warmly, “She’s a good one, really,” she smiles and lets out a squeal, “I’m so happy for you, you guys are going to be amazing together!”

Syd drops the items on the tray and presents to her, “Go out there, honey,” she says, grinning widely, “remember, it’s her soul you love.”

Christen nods slowly, still reeling that she’s found her and this Tobin looks almost exactly like the Sitre In Tobin. As she walks back outside carefully carrying the tray, she wonders how this all happened and what does this Tobin know about it. How she abruptly stopped speaking Coptic concerns her, she wonders what is the story behind it.

 

“Dude!” Ashlyn slaps Tobin’s back, “You met your soulmate!”

Tobin looks up at her with her panic on full display, “And I’m fucking high as shit, Ash.” she says hurriedly, “I sound like an idiot, she’s going to think I’m such a moron,” she takes off her hat and runs her hand through her hair and replaces the hat.

“Chill, bro,” Ashlyn assures her, “it’s all good.”

Tobin is shaking her head rapidly, “No, this is not good, this is very not good,” she rushes out, pulling at the velcro straps holding her legs in place in the wheelchair, “I am not of sound mind,”

Ashlyn begins to laugh hard, “Dude, you’re never in sound mind,” she guffaws, drawing their friend Heather over.

“Yo, soulmate finder,” she greets Tobin who is now standing and moving her chair into the garage and trotting back to the bar by the patio. Of course, Ashlyn would have two bars areas set up, one inside and one outside.

“Hao,” Tobin whines, “this isn’t funny,” she starts poking through the icy water of the kiddie pool, plucking out a water bottle.

“She’s upset because she’s high,” Ashlyn informs their friend.

“Dude, just chill,” Hao advises.

“Just chill,” Tobin mutters, taking out another water bottle and now looking for any type of juice. “Just chill, I can’t function like a normal person and you say just chill,”

Hao is biting her lower lip, kind of loving how frazzled her typically laid back friend is right now. She’s never really seen her so worked up since she’s known her. “What are you looking for?” she asks kindly, figuring at least she could help her out.

“Christen said she wanted water or juice,” Tobin states, “I need some juice,” she says urgently.

“It’s in the house,” Ashlyn calmly states, “there’s none out here, it’s just water, pop and beer.”

“I’ll be right back,” Hao holds up a hand, “stay put, Tobes.” She jogs off towards the house.

Tobin watches as Hao moves to the house and Ash pinches her side.

“Ow!” Tobin jerks and rubs her side. “The fuck was that for?”

“Get your shit together, Tobes,” Ashlyn grins at her, “and just chill. Christen is a cool chick, she’s super sweet. Just go slow, dude, you’ll be fine.”

“How do you know her?” Tobin is incredulous.

“Al works with her,” she explains, “look, Hao’s coming back. Just relax, it’ll all work out.”

Tobin removes her hat again and nervously runs her hand through her hair before placing it back on her head, “I hope so,” she lets out a deep breath.

 

Christen’s eyes grow wide as she watches Tobin walk across the yard towards her. She’s carrying an alarming amount of bottles in her hands, close up against her body. What’s more shocking than the amount of drinks she’s carrying for the two of them is the fact that she’s walking.

“You can walk?” Christen blurts out when she comes hear.

“Yeah,” Tobin nods casually, then remembers she was in a chair when they met. “Ah, I play in a chair with Ash and her friends,” she explains with a simple shrug of her shoulders and it makes Christen’s chest fill with warmth.

“That’s really sweet,” she says quietly.

“Yeah, well, if I want to play,” Tobin shrugs again like it’s not a big deal. It isn’t to her, she’s been doing that since Ashlyn first expressed an interest in shooting around years ago. Tobin went out and bought herself a sport wheelchair for them both. “So, I got you water, apple juice, there’s orange, cranberry, an iced tea,” she stops when she realizes Christen is giggling. “What?” she looks up, suddenly nervous. Her high from the pot had worn off pretty well from the shock of meeting her soulmate and the adrenalin rush and flood of emotions and anxiety she had been feeling earlier and now she was feeling a little buzzed but much more in control of herself. If anything, she's pretty anxious and not feeling any of the relaxing benefits of marijuana right now. She’s trying to be cool and calm and feels it isn’t working very well.

Christen smiles warmly at her, “I think I brought out a sample of just about everything they had to offer from inside,” she smiles widely at her, gesturing to the large serving tray next to her on the bench that Ali had helped her arrange. Tobin smiles at her, touched by her gesture. While she had been distressed about what Christen would like to drink, Christen felt the same way about what to serve her. She’s touched by it just as Christen is from the drink selection.

“Here,” Becky suddenly appears, carrying a small table and setting it down between the two and disappearing just as fast.

“That was nice,” Tobin murmurs, a small smile on her face.

“I thought you might be really hungry since you were playing and maybe were getting the munchies,” Christen explains quietly as she moves the tray onto the table.

“You would be correct,” Tobin admits, looking over the tray with approval. “Are you going to eat something?”

“Yes,” Christen grins as she produces plates and silverware with flourish. The two can feel their nerves begin to settle as they chatter about the different foods while they make their plates. Christen now believes Tobin has no clue of her past, perhaps it had been wiped away by the Gods when she was placed in this lifetime. She decides to avoid the topic about speaking Coptic for now and let this first meeting just go as naturally as possible.

“So, Christen,” Tobin says as she wipes her face with a napkin, “tell me about yourself,”

Christen grins back at her as she finishes chewing her chicken, “I will if you will,” she nods and gives her best attempt at winking at Tobin.

“Sure thing,” Tobin smiles back at her, returning her wink and forking a piece of steak.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

September 5th

“I just get this feeling she doesn’t remember anything in Egypt, Syd,” Christen laments to her best friend. She’s on the phone, talking to her while she lets the dogs in from the backyard.

“That’s okay though, isn’t it?” Syd questions, “Because she’s here now, like, a living person and not a ghost.”

“But she spoke Coptic,” Christen counters, “and I swear she said ‘I can’t believe I found you at last’, like she said she would.”

“Well, she could just be referring to just finding her soulmate,” Syd reasons, “and she might not know a thing about Egypt,”

Christen hums as she considers that new little idea. “That’s a possibility,” she admits, “but she continued talking to me in Coptic until we got interrupted.”

“But you said Ashlyn said something about her talking in her weird language when she was stoned,” Syd reminds her, “maybe that has something to do with it.”

Christen sighs, “I don’t know what to do,” she frets, “I feel like I should tell her,”

Sydney chuckles, “You just met her,” she states, “just slow down and get to know her and then I’m sure the perfect opportunity will come to talk about it,” she assures her.

“Yeah,” Christen agrees, “that sounds like the best idea,” she says, “I think that’s what I’ll do,”

“Yeah,” Syd encourages her, “it also gives Tobin time to get to know you and if she does know something, maybe she’ll bring it up first,” she says and then breathes in quickly.
“You know what?”

“What?”

“Maybe Tobin knows and feels like you wouldn’t believe her,” she wonders aloud, “maybe she thinks you’ll think she’s crazy or something.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that,” Christen frowns, not liking the idea of Tobin feeling she couldn’t talk to her about anything. Then again, they’ve only just met and even though she knows they are soulmates, she’s taking her own time to share with her as well.

“Maybe just talk about some of the crazier soulmate stories you’ve heard or something,” Syd suggests, “or like talk about believing in the fantastic.”

“Yeah,” Christen smiles to herself, “I like that,”

“When are you seeing her again?” Syd inquires curiously.

“Saturday for sure,” Christen states, “she has a busy week, so she’s not sure if she can get together. Ashlyn has a race and she’s training her and some friends for it.”

“Oh yeah? That sounds cool,”

“Yeah,” Christen is smiling, “I’m going to meet Ali and we’ll watch it together Saturday morning. Tobin is racing too,”

“Cool.” Sydney states and Christen knows her friend is grinning right now. “Oh, Dom is home, I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Yeah, bright and early,” Christen says and they hang up.

An hour later she’s on her couch with her laptop, reading an article about the cleaning processes of an ancient unknown metal surface without submerging it an electrolysis bath when her phone rings. She’s refreshing herself with the different tests to perform to discover what the metal is. They have two metal boxes from KV60, one Becky is working on and the other they won’t get to until after she completes the preservation of the chalice she’s working on. She smiles when she sees it’s Tobin.

“Hi, you,” she greets.

“Hey,” Tobin says cheerfully, “how’s it going?”

“Good, just doing some reading,” she replies, “how about you? How was your workout?”

“Today was a tough day,” Tobin admits, “we taper off after today so the group can peak on Saturday.”

“How many is in your group?”

“About fifteen,” Tobin replies and then yawns, “sorry, I’m beat.”

“Are you in your car?”

“Yeah, on my way home,” Tobin confirms, “but I was wondering,” she hesitates a moment, “would you be open to getting together this week? I don’t have to supervise every workout with them, so I thought maybe we could do something,”

“Well,” Christen considers, knowing her evening schedule is free for the week, “would you like to come over for dinner tomorrow night?”

“Yeah, I would,” Tobin answers, “what can I bring?”

They chatter on Tobin’s drive until she arrives home, they continue to chatter while Tobin unloads her gear and finally end the call when Tobin sounds like she’s going to fall asleep.

 

September 9th

“Go Ash! Go Tobin!” Ali cheers loudly as the two whisk past them on the road. The two are in racing wheelchairs, doing a 30 mile race. It’s very early on a Saturday morning and Ali and Christen are in the scattered crowd, now moving to the next spot they’ll have a chance of viewing them before the going to the bleachers at the finish line.

“So, this is what Ash does in her off season before the hockey season starts,” Ali explains, “this is her last race until spring. She’ll do a couple of races then to get in condition for basketball.”

“I’d love to come to a hockey game,” Christen enthuses, “I’ve never been to one before,”

“Even the NHL?” Ali questions.

Christen shakes her head, “It’s so violent,” she frowns and shivers, “and cold.”

Ali laughs, “Well, you’d need to bring layers and don’t forget gloves,” she says.

“Seriously, though,” Christen persists, “I’d love to go.”

“I’ll send you the schedule when it comes out.” Ali promises as they follow the crowd. They are quiet for a moment. “So, you and Tobin seem to be hitting it off pretty good,”
Christen smiles, “Yeah,” she breathes out dreamily. “She’s really sweet,”

“She’s a good person Chris,” Ali states seriously, “she’s helped Ash so much, it’s been incredible.”

“They went to college together, right?” she asks, remembering she heard that but not from where.

Ali nods, “They did.” She confirms, “They were in a very serious car accident their senior year,” she continues, “you should ask her about it sometime, it really affected her and Ash.”

Christen nods, curious if that was how Ashlyn ended up in the wheelchair. It would have had to be a very serious crash for that to happen, she thinks. She wonders if Tobin will bring it up to her on conversation some time.

 

“You did so good!” Ali gushes, wrapping her arms around a sweaty and obviously exhausted Ashlyn.

“Thanks, babe,” she says, lifting a water bottle to her lips.

“Yo, Ash,” Tobin wheels up, glancing down to look at her phone that’s balanced on her lap, “I think you took off at least ten minutes on your PR,” she says proudly.
Ashlyn brings her hand up and grips Tobin’s hand hard, “Couldn’t have done it without you, man,” she says gratefully, “if you weren’t pushing me,” she shakes her head, “thanks, bro.” Tobin leans over and they hug.

Ash turns and looks at Christen and Ali, “Let’s get some food, I’m starving!”

After the two racers towel off and change clothes, they head out. Brunch is festive and full of laughs with Ashlyn and Tobin sharing some of the strange encounters they had on their race. “She totally flashed us!” Ashlyn giggles, shaking her head and then chugging the rest of her beer.

Tobin looks over to Christen and grimaces as she shakes her head, “That woman really shouldn’t have been flashing anyone,” she shivers at the memory.
“Oh and what about the crash?” Ashlyn laughs, “that dude was so pissed,”

“He was talking crap to us the whole race,” Tobin explains, “just being a jerk about everything,” she sighs with frustration, “and some of the guys were telling him to shut up. We were in a pack of about ten racers and we were the only chicks.”

“So, then he starts in on one of the other guys,” Ashlyn says and turns to Ali, “he was talking shit to Robbie.”

“Ooh, Robbie is not someone you do that to,” Ali states with large eyes and looks at Christen, “he’s a large man and is so sweet and nice as can be unless you are rude. Then he lets you have it.” Christen nods.

“Robbie gets next to the guy and tells him to stop it,” Tobin states, “he told him he was being rude to us and if he didn’t stop, he would regret it.”

“The guy told him to fuck off and pushed away from him,” Ashlyn shares, “but he kept close and waited.”

“What happened?” Christen asks, feeling bad they had to put up with someone being an asshole to them.

“He waited until there were no race marshalls around and got close to him and stuck his water bottle in his wheel,” Ashlyn smirks, “the dude totally ate it and slid off the road.”
“Was he okay?” Christen asks worriedly, her face scrunched up, not liking the idea of Robbie intentionally doing that.

“He was a little scraped up but fine,” Tobin assures her, “in fact, he was at the finish line and apologized to us for being an asshole.”

“Really?” Ali asks, rather surprised.

“Apparently he told his girlfriend exactly what happened and she was super pissed. Then she told him who he was fucking around with and when he realized it was Ashlyn, he was really upset.” Tobin explains, “Ash is his little sister’s idol and I guess he realized what a dick he was being.”

“Who told him?” Ali asks.

A sly grin comes across Ashlyn’s face, “His little sister Lisa was there. She was awesome,” she chuckles, “talk about instant karma and learning a life lesson.”

“So then what happened?” Ali questions, finding it weird that neither Tobin or Ashlyn are upset with the guy being such a jerk.

Tobin offers her knuckles across the table to bump them with Ashlyn’s, “Ol’ Ash here pulled out the old kill ‘em with kindness card,” she grins proudly at them, “and she took photos with little Lisa and invited her to come see her play with the Steel,”

Ashlyn is blushing and focusing on her food while Ali puts her arm around her. “When they go low, you went high, huh?”

“She’s such an ambassador for sport,” Tobin continues, her pride in her friend evident, “she even invited the dude to come train with us sometime,”

“That’s pretty cool,” Christen smiles, liking how it ended. Since she’s known Ali and Ashlyn, she’s found Ashlyn to be such an uplifting person, one who really likes to help others.
There’s been many times when Christen and Ali plan something, Ashlyn misses out sometimes due to an appearance somewhere or she’s doing her podcast or at a fundraiser speaking on behalf of wheelchair users and making places more handicapped accessible. Ali has told her a couple of time that when she’s in season for hockey, her schedule gets even more hectic.

 

It’s a couple of hours later and Tobin is relaxing in Christen’s backyard, Morena lying next to her on the chaise lounge on the patio. She’s nearly asleep, the big brunch and her exertion in the morning have her ready for a nap. She’s been to Christen’s house once already earlier in the week and Christen’s been to her place once as well. Since Christen’s house was closer to their brunch spot, Tobin readily accepted her invitation to relax at her place for a while.

They’ve enjoyed one another’s company and both are feeling how compatible they are. They’ve spoken about their faith, Tobin believing in God and a personal relationship with Jesus, Christen preferring to see the universe as Mother Earth and leaning more towards Eastern beliefs. Tobin likes how Christen can speak intelligently on a variety of religions due to her extensive education. Christen is impressed with Tobin’s deep knowledge of the Bible and how well versed she is about other religions. They have great discussions about learning religion from their parents and how they’ve struck out on their own to expand their own world view. It’s been interesting and Tobin always learns something from each talk they’ve had.

She gets this feeling that Christen knows more about them being soulmates than she does. She can’t exactly explain it, but it feels like Christen sometimes acts like she’s known her more than she should. Like, sometimes she’ll say something that Tobin knows for sure she hasn’t told her. It’s weird, but it’s mostly about things like how she likes to draw sometimes or paint or how she feels about sunsets. Not like, concrete facts, just like Christen seems to her opinions on things sometimes. She’s told her all the basics and then some, how she’s a physical therapist, where she went to college and how she’s known Ashlyn and Ali since then. She’s told her about her family, her two sisters, her brother and her parents. How close they are. Tobin gets this feeling in her chest when Christen speaks of Egypt. It’s as if she knows exactly what she’s talking about yet can’t pull it up in her mind. It reminds her of the time immediately after her the accident and she wasn’t herself.

Likewise, Christen has been just as open on those topics freely offering up details of her childhood and her obsession with all things Egyptian and learning languages. She hasn’t pushed Tobin about knowing how to speak Coptic since the night they met and Tobin’s lame excuse that she doesn’t know. Tobin isn’t lying about that, she doesn’t know why. She hasn’t told her yet about the accident, she doesn’t like to talk about it for a variety of reasons. She’s told her she gets migraines sometimes and it’s something that started after her accident.

She thinks maybe she’ll bring it up after her nap, wanting to know why Christen seems like she’s holding something back. Something she should know. But for now, the sun is warming her skin, Morena is sleeping next to her leg and Christen is settling down on the chaise next to her, intent on taking her own nap for a bit. She’s a patient person and she knows she’ll find out soon what she seeks.

 

Tobin looks like she’s fast asleep, resting comfortably on the lounge chair, breathing easily with her legs splayed out, Morena now cuddled in between them. Christen studies her while she sleeps, wondering if Tobin is aware of her past. Their past. She’s wondering how or even if she should bring it up. She wonders if it will bring back positive or negative memories for her. She wonders if Tobin remembers somewhere in her mind about her time in the Underground or the Field of Reeds. She wonders how Tobin got the scar on her neck in this life, what traumatic incident occurred to leave her with it, thinking maybe it’s from the car accident she was in with Ashlyn. Heather had mentioned an accident the night they met, also saying Tobin only spoke that other language (Coptic) when she was drunk or high. Tobin hasn’t mentioned it to her yet, so she’s unsure why she doesn’t want to talk about it. She feels it’s most likely because it had to be pretty traumatic.

She thinks they’ve built up enough trust between them that Tobin might be comfortable to talk to her about an obviously difficult topic. Perhaps she’ll probe Tobin’s mood after their nap and if Tobin seems agreeable, she’ll bring it up. She’s so curious, there has got to be some answers to her questions.

After they get up, Tobin and Christen each chicken out from trying to seek any answers, deciding it’s too soon for such a deep discussion, soulmates or not. Tobin states she thinks she’s going to go home, claiming she’s pretty sore from the race and wants to go home and soak in her tub and get high to help with the muscle tightness and pain. When she shares her plan with Christen, the woman has other ideas.

“Why don’t you stay here?” she questions, giving her sly look, “I’ve got some edibles, I might even have something to smoke, you can take a nice hot bath, I’ve got a jacuzzi tub and then I’d be happy to give you a massage. You could stay for dinner and be fine to drive home and it wouldn’t be too late.”

Tobin gulps at the offer. Christen is offering a massage? Holy shit, she thinks, hell yeah, I want her hands on me. I’ve got to be cool, though. She lightly coughs into her arm, “S-s-s-sure,” she stutters, rolling her eyes at herself. She nods, “That would cool,” she agrees, “I’d really appreciate it. We could order out dinner, my treat.”

Christen smiles eagerly at her, “Perfect,” she says, her white teeth showing, “let me go get my stash. You can pick out what you want.”

 

XXXX

 

September 12th

It’s Tuesday and Tobin is running just a little behind, traffic was awful and she knows she’s late and trying to find parking is a bitch. She runs across the campus, faster than a jog but slower than a sprint, locating the building and entering it with the jerk of the door and smoothing her hair with hand. She’s just come from work with no time to stop for dinner, eating a granola bar as she drove, cursing the cars in front of her.

She hurriedly shoves her phone at the worker, displaying her e-ticket and watches as the woman scans it and she’s moving before the woman can tell her to enjoy. She enters the theater quietly having heard voices speaking when she neared the door and she doesn’t want to be a distraction. She finds a seat in the back, luckily on the end of the aisle, thankful to not have to excuse herself in front of a bunch of people to get to an interior seat. She sits straight up, leaning to left to see if there are any vacant seats closer up but the only ones she sees are in the front row and she’s definitely not going to walk up there and sit down. She slouches back in her seat, now paying attention to the voice that is speaking.

“- to tell the story of Hatshepsut. Let’s give a warm welcome to Dr. Christen Press, Archeologist, Author and Stanford’s main expedition leader.” A round of applause fills the theater and Tobin lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding when she realizes she hasn’t missed Christen speaking tonight. She readily agreed to come to tonight’s lecture, wanting to support Christen and hear firsthand about the work she’s been doing. Her own interest in Egyptian culture made it a very easy decision. Not getting out of work on time and the unexpected traffic issues have made her miss the first twenty minutes.

She watches as Christen strolls gracefully to the lectern on the left side of the stage, perfectly in view for her. She’s wearing a flowing simple black dress, understated and professional, not too revealing yet making her look amazing. Her hair is long and curly and Tobin’s finds it extremely attractive. She leans in her seat when she sees the necklace she’s wearing. It has small colorful beads connecting to a golden ankh pendant that lies flat against her smooth skin. Tobin looks up at the large screen on the left side of the stage to get a better look at it, seeing the closer image of Christen and it makes her inhale sharply.

That necklace.

There’s something about it.

Tobin blinks rapidly a few times as she tries to conjure up the feeling she’s experiencing but nothing comes. She knows something about that necklace though. She just can’t put the pieces together. She sits back further in her seat and tries to focus and listen to what Christen is talking about.

“Thank you all for attending our second update on the Luxor Expedition to KV20 and KV60. Tonight, I’m excited to give you an overview of our progress in our preservation efforts and identification of the artifacts we’ve been lucky enough to bring to Stanford. As an added bonus, we’ll take a look at some images of the other artifacts from our expedition that are being worked on over at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo under the direction of Dr. Ari Sweiss who accompanied us.” Christen takes a few long, confident strides towards the large projection screen hung from the ceiling over the stage. Tobin realizes Christen is wearing a headset as she speaks, moving her hands as she speaks about each slide.

At first, Tobin thought the items she was looking at on the screen looked familiar because she’d seen similar ones in the books she’s read. But when the slide turns to show a comb that is marked with Hatshepsut’s cartouche, Tobin breaks out in a cold sweat. She swears she’s handled that comb before. She can’t shake the feeling. When Christen states this item was recovered from the tomb of Sitre In in KC60, Tobin begins to tremble.

When the hour and a half presentation is concluded, Tobin joins the others to stand and applaud. She’s shaky and a little sweaty and feeling slightly nauseous. The symptoms increased with every slide and Tobin is feeling like she’s going a little crazy right now. But she’s brimming with pride for Christen who ended the presentation with an educational and humorous question and answer time. She figures she has a couple of minutes before approaching Chris who would undoubtedly be approached by many of the people in the crowd, so she darts out to get some fresh air.

There is one thing she feels certain about tonight and that is she used some of the items Christen spoke about.

“Babe?” Christen asks with concern when she sees her standing against the interior wall of the theater a few minutes later. “Are you okay, honey?” The theater has thinned out, a few others are speaking with the woman who had spoken first.

Tobin just shakes her head, not trusting her voice at the amount. She pushes off the wall and offers her hand to lead her out to the hall. It’s not until they’re outside that Christen stops walking, tugging on Tobin’s hand.

“Babe,” she says worriedly, “talk to me. Are you okay? Did something happen?” she’s looking at her carefully.

“No, I’m not okay,” Tobin say shakily, dropping Christen’s hand and hugging herself, “something super weird happened to me,” she says unevenly.

“Did it happen here or at work or on your way here?”

“It was during your presentation, Chris,” Tobin answers, growing agitated, “and it’s going to sound crazy and you’ll probably think I’m some sort of lunatic but it was like I knew the stuff you were showing. Like I used those items. The comb? I could swear I brushed my hair with it. The jar with the cream, the tools from that nurse, Sitter In.”

“Sitre In,” Christen corrects quietly, realizing the impact this is having on Tobin. She has to tell her what is going on, she’s never seen the easy going woman so frantic.

“Yeah, that nurse,” Tobin says, starting to pace, “it’s like this enormous sense of déjà vu,” she says “but I feel it, like I was totally there.” She’s breathing heavily and looks at her and steps closer to place two fingers on the ankh pendant, “This necklace, Chris,” she whispers, panic appearing on her face, “I feel like I wore it.” She says unevenly, her chin quivering, “I feel like I’m going crazy.”

Christen steps close and pulls her in her arms, squeezing her tight, feeling how Tobin’s chest hitches as she struggles not to cry. “You’re not going crazy,” she assures her tenderly, “having déjà vu is normal.”

“It’s so real, I feel it so deeply,” Tobin sniffles, “like, I know someone I loved gave me that necklace,” she says quickly, her words rushed and full of emotion, “it’s messing with my head,”

Christen can feel how Tobin is trembling as she holds her and she slowly feels guilt wash over her. She had thought about telling Tobin about seeing her in Egypt but she was unsure of how she would respond. They’ve talked about many topics but soulbonds hasn’t been one of them. She knows they’re soulmates, but she didn’t want Tobin to think she had gone crazy out in the desert talking to ghosts. She truly didn’t believe this lecture would trigger her like this and she feels awful for how Tobin is feeling right now.

She slowly slips from Tobin’s grasp, angling her arm around her shoulder, “Why don’t you come to my place,” she offers, “we can talk more about this, okay?”

Tobin nods her head rapidly, unable to speak at the moment.

“Where did you park? I’ll leave my car here,” Christen says, allowing Tobin to lead her to her vehicle.

Christen drives since Tobin is in no shape to get behind the wheel. It’s silent in the car, Tobin trying to calm herself down by doing some deep breathing and holding tightly onto Christen’s hand. Just as they turn onto Christen’s street, she speaks.

“I’m sorry for freaking out,” she says quietly, “this hasn’t ever happened before,”

“It’s okay,” Christen assures her, “I have an idea why this triggered you so much,”

Tobin looks at her curiously but says nothing. But now she feels certain that Christen definitely knows more than she’s shared with her.

Kahlessi and Morena provide Tobin with a happy distraction while Christen changes out of her dress and into comfortable clothes. When she exits her bedroom, she finds Tobin in the yard with the animals, throwing a ball for them to retrieve under the lights from the patio.

She studies Tobin as she plays with the dogs, admiring the way her khaki pants fit her perfectly, how her work polo shirt rides up just a little to expose her abs when she throws a ball. Christen feels a twinge of desire surface, thinking back to when she gave Tobin a massage this past weekend. How her hands felt the muscles under her smooth and soft skin. The soft moans Tobin made when Christen’s hands worked out a particularly hard knot. Those same soft moans that echoed in her head on the nights since while she laid in bed alone, her fingers bringing herself to the brink and the memory of Tobin’s low throaty moan sending her over the edge.

She shakes her head to clear her thoughts, knowing this isn’t the time for seducing her soulmate. She’s hoping this conversation goes well, that Tobin has an open mind. The idea of reincarnation isn’t something discussed every day. She doesn’t even know if Tobin is aware of the soulbond phenomenon.

Tobin turns and looks at her, offering her a soft smile. Her smile it doesn’t meet her eyes, her brown orbs cloudy with emotion. She walks across the grass to her, coming close to embrace her. As Christen holds her, she feels how Tobin’s body relaxes against, using her arms to hold her weight when Tobin leans into her. She strokes Tobin’s back, smiling to herself when she hears a sigh the woman utters against her neck.

“Do you want to change into something else before we talk?” Christen asks her quietly.

“I’m good with this,” Tobin replies, pulling back to look at her, “do you want to talk now?”

Christen nods and takes her hand and leads her inside to the couch in the living room. Once settled on the couch next to each other, holding hands, Christen begins.

“What I have to say is pretty farfetched if you haven’t heard of soulbonds before,” she says, looking at Tobin for her reaction. She looks open and is nodding at her and giving her an encouraging smile.

“Tobin," she says looks her in the eyes, "what you’re feeling is real,” she states seriously, “you are Sitre In.”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

September 15th

“Chris?” Sydney asks, lingering at the entrance of her office.

Christen looks up from her computer, she’s been typing in her notes about the preservation process on the ointment jar she’s been working on. They found it with the lid still on and Becky carefully removed the substance that remained inside. She’s been doing testing on it to determine the contents and is waiting for the lab reports to return. Christen has been cleaning the lid, uncovering the carved inscription.

“What’s up?” she asks, removing her glasses and looking up at her.

“Have a minute?” Syd asks.

“Yeah, I can take a break,” Christen nods, leaning back in her seat.

Syd enters the office and eases into the leather seat across from her. “I wanted to check in and ask how’s it going with Tobin? Have you two talked?”

Christen nods. She shared with her on Wednesday about Tobin and what had occurred at the theater and her concern for her after she shared her side of the story of meeting her in Egypt and her being Sitre In. After Tobin had recovered from her shock of Christen telling her she was Sitre In, she listened attentively as Christen came clean, telling her everything, how she went through the Underground to the Field of Reeds and including how she gave her the necklace. She showed her the drawings she had made in her sketchbook, explaining to her how she learned to use a pencil while they spent the weekend together. When she told Tobin that she was sent by the Gods, Tobin’s face had remained unreadable, she just sat there listening impassively and without question.

Christen couldn’t get a read on her and Tobin offered no opinion of her thoughts.

“This is a lot to take in, Chris,” Tobin had said quietly, looking at her thoughtfully. “I think I need some time to digest it all,” she looks up quickly at her, “and it’s not because I don’t believe you or anything,” she reassures her. “It’s just,” she hugs herself and gives her a tight smile, “there’s a lot of stuff I need to reconcile after learning all of this.”
Christen had nodded and offered her two books to take home, one about Hatshepsut and the other about Egyptian’s beliefs about the Afterlife. Tobin gave her a hug and a kiss and said she would read them and they could talk later.

They’ve spoken each day since, mainly checking in on their day and keeping things light. It makes Christen worry because Tobin hasn’t mentioned anything about it and she’s nervous to bring it up. Last night Christen accepted Tobin’s invitation to come to her house for lunch and to talk and her stomach has been jumpy ever since.

“I’m going over to her place tomorrow for lunch and then we’re going to talk,” Christen informs her best friend.

“It’s going to be fine, CP,” Syd assures her, “you guys are soulmates, I’m sure she just needs time to wrap her head around everything,”

Christen nods, feeling deep down things would work out, but there’s that sliver of doubt that keeps nagging at her. “I just hope this isn’t making her suffer,” she says quietly, “bringing up memories and stuff.”

Sydney nods understandingly, “Yeah, it might take a while,” she states.

“Ali said Tobin cancelled training with Ash yesterday and she wasn’t at work today,” Christen frets, “I hope she’s not overwhelmed with this or doing something destructive,”

“Ali has told me how responsible Tobin is,” Syd assures her, “she’s probably just really having to think about things and read up on soulbonds and how you two are connected.”
Christen sighs, “I just want tomorrow to be here,”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

September 16th

 

Help Christen understand

Christen takes one final look at her arm, Tobin’s words calming her and reassuring her they would be fine. She’s ready to face whatever questions Tobin has and she’s pleased they truly talk about their past. She’s curious what Tobin has to say, does she remember? “Come on girls,” she commands and the two pups follow her up the driveway. Once again, Christen pauses to take in Tobin’s home, getting a better look at it in the daylight. It’s on the beach, like, exit the back door to the sand and the ocean on the beach. The house itself is modest, it’s a three bedroom, two bath ranch with cedar shingle siding with six stairs leading up to the front full across front porch, the house sits on higher ground. Small shrubs and natural long blade grasses tastefully landscape the property in a low maintenance way. There’s no grass, just sand and a few piles of interesting rocks and driftwood to give focal points along a path that leads towards the back of the house.

Tobin had insisted it was fine to bring the dogs, telling Christen they would enjoy hanging on the beach and playing in the water. Christen agreed and was reassured by her enthusiasm for having the dogs accompany her. Maybe this talk wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Tobin is grinning at her while leaning out the open screened front door, squatting to greet the dogs when they rush up the stairs to her. They’ve taken a liking to her already and Christen finds it sweet. What she found surprising was how they listened to Tobin as closely as did they to her. It’s the first time that has ever happened. The dogs don’t even listen to her parents or sisters nearly as well as they mind Tobin. Christen looks at Tobin’s extend arm while she pets the dogs, making out her soulmark for the day.

Help Tobin find her answers

Christen finds it interesting that their marks are now written in English and since they aren’t hieroglyphs, they are much smaller on the inside of their forearms.

Tobin straightens up and smiles at her when Christen stands before her. She moves close and wraps her arms around her and gives her a sweet kiss. “I’ve missed holding you,” she murmurs against her neck and squeezing her close before letting her go.

“I’ve missed being held by you,” Christen replies, giving her small smile, “are you okay?” she asks with concern.

Tobin nods, “Yeah, I think so,” giving her a small nod.

“Are we okay?” Christen asks, feeling a sudden rush of anxiety overtaking her. She feels the tears in her eyes. This need to know where they stand before she walks in Tobin’s house is strong. She needs to prepare herself if the answer isn’t certain.

Tobin’s eyes widen at Christen’s reaction and moves in again to hold her, “Of course we are,” she says as she slowly sways back and forth, “I have some questions but I know we can work it out,”

“I’m so sorry to have upset you,” Christen rushes out, “I didn’t know how to bring it up and I didn’t know you were feeling so connected to the items,”

“It’s okay,” Tobin assures her patiently, “it’s okay,” she hushes, kissing the side of Christen’s hair. “It wasn't you, it was seeing those artifacts. There’s some things you need to know and I think I have an idea that might help us figure this out,”

Christen nods against Tobin’s shoulder, “Okay,” she says feeling small.

“Chris,” Tobin says tenderly, “come on, let’s just focus on finding answers, okay? Don’t worry about it,”

She doesn’t know how Tobin can be so understanding and forgiving, but she goes with it. “Okay,” she says, stepping back and nodding as she wipes her eyes.

“Come on,” Tobin puts her arm around her shoulder and with her free hand lifts the straps of the bag Christen is carrying and takes it from her. “Let’s go see what type of trouble the puppies are getting into,” she chuckles. They find the dogs at the sliding glass patio door in Tobin’s family room, looking out at the beach and water, tails wagging.

“Are you hungry?” Tobin asks, “I thought I’d grill some fish, I got a nice piece of sea bass and fresh veggies,”

“Sounds good,” Christen agrees, feeling much better now, “what can I do to help?”

“I have all the stuff to make Sangria if you’d like to have some,” Tobin shrugs, “I didn’t know if you wanted to drink today.”

“I think I’d rather be sober,” Christen admits, “but I can make a juice spritzer without the alcohol if you want,”

“Sounds good,” Tobin grins at her, “the cutting board is in that bottom cabinet and the knifes are in the rack.”

After washing their hands, the two work in the kitchen together, Tobin asking if she’s okay with the seasonings she wants to use on the fish and Christen asking her if the fruits she’s selected would taste okay to Tobin. They’re both a little shy with each other, comfortable yet both a little tentative.

Tobin leans against the counter, looking over at Christen. She can feel eyes on her and looks up from the counter. “I’m sorry,” Tobin says genuinely, “I know I kind of freaked out and then shut you out a bit these past few days,”

Christen sets down the knife and mimics Tobin and leans against the counter to face her. “I think I understand,” she acknowledges, “you had a lot on you mind and I’m sure there were things you weren’t ready to talk to me about,” she waves her hands in the air between them, “with all of this going on,”

Tobin inhales deeply, letting the air escape her lungs slowly, “Yeah,” she agrees, “it’s been pretty wild,” she states, looking sad, “but I never should have locked you out. You’re my partner, my soulmate and I’m sorry I didn’t come to you or at least been in touch more,” she says remorsefully.

“I was giving you space,” Christen clarifies, “if I had really felt you needed to talk to me, you can be sure I would have been calling or camped outside on your porch.” She offers her a small smile, “Like you said earlier, I know we’re going to be okay and we just need to work through this together.”

“Okay,” Tobin breathes, accepting the hug Christen gives her. “To tell you the truth, I’ve mostly been reading the books you lent me,” she says, “I took off a couple of days to get through them. They’re fascinating.” She frowns, “Then I got a migraine yesterday and that sucked, but I feel okay today,”

“Oh honey,” Christen says tenderly, “are you sure you feel okay?” She doesn’t know anyone who suffers from migraines and isn’t sure what the lasting effects are. “You didn’t need to read them so quickly,” she frowns.

“Uh, yeah I did,” Tobin says, squeezing her tight, “it’s been really bothering me and I wanted to learn about soulbonds and I really didn’t understand all of the details about the afterlife beliefs of the Egyptians,” she states, “plus, Hatshepsut was a badass!” she chuckles.

“But you missed work,”

“I have plenty of sick days and vacation time,” she dismisses it easily, “they were cool about it,” She gives Christen a kiss and as she moves her head back, she feels Christen’s hand on the back of her neck, kissing her again, deeply with need. Tobin reciprocates and she opens her mouth as Christen probes her lips with her tongue, feeling that shock like jolt when their tongues explore each other. Her hand moves to grip Christen’s hip, feeling Christen plant her hands on her ass and push them closer.

She moans into Christen’s mouth when she feels Christen position her leg in between hers, turning them so Tobin is up against the counter. The friction she feels is turning her on so much. She lets her free hand glide up Christen’s side, then moves in to softly cup her breast in her palm. She smirks while kissing when Christen moans rather deeply in her mouth when she flicks her nipple with her thumb. They break for air, both breathing heavily and pull back to look into one another’s eyes.

Tobin is losing herself looking into Christen’s intoxicating eyes, trying to decide if they’re more grey or green when she hears a loud rumble coming from Christen’s belly. She chuckles at Christen’s mortified expression.

“Guess I should get the fire lit to feed you,” she smiles at her, aware of the underlying meaning.

Christen rolls her eyes at her and shakes her head, “I didn’t eat breakfast,” she shares, “I was kind of nervous.”

“I understand,” Tobin says kindly, “give me one more kiss and we’ll get started.” Christen smiles and gives her a quick peck on the lips and they hug once more. They return to their work stations and Tobin turns to her, “Will the puppies be okay outside? I don’t have a fence, will they stay by us?”

Christen nods, “Yes, they’re good girls, they don’t wander,”

Tobin grins, “Good girls,” she says happily, “cool, they can hang with us,”

Christen smiles and finishes cutting the carrots and puts them in the serving dish.

“I’m going to start the fire,” Tobin informs her as she slides the tray of fish in the refrigerator, “I’ll let this marinate a little more.”

“What else can I do?” Christen offers.

Tobin nods towards the counter, “There’s plates and stuff, if you want to bring those out and then the drinks? I’ve got everything else covered.”

“Perfect,” she says.

Entering Tobin’s patio for the first time, Christen feels the stone pavers under her bare feet and she looks to the left to see Tobin stoking an open fire within a stone rectangle brick box that is waist high. Surrounding her on two sides is a stone wall acting as a windbreak for the fire and the firepit in the center of the large area. Next to the cooking area is along cement counter and beside that is a cooler on a metal stand. On the far wall is what looks like a pizza oven with the large hole and space underneath that holds cut wood. It’s a cozy area, shaded by the large tree on the side of the house. To her right is a larger patio area with a table and chairs and two lounge chairs fully extended. Behind it against the house is an outdoor sofa. Steps lead down to the sand and when she walks to the edge she sees some grasses planted along the perimeter of the patio.

She moves to the counter and sets the tray down. “You cook over fire?” she questions when she sees the grill grate leaning against the wall.

Tobin smiles and nods, “Yeah, I like it better, it reminds me of camping and cooking over the firepit.”

“That’s so neat,” Christen steps closer, watching as Tobin adds a couple of pieces of thicker wood, carefully feeding the small flames.

“Yeah,” Tobin smiles enthusiastically at her, “do you like to camp?”

Christen nods, “Yes,” she chuckles, “I love it, it’s part of my job,”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” Tobin says, “you have to had some wild times,” She gestures her to follow her to the table and sit down. She looks over and checks on the dogs, both are lying on the patio looking out at the sand and waves.

“We’ve got a little time,” Tobin declares, pouring a glass of the juice Christen made and offering it to her before pouring one for herself, “tell me one of the funniest things you’ve ever had happen when you were camping,”

Christen smiles, thinking that usually when people ask her about her trips, they ask about the danger or the excitement, not what was funny. Leave it to Tobin to keep it lighthearted. “Okay,” she agrees, “this one time, our group was in Virginia, looking for the remains of the Jamestown Settlement…”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Lunch is over, dishes are washed and they two took the dogs for a short walk along the beach, walking barefoot in the wet sand and tossing driftwood to Morena and Khaleesi to fetch. They’re settled on the outdoor couch, sitting close together, shaded partially by the overhang of the house.

“So,” Tobin begins, “I’ve read both books you gave me and I understand how the Egyptians viewed their Afterlife. I think you should know some of things I haven’t shared with you to give you the larger picture of me and some things that might help you see how this all fits together.”

“So,” Tobin begins, leaning forward resting her elbows on her knees with her fingers interlocked as she stares at the stone flooring, “I was pretty carefree growing up,” she states, “my family is pretty well off and I never wanted for much. My friends, pretty much everyone in my high school, were all in similar situations. There wasn’t much poverty in our area, if there was, they hid it pretty well. Drug use was pretty recreational and I stayed away from it. At the time, I was shooting for a scholarship to play soccer and didn’t want any black marks on my record, you know? So, it was while I was in college, I met people from different walks of life, different social and economic levels, things like that, I learned not everyone was as privileged as I was and while I like, never held it over people, I realized that just by the clothes I wore, the car I drove and the vacations I talked about really spoke about me more than I ever thought.” She licks her lips and nods her head, as if she’s planning what she wants to say.

“And like I said, I was pretty carefree, my soulmark didn’t really mean much, I was having too much fun and felt too young to want to settle down. I always just thought I’d let it happen and not seek it out, you know? But my new friends, they all came from different places and they all had different goals and some were super eager to meet their soulmate. I knew I wasn’t mature enough for that kind of relationship and I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was out of school. I basically thought I’d shoot for playing for the National Team, maybe go play soccer overseas for a few years and then see what happens. But a lot of my friends, they, like, had goals. Social justice. Improve poverty. Go into politics. Become a doctor to heal sick people. Become a therapist to help people.”

She looks over at Christen, her expression embarrassed, “I kinda felt selfish but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

“Tobin,” Christen chastises her, “you were young, the fact that being around new people raised your level of awareness is pretty impressive,” she wants to assure her, “That doesn’t happen with a lot of people.”

Tobin gives her a half shrug, looking unconvinced, “I hear you,” she says, “but I felt kind of like the stereotypical jock, taking easy classes and playing sports and going to parties. But anyway, my sophomore I started dating this girl. Alex. Alex Morgan. She was beautiful and ambitious; she was a political science major and she wanted to change the world. She wanted equal rights for women and minorities, she wanted to change the healthcare system and reform the prison system. She was super smart, super gorgeous and she used to tease me that sex sells in politics and it would help her get what she wants for others.” She gives her a half smile and it doesn’t meet her eyes and her shoulders droop, “We were together for two years and I thought this was as close to love I could get without meeting my soulmate. We were so opposite but it worked, she hounded me to study and apply myself, she encouraged me to think about politics and my future and widen my world view. I hounded her to have fun and not be so serious all the time, encouraged her that she could change the world and make a positive impact on people’s lives.”

“She sounds pretty special,” Christen says, almost choking on the words, but having the feeling that this story isn’t going to end well for Alex. Her gut feeling is strong on this.

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, “she was,” she says and sighs. She scoots over closer to Christen, placing her hand on Christen’s leg, just above the knee. It’s not a sexual move, rather a need for contact and comfort and it makes Christen slide her leg closer so they were touching.

“We were in a terrible car accident the beginning of our senior year,” Tobin states quietly. “Alex was driving and it was raining,” she says, her voice becoming uneven. “A truck swerved into our lane and hit us head on. Ash was in the front, I was in back because my knee was in a brace and I had stretched out across the backseat. Alex…” she stops and licks her lips and lets out a deep sigh, “Alex died instantly, they said the engine crushed her legs and the steering wheel crushed her chest. Um, her..uh, seat pushed back and trapped my leg. Ash’s seat pushed back too and caught my other leg and foot, her head was practically in my lap. A metal rod was stuck in my neck, it came off from the truck I guess.”

“Tobin!” Christen exclaims, moving closer and taking a hold of her hand and squeezing it. “You don’t have to tell me this if it’s too much, sweetheart,”

Tobin gives her a sickly smile, her face much paler than before, “I do, though,” she says, “it’s important so you know why I am the way I am,” she says, “I think me telling you this will fill in the missing pieces you know.”

Christen nods slowly, getting the strong feeling she’s right.

“So, I was screaming, scared to death and then I could see Alex, her head was facing me and her eyes were open. She was just staring at me, just…lifeless. I knew she was dead, I could feel it. Ash is screaming and panicking that her back and her neck hurt and she couldn’t feel her legs.” Tobin wipes at her eyes and then shifts, positioning herself on the couch diagonally, one shoulder against the back cushion and her arms extended, mimicking holding something. “I knew enough to hold Ash’s head straight and keep her still because of a neck injury and ‘cause I knew she would lose it if she saw Alex that way.” She swallows roughly, dropping her hands and clearing her throat and then taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly.

“It seemed like it took them forever to get me and Ash out. It was scary and I was terrified and just like, stayed frozen. People were shouting for me not to move because of the rod in my neck and all I could do was look at Alex while I held Ash’s head. I was starting to blackout when they got me out of the car and once I hit the Emergency Room, things got super blurry.” She massages her forehead for a moment and glances at Christen who is leaning forward looking at her earnestly.

“I woke up, like a week later,” Tobin states, her voice low and gravelly, “I had suffered a stroke from a blood clot in my neck and I couldn’t walk. I…I could only talk in what I know now is Coptic and people just thought I was out of mind and babbling because they couldn’t understand me. But, like, I knew in my head what I was saying…it was so frustrating. I couldn’t move my right arm, actually my whole right side was numb and wouldn’t do anything.”

“Honey…” Christen sniffles as she thinks of how terrifying this must have been for her.

Tobin gives her a sickly smile, “Yeah, well, obviously I’m okay now and my speech came back pretty quick though it took a few months before I was walking normally and could grip things and talk without a slur. The slur comes back sometimes when I’m super tired but that’s about the only lasting effects of my injuries beside migraines, but I only get them every once in a while.” She looks down at her hands again, moving her left one and covering Christen’s that is on her thigh. “Ash wasn’t so lucky,” she says mournfully, “she was, is, paralyzed from the waist down,” she licks her lips again, “They said she would have been dead or a quadriplegic if I hadn’t held her head in place. Her spinal cord was nearly severed and one move might have killed her.” She swallows dryly and clears her throat, “We went to the same rehab place, roomed together and stuff and pushed each other as hard as we could. It was evident real fast that Ash wasn’t going to be able to walk again and that’s when she was at her lowest.”

“I was released from there way before Ash was and I still had my apartment on campus. My parents wanted me to come home, but I wanted to stay and be able to visit Ash. She was my best friend and her family couldn’t afford to move her closer to their home in Florida or visit for a long time. Plus, I didn’t want to be smothered. Everyone was super concerned, but I had lost Alex, lost my will passion for soccer and had this new thing to think about.” She looks over at Christen and extends her left arm, “When I woke up after my stroke, my soulmark had changed. It was those hieroglyphs, and I couldn’t figure them out.”

“Oh, wow,” Christen’s eyes widen, thinking now she might understand how Tobin found her.

“I was a mess for months and having these super vivid dreams. About Egypt. Like, living there in ancient times. It happens now only when I get high or drunk and then go to sleep buzzed. It’s so real, like, I pick up right from the last dream and it’s this like, never ending story of my life back then or something. I lived there and did things and had a relationship with this beautiful and powerful woman. I know now that woman was you.”

Christen swallows, feeling a lump in her throat.

“That time was crazy, I lost my scholarship for soccer because I didn’t want to play anymore and I had to figure out if I wanted to take classes and try to graduate. Ashlyn was in a deep depression and I went there every day, helping her do more rehab sessions after the staff left for the day. I knew what to do, since I had to do it too and the exercises I didn’t know, Ash taught me. I found out that I liked it. I felt something deeply rewarding every time Ash made it to another weight level, had more endurance. Met her goals.”
“I changed my major senior year, knowing I wouldn’t graduate in time. When I told my folks I wanted to be a physical therapist, they were shocked, to say the least. I was not a very academic student. They knew I was serious, so they made a deal. If I could keep a B average, they’d pay for whatever schooling I wanted to pursue.”

“Wow,” is all Christen can comment. She’s fascinated by Tobin’s story.

Tobin gives her a small grin, nodding at her. Her color is slowly returning and she appears calmer than before. “My family and friends were super concerned about me because I had changed,” she says, offering Christen a small shrug, “like, I wasn’t up to party much anymore and I really got focused on doing something with my life. I guess I was different, like, I wasn’t so go with the flow and whatever happens it would be fine. I had goals and studied and I reconnected with my faith, and like, I actually starting having deep conversations with my sisters and friends about life and stuff and that wasn’t something I ever did before the crash.”

“So, anyway,” Tobin gives Christen a small smile, “my parents were on board with me going to school, but they came and visited a lot more to check in on me.”

“If that happened to my kid I would too,” Christen interrupts, feeling slightly overwhelmed by Tobin’s story.

Tobin chuckles lightly, “Well, the school thing stuck,” she says, “I have a Master’s in Physical Therapy and my specialty is Neurology and Sport. The clinic I’m at specializes in spinal injuries, especially those patients who are athletes.”

Christen nods, getting a better understanding of what Tobin does. She knew she was a physical therapist but not her specialty. No wonder she was so adept at maneuvering in a wheelchair.

“Ash and I lived together, we moved into an accessible house and she finished her sports marketing degree while I was doing my stuff. Ali came into the picture and Ash really
blossomed and was almost back to her old self. Neither of us were really the same after the accident though.”

Christen swivels to face her and curls her legs under, scooting closer and taking Tobin’s hand again, “How so for you?” she questions caringly.

Tobin moves on the couch as well, her knee up against Christen’s and she’s leaning against the back of the couch, “Well, I um, finally found a purpose, you know? Like, soccer was just this thing I was good at, but I really felt something when I was working with the different therapists, like, they made a huge impact in my life, you know? They impacted me deeply and I wanted to do that for others. Yeah, Ash might have been part of the reason at first, but then as my classes progressed, I knew this was what I supposed to be doing,”
Christen hums, glad Tobin has found her passion.

“And the other thing,” Tobin offers, “is how easy it came to me,” she shakes her head, “like, I never really struggled with anatomy or physiology and I made Dean’s List every semester.” She looks at Christen, her eyebrows high and a big smile on her face, “I was not like that before, school was not my gig at all. I went to class and studied so I could play soccer. I used to play video games all the time, I was always looking for a good time. Now, I like to read and learn things all the time. I like to hang with my friends, just talking about whatever, like, I don’t want or need to get wasted to have fun.”

“That’s really interesting,” Christen nods at her, “I’ve heard of this happening to people after serious trauma,”

Tobin is nodding her head rapidly, “Yeah, I read about it,” she says quickly, “it’s so wild.” She thinks about it for a minute, “I think the reason my classes were so easy for me was that I already had that knowledge, you know? Like, from a past life.”

Christen nods thoughtfully, “Since Sitre In was a doctor, you think that’s why?”

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, “I mean, maybe in a different lifetime too as well,” she shrugs, “Maybe I’ve always been in the medical field, who knows what other pasts we’ve had together.”

Christen nods. “So, that all happened on the East Coast,” Christen notes, “how did the three of you get out here?”

“My Aunt Sharon passed away,” Tobin explains, “she was my Godmother and she willed me one of her houses. She was in real estate and had a lot of rental houses over the years. This was before Air B and Bs were popular. Anyway, I was still in school when that happened, so I rented it out for a few years and made a nice little nest egg before coming out here. That’s how I ended up here in Santa Cruz. Besides, there were too many memories back there for me and Ash and her and Ali had been talking about moving. They had gotten really serious and Ali had gotten her Masters and was looking to teach somewhere. It all fell into place. We researched the area and found a pretty big community of wheelchair athletes and that interested Ash. Ali found a job at San Fran State. I found a cool physical therapy place to work at and it just happened, like it was meant to be.”

“Hum,” Christen sighs, now thinking of Gods and the universe paving the way for these things to fall into place so they could be together. “Did you ever think about your soulmark?”

Tobin shakes her head, “After the crash I knew I wasn’t in the right headspace to pursue anything,” she states, “I was getting my life back together, still mourning Alex and trying to be there for Ash,” She says, “I researched hieroglyphics but never seriously looked deeper than that. I figured it would happen when it was supposed to happen.”

“Right place at the right time,” Christen murmurs, “What about you speaking Coptic? Like how does that happen? How do you feel when it’s happening?”

Tobin shifts down on the couch, resting her head on the back cushion and Christen thinks she looks adorable and childlike in this position. She rests her arm on the back cushion and rests her head against her hand and smiles softly at her as Tobin collects her thoughts.

“It just happens,” she shrugs, “like, it doesn’t happen a lot, because I don’t like, party really heavy much anymore. But I go to say something and it comes out. Usually when I’m pretty high or drunk. I remember pretty much everything unless I’m super drunk. If I’m high, I remember it all and that’s really weird. So, it doesn’t happen often lately, but man, did it freak out my family!” she chuckles, “It happened the second Christmas after the accident and we all had too much wine and I just was talking and talking and they looked at me like I had three heads. My Mom wanted to take me to the ER. She thought I was having another stroke. It stopped when I sobered up, but they were upset.”

“It’s funny and scary, huh,” Christen offers up.

“Yeah,” Tobin says, “like it freaked me out when I first talked to you because it hadn’t happened in a really long time.” she admits, “But that was mostly because I was really fucked up. I don’t know what Ash was sharing with us the night we met, but it was way more powerful than what I usually toke.”

Christen nods and they fall silent for a moment, both in thought.
“So, I had this idea,” Tobin says, “I want to get high and for you to show me the pictures on your laptop from the expedition and talk to me about them again. I think it might unlock something,” she proposes. “I just feel like you have the answers and hearing about it and seeing photos would kind of put everything in place, you know?”

Christen had suspected that’s why Tobin had requested her to bring her work laptop and she didn’t know for certain why, but now she understands.

“It’s just that since the accident,” Tobin explains, “I’ve had this feeling about Egypt, but it’s always been just slightly out of reach, you know? Like the déjà vu was one thing, but this was much deeper but it only came in flashes and I can’t figure it out,” she says, now holding both of Christen hands and deeply looking into her eyes, “since meeting you, I think I can finally break past it.”

Christen nods silently, now understanding what she wants to do.

Tobin wants to relive her past and she wants her to be her guide.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

September 16th continued

 

Christen is in the house, using an HDMI cord and attaching it from her computer to Tobin’s TV so the photos will display on the flat screen. She’s mentally reviewing how she wants to approach this, carefully thinking about how to gently introduce things to her soulmate without overwhelming her needlessly. She grabs her notebook and then a legal pad and joins Tobin on the deck.

She sits down and gives her a smile, “I just need a few minutes,” she says, setting the legal pad on her lap and opening her notebook on the sofa cushion.

“That’s cool,” Tobin say agreeably, slouched comfortably on the couch and looking out at the ocean. It sounds peaceful out here with the waves crashing on the shoreline and sun beginning to lower in the sky. She’s holding a lit joint with the smoke lazily circling upwards. It’s only about four o’clock and Christen feels they have plenty of time to get through all of the information.

Christen is nearly finished with her quick outline, feeling she now knows exactly how to present this to her. She glances over as Tobin takes a deep inhale and exhales, blowing smoke upwards. Christen catches the scent and looks over with surprise.

“That smells like baked cookies!” She exclaims, leaning over to smell the whiffs of smoke.

Tobin lazily lets her head roll over to look at her, giving her a bean shaped smile, “It’s called Lava Cake,” she explains slowly, “tastes like it too,” she drawls and offers it to her, “It’s a 70/30 indica mix so it won’t put you sleep or anything, just a nice relaxing buzz. You wanna chill out a little?”

Christen decides she could use a dose of relaxation to free herself from the anxiety that’s been building in her since morning and takes the joint, inhaling deeply and exhaling, licking her lips with a smile, “It really does taste sweet,”

Tobin nods, her eyes growing glassy and bloodshot and her pupils tiny. “It’s nice and smooth,” she comments, watching as Christen takes another hit and passes it back to her. “You ready to do this?” she asks.

“I am,” Christen replies, “just after I feed the dogs,”

“Oh, sure,” Tobin says casually as she extinguishes the joint, “I have a mat on the floor for them in the kitchen and there’s bowls under the sink,”

“Aw,” Christen gushes, feeling that warmth in her chest, “you’re so sweet,” she says and leans in and kisses. They linger kissing for a few minutes until Christen remembers what they should be doing and pulls herself away.

“I’ll see you in there,” Tobin says, admiring the view of Christen’s backside as she enters the house. She smirks to herself and slowly gets up, stretching her arms above her head, feeling nice and buzzed and relaxed and at peace with the world. She’s looking forward to hearing what Christen has to say and hopes she gets the answers she’s looking for. She’s actually embracing the idea of possibly living a previous life and hopes that learning more about it might settle that weird split personality feeling she gets when she experiences what she can only describe as flashbacks. Maybe if they talk about it, she can put it to rest and get some peace and move on. Hopefully, it won’t bother her as much anymore. She ambles into the house, pausing to pet Morena who comes up to her and licks her hand. She looks over and sees Christen on the couch, leaning forward to where her laptop sits on the coffee table, navigating the open screen. She notices there a few things scattered on the table but is thirsty and gets distracted.

“Would you like a water or something?” Tobin asks moving to the kitchen.

“Sure, thanks,” Christen replies without turning to look. When Tobin sits down next to her and she accepts the bottle, Christen looks at her carefully. “Are you ready to this?”

Tobin nods, “Hit me,” she says, taking a deep breath, “I’m ready.”

Christen nods solemnly and then giggles as she attempts to light the incense she brought. She keeps flicking the lighter, but her laughing is extinguishing the flame. She gets it on the fourth try and shakes her head and turns to Tobin, “I think I’m more high than I thought,” she chuckles, grabbing her laptop and flopping back on the couch.

“We can wait a bit,” Tobin offers casually, “we can just hang out if you want.” She takes a healthy swallow of the bourbon she poured for herself, thinking she needs just a little alcohol to put her in the right place for this to work.

Christen shakes her head, “No, we need to do this, honey,” she says seriously, “for you own mental health,”

“Aight,” Tobin nods, “how do you wanna start?”

“With this,” Christen says as she clicks on the first photo, “this is the display of Hatshepsut’s sarcophagus.”

Tobin looks at the photo intently, staring at the ancient wooden coffin. She listens silently as Christen explains the imagery on the outer shell depicting her rise to power. As the slides change and the items shown become more personal to Hatshepsut, Christen can feel the hairs on the back of her neck rising and goosebumps appearing on her arms. She sees Tobin growing restless beside her. When the TV shows the ivory comb, she hears Tobin gasp. She swivels suddenly to see Tobin is leaning forward on the couch, staring at the TV.

“What are you feeling?” Christen breaks the silence.

”I would brush her hair,” Tobin states softly, speaking in Coptic with ease, “on the days when she was ill.”

”How often was she ill?” Christen has recognized the comb and when Tobin had stated she would brush Hatshepsut’s hair, she had a visual flashback of the act. She feels as if each image shown on the screen is eliciting a deeper reaction from her.

”It progressed with her age. It was a steady decline.” Tobin answers, letting out a soft sigh. I read that the lotion she was using had poison in it and possibly accelerated her death,”

Christen is quiet and doesn’t know what to say expect for the truth. ”Yes, that is correct, she states softly, ”But there was no way you would have known that at the time, my love.” She looks over to see tears on Tobin’s face and places her hand on her thigh, giving her a reassuring squeeze, ”You did nothing wrong. There was not anything you could do to prevent her death.”

Tobin nods and wipes at her eyes, ”I understand,” she nods and sniffs, ”but I still feel a bit sad.”

”I am certain she knew you did everything you could to help her,” Christen states, not wanting Tobin to feel guilty for something that wasn’t her fault. She gives her a smile when Tobin nods and gives her a half smile.

Every time Tobin explains a photo, Christen continues to feel the emotions associated with it. She is feeling a deep familiarity with the items, just like Tobin had explained to her in a panic a few nights ago at her presentation in the theater. At first she thought it was because she’s handled many of the items or had seen similar ones in other tombs, but now she’s growing to think that there’s a much deeper reason she’s feeling like this. Something that only Tobin can unlock for her.

The feelings grow for Christen as she clicks on the photos, the remnants of a board game, the mental flashes of playing it with Tobin and laughing when she won. The images shift and move to photos of KV60 where the sarcophagus of Sitre In rested. Tobin looks grieved to see it, frowning at the image.

”It was strange,” Tobin states, her tone unaffected, “when I plunged the knife in my neck, I felt nothing. There was no pain. I knew in my heart I was doing this because I loved her. I wanted her to make it to the Field of Reeds. I knew she would need my help.” she lets out a bitter laugh, “And when I got to the Underground, she was nowhere to be found. I asked everyone I encountered as to where she could be and nobody could give me answer. Yet, I travelled on, pushing my way through the hoards of people, searching in every building, climbing every hill in an attempt to find her. I walked on the scorching sand from the banks of the Nile to highest point of the mountains in vain. In my darkest hour I felt led to follow the brightest star in the east and when the sun arose, I was at the entrance of the Field of Reeds.” She gives her a wistful smile, ”I should have known she needed to choose Thutmose the Second, it was the proper choice for her. Her royal blood demanded it. There would have been much discord if she chose me.”

”I am sorry you had to experience this. I wish it were different.” Christen states heartfully, feeling a surge of emotions running through her. She’s shocked that she’s feeling some sort of regret even though there is nothing she can do about it now. A thought enters her mind.

”Let us try something,” Christen suggests, ”I am going to show you another image. You tell me what it is.”

Tobin nods at her, ”Sure,”

Slide after slide, Tobin correctly answers each other items found in Hatshepsut’s newly discovered chamber within her tomb. Christen mixed in a few images from KV60 as well which Tobin identified properly from the cache of Sitre In’s possessions. She even mixed in items that didn’t come from those tombs, pulling up intentionally incorrect ones and Tobin would identify the object for what it is, yet express it didn’t belong to anyone she knew. It was uncanny.

As they progress through the images, it dawns on Christen why Tobin is doing this.

After another hour of looking at images, Christen pauses and looks at Tobin. ”Did the Gods tell you to help me find the chamber and tell Hatshepsut’s story because I am Hatshepsut?”

Tobin bites her lower lip and drops her eyes. ”Yes.” she states quietly, unable to look at her due to the uncertainty she’s suddenly feeling.

Christen slides the laptop off her legs and sets the device on the coffee table. She scoots closer to Tobin and swivels to face her. Tobin smiles and offers her hand to her and Christen grips it tightly. Slowly Christen reaches for the sketchbook and hands it to Tobin. “Will you explain your drawings to me?” she asks quietly.

Tobin silently nods and uses a hand to turn the pages of the book on her lap. ”This was my family home,” She flips the page, ”Those are my eyes,” Christen states and Tobin nods and flips another page. ”And that’s me in my tent,” she states looking at the picture of her on her bed. Tobin nods again and turns to the last page.

“That is me,” Christen comments, once again caught up in how incredibly lifelike the drawing is of the female in royal clothing.

“That is Hatshepsut,” Tobin corrects, looking at her again and suddenly it hits Christen full force. It comes in a series of flashbacks, moving in the speed of light, images of her as a royal child, her schooling with Tobin, their growing friendship that turned to love, being conflicted to marry Thutmose but knowing it was what she must do. Her entire life as a Queen and then King came flooding back to her.

“That is me?” Christen needs confirmation and smiles when Tobin nods. They stare at each other, both smiling dopily and begin to laugh. Christen suddenly flips the sketchbook shut and lightly tosses it on the coffee table, quickly moving into Tobin’s space and wrapping her arms around her.

”You found me!” she sings out, laughing. When she doesn’t hear Tobin say anything, she looks closely at her, seeing how her eyes are smoldering and she’s biting her lower lip as she stares at her. Christen presses forward and kisses her hard.

She immediately feels Tobin’s hands pulling her closer, helping her straddle Tobin’s lap, feeling her own sense of déjà vu at the action. Christen prods her tongue along Tobin’s plump lips, seeking entrance, needing to taste her. Tobin obliges and when they meet, they both flinch as if struck with electricity. They push through it, both moaning at the overwhelming passion they’re feeling. When they break for air, both are breathing heavily, foreheads touching, sharing the hot breaths of their exhales.

“Take me to bed,” Christen urges breathily, “I need you to touch me,” she moves her legs and shakily stands up, gripping Tobin’s wrist and pulling her to stand next to her. They move close again, arms encircled around each other, continuing to kiss as Tobin slowly guides her through the living as if they are dancing to the song of passion.

They let out chuckles when they bounce off the hallway wall, then kiss again, this time it’s light and sweet. “You’re speaking English,” Tobin observes.

Christen arches an eyebrow at her, flashing a look of sassiness, ”Would you rather we speak in Coptic, my love?” unsure if Tobin would understand her.

”You could speak Greek and it would ignite my passion for you, my love,” Tobin replies with a smirk.

Christen smiles widely at her, questions for the woman shouting out in her mind yet tamped down to silence when Tobin’s hands begin to slide along her torso and settle on her hips, moving her closer to the bedroom. Christen feels a stirring in her loins, stronger than she’s ever felt before and also in her chest. Her heart is beating wildly and when she lightly sucks on the scar on Tobin’s neck, she can feel Tobin’s heartbeat throbbing as well.

Clothes are shed in between kisses, they move slowly to the bed, first kneeling as they kiss and caress each other. This feels different to them, each touch is gentle, each kiss builds to wanting more. It’s as if this is a holy union of the two, the need, the want and the desire so strong. Neither has ever felt it with another partner before. They fall together easily, a leg naturally settling in between hips, heads moving with an unknown instinct as they kiss. They move as if they’ve done this before, innately knowing the touches to excite and thrill one another, knowing the just perfect amount of pressure to apply, knowing how to pull moans of ecstasy from another.

Their heavy breathing fills the air, mingling with soft words of encouragement, “Yes, like that,” and “Right there,” before turning to ones more urgent. The orgasms are earth shattering, provoking gasps and groans and panted praise. Their eyes are wet with joy and love throughout their passion, both feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for finding the other.

They make each other rise and fall multiple times, their passion for another unending. Kissing, tasting, sucking, thrusting into one another, hearing the cries that excite them and spur them on to making their partner rise again. A few times they rise and fall together, rutting against one another, Tobin guiding Christen’s hips so her core touches her own, her strong arms powering them through orgasm after orgasm until they are completely spent with exhaustion.

Christen falls on the mattress at Tobin’s side, winded by her exertions, slick with sweat and feeling satisfied in a way she’s never felt before. Tonight, their union was not just physical, but it was an emotional and mental connection to her, as if they were two wires completing an electrical circuit and lighting their world.

She curls into Tobin’s side, her leg naturally covering Tobin’s, her head on Tobin’s shoulder. She feels Tobin move her arm and soon her hand is on her back, lightly tracing soothing random patterns. They fall asleep, waking shortly when their sweat has dried and they’ve grown chilled. Slowly they move to the shower, the hot water warming their skin and passion once more. It’s late when they emerge from the bathroom, toweling their hair and Tobin offering Christen sweatpants and a sweatshirt. She chooses a pair of shorts and a long sleeved shirt, stating she’s still warm and usually runs hot. They saunter to the kitchen, both wide awake and hungry for food instead of each other.

Tobin makes them BLT’s, adding a handful of chips on each plate.

“Okay, I’ve got to say something,” Tobin declares before she takes her first bite of the sandwich, seeing Christen looking at her, “that was some of the most amazing sex I’ve ever had in my life,” she grins at her.

Christen smiles big, not just because she feels the same way, but also with pride that Tobin feels that way, “Me too,” she agrees, taking a big bite and moaning as she chews. “This is so good,” she says with half a full mouth.

Tobin nods, her eyes sparkling. Morena is at her side, begging for some food and Tobin stands up and moves to a cabinet in the kitchen. She returns to the table with a couple of foil packages, looking a little sheepish. “I got some dog treats,” she explains, smiling cutely, “would any of these be okay for them?”

“Aw,” Christen squeals, feeling a rush of emotions for how thoughtful Tobin is to think of her dogs. She looks over the packages, noting all of them are organic, “any of them would be fine, sweetheart,” she nods approvingly.

Tobin just looks at her with a dopey smile on her face.

“What?” Christen questions, tilting her head to look at her, wondering what would bring on her smiling at her like this.

“You,” Tobin’s smile grows wider, “you called me sweetheart,” she says and voice cracks with emotion.

Christen’s eyes immediately water, mimicking Tobin’s which now has a happy tear spilling out and rolling down her cheek. “Well,” she sighs happily, “that’s because you’re my sweetie,” she smiles at her.

Tobin blushes and nods at her, “Okay,” she says happily, taking another bite of her sandwich, “but you’re my babe,”

Christen gives her best attempt at a wink, making Tobin grin again, “Always, sweetheart,” she giggles.

 

They’ve eaten and cleaned up the kitchen and both of them are still buzzing and wide awake. It’s almost four in the morning and both are full of energy.

“I have an idea,” Tobin offers, “wanna go outside?”

Christen considers, “I think I would want some socks,” she states, “and maybe a hoodie.”

Tobin nods quickly, “My stuff is yours,” she says casually, “help yourself to whatever you want.” She leads her to her bedroom again, opening the closet and showing her which drawers holds her socks.

“Would you grab a couple of blankets in the hall closet and then meet me outside?” she questions.

“Sure,” Christen agrees and kisses her gently. Tobin smiles, “I’ll be right outside in the sand,”

 

“What it this?” Christen questions as she approaches Tobin. Tobin looks up quickly in the darkness, one of her hands stroking Morena’s back, “This is my sunrise spot,” she states. She stands up and takes a blanket from Christen’s hands. Christen watches as Tobin spreads it over a mound of sand, smoothing it out along the front of it.

“Have a seat,” she invites, extending her hand to guide Christen around what appears to be a firepit in the sand. She sits down, realizing the mound of sand serves as a very comfortable backrest. She spreads the second blanket over her legs.

“Can I help you with anything?” she asks, as the tired dogs lay at her sides.

“I’ve got it, babe,” Tobin says, making a small bundle of kindling and igniting it. She tends to patiently, adding small sticks and letting them catch before placing a few logs on it. Satisfied it will burn without her care, she crawls back to join Christen on the blanket, Morena moving and then settling near Tobin’s shins. Tobin leans back and brings her arm around Christen who moves closer and lets her head rest on her shoulder.

“This is nice,” she murmurs, appreciating the effort Tobin put in to this.

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, “I come out here on nights I can’t sleep,” she states, “or evenings when I want to just chill,”

“This is a nice place to do that,” Christen comments, “do you have trouble sleeping often?”

Tobin lets her head move softly against the top of Christen’s that’s resting on her shoulder. “When I first moved here,” she sighs, “it was kind of hard. A new place, I only knew Ali and Ash and I didn’t want to be over at their place all the time, so I was on my own for the first time. I had a good first job, I was your basic physical therapist, but I was already looking for a place that specialized. I volunteered with a wheelchair race group that Ash joined, learning about how they trained for races and what I could contribute. It was a cool time, but I was lonely. This was a nice place to come and just be and forget about stuff.”

“When did it change?” Christen questions quietly.

“When I joined a rec soccer league,” Tobin smiles against her head, “I met Lauren and Amy and we’ve become really good friends, I made friends at the place I’m at now, I’ve got friends I train with. I can’t for you to meet them Lauren and Amy, though.”

“Let’s make that happen soon,” Christen smiles, feeling completely calm at the idea of meeting Tobin’s friends.

“Yeah, we will,” Tobin replies and then chuckles, “they’ve been asking me since I told them about you.”

“Look at the stars,” Christen raises her arm, “I’ve never seen so many here,”

“Here,” Tobin starts to move down, earning groans from the dogs who have to stand up and resituate themselves as they lay with their heads looking up. They are quiet, holding each other as they look at the stars.

“I think I know what happened,” Tobin says suddenly.

“What do you mean?” Christen isn’t following her.

“What happened to me,” Tobin clarifies.

Christen sits up to look at her, “What do you think?”

Tobin reaches for her and gently pulls her down and Christen is practically lying on her now with her leg slotted between Tobin’s spread ones.

“I think the Gods used my accident to catch me up to you,” Tobin explains, “I think they made a mistake long ago, when we were Sitre In and Hatshepsut, for some reason Thutmose and my marks were the same and they didn’t know it was wrong until I got through the Underground and told them what happened.”

Christen hums, she’s been thinking of the situation for while as well, tossing around theories in her head as well. “I’ve thought of that too,” she agrees, “I think me coming to Egypt to look for Hatshepsut’s belongings tossed things around for the Gods and that’s why they sent you.”

“Yeah, like it gave them the chance to make it right,” Tobin agrees, “and they put things in motion.”

“It’s wild how they manipulated time though,” Christen says quietly, “but I think it worked out perfectly for us to have these life experiences and meet now,”

“My time in the Field of Reeds passed in the blink of an eye,” Tobin recalls, “I never felt like I lingered there just waiting, there was always something going on.”

“Why do you think being high allowed you to remember?” Christen asks, curious if Tobin has thought about it.

“I think the stroke was partly responsible for it for me,” she explains, “but since you remembered too, I think maybe the THC or something else in the marijuana allowed for some part of the brain to open up and release those memories.”

Christen hums, thinking it sounded like a plausible explanation.

Tobin is quiet for a moment as she thinks. “Do you think Alex would have lived if I hadn’t been with her?”

Christen’s heart hurts from the sound of Tobin’s regret in her voice. “I think her destiny was planned for her in this life,” she says quietly, “just how mine was back in Egypt.”
“There’s a part of me that will always grieve for her,” Tobin says quietly, “not just because we were together,” she clarifies, “but more because she was my best friend first.”

Christen nods slowly, “I understand,” she says quietly, “I haven’t suffered the loss of someone close to me like that,” she says, measuring her words, “and I don’t know how you heal from that happening. But if there’s anything I can do to help ease that, I will,”

“You would have liked her,” Tobin replies, “you two would have had the best conversations about humanity and how to learn from history. She liked to read about politics from the past,” she chuckles softly, “I could just picture the two of you at a college kegger talking about the Roman Empire,”

Christen chuckles with her, “That would have nice,” she thinks with a smile.

“You know,” Tobin says so quietly, Christen isn’t sure she heard her, “I thought she taught me about love,” Tobin shifts underneath her to roll on her side and look at her, “but what I had with her isn’t anything like being with you,” she says and leans in to kiss her deeply, “not even close,” she says, her breath mingling with Christen’s from their closeness. They make out for while under the stars, not advancing things more than gentle kisses. Afterwards, they get back in their previous position with Christen lying on her and Tobin is quiet again and she moves her hand to slowly scratch at Christen’s scalp, making her shiver at the sensation before relaxing and enjoying it. “I wish…” she says slowly, “I wish that I had been able to help you more back there,”

“Tobin, you did everything you could with the knowledge you had,” Christen states emphatically.

“I know,” she replies, “but I read about how the tincture I used ended up being a factor in spreading the cancer and it makes me sick to my stomach.”

Christen lifts herself to look at her, “Sweetheart,” she says tenderly, “it was only painful at the end. You gave me comfort over time. I would take that any day of the week. Please don’t feel responsible for it now, it’s in the past.” She says softly and kisses her gently. "I wish I had been strong enough to chose you in the Underground. We could have been together sooner."

Tobin shakes her head, "But who would be now?" she questions. "We had to have these experiences for this lifetime in order to be together. To be the people we are today. I shudder to think who I might have become if it wasn't for the accident. I would probably be some washed up jock, living the past or something."

Christen considers her words and nods. “Let’s live in the present,” she smiles at her.

Tobin nods and Christen settles back on her chest.

“You mentioned you brought back some stuff from KV60,” Tobin says, speaking on the tomb in which she had been interned in so many years ago.

“We did,” Christen replies slowly, wondering where this would lead.

“Did you find two metal boxes?”

“We did,” Christen looks up at her again, “What’s in them?” She’s thinking of the metal box her and Becky are working on right now, trying to determine a safe way to open it without damaging the possible contents.

Tobin licks her lips and clears her throat, “If they stood the test of time,” she says in her low voice, “it will be a pretty huge find.”

“Will you tell me what’s inside them?” Christen asks curiously.

Tobin pauses. “I don’t think I should,” she states after some consideration, “for one,” she says before Christen can interject, “I don’t want to cloud your judgement. And you’ll have to be above reproach when you open each one. Or have someone else do it. Film it or something, have your team with you.”

“Okay, I will,” Christen easily agrees, turning over again to face her. “I trust you,” she kisses her, “and whatever the items in there may reveal, we’ll handle it together, okay?”

Tobin smiles, “Okay,” she says and puckers her lips for another kiss.

“You are aware that there is a pretty good chance of us being revealed, right?” Christen asks her, looking at her closely. The sky is beginning to lighten with the sun not quite ready to poke up along the horizon. “If I’m writing and presenting and the documentary comes out…”

Tobin lifts her head, her left hand tenderly caressing Christen’s jaw before she kisses her tenderly, “We’ll handle it together,” she smiles at her.

The media likes to swarm couples that are soul bonded since it is rare and when they have been reunited when it’s usually become known to the public. Especially if one of them was of some prominence in their past life, be it positive or negative. The news cycle usually lasts for a few weeks until the media moves on to something else. The last big one Christen is aware of happened when she in grade school and the story came out about a widow and a man who ran a dude ranch in Texas and they discovered they were actually King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. It was quite spectacular in Christen’s memory and she makes a note to look up the articles later to get a feel of what the widow and rancher endured.

“Sun’s coming up,” Tobin announces and they push themselves back, Khaleesi and Morena once again groaning and standing up. The two dogs wander off to the side, mindful to stay close, sniffing around the sand.

“This is beautiful,” Christen sighs happily, moving to hold Tobin in her arms, letting her chin rest on Tobin’s shoulder.

“Yeah, it is,” Tobin agrees as they watch the colors change in the sky.

 

XXXX

 

 

September 18th

“How was your weekend?” Ali asks with a bright smile before she takes a bite of her sandwich. It’s lunch time and the group is sitting in their break room.

“It was really good,” Christen smiles, “how about yours?”

“Good,” Ali replies after she swallows, “Ash and I painted the living room and she fixed a few things around the house,” she says, “it was good to knock it out before she starts training with the hockey team.”

“Did you and Tobin get together?” Sydney inquires, giving her a once over and then smiles, “You two got together didn’t you,” she accuses her, “you’re glowing!”

Christen immediately blushes, looking down at her salad. The salad Tobin made her yesterday evening. “I spent the weekend there,” she admits, nodding at them.

“I didn’t recognize that shirt,” Becky pipes up, giving Christen a wink.

“It’s my shirt,” Christen states, “I had to go home and drop off the dogs,”

“So, things are going good?” Sydney persists, smiling widely at her.

“Yes,” Christen beams, she can’t help herself. She’s been smiling since morning. “We talked about everything,” she shares with them, “we’re on the same page. We both agree that her accident probably triggered her memories of being Sitre In.”

“Ash and I have suspected that since what happened at your lecture,” Ali states. “And before you ask, Ashlyn doesn’t think Tobin’s fate affected her own. She doesn’t blame her or anything. She told me she feels more alive in the chair than she did when she could walk.”

Christen blinks at her for a moment, “Wow,” is all she can say.

“I’m sure she’ll talk to Tobin about it,” Ali continues, “she knows Tobin might feel guilty.”

Christen nods, “She asked me if I thought Alex would have lived if she hadn’t been with her,” she frowns.

“Surely her fate was already destined for her,” Alyssa states a little assertively.

Christen nods, “That’s what I told her and she agreed,”

“It’s more of a testament of how sensitive Tobin is,” Ali gently explains to her and Becky and Syd, “I’ve never met someone more thoughtful than Tobin. She spent her time grieving Alex and I’m sure a part of her always will. Alex was a pretty amazing woman. Whoever is her soulmate is a very lucky person.”

Christen looks around the table, making eye contact with them all, “This doesn’t leave this table,” she warns, giving them all stern looks until each of them nod in agreement. “Tobin remembers that she was Sitre In now,” she announces, nodding at them. “And I was Hatshepsut. She confirmed it.”

“Girl!” Sydney bursts, “You better keep quiet about that!”

Christen nods and then frowns, “I’m afraid that isn’t going to be possible,” she states, “it will come out eventually.”

“Will this affect your work here?” Alyssa asks prudently, keenly looking at her.

“No,” Christen shakes her head, “but I want us to take some safeguards,” she states and outlines how she wants to partner up on any instances of opening jars or containers and she wants to send off any Coptic writings that she transcribes back to Egypt for Ari to sign off on the definitive interpretation.

“I’ll have to tell him,” she confesses, “but only if we find artifacts that undisputedly puts us together.”

The four others agree with her and state their willingness to abide by her wishes.

“So,” Becky looks at her slyly, “how was she?”

Christen can’t help but beam at them, “A-maz-ing!” she gushes.

 

XXXX

 

October 1st

Christen is at her desk typing her notes into the system when she hears a flutter and a soft thud land on her desk. She looks up and sees Ali grinning at her and then looks at her desk and sees an envelope.

“What’s this?” she questions, reaching for the black square, she flips it over and smiles when she sees her and Tobin’s name on it.

“Halloween Party,” Ali announces, “and I warn you, it’s not a big party, it’s a huge party. Tobin knows, just ask her. It’s like a block party and it gets pretty nuts. Luckily, there’s like four cops that live there so it doesn’t get completely out of control. But it’s super fun!”

Christen is wide eyed as she listens, “That sounds pretty wild,” she agrees, “costumes?”

Ali laughs, “Yes, of course! That’s the only way. There’s prizes,” she wiggles her eyebrows at her, grinning wildly, “singles and couples,” she smiles and points at the envelop, “it’s all in there, but Tobin will explain if you have any questions,”

“So…you like, really get into this?”

Ali nods, “Big time,” she grins and holds up a few more envelops, “I gotta pass these out, see you later,” she says and spins out of her office with a whoosh.

Christen blinks at the black envelop, letting her fingers trace over her and Tobin’s name. She smiles softly, thinking how she’ll never be alone for these types of events anymore. Then she starts to panic as to what they’ll dress up as.

 

XXXX

 

Later that night…

“It’s pretty obvious, Chris,” Tobin smiles at her, lovingly running her hand through her hair. They’re lying in bed and Christen is still trying to get feeling in her legs after a serious bout of lovemaking with Tobin.

“What is, honey?” she asks, rolling on her side, letting her hand cup Tobin’s breast.

“Nefertiti and Akhenaten,” Tobin gives her a satisfied smile, as if she’s solved one of life’s mysteries.

“Nerfer- Tobin what do you mean?” she’s confused.

“Our Halloween costumes,” Tobin chuckles at her, now running her hand up and down her back.

“Oh,” she furrows her brows as she thinks. “Do you think we should?” she asks cautiously. “I mean, what if this spurs something with us? Like, the public finding out?”

Tobin shrugs, “Then we’ll deal with it,” she says confidently and she rolls over to face her and suddenly looks serious. “I was thinking about this whole thing,” she says, her words coming slower, which Christen has discovered Tobin speaks slower when she’s serious, “Why would we have to wait for someone to discover us? Like, we know, so what? Why don’t we control it,” she suggests, “like, just when someone comes up to us and asks, we just say yeah, like it’s not a big deal and get on with our lives?”

Christen hums, considering that scenario. “You know,” she says slowly, “I have been thinking about too,” she sys quietly, “and I like the idea that we control it, too. I imagine the press will bother us for a couple of weeks and then it’s on to the next story. I went to school with Megan Rapinoe,” she says, giving Tobin a sly smile, “I was thinking we give her the story,”

“Megan Rapinoe?” Tobin repeats, her eyes wide, “Like, gay rights icon Megan Rapinoe? Like, Megan ‘I told the President to fuck off’ Rapinoe?” The pink haired lesbian is a noted award winning journalist, author and documentarian. Her articles were seen in a wide range of magazines, from People to the Wall Street Journal. She had a heavy online presence of features she did of interesting people and their stories. This would be right up her alley. Their news would be a big story for some time.

Christen is smiling at her, amused by her reaction, “Yes, honey,”

“Fuck yeah, totally!” she agrees, “She would handle so well,” she grins at her, “that’s awesome, babe!”

Christen nods, “We’ll need to talk about when we want to call her,” she says, “figure out the timing. I also will need to talk to my boss and Ari and let them know.”

Tobin nods, “I should talk to my boss, too,” she agrees, “and my family.”

“Oh yeah, me too,” Christen slides her arm under Tobin and draws her in to kiss her, “Do I get to be Nefertiti?” she asks coyly and Tobin laughs.

“Only if you promise I can take care of the other details,” she snickers.

“Other details?” Christen questions and Tobin’s answer is to only wiggle her eyebrows back at her.

“Sure,” Christen easily agrees, feeling carefree and trusting her soulmate, “why not?”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

October 12th

 

“We’ll just let it continue to soak the hinge for the next day and then we’ll try to pull the pin out,” Becky announces, frowning at the metal box whose rust encrusted hinge has confounded them since they unwrapped it weeks ago.

Christen takes a deep breath, “Yeah, okay,” she nods, “Beck,” she says, squaring herself to look at her, “when we attempt to open this, we’ll need to record it and maybe have the others with us.”

Becky nods, “Because?” she lifts an eyebrow.

“Because I have it on good authority that the contents, if they have survived, will confirm my soulbond with Tobin as Sitre In and me as Hatshepsut,” she states, speaking as calmly as she can.

Becky nods, “We can do that,” she smiles at her, “are you two prepared for this, if it happens, I mean?”

Christen nods, “Yeah,” she says, “we’ve talked about it. I’ve spoken with Ari and I just need to let him know it’s confirmed and I’ve already spoken with Dr. Johnson and let her know my status as well,”

“Okay,” Becky smiles, “why wouldn’t I think you didn’t have all your ducks in a row,”

“Right?” Christen chuckles, her nerves calming, “The game plan is to keep it quiet for a week, we’ve got someone we’re going to give the story to. Not have the media come to us,”

“Smart,” Becky comments as she wipes down one of the picks she had been using to remove the semi-solid crude from around the hinge pin on the box. She looks up at Christen,

“You guys going to Ali’s for Halloween?”

Christen nods, “Yeah, I hear it’s a real blast,”

“Cool,” Becky nods with a small smile, “Zola said he’d go so we’re trying to figure out costumes. Do you guys have yours?”

Christen nods, “We do,” she shakes her head, “and apparently there are other props involved with it and Tobin has been working on it a few nights each week,”

“You don’t know what she’s doing?”

Christen shrugs, “I’m sure it’ll be fine,” she says, “I’m not nervous about it at all,” she states, “which I know is highly unusual for me,” she laughs.

“Guess that’s what happens when you find your soulmate,” Becky grins, “Isn’t it awesome?”

“Yeah,” Christen happily agrees and pushes up her sleeve, “look what her mark says today,” she twists her arm to show her.

Make Christen feel loved today

“Aw,” Becky beams at it, “she’s so sweet,”

“She really is,” Christen agrees and unrolls her sleeve.

A knock on the glass of the lab makes them turn their heads.

“Oh Christen!” Alyssa’s voice calls out, she holds up what has to be flowers wrapped in paper and a brown paper bag, “Delivery!”

Christen straightens up, “Delivery?” she murmurs, moving from her seat and taking off her gloves, tossing them on the table as Becky watches her go through the double sealed doors out to the office area.

“Who is this from?” Christen questions Alyssa and the woman hands her over the flowers.

Alyssa gives her a look, “Really?”

Christen thinks for a moment, “Oh,” she says, walking the mass of paper into her office, Alyssa following still holding the bag. She rips into the paper to reveal a colorful bouquet of flowers, irises, lilacs and gerber daisies and others she doesn’t recognize.

“Here,” Alyssa sets the bag down on her desk and then leans against the door, looking expectantly at her.

“What?” Christen asks.

“Uh, how about you read the card?” Alyssa points to the envelop taped to the paper.

“Oh, yeah,” Christen shakes her head, feeling a little frazzled, her fingers slightly shaking as she opens it.

”Hey babe, I’m sorry I missed out seeing you the last couple of nights. I have just a few more things to finish up for Halloween and I promise we’ll take First Place! I thought you might like something to brighten up your office and I had a feeling you had a taste for this for lunch. Hope you enjoy and I’ll see you tonight. I’ve got a treat for the pups! Love, Tobin”

“Aw,” Christen nearly squeals, holding the card to her chest, her lower lip protruding, thinking of her soulmate. Silently she hands the card to Alyssa and opens the bag, actually squealing when she sees the contents.

“Let me guess,” Alyssa grins at her, “sushi,”

Christen smiles brightly at her over her shoulder, “Yes!”

Alyssa smiles, “You’ve got a good one there,” she says happily, knowing her time is coming soon. Her own soul mark has changed each day for the last week.

“Yeah,” Christen happily sighs, “wanna have lunch now?”

 

----

 

“Thank you again for the flowers and lunch, sweetheart,” Christen murmurs against the side of Tobin’s head. They’re in her backyard, standing in the yard while the dogs run around. Tobin had just arrived straight from work.

“You’re welcome, babe,” Tobin sighs happily, “I like doing that for you,”

“You make me feel loved,” Christen sighs dreamily, “I hope you know how much I love you,” she says as she presses Tobin closer to her.

“I do, babe,” Tobin assures her, “you make me so happy,” she turns to press a kiss against Christen’s cheek.

“We’re going to attempt opening one of the boxes tomorrow,” Christen states, pulling back a little so she can look at her.

Tobin nods, looking unaffected, “Cool,” she says and gives her a grin, “hope it’s in good shape for you,”

“I was thinking of calling Megan tonight,” Christen continues, a little curious as to how calm Tobin appears.

“Yeah, that would probably be a good idea,” Tobin nods again, taking one of Christen’s hands and leading across the patio to the table and chairs and she sits down in one, gently pulling Christen on her lap. “I would imagine we have to think about putting it out there,” she says softly, giving her a small smile and reaching to pull a stray hair from Christen’s face. “How do you feel about it?”

Christen looks at her for moment, “I feel good,” she replies honestly, “I think I’m a little nervous about people coming up to us, but I like that we’ll control the initial announcement. I think that is the best thing we can do,”

Tobin nods at her and smiles, “Same,” she says, “a friend of mine plays pro soccer,” she quirks her mouth, twisting it from side to side as she thinks, “I was wondering if maybe I should reach out to her and ask her about a PR person,” she says, “you know, someone who could guide us through the mayhem a little,”

Christen’s eyes widen for a moment, surprised by Tobin’s suggestion. Tobin has been so laid back about the whole thing Christen didn’t really consider that she had been seriously thinking about the consequences. “I like that idea,” she admits, “I don’t know much about how to handle reporters,”

Tobin chuckles, “Me either,”

“How about we go in and make those calls,” Christen suggests, turning in her arms, “and then,” she gives her a lingering kiss, “maybe we can find something else to do,”

 

XXXX

 

 

October 13th

“Okay,” Becky grins, “this is it!” she announces as she lightly taps the hammer on a rubber covered chisel against the hinge pin of the ancient medium sized metal box. On the fourth hit, the pin starts to move. The entire hinge had been sprayed repeatedly with WD-40 and few other products in an effort to break through the rust and allow the pin to slide out. Becky had been working on it for a few weeks, carefully spraying and using a fine bristle brush to remove the rusty debris and cleaning up the rest of the box. For opening this box, she had fashioned a deep wood base padded with soft cheesecloth to keep it from moving when she hits the pin with the rubber tipped chisel.

“It’s moving!” Alyssa calls out, watching closely, her hands on the frame of the wood base. Five more soft taps and Becky sets down the hammer and chisel, wiping her hands on her apron before gripping the box and slowly pulling the pin out of the hinge. She stops halfway through, looking up, “Chris? Could you spray some WD-40 into the hinge?” she asks.

Christen steps up and sprays the fluid into the open channel. Becky pulls again and the entire pin comes out. Becky sets the pin down and looks at Alyssa, Christen and Ali, who is filming the operation. They have multiple cameras set up to capture this event, in fact they’re live streaming it with Ari and the students from the expedition to share the excitement of this find.

Alyssa and Becky step in armed with rubber tipped small pry bars and slowly work the lid off. Christen steps back to allow Ali to get in closer as they silently watch the lid come off and the two place it on the table. Christen is content to supervise this although she’s tingling with excitement and anticipation of what the contents could be and if they’ve survived the test of time.

Becky sends Christen a look, questioning her if she wants to pull out the contents. Christen shakes her head and gives her a big smile, “The honor is all yours,” she says. She just relieved it’s open and there isn’t any evidence of water damage from the quick look she had gotten. She’s happy Becky and Alyssa to get the thrill of discovery. They haven’t been out in the field for over a year.

“Sarah, Michael, Tory,” Christen calls, “come on over and check this out,” she encourages the students, “this will be the first time anyone has seen these items in nearly four thousand years,”

The students gather around, watching silently.

Even though the lab is well lit, Alyssa is shining a flashlight into the box, her forehead crinkled as she looks around. “It looks like a bunch of wood slats,” she murmurs, moving to allow Becky to gently lift out a dusty piece of one inch thick wood. It’s roughly the size of a piece of computer paper and Becky sets it down in a cheesecloth lined tray. “Let’s get them all out and look for anything else in the box before we really look at them,” Becky suggests and the others quickly agree. Christen provides a second tray for Becky to put the next piece in and together the three soon get six pieces into the trays. Alyssa carefully inspects the rest of the box and finds a slender wood box the size of a pencil case. They put it in it’s own tray and then move to inspect the wood pieces.

Again, Christen takes a backseat and operates the camera while Ali, Becky and Alyssa each carefully brush dust from the wood slat in front of them. “What are seeing?” she questions with the camera on Becky.

“It appears to be a painting,” she observes without looking up and she slides her magnifying screen in front of her, “I can see the faint outline of something at the bottom,” she
states.

“I’ve got writing at the bottom as well,” Ali adds, “I think I’m going to just concentrate on that,” she states, “maybe it’s the title of whatever has been painted.” She moves her sable brush skillfully over the area, cleaning off the debris with a shot of air.

Ari asks if they can tell what the writing is yet and Christen replies they are unsure, it’s too soon to tell. He explains he must leave for a meeting and Christen promises to email him the findings. Christen changes the angle of the camera, making sure to capture the three while they work. Forty minutes later, Alyssa lets out a small gasp.

“This says it’s a portrait of Hatshepsut.”

 

----

 

“Hooray!” Sydney cheers as she clinks glasses with Alyssa, Becky, Ali, Christen and Dr. Johnson, “Too bad I was in class,” she snickers, “but what a helluva find!”

They’re drinking sparkling apple juice along with the students in the lunchroom. While the tablets will need further preservation, after the initial cleaning, it is apparent they have discovered portraits of Hatshepsut, Thutmose the Second, Sitre In, Thutmose the First, his wife Ahmose and a Thutmose the Third.

It’s an unheard of find, one that hasn’t been this exciting since the expedition that found the dozen painted sarcophagi a few years ago. But this is different, these are portraits of the royal family while they were alive. The tablets are dated and signed with the name Tobin and when Becky uncovered her name on the first piece of painted wood, she had to restrain from shouting with excitement of having the confirmation needed that Tobin was Sitre In and Christen was Hatshepsut so many lifetimes ago. None of the group has spoken of her connection to this because the students are present. They don’t want the importance of this find to leak out about Christen and Tobin being soulmates and soul bonded. Christen had taken photos of each panel to show Tobin tonight.

She can’t wait to see her.

 

----

 

“Congratulations!” Tobin exclaims, rising from Christen’s front porch to greet her.

“Thank you!” Christen calls from her car, grabbing her briefcase and shutting the door. “What are you doing here?” she questions with surprise as she walks up, “I thought I was going to come to you,” she says as she embraces her and gives her a kiss.

“I got out early,” Tobin explains, still holding her, “and I had time to shop to make you a special dinner tonight,” she grins at her, “since it’s such an important find.”

“Aw,” Christen smiles, puckering her lips for Tobin to kiss her again, which she does, “you’re so sweet.”

“Well, this is a big day!” Tobin smiles at her, stepping back to pick up two grocery bags on the porch, waiting as Christen gets her keys out, the dogs barking from behind the door. “We have to celebrate!”

It’s in this moment when something passes through Christen, maybe it’s from how Tobin is looking at her with such love and happiness for her that it makes her heart speed up. She knows, this is it. Tobin is hers and has been hers for a very long time. Yes, there’s been the mess up with their soulbond, but they are here now and should be here forever as it should be.

She turns to look at her, the key is in the door and she hasn’t turned it open yet, “I love you,” she says heartfully, “I really love you,” She’s brimming with joy that is overflowing, making tears of happiness fall from her eyes.

Tobin places a soothing hand on her shoulder, “I love you with my everything,” she says seriously, giving her shoulder a squeeze, “now let’s go say hi to the puppies,”

 

----

 

“Tobin,” Christen says with a slight slur, “dinner was amazing,” she grins at her, clumsily running her hand along Tobin’s thigh, “I think it’s so sexy when you cook for me,”

Tobin smiles and wraps an arm around her, “I think it’s sexy when you are a little tipsy,” she chuckles, “did you get enough to eat? Should I bring out dessert?” Christen may have had three glasses of wine to Tobin’s one and finished the bottle. She walked a fine line of wanting to open another bottle but decided not to just because it was a Thursday.

Christen tightens her fingers on Tobin’s thigh, “I want you for dessert,” she insists, pressing her body up against her and doing her best to look and sound sultry which Tobin finds hilarious.

She struggles to keep a straight face, “Maybe later,” she demurs, “I brought a chocolate cream pie,”

Christen frowns, “But I want your pie,” she sighs, “I love hearing you moan when I make love to you,” she says loosely, feeling a bit more than tipsy now. She takes another drink of her wine anyway.

Tobin leans over and kisses her softly on her cheek, “And I love how you make me moan and feel so good, but I want to do the dishes and we said we’d walk the pups after dinner,” she reminds her, “so let’s table that until later, okay?”

“I hate that you're so responsible,” Christen pouts, feeling all kinds of horny right now. She glances at the clock and realizes it’s only seven, the night is young.

Tobin laughs from the kitchen. “Baby, what time is your first class tomorrow?”

“Eleven,” she replies, deciding she should do something to help her partner. She stands up and sways a little, the wine is really hitting her now. “Maybe I should cancel,” she murmurs, suddenly thinking she might be hungover tomorrow. She drains her glass and decides she’s done drinking for the night. She leans against the counter as she half-heartedly dries one saucepan before just watching Tobin efficiently square away the kitchen.

The dogs end up with a very short walk once Tobin discovered how drunk Christen really was. Wrangling two dogs and a happy, distracted Christen proved to be almost more than she could handle. Tobin was thankful the pups walk so well on the leash and listened to her. Christen on the other hand, insisted on stopping to smell flowers, had an impromptu dance party on the sidewalk when she heard a song she liked blaring from a passing car and then announced she was exhausted and fell silent. Tobin guided her back to the house, watching her while she unclipped the leashed from the dogs, how Christen heavily flopped face first onto the couch with an arm and a leg hanging off the side.

“Baby, do you want a slice of chocolate pie now?” Tobin asks, wondering if she has passed out. She wonders if Christen doesn’t drink much if she’s this drunk on three glasses of wine. Then she considers that the emotions and stress of today and if everything is just catching up with her.

“No,” is the muffled reply. Tobin kneels by the side of the couch, “Can I get you anything?” she asks softly, stroking her hand through Christen’s curls.

“Get me sober,” Christen slurs, “I can’t have sex with you like this,” she whines, rolling on her side to look at her. “I shouldn’t have drank all that wine,” she frowns.

Tobin frowns and nods, “You were celebrating,” she says kindly, offering her a warm smile, “and you deserve to. We can have sex later, it’s okay,”

Christen yawns, “Okay,” she agrees easily, thinking that chocolate pie sounds amazing right now, “can we have some pie?”

Tobin smiles and nods, enjoying this tipsy version of her girlfriend that she’s never seen it before. “We sure can,” she says and stands up, “I’ll bring you a piece,” she promises, “but maybe you could drink a bottle of water for me first?”

“Okay,” Christen says and slowly rises to sit up, stretching her arms over her head and yawning loudly. She moves to accept the plate of pie with a grin, wiggling her eyebrows at Tobin, but Tobin pulls it back and hands her a glass of water. She frowns but drinks it down. Tobin laughs again and gives her the pie and then retrieves her own plate and sits next to her, flicking on the TV.

 

----

 

“Sweetheart, will you stay?” Christen asks tiredly, snuggling deeper into Tobin’s side.

“I will,” Tobin agrees immediately, not wanting to leave her ever. She’s never spent the night during the week and she internally calculates how much time she should allow to get home before going in to work. Thankfully, her first appointment is at nine and she’s not on schedule to open the building.

“Wash your shirt here and borrow some of my pants,” Christen sighs, knowing what she’s thinking.

“Sounds good,” Tobin agrees and slowly disentangles herself to rise form the couch. “I’m going to get a shirt, okay”

“My stuff is your stuff, honey,” Christen replies, “help yourself to anything.”

Tobin smiles and practically skips to Christen’s bedroom.

“Here,” Christen holds out her fists, when Tobin returns, “pick one,”

Amused, Tobin looks down and can’t tell if either one is holding anything, “This one,” she taps her left one.

Christen frowns, “Pick again,” she insists.

“This one,” Tobin chuckles, tapping her right hand.

“Yay!” Christen cheers and twists her hand and opens her palm. “This is for you,” she informs Tobin. It’s a key.

“Is this to your heart?” Tobin asks playfully.

“No, silly,” Christen laughs, “it’s for my house. My stuff is your stuff. You shouldn’t have to sit outside, ever.”

“Thank you, babe,” Tobin says tenderly, leaning in to kiss her softly, holding both of Christen’s hands. “Thank you for this,” she says heartfully, taking the key from her hand and closing her fist around it. She brings her hand to chest, “This means everything,” she says seriously, leaning to give her a sift kiss “and I’ve got something for you,” she says and leaves the couch.

“Another piece of pie?” Christen asks and Tobin laughs as she opens a zippered compartment of her backpack.

“Here,” Tobin shows her an orange key, “I was totally going to give you this tonight,” she says, “but then you demolished the bottle of wine and I thought I’d do it later.” She holds up Christen’s keyring and attaches the key to it, opting to play it safe and not let Chris possibly lose it somewhere in the house tonight. “Anytime you want to come over,” she says seriously, even though she questions how much Christen will remember tomorrow, not because she’s drunk, mostly because the woman is so tired, “brings the pups, hang out at the beach, whatever. Please come,”

Christen lunges forward and kisses her hard, making Tobin moan into her mouth and question just how drunk she is and then dismiss it. “Can we go bed?” Christen yawns in her face, “I’m so sleepy,”

“I’ll meet you there,” Tobin promises, “how about you drink some more water and take the Tylenol I left on the counter and I need to wait for my shirt to be dine in the wash and then I'll let the dogs out and lock up the house, okay?”

Christen nods sleepily, “Okay,” she yawns.

Thirty minutes later, after she threw her freshly washed shirt into the dryer, Tobin grabs her phone, making sure to set her alarm and then slides into bed, the room dark. She isn’t sure if Christen is asleep yet, so she moves slowly, not wanting to disturb her. “I set an alarm,” Christen announces, making her jump slightly with surprise, “you said you need to be up at seven?”

“Yeah, I do,” Tobin replies, “thanks baby,” she rolls onto her side, “you take such good care of me.” Christen immediately snuggles close, her head resting on Tobin’s shoulder.

The next morning only Tobin’s alarm goes off, they discover that Christen had set hers for the evening by mistake. She has a slight headache and thanks Tobin for making sure she drank water and for the Tylenol she took before bed so her hangover wasn’t worse.

During their day at their respective jobs, they both think a lot about how much they liked waking up to each other and wonder if it’s too soon to make that happen on a permanent basis.

 

XXXX

 

October 21st

 

“So, what is the Field of Reeds like? Do you remember it now?”

Tobin quirks her mouth, sucking in her cheeks as while looks out at the ocean as she forms her response, “It’s like having the best day of your life every day,” she responds with a little shrug, “it can lead to whatever you want it to, like, you just think of something and it happens. I would equate it to Christianity’s version of Heaven, but that’s just my opinion.”

Megan Rapinoe nods her head, shifting in the deck chair as she glances down at her notebook, “Were you happy there?”

“I was fine,” she says, looking down at her and Christen’s hands interlinked hands resting on her thigh, “I felt in my heart that Hatshepsut was my soulmate and the Gods kinda agreed and were trying to fix it, so…” she shrugs, “I was just kind of waiting, you know? But it felt like I was only there for a short time, time was weird. You didn't always remember the day before because the present was so enjoyable."

“I imagine the Egyptian scholars of today would want to know about the whole process of the Afterlife of your time back then, is that something you would consider sharing with them?” the woman asks.

Tobin glances at Christen next to her, “I’d have to think about it,” she grins, “I don’t know that I want to be the one responsible for sharing that,” she looks at Megan, “There has to be some mysteries left in life,”

Christen chuckles, “We’ll have to talk about that,” she states, smiling at her.

Christen had contacted Megan and they arranged to meet. When Tobin and Megan met, they hit it off, both enjoying each other’s laid back vibe. Megan was incredibly interested in the story and genuinely humbled that Tobin and Christen wanted to share their story with her.

Megan had come down from LA to meet with them, the three instantly at ease with each other. Christen and Tobin had both read many of Megan’s previous articles and watched her a few of her documentaries and felt she would convey their story truthfully and respect. When Tobin's friend had heard that they were working with Megan, she assured them Megan would help them immensely and she has already.

They are here with cameras rolling, just talking easily and neither Christen or Tobin feel like they’re being interviewed, it feels like having a normal conversation with a new friend. Megan guides their conversation skillfully, allowing them both time to respond and asking follow up questions that most people would. This is the third interview Tobin and Christen have had with Megan and after the initial nerves of being in front of cameras left, each consecutive interview has the two more relaxed and natural.

Megan’s interview wouldn’t be shown until the initial one hour documentary on the expedition aired in mid-November. Christen still had to do her final interview with Jurgen before it would be completed. He and the crew from the Egyptian Museum were in the final editing and had blocked out the final interview to culminate with Christen to revealing that she was Hatshepsut. A much longer documentary was being edited now that was scheduled to be released just before all of the artifacts recovered would be displayed in a special museum tour across the United States in the late fall of next year.

Working the video and discreetly taking still photos is Megan’s partner, Sue, who is just as easygoing as Megan. She’s nearly a foot taller than Megan and has long black hair. Side by side with Megan and her short pink hair they make a stunning couple. Sue has a great sense of humor and she’s always muttering something funny under breath and she’s also compassionate when Christen or Tobin grow upset when retelling their tale.

Megan recommended a company to Tobin and Christen that would wipe their personal information off the internet so people wouldn’t be able to find their homes, phone numbers and family members. People would know be able to find where they worked, Christen obviously was the higher profile of the two. Megan and Sue spoke to them about the rush of strangers approaching them and the paparazzi and gave them some tips on how to handle those situations. It was an incredibly kind gesture and they were grateful Sue and Megan were thoughtful to think to prepare for them the flash of fame they would be subjected to.
They end the session after another half an hour since the light is fading and Sue wants to shoot the whole thing without artificial light for this part of the interviews. Tobin helps Sue pack up the tripods and equipment while Megan and Christen review the outline of the style of how they want to present this story. Christen gives her the completed paperwork from the Egyptian Museum and Stanford allowing the use of photos and to visit and film the Stanford lab. They agree to meet for the final filming the first Saturday of November and Sue and Megan depart.

As Tobin enters the house, Christen steps close and hugs her and then pulls back, looking at her closely, “You sure you’re ready for this?” she checks in with her. Christen is familiar with her low level, academic fame and has been approached and interviewed countless times before. She knows the media onslaught will be tenfold more with this news, yet Tobin hasn’t been in this position before.

Tobin kisses her softly, “I think so, babe,” she replies, bringing her arms around her and smiling, “I’m lucky to have you talking me through this and Megan and Sue have been amazing,”

Christen hums with agreement, “They’re both terrific people,” she comments, “not too many people would be as kind as they’ve been to us,”

Tobin smiles, “They’re good people,” she nods, “of which I’ve learned tonight that they know Ashlyn,”

Christen jerks her head back with surprise, “Really? Through hockey?”

“Sue played basketball and met Ash at the Olympics. I guess we’ll see them at the Halloween party,” she smiles.

“What a small world,” Christen murmurs, “speaking of Halloween, are we set?”

Tobin gives her a closed mouth, wide smile, “Oh yeah,” her eyes sparkle with amusement.

“Am I going to be impressed or embarrassed by this?” Christen narrows her eyes and lifts an eyebrow at her.

“You’re gonna be blown away,” Tobin states confidently, “You’re my Queen and I must treat you as such,”

Christen grins a little, amused by her, “You are aware how out of character this is for me to just let you do whatever it is you’re planning, right?”

Tobin nods, grinning at her.

“And you’re very aware of how this usually causes me great anxiety when I don’t know what to expect, right?” Christen eyes her steadily, seeing the confidence begin to shrink in Tobin's eyes.

Tobin nods slowly, her grin faltering and her eyes turning worried.

Christen chuckles suddenly, enjoying making Tobin squirm for a minute, “Well that’s not happening,” she smiles at her, looking at her lovingly, “because I trust you and I love you and I know whatever you’ve planned is going to be amazing,”

Tobin lets out a little huff of relief and shakes her head and then smiles, “You're such a tease," she complains with a smile, It’s going to be awesome,” she promises and kisses her. “What do you say we take the pups for a walk on the beach before it gets really dark?”

“I’d love to,” Christen agrees and kisses her softly before going to get the leashes.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

October 24th

“Honey, Lauren and Amy are so nice,” Christen gushes, her hand squeezing Tobin’s right hand as Tobin navigates the car with her left. She’s thrilled to finally meet Tobin’s close friends and loved how their visit went. Amy and her husband Adam were funny and kind and their two boys were adorable and polite. Lauren and her husband Jrue were open and welcoming and set Christen instantly at ease in their home. Jrue is a professional basketball player and has a hilarious personality. Within minutes of meeting her, Christen knew how nurturing Lauren was, through how she interacted with her daughter Jrue, or J.D. as they call her and also by how she asked thoughtful questions to them.

Both Amy and Lauren knew the situation of Christen and Tobin, Tobin had asked Christen if minded that she share it with them over a week ago. They were very protective of Tobin, wanting to be sure she would be safe with the attention she would get from reporters. Jrue sweetly offered to have his security guys come out check both of their houses to make sure everything was secure in case they suddenly got some overzealous fans. When Tobin demurred his offer, he reminded her of a few scary incidents he and Lauren had with fans. Christen was horrified to hear of how these people felt the need to demand their attention and ask personal questions and going so far as to come onto their property and into their backyards all for scoring a photo or an autograph. Christen accepted his offer for both of them, frightened by the possibility of that occurring her or Tobin. Jrue tried to reassure her that the dogs would help immensely, especially if they exhibited a protective nature to her or Tobin.

That conversation left Christen feeling worried, but what happened made her practically forget about it. What is making Christen feel so giddy is how this was her first experience seeing Tobin with children. She had virtually met Tobin’s family through Facetime and she’s come to love when she is around when Tobin’s sister calls to witness Tobin talking to her nephew. Now seeing her act with the kids in person today, she felt something stirring deep inside of her. How Tobin devoted her attention to each child, patiently listening to their stories and holding them and after awhile playing with them just made Christen fall in love with her even more if that was possible.

Amy and her husband live in San Luis Obispo and it worked out that Lauren and Jrue could come down to visit as well. From here, Christen and Tobin are driving three hours further south to Palos Verde to visit Christen’s parents at the family home. Her sisters will be there as well, coming in for the occasion. It’s a quick visit for Tobin and Christen will spend the night there before leaving after breakfast to make the six hour drive back home.

“Little Jrue is so cute,” she says, smiling at meeting the small child. She has a darker complexion like Christen with curly hair and a certain confidence that young children can have that was adorable.

“Yeah, she’s so excited about Halloween,” Tobin smiles, “so are the boys,”

“Do you see us with children in our future?” Christen asks suddenly.

Tobin glances over, a little smirk on her face, “Your ovaries talking here, Chris?” she chuckles and grins.

“Well, maybe,” Christen admits, chuckling at herself, “seeing you with the kids kinda turned me on,” she admits, “and it naturally led me to ask you.”

“I would like to,” Tobin nods, her voice serious, “but we would have to really take things slow and figure out what that would look like. I mean, I’m not sure I’d like to work,” she states, “My Mom stayed home until were older and I kinda love the idea of being a stay at home Mom too and then maybe go back to working part time or something when they get older.”

Christen hums, letting Tobin’s hand go and now resting her hand on Tobin’s thigh.

“And I’d never ask you to leave your job,” Tobin continues, “but if you’re travelling then I’d really want to be home.”

Christen hadn’t considered that. “Oh,” she whispers and Tobin’s head swiftly turns to look at her.

“Babe?” she questions quickly, looking at her with concern and then her eyes are back on the road.

“I didn’t even think of that,” Christen confesses, her shoulders slumping slightly, “I don’t think I’d want to leave ever,”

Tobin slides her hand over Christen’s, patting it lightly, “Babe,” she says slowly, “we don’t have to figure this out right now, here in the car,” she reminds her, “besides,” she lifts her left hand up and wiggles her fingers, “you gotta put a ring on it first!” she laughs lightly.

Christen smiles and leans in her seat, letting out a sigh, “You’re right,” she agrees, “but I’d like to talk more about it sometime,”

“Of course,” Tobin agrees, “and since we’re talking about serious stuff,” she says, “maybe we should start making a timeline of when we might want to live together,”

Christen grins, “I have some ideas about that,” she states happily.

“Yeah?” Tobin glances over, “You got a spreadsheet already?”

Christen looks over at her, waiting to speak until Tobin looks over again. “I do,” she says, narrowing her eyes and scrunching her nose at her.

Tobin chuckles, “My ideas are in my journal,” she shares, “so I’m on the same level as you,” she chuckles, “so, technically, I’m poking fun at both of us,”

“Yes, sweetheart,” Christen says condescendingly.

Traffic stops and Tobin leans over, “I can’t wait for all of this stuff to happen, babe,” she smiles at her and kisses her before settling back I her seat.

Christen takes hold of Tobin’s hand again, “I feel the same way, honey,” she says, her heart filled with love and happiness.

 

----

 

“This will be cool, this will be cool,” Tobin repeats as she wipes her sweaty palms on her jeans again as they walk up the sidewalk to Christen’s childhood home. “Is this how you felt meeting my parents?” Tobin questions, her grip on Christen’s fingers tightening slightly.

“No, it was fine,” Christen states airily, “just like this will be,” she says and stops walking to pull Tobin in and kiss her. “They’ll love you, sweetie,” she says reassuringly, “and I bet you within ten minutes, my Dad will be telling you to call him Big Daddy and my Mom will want to know if you’re joining us for Thanksgiving.”

Tobin nods while she listens to her, “Okay, yeah,” she says, pumping herself up, “it’ll be fine,”

Christen begins to step away and Tobin’s grip holds her in place. “What if it takes longer? Do I win the bet?” her lips curl into a smirk, her eyes darkening a little. She bites her lower lip as she looks at Christen expectantly.

“If he hasn’t said the words Big Daddy or Thanksgiving isn’t mentioned in ten minutes, then I’ll be your sex slave for an entire night,” Christen says slowly, letting her free hand trail down Tobin’s sternum to the loop of her jeans. She curls a finger in the loop, kissing her hard and then she lets go. She opens her purse and swipes to open the clock icon, quickly setting a timer. With phone in hand, she opens the door, “We’re here!” she announces loudly as she presses the timer to start, smirking at Tobin who is wiping her mouth and shaking her head.

 

XXXX

 

October 25th

Christen is trying her best to contain herself as she sits next to Tobin as they pull away from her parents’ house. The visit had been a huge success, Christen’s family fell in love with Tobin almost instantly, enjoying her calm demeanor and easygoing attitude about life. Christen could feel how Tobin relaxed almost immediately following the official introductions. Christen had been smiling through the late afternoon through evening while they hung out on the back deck enjoying the weather and then around the dining room table enjoying her Father’s tasty grilled meal. They returned to the patio in the evening to enjoy drinks around the firepit and talk and enjoy the company.

They spent the night in Christen’s childhood room, now converted to a guest room that still retained some of Christen’s youthful belongings. When Tobin had opened the closet to put her backpack away, she looked with humor at the Spice Girls poster adorning the inside of the door. They fell into bed with a happy tiredness, Tobin’s mixed with some relief and Christen’s mixed with elation over how much her family loves Tobin. When Christen awoke the next morning, she was surprised to be alone in bed. After slowly checking the en suite bathroom and finding it empty, she headed downstairs to find Tobin helping her Mother in the kitchen and offering answers to Cody who was reading the clues aloud while he worked his crossword puzzle. Christen had hung back, just out of view from them, taking in the scene.

Her eyes focused on Tobin, she had her hair up in that messy half bun ponytail thing she always did that somehow looked really looked good on her and had been wearing her favorite hoodie, the one that said ‘All My Friends Are Baked’ with the cartoon of a piece of toast. She was sure her Dad loved it and had probably commented on it already. Tobin had been wearing her glasses, something Christen is still not used to seeing her do and it always pulled at her loins with how attractive Tobin was wearing them. Christen wasn’t paying attention to what was being spoken, but her Mom said something and Tobin gave her the shyest smile as she blushed, it made her heart swell larger than she thought it ever could. He Dad had piped in with something and Tobin bit her lower lipped with her eyes down and then had looked at him and her Mom and just beamed.

Christen didn’t want to interrupt whatever had been said but then her Mom waved to her and the moment was gone. Breakfast had gone well and her Dad took the opportunity to ask Tobin more in depth questions about her schooling and her job and he had pulled details from her that Christen hadn’t heard yet. And when breakfast had been completed, the two washed the dishes and then prepared to get on the road.

Goodbyes weren’t as difficult as they had been for Christen when she usually left her parents and she wasn’t sure if it was because technology kept them connected so well lately or because it was that she was leaving with Tobin by her side.

So now she feels a little righteous, smirking to herself while Tobin fumbles with her seatbelt. She knew without a doubt her family would love Tobin and now she can’t wait to cash in on their bet. Especially since Tobin had worn not only her usual shorts and t-shirt to bed last night but had added sweats and a sweatshirt and shut down every playful attempt Christen made to have sex.

“Don’t even say it,” Tobin warns with a smile as she starts the vehicle, “I know you were right,” she adds with a roll of her eyes.

Christen breaks into giggles, “You’re my soulmate, how could they not like you?”

Tobin eyes her before she puts the car in gear, “Well,” she gives her a smirk of her own, “maybe I liked the idea of losing the bet,” she licks her lips and lets her eyes roam on the sliver of cleavage showing on Christen’s chest, “kinda curious as to what being your sexual slave entails,” she says, her voice dropping a low.

Christen takes a slow deep breath, turning slightly to show her chest and gives a tug on her shirt to bring it down lower, “Well,” she says breathily, desire shooting through her, “maybe I’ll just have to do some research on the ride home so I don’t disappoint you, sweetheart,” she teases lightly, pulling her phone from her purse and holding it up with her lips pursed and eyes dancing with mirth.

They’re not even out of the subdivision when Tobin nearly hits the curb when Christen flashes her a rather explicit photo on her phone of a sexual act she’d like to try when she cashes in on winning the bet.

 

XXXX

 

October 27th

“Okay Jen,” Tobin smiles at the teenager, squatting down before her, “Let’s get you back in your chair. You did awesome today!” she enthuses, taking the two dumbbells from the mat and placing them back on the rack. Tobin has been working with the teenager for over a month now and Tobin really likes this young lady’s positive outlook. She works hard and does her exercises at home and is the perfect patient in every way. She wishes all of her clients were this motivated.

“Thanks Tobin,” she smiles at her as she settles herself in her chair, pulling at her legs and strapping them in, “I think that was a new max,”

“It was,” Tobin nods and grabs her iPad, entering the final weight in and the repetitions into Jenny’s profile, “and your form has improved so much. Have you been working at home on that?”

The girl nods shyly, “Yeah,” she says and then shrugs, “I want to get on a club team and then tryout for the Para-Olympic youth team,” she explains, “They’re having tryouts in January,” The teenager had played hockey before a boating accident resulted in a permanent spinal cord injury.

Tobin nods, “Have you found a rink yet?”

Jen smiles brightly, “Yeah, it’s close to my house too,” she says and then face falls, “it’s not the one I used to play at, they don’t have sled hockey there. But I’m also still saving for a sled,”

They both turn when they hear the door open to the facility.

“Hey Mom,” Jen waves.

“Hi honey,” the woman greets, “hi Tobin, how are you?”

“Good Mrs. Bertucci, how’s it going with you?”

“Just fine,” she replies with a smile, “Jen did you max out?”

Jen smiles at her, “Yeah, it was awesome,”

Her Mother high fives her, “You worked for it, babe,” she says proudly.

“Oh, hey, that reminds me,” Tobin says, “do you have a minute? I got something for you Jen,” Jen nods and Tobin walks over to her office cubicle, locating the file folder she placed there this morning and returns to her side.

“So, you know,” Tobin says, rocking on her heels a little, “two weeks ago when we were talking and you said you waned to watch to the Steel play,” she opens the file and hands over an envelope, “I sorta happened across these,”

Jen opens it and her eyes grow huge as she looks up at Tobin. “Tobin,” she breathes, looking at the four pack of season tickets, “this is amazing,”

“Tobin,” Mrs. Bertucci says, “that’s too generous, we can’t accept this from you,”

Tobin grins, “Oh, but they’re not from me,” she shakes her head, “I’m just the messenger. Here,” she hands over the folder.

Jen opens it and finds an 8 x10 for Ashlyn Harris from the Steel, autographed to Jen “Bertzy” Bertucci with a short note saying she can’t wait to meet her. There’s another team signed photo and an envelope in there with a letter from Ashlyn. Jen tears up as she reads the letter and then looks up at Tobin. She wipes at her eyes, “She said there’s something else?”

Tobin nods, “Outside,” she says. “Tommy,” she calls out to her coworker, “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” when they get outside, Tobin points to her truck, “You wanna pull over there?” she asks Mrs. Bertucci, who nods and smiles. Tobin had already texted the woman about the contents she had in her truck. “Come on, Bertzy,” she smiles, gesturing for the teen to follow her. Tobin waits until Mrs. Bertucci arrives and is out of the van, her phone ready to film the unveiling of the contents of Tobin’s truck.

“What the…” the teen mumbles as she gazes with wide eyes at the hockey sled Tobin is pulling from her truck.

“Ash wants you to practice with this,” Tobin informs her, handing her the sticks that are used to play. Players would use them to propel themselves along the ice as well as for shooting and passing the puck. “Email her like she asked and she’ll get you hooked up to practice with the team sometime,”

“Tobin…” she cries, the seventeen year old is overwhelmed and she reaches her arms out and Tobin hugs her.

“You’re gonna tear it up out there,” Tobin says to her quietly, “you’re gonna do great and have so much fun,”

Tobin retrieves a gear bag full of pads, more sticks and practice clothing and hands her an Ashlyn Harris Steel jersey. She holds it up with the sled and gear bag by her chair and smiles as Tobin snaps a few photos. “I guess I didn’t tell you that Ash is one of my best friends,” Tobin grins at them, “so when you mentioned it, I knew she would be so tickled to help you get started in the sport.”

“Thank you so much, Tobin,” Mrs. Bertucci says heartfully, nearly crushing her in a hug, “you are so kind to think of us,”

“Aw, you’re welcome,” Tobin says shyly when they pull back. She sets her hand on Jen’s shoulder, “And you,” she smiles at her, “you have my number, so when you turn eighteen, you can come train with us. Road races are awesome. Just let me know,”

“I will Tobin,” Jen says, nodding her head, “This is so awesome!” she sighs happily.

“Let me get you guys loaded up,” Tobin suggests and grabs the sled.

 

----

 

“Yeah, it was so awesome to be able to do that,” Tobin sighs with contentment, her eyes still welled with happy tears as she recounted the story to Christen that night. “I don’t know what was better, how totally jacked up Ash was to give her everything or Jen getting it,”

Christen pulls her closer, bringing her hand to caress Tobin’s jaw, “I think I’m most excited for how you enabled that to happen for both of them, sweetie,” she says heartfully, looking into Tobin’s eyes and seeing how brightly shine, “I love that you chose to do such a wonderful thing for both of them,” she leans in and kisses her softly. Tobin looks at her, exuding so much love in the moment.

“Ali mentioned to me last week about how excited Ashlyn was about having a fan who wanted to play hockey like her and she was getting some equipment together to give her,” Christen grins, “I didn’t know you were involved with that,”

Tobin gives her a half shrug, “It wasn’t a big deal,” she demurs, her eyes looking in her lap and a shy expression on her face. Christen slowly moves to straddle her, cupping Tobin’s cheeks with her hands.

“It was a big deal to Jen and her Mom,” she says quietly, “and it was a big to Ash and her team. Ali told me how they signed a poster for her and went in together to buy the season tickets,”

“I’m just glad I was in the position to make it happen,” Tobin states gently, “it was pretty awesome.”

“I don’t know how it’s possible,” Christen says tenderly, “but I fall deeper in love with you every day,” she sees how Tobin’s eyes crinkle with her wide smile. “I love you,” she moves her head closer to capture Christen’s lips.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

October 31st

Tobin and Christen are standing on the corner a half a block from Ashlyn and Ali’s street. They had taken an Uber here to this location, needing to meet up with whatever it was that Tobin had been working on to complete their Halloween costumes. She swore it would win them the grand prize.

“Sweetheart?” Christen questions, feeling out of place standing here dressed as Queen Nefertiti on a suburban street corner. Tobin looks up from her phone, “Any minute,” she gives her a confident smile. She puts her phone in the leather pouch hanging off her belt. She’s carrying two wraps for them in case they grow cold with the night air in a few hours. They both can hear faint music from what they assume is the block party. The party started an hour ago in the afternoon so kids could have a good time before the adults had an even better one. Christen looks over Tobin’s shoulder, seeing a large pickup truck with the hazards flashing slowly approaching them.

“Ah, here we are,” Tobin grins at her, “your conveyance awaits, my Queen,” she says and bows deeply.

The truck pauses and little heads poke out from the tailgate. “Auntie To-To!” It’s Amy’s boys and J.D. Holiday.

Christen’s eyes grow larger when she sees Lauren step out, looking like an Egyptian socialite. “Good evening, Your Highness,” she greets them formally with an exaggerated bow.

“What the…” Christen lets her mouth drop open as Lauren gives her a hug.

“You look amazing,” Lauren nods her head approvingly, “just like a Queen should.”

“I love the eye makeup,” Amy chimes in from Christen’s left, she is dressed similar to Lauren.

Greetings are exchanged and little Jrue looks up at Christen in awe. “You’re the Queen,” she says with amazement, “you really are,”

“She’s Queen Nefertiti, remember?” Lauren smiles at her.

“I’m your Princess!” Jrue proclaims. Christen bends do to look at her, “You certainly are, sweetie,” she says warmly, loving her Egyptian outfit, “you look amazing.”

Then Tobin is in front of her, looking at with pride, “Your palanquin is ready,”

Christen’s eyebrows shoot up when she looks over Tobin’s shoulders and sees the litter intended to carry her. There is a platform on which an ornate throne sits, with three small seats, one on each side of her chair and one in front of the throne. But what is amazing is how the poles extend out with a semi-circular padded shoulder rest which currently has twelve of Tobin’s friends in wheelchairs holding it up. The shoulder pad allows the guys to have both hands free to wheel Christen to her destination. All of the guys are in some form of Egyptian costumes.

“Tobin!” she exclaims, “How did you do this?”

Tobin just grins and takes her hands, “You guys ready?” she looks over and asks and the kids scramble back up on the tailgate. “My Lady,” Tobin kisses Christen’s hand, “your conveyance awaits,”

“I’m going up in there?” she questions, starting to smile at how amazing this is.

“Yeah, and if we could speed this up so we’re not blocking the road,” Tobin suggests, jerking her head to tailgate. She helps Christen up and once she’s seated, she discovers that Jrue has a big palm frond to wave at her and also a large bag of candy. The boys are to her sides, hands in the candy bags, ready to toss it.

“What are you going to do?” Christen calls out to Tobin. Tobin hands her their wraps and she stuffs them on the side of the chair.

“Lead you in with my army,” Tobin smirks, jerking her thumb over her shoulder. Behind her a group of about thirty people are lining up in ranks, a mix of those walking and in wheelchairs of all ages and all in costumes of Roman and Egyptian soldiers. There’s men, women and children, all laughing as they get into position. Christen watches as Tobin straps on a leather belt with a sword attached and is given a staff with the curled python on the top. She adjusts her headpiece, smooths out the front of her tunic and pulls down the fake metal armor she’s wearing. She makes for a compelling Akhenaten.

“Let’s go Nefertitty!” Little Jrue shouts and it causes laughter.

“Nefertiti,” Christen gently corrects, trying not to laugh and feeling a blush rise in her face. It’s especially hilarious to her since she’s not wearing a bra and Tobin has been making comments about freeing the titties since she’s first seen her dressed.

After they had checked each other out in their costumes, Christen and Tobin had gone out to the beach. Tobin had placed her camera on a tripod and set it to take photos. They posed as if they were in character, looking strong and serious, side by side, holding their spear and the staffs. Then they relaxed and took more natural photos, holding each other and kissing. Christen couldn’t wait to see them later after Tobin downloads them to her laptop.

She looks down and gives Tobin a broad smile, loving how Tobin’s eyes light up and she gives her a wink. Tobin strides over to her side, looking up at her, “Please make sure the kids start to throw candy when we get near people and not before, okay?”

“Will do,” Christen nods, “did you hear that kids? We only throw candy when we see the people.”

“Okay,” they answer in chorus.

“Would you like to throw candy, Nefer-Christen?” Jrue asks, looking up at her.

“Sure, honey,” Christen agrees, smiling at her sweetness. She accepts a handful from the child.

“I think we’re ready to go,” Tobin announces after checking with the crew. Christen watches her stride to the front, enjoying the view of her powerful legs.

 

“Honey we need” Ali stops speaking abruptly, her eyes growing large at the sight coming down the street. Ashlyn wheels around to see what she’s looking at. “Holy fuck!” she exclaims. “You guys!” she calls out to their friends up the driveway, “check this out!” she gestures with her arm.

A parade of people are approaching their house, being led by someone dressed as an Egyptian.

“Is that Chris and Tobin?” Ali questions, letting her hand rest on Ashlyn’s shoulder as they watch from the foot of their driveway. As the group marches up, the wheelchairs slowly gliding on the street carrying Christen and the kids tossing candy at children and adults they pass, a crowd of neighbors are walking behind them, curious to watch how this unfolds.

Mark, Ali and Ashlyn’s neighbor and emcee for the night, stands in the middle of the street in front of the driveway, waiting for Tobin and her army to approach. Tobin stops, straightening herself to stand tall before him and makes a fist and taps her chest in greeting. They’ve known each other since Ali and Ash have moved in and are friends. He gestures to someone in Ashlyn's driveway and the music shuts off.

He lifts the wireless microphone to his lips, “Greetings and welcome,” he says, his voice amplified through speakers nearby, “please introduce yourself,”

Tobin nods, getting herself into character, “I am Akhenaten, Pharaoh of Egypt and it’s lands,” she says into the microphone, “these are my people, and my wife, Queen Nefertiti and Princess Jrue and Prince Ryan and Prince Luke.”

Behind her, Jrue and Adam, Lauren and Amy’s husbands, approach the litter and assist Christen down gracefully. Tobin gestures to her and she regally approaches her side. “I am Queen Nefertiti,” she announces coolly, looking at Mark in his Shaggy costume from Scooby Doo.

“The pleasure is all mine, your Highness,” he bows grandly. “Please, enjoy our festivities this evening.”

“Thank you,” Christen replies with an air of majesty. It makes Tobin shiver next to her.

Mark grins and turns from side to side quickly, “Everybody, let’s hear it for Queen Nefertiti and Pharaoh Ahkenaten and their army!” The crowd on the block cheers wildly and Tobin and Christen laugh and wave. Tobin joins those who walked in their procession to help the kids down and then lift the conveyance to free the guys in the wheelchairs to scoot out from it. They place it just off the sidewalk on Ali and Ashlyn’s front lawn and it’s instantly swarmed by kids who climb in it, pretending to be royalty.

“Christen…” Ali’s voice trails off as she gets her first up close look at her friend, “you look incredible,” she says in awe.

“Holy shit,” Ashlyn mutters as Christen bends down to hug her, “you look just like the painting,” she says quietly with shock on her face.

“It’s really something else, huh?” Christen smiles at them, feeling Tobin slide her arm around her waist.

“Isn’t she amazing?” Tobin asks, still just blown away with how incredible her soulmate looks. It takes her right back to the days before Hatshepsut courted Thutmose the Second and they spent all of their time together. “She’s ageless,” she says emotionally. Christen gives her a kiss and rubs her back.

Ali flutters her hand just under her chin, “I need a drink,” she says hurriedly, “and then I want to say hi to Amy and Lauren,”

“Help yourselves,” Ashlyn offers, “you guys really do look amazing,” she says, feeling they carry this aura with them.

“Yeah, thanks,” Tobin says, “nice costume,” she compliments, admiring the DJ booth she’s created. “Does it work?”

Ashlyn smirks at her and flicks a button on her small table attached to her chair and music comes to life up the driveway of her house.

“Sweet!” Tobin grins and offers her fist. They bump them together and then get swept away by members of Ashlyn’s hockey team and move up the driveway.

 

----

 

“My feet hurt,” Christen whines quietly as she lays her head on Tobin’s shoulder. They’re slow dancing on Ashlyn’s driveway. It’s late, well past midnight and the party has been so much fun. Tobin and Christen played games with the kids, helping Ryan, Luke and Jrue win small prizes. Many houses on the block sponsored some type of activity or had food and drinks available. They made the rounds, Tobin introducing Christen to the neighbors she knew and mingling with their friends in the street and on Ashlyn’s driveway.

After Amy and Lauren and their crews left along with many of the other youngsters, the party kicked itself into another gear. Beer pong and flippy cup tables were set up in the street and competitions started. Ashlyn’s friends created a makeshift obstacle course in the street, challenging those who wanted to try out a wheelchair into racing against them. Tobin and Christen joined in, Tobin giving her competitor a close race and Christen gaining a new appreciation for the muscles needed to navigate in the chair.

Megan and Sue were there, just gushing over them and taking photos of them, knowing it would be pretty awesome for Megan's article. They hung out with Becky and Zola, laughed with Syd and Dom over their Flintstones costumes, Dom being Wilma and Syd being Fred. They were introduced to Alyssa's soulmate, a shy young woman who owned a bookstore. They spent time dancing on the driveway, hanging out on the back deck and eating a feast of foods. Neither of them drank a whole lot, preferring to have a buzz throughout the night, just being slightly tipsy.

Now, as the night winds down, they slow dance in the driveway surrounded by twinkling Christmas lights, stealing kisses during the songs and holding each other close. “I wanna marry you,” Christen murmurs, lifting her head to look Tobin in the eyes, “I wanna make our union official in this lifetime soon,”

Tobin knows Christen is buzzed but she also knows the truth behind her words, “So do I,” she agrees, “what do say we do it soon?”

Christen stops moving and looks at her seriously, “Wait, really?”

“Yeah, why not?” Tobin grins at her, she’s buzzed as well, “Thanksgiving weekend,” she proposes.

“When everyone is coming over on that Saturday?” Christen asks, somewhat hoping that’s what Tobin is thinking.

Tobin nods, “Yeah, you wanna?” she’s grinning wildly at her.

“Absolutely,” Christen smiles at her, feeling excitement course through her body.

“I want my sisters to stand up for me,” Tobin breathes out, “you want yours?”

“Yes,” Christen giggles, “lets keep it simple, okay?”

“On the beach, before we eat, then we hang out,” Tobin offers, having obviously running this scenario in her head before. They had discussed the holidays and Tobin would join Christen Wednesday to Friday for Thanksgiving with her family and then meet Tobin’s family who was flying out to celebrate the holiday on Saturday. They would be in town from Friday night to Sunday, a quick visit but they all wanted to meet Christen in person. Saturday would have both families meeting at Tobin’s house with their friends included. The gathering would include their closest friends and family and it would perfect. It would be a whirlwind weekend with lots of driving but totally worth it.

“Who would marry us on such short notice?” Christen wonders. “Ali and Ashlyn,” they say in unison and laugh.

Then Christen is pulling at a ring on her hand and gracefully takes a knee, “Tobin Powell Heath,” she says, her voice trembling slightly, “you found me and I never want to let you go ever again. Will you do me the honor of being my wife in this lifetime and forevermore?”

They both hear shrieks and gasps around them as others become aware of what’s happening on the driveway but neither look away.

“I will,” Tobin chokes out, suddenly overcome with emotion, nodding at her through her tears. She watches as Christen tenderly slides the ring on her finger. They kiss to cheers and then Tobin drops her hands from Christen, pulling at the ring on her ring finger. She kneels down, “Christen Annemarie Press,” she states, looking up at her with love and devotion in her watery eyes, “would you do me the honor of being my wife in this lifetime and forevermore?”

“I will,” Christen agrees, tearing up as well, “a thousand times over, I will,” she says as Tobin stands and gently places the ring on her finger. They kiss passionately until they become aware of the cheers and break free to breathe deeply, their foreheads touching, smiling at each other.

They are swarmed by people offering their congratulations and don’t make it off the driveway for a half an hour. When they finally find Ali and Ashlyn, they hug one another, Ali and Ashlyn feeling especially emotional knowing the truth of their friends soul bond and how it will become public. Ali insists on taking photos of the two, in costume, glowing under the lights, flashing their newly ring adorned fingers as the shutter clicks.

A couple hours later when the crowd has thinned out and both of them have helped Ali and Ashlyn clean up for the night, they sit around the table on the back deck, relaxing before they go home.

“So,” Tobin says after while of talking with them, “would you two be willing to get ordained and marry us the Saturday after Thanksgiving?” she asks casually.

“Seriously? At your party?” Ashlyn asks, her eyes popped wide open as they nod. “It would be a total honor,” she says emotionally, “You’re sure?” They nod at her, both grinning.

“We want you both,” Christen confirms, “but we’re not sure if we want to surprise everyone with the wedding yet or not,”

“We’ll keep it on the downlow,” Ali promises, “I’m so happy for you guys,”

 

Now, in the backseat of an Uber and nestled into Tobin’s side, her body heat radiating and keeping her warm, Christen suddenly realizes they have a lot to do to pull off this wedding. “Tobin,” she says in an urgent hushed voice, “sweetheart, we,”

“I know,” she says quietly, “we’ll figure it out when we get home, okay?”

Home

Christen swoons at the word, knowing in her heart she wants to live at Tobin’s house. Not just because of the beach and the ocean, but it makes sense. Tobin works a little further south and the commute from Christen’s house by campus isn’t fun. Christen’s commute the university wouldn’t be bad at all, maybe adding twenty minutes to her time to get there.

She lets her mind lazily wander over details, feeling content that her and Tobin would figure it all out with no problems. She likes the idea of being barefoot in the sand when they say their vows, she thinks she wants to wear a something basic, a simple white dress, feeling Tobin would be pleased to wear a dress shirt and slacks. She might surprise her though, Tobin might want to wear a dress. Whatever she wears will be perfect and it could even rain and not ruin their day.

She drifts off to the steady hum of the tires and Tobin’s relaxed breathing.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

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November 2nd

“Let’s see the ring!” Sydney bellows as Christen walks in the office. She holds up her hand, “I don’t have one,” she smiles, “Tobin and I exchanged our regular rings and then we both felt weird not wearing them, so we switched back.”

Ali laughs as she sets her briefcase down next to her desk, “Why is that so on brand for you two?”

“Because it is,” Christen chuckles, “but we went shopping yesterday and found our bands and decided to not have engagement rings after all,” she shrugs, “neither of us really felt one way or the other about it.”

“Will you get them in time?” Ali is concerned.

Christen nods, “Yes,” she confirms, “we paid extra to rush them and are guaranteed delivery.”

“Good,” Sydney nods with a smile, “so, everyone knows, right? It’s not going to be a surprise wedding?”

“We haven’t even thought of a date yet,” Christen lies to her, “we let our family know yesterday and it’s going to be very casual,”she states with a shrug, “whenever that happens.”

“Well, anything I can do to help,” Ali offers once again, “you know I’m there,” She’s in on the surprise and plays it off perfectly.

“Same, girlfriend,” Sydney smiles, “I’m so happy for you!” she gives Christen a hug. “So, give us all the details,” she says excitedly, clapping her hands, “I want to hear everything,”

“At lunch, okay?” Christen asks, “I’ve got my nine o’clock and then Megan is filming in the lab, remember?”

“Oh, right!” Sydney nods, “For sure then,”

 

XXXX

 

“Hey, babe, I just saw your text, what’s up?” Tobin asks, wondering if something is wrong even though Christen said no worries in her message to call her when she had a chance. When she had a moment between patients, she went outside to return the call.

“Megan and Sue are here setting up and I was wondering if we should invite them to the wedding?” Christen asks her in hushed tones.

There’s silence as Tobin thinks, “Well, it would be a nice add on to her story and would like, very publicly let everyone know we’re off limits,” she cracks, referencing the comments
Christen sometimes receives on her social media when she posts photos. She has a growing following from her work adventures.

“Sweetie,” Christen chuckles, “I agree with you about it being a nice end to her story,” she says, pacing in her office, “but I don’t think it will do anything to combats the internet weirdos,”

Tobin laughs, “Yeah, you’re right about that,” she agrees, “but, yeah, for sure, let’s do it. Ask her.”

“Okay, sweetheart, I will,” she smiles, “love you and I’ll see you at home,”

“Love you too, babe, bye,” Tobin signs off and Christen does the same. She walks back into the lab approaches Megan and Sue, the latter is setting up the lighting for some of the artifacts they will be shooting.

“Ladies,” Christen smiles at them, “I was wondering if you’d like to join Tobin and I on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend?”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

November 13th

“Are you ready for this?” Christen asks in the darkness. Her and Tobin are in bed, snuggled in holding each other. It’s been a whirlwind the past two weeks, doing the final interviews with Megan, each day knocking off something on the list for the wedding and planning their trip down to Palos Verde to visit Christen’s family for Thanksgiving. The wedding planning has been going smoothly, to the point where they are both enjoying what they are doing.

They had decided to rent a tent and flooring and Tobin had eagerly measured out the floor plan to accommodate Ashlyn’s needs with her wheelchair. She already had a ramp she would pull out when Ash came to visit and she’d use that at the front porch. It only took up half the width of the stairway, leaving the other half open for use.

In the backyard, Tobin had mapped out the area under the tent and where they would have the ceremony and included a walkway to the house with a ramp to the back deck. Accessibility was Tobin’s priority and she was sure Ash wouldn’t have any problems getting around. The tent would have flaps on the sides for a couple of reasons, privacy for one, just in case the press gets wind of the event and also the weather because it would get chilly when the wind whipped up off the ocean.

They both have decided their outfit for the day, agreeing to be casual yet dressed nicely. Neither had seen the other’s outfit in person, but they discussed colors and felt they wouldn’t clash. From the tent company, they rented table and chairs and dinner service. Megan had warned them to not mention the wedding when speaking with them and suggested telling them it was just for a Thanksgiving meal. She had told them stories of paparazzi having contacts with all sorts of businesses and paying for information from those vendors. They had taken her advice to heart remembering how many times TMZ would break a story from anonymous sources. Even though the story hadn't broke yet, Megan was cautioning them to act like it had to ensure their privacy. She is a smart woman and Tobin and Christen are grateful for her guidance.

Tonight they had discussed the menu and Tobin was insistent she was cooking for everyone. Part of it was because they’d all travelled to her home and it was Thanksgiving weekend and she wanted to cook and the other part was wanting it to be their official first party as a married couple. Christen liked the idea, thinking it would be nice to serve them for the holiday and for unknowingly coming to their wedding. Christen readily got onboard with it and they easily agreed on a menu that wouldn’t be too involved and yet delicious. They would combine Tobin grilling steaks, seafood and veggies and Christen adding some side dishes in the kitchen. They would be able to make some items beforehand and then heat them up. It would be easy and they’d serve it family style to each table. With everything planned, Christen and Tobin feel pretty relaxed about the event. The unveiling of them being soul bonded, there’s mixed feelings and that’s why Christen wants to check in with Tobin.

“I am,” Tobin sighs, “I’m keeping a positive mindset and reminding myself that all of the hype won’t last too long,” she says, giving her a small smile. “I just hope nobody comes and bothers me at work,” she frowns, “that would suck.”

“Yeah, I hope they don’t,” Christen murmurs, “but I do think how we’re doing this will take a big bite out them needing photos of us. Megan’s story will have everything and we won’t be a mystery at all. People will pretty much know the whole story.”

“You’re right,” Tobin twisting a little and running her hand along Christen’s shoulder and yawning, “I just want it over with,” she says tiredly.

Christen doesn’t know what else to say so she lifts her head and kisses Tobin softly, “Goodnight sweetheart,”

“’Night, babe,”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

November 14th

“Clever of Dr. Sweiss to include the info on the interview in his press release,” Alyssa nods approvingly as she reads the email from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

“Can you believe the papers they’ve been able to preserve and interpret from Tobin, er Sitre In?” Ali states with wonder, “Documenting Hatshepsut’s illness and treatment and all of the political happenings during her reign? It’s amazing!”

The second metal box the Stanford crew opened from KV60, Sitre In's tomb, contained over twenty rolls of brittle papyrus, slightly damaged by time. Neither Becky or Ali felt they were capable of archiving them properly without possibly destroying them, so the group decided to send them back to the Egypt where Ari could personally supervise the work on them by professionals who specialized in just working on ancient papyrus.

“She didn’t tell me what was inside,” Christen smiles wistfully, “I’m not even sure if she recalls everything she wrote and put in there,”

“Does she remember being back there?” Alyssa asks curiously. The group have only skirted around the topic, picking up little bits here and there from Christen’s comments while they worked on the artifacts bit none of them have asked her directly.

“We both do now,” Christen admits, “she remembers more than I actually. I remember pulses,” she explains, “just flashes of memories usually triggered by conversations or seeing certain objects.”

Becky furrows her brow, “The comb,” she looks up at her, “you remembered it but didn’t say anything,”

Christen smiles and nods, “I wasn’t positive back then,” she explains, “Tobin and I hadn’t met in this life and I wasn’t a hundred percent sure I was really Hatshepsut,”

“The weekend after Tobin went to your presentation,” Ali surmises, “that’s when you knew,”

Christen nods solemnly, “Yeah, it was.”

The phones start ringing in the office area and Christen gives them a rueful look, “I think it’s started,” They can hear Sarah answer the phone, listen for a moment, and then speak.
“Interviews with Dr. Press are scheduled through our media department, you may reach them at…” she states very professionally, reading the script she had brought in to Christen voluntarily for Christen to approve and offering to help out today. As soon as she’s given out the information and hangs up, another line is ringing and she’s picking the phone up again.

“She’s definitely getting extra, extra credit,” Christen chuckles.
“I think she’s got it,” Becky states as she observes the young the woman, “she has the passion,”

“Sure does,” Sydney agreed, “she already asked me if I needed a TA next semester,” she grins, “and she’s mine,” she points a finger at the small group, “hands off,” They all share a laugh before getting back to work. A few people come through the gallery, obviously taking photos of Christen and trying to get her attention only to have Sydney and Alyssa run interference. They ended up placing screens around Christen’s work station so she could concentrate without the annoying reporters rudely tapping on the glass. That worked and soon the gallery thinned out and the new faces that came through left with disappointment when they couldn’t see the newly popular archeologist.

 

----

“Are you okay?” Christen asks worriedly, her arms extended, gripping Tobin’s biceps as she looks her over.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Tobin nods, slipping off her beanie and tossing it on the table, “two of them were kinda jerks but it wasn’t a big deal,” she puckers her lips and leans in for Christen to kiss her, “nothing I couldn’t handle.”

“Okay,” Christen looks relieved, “if it gets too much…” Tobin smiles, “I know, babe. It’s cool,”

“Okay,” Christen nods, “now,” she straightens her back, “where is your foam roller? I want to rollout my hip,”

Tobin, now kneeling on the floor, looks up from petting the dogs, “Back of the hall closet,” she answers and as Christen walks away, she smiles as she listens to Tobin telling the girls how good they are and asking them how their day was.

“Honey?” Christen calls, her voice muffled because her head is in the closet, she pops out, holding a long cardboard tube, “What is this?”

Tobin looks up and her mouth opens in a circle, “Oh, ah,” she says, “um, those are architectural drawings,” she answers, slowly getting to her feet. “Before I was aware of you,” she says slowly, “I was thinking of adding an addition. I shelved it thinking you would want to be involved it.” She follows Christen to the kitchen table. “With how crazy everything has been, I just kind of forgot about it,”

Christen looks at her excitedly, “Can we look?” her fingers on the plastic stopper.

“Of course,” Tobin smiles, sauntering over the counter and pulling out four coffee mugs from the cabinet. “To hold it down,” she explains as Christen unrolls the plans.

They spend about an hour talking about the plans, taking a break to feed the dogs and begin dinner. Tobin’s plan called for an addition jutting out to the north side of the existing home, adding a new living room to allow the kitchen to grow a bit into the old one and serve to make room for a proper dining area. The addition would then extend back, towards the ocean with a modest office and a new master bedroom facing the ocean with an en suite bedroom and walk in closet. Tobin explained how when she was designing it, she was thinking how the addition would create a cool courtyard in the backyard, extending the deck along the new side and having the sand dune barrier on the other side. The addition would block the north winds and help preserve the dune, plus it would help keep the yard sheltered from the blowing sand. Since the dune was protected by the state, she had engineers from the forestry service come out to discuss it and the state had already approved the drawings.

“Tobin, this looks amazing!” Christen gushes, already thinking of paint colors and color swatches.

“Yeah?” Tobin looks unsure, “I mean, if there’s anything you’d want to change,” she gestures at the drawings.

“It’s perfect, honey,” Christen assures her, “I love it.” She grins wildly at her, “But, can we afford this?”

Tobin gives her a knowing smirk, “Totally,” she says confidently. Moving to stand behind her and wrap arms around her, resting her chin on her shoulder, “Remember when I said my aunt willed this to me?” she asks, waiting for Christen to nod, “It was paid for. There’s no mortgage and then I rented it for like, six years and that was the nest egg I told you about. I already have the quote for it, I could pay cash for it.”

“Oh my,” Christen murmurs, turning her head, “Really?” her eyes are dancing, sparkling in those captivating green and grey hues.

“Yeah, babe,” Tobin replies happily, feeling like her dreams are coming true. “I’d still have, like three hundred hundred thousand left over,” she shares with her, “we could invest most of it, maybe travel a little and if we needed new wheels or something, it wouldn’t be a problem.”

Christen nods, biting her lower lip, “We’ll get royalties from Megan’s interview,” she reminds her, “we could sock that away, along with my savings,” she suggests, “maybe start a college fund for a little one.”

Tobin smiles issuing a happy sigh, “That sounds awesome,” she agrees, “what do you say maybe we find lawyer in like, mid-December. Do all the paperwork, wills, powers of attorney, establish this as a trust or whatever they think best. Figure out our finances, stuff like that. I’ve got a good financial advisor, we could go to her or if you’ve got someone or we could go to both and we could get that stuff set up. Just get it done before the New Years.”

“So, you only pay for utilities?” Christen chuckles, looking at her, a little incredulous. They hadn’t really spoken of finances before, it just never came up for an in depth discussion. Sure, they talked about being okay financially, both of them sensible, being able to afford a nice vacation each year, but they never talked numbers.
“Yeah, that and taxes,” Tobin replies, “the property taxes on the house would go up almost double, but it would totally be worth it.”

“So, December, we’ll get all of that stuff in order, I move in and we decide what to do about my house,” Christen confirms, “it’s going to be a busy month,”

“Don’t forget Christmas,” Tobin grins, “and your birthday.” She squeezes her gently, “We’ll just take our time, do it at a pace we like.”

Christen returns her smile, “The nice thing will be I’ll be off from school,” she says, “although I’ll go in to work on the artifacts, but usually just for a few hours.” She turns to look at Tobin, “This is pretty exciting,”

Tobin gives her a beaming smile, “It is,” she agrees, stepping back to move to her side and put her arm around her waist, “it feels good,” she says contentedly, “Natural.”

Christen hums in agreement, “It does,” she acknowledges, “I don’t feel any pressure or anxiety, just happiness to be doing this with you,” she turns into Tobin’s arms and kisses her tenderly, “take me to bed,” she suggests, “I need to touch you,”

“But the interview is on in,” she looks over Christen’s shoulder to the clock on the microwave, “in ten minutes,”

“We’ll watch it online later,” Christen states lustily, her hand snaking up under Tobin’s shirt and gripping her breast, “I need to fuck you right now,”

Tobin’s expression is one of desire, “Of course, my love,” she husks, kisses her with urgency as she slowly guides her in her arms down the hallway to her bedroom. Their bedroom.

 

XXXX

 

November 18th

It’s quiet when Christen and the dogs enter the house. Morena and Khaleesi must sense something in the air because they don’t run around looking for Tobin, rather they wait patiently by their now permanent dishes for their dinner. Christen serves them before going to look for her soulmate. She finds her in the bedroom, the room incredibly dark for the time of day, the drapes tightly drawn shut and Tobin curled in the fetal position, buried under blankets, her arms clutching her pillow.

“Sweetheart,” Christen calls out softly, moving slowly in the darkness to the bed, carefully lifting the covers and sliding on the mattress and moving to her side.

Tobin groans, rolling onto her stomach and groggily lifting her head up, “Hey baby,” she says, her voice gravelly and low.

“How are you? Are you sick?” Christen asks, scooting closer and placing her hand on Tobin’s back, rubbing light patterns on her shirt.

Tobin lets her head fall, “Keep doing that,” she says pitifully, “feels nice,” she sighs, “I have a migraine,”

“Did you take your medicine?”

“Mmmhum,”

“I’ll stay here until you sleep, okay?” Christen insists, unsure if there is anything else she can do to her.

“Mmmhum,” Tobin sighs, closing her eyes and grimacing slightly. Christen gets more comfortable, continuing her movements on Tobin’s back, hoping it would soothe her and she would sleep. The open bedroom door from the hallway allows just enough light to spill in that Christen can barely make out Tobin’s features now. Tobin eyes are clamped shut, her forehead furrowed with pain with a fine bead of sweat near her hairline. Her mouth is partially open, mashed against the pillow, her exhales sounding slightly labored. Christen slips her hand under Tobin’s shirt, letting the pads of her fingers glide across her smooth skin. Tobin lets out a high-pitched moan and she seems to relax in just the slightest.

The dogs come in and before Christen can stop them, they climb up on the bed, jostling them and stepping on Tobin in their excitement to greet her. Tobin groans, curling back up and enduring a face bath from Khaleesi before she’s able to get a hand up to defend herself.

“Stop,” she whines, turning her face away.

“Girls, get down,” Christen commands loudly, seeing how Tobin winces at the sound. The dogs won’t leave Tobin alone, they’re so happy they found her. Christen pulls herself up to guide them out of the room, hastily pulling back the covers as she moves.

She gets the dogs out and shuts the door, turning to see Tobin sitting up, frowning as she scrambles out of the bed and heads to the bathroom. She hears the retching before she’s even three steps in the room, frowning as she realizes the dogs probably caused Tobin to vomit. She imagines she was feeling nauseous from her migraine and the dogs bouncing around probably sent her over the edge. She hears the toilet flush and steps into the bathroom. From the soft glow of the night light, Tobin is at the sink, a shaky hand pouring a small amount of mouthwash into a cup.

“I’m sorry,” Christen apologizes heartfully, “I didn’t think they would jump up like that,”

“It’s okay,” Tobin gives her a sickly smile, “I actually feel a little better after doing that,” she gestures to the toilet.

“Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?” Christen asks, “We’ve never talked about your migraines,”

Tobin holds up a finger to gargle the mouthwash and spit it out, quickly filling the cup to rinse her mouth. She wipes her face and leans against the counter, “I get sensitive to sound to light,” Tobin explains, “it should go away in a couple of hours,”

Christen nods, “Maybe I could rub your back to help you sleep?” she asks, wanting to be useful.

Tobin nods, taking her hand, “That would be great, babe,” she says quickly, leading her back to the bed, “it would really help,”

“Will you eat anything later?” Christen questions, wanting to be able to have something for her available when she wakes. They get comfortable under the covers, Christen’s hand under Tobin’s shirt, making slow circles on her back.

“I usually make a bowl of soup,” Tobin replies, her voice muffled by the pillow.

“Broth or cream?” Christen persists, she really wants to be able to do something for her.

“Broth,” Tobin answers, letting out a heavy sigh.

“Okay, sweetheart,” Christen says quietly, “just relax and drift off,”

 

Hours later, Christen is coming in the back door when Tobin saunters sleepily down the hall from the bedroom. “Easy girls,” she commands, not wanting the pups to happily attack Tobin with their greeting. They must sense Tobin isn’t feeling well from her posture or the vibe she’s sending out and they approach her slowly, butts wiggling and issuing soft woofs and whines. Tobin smiles and gives them both scritches behind their ears before walking over to Christen and hugging her.

“Should I turn off this light?” Christen questions, wondering if the kitchen light is bothering her.

“Nah, it’s okay,” Tobin replies sleepily, yawning against her shoulder, “it’s just a headache now,” she says, giving out a contented sigh.

“I made you soup,” Christen informs her while rubbing Tobin’s back.

“Oh, thank you, baby, that sounds good,” Tobin replies gratefully, “I’m kind of hungry,”

“Do you have an idea of why this migraine came on?” Christen questions as Tobin eats. She had prepared her own dinner earlier and spent the evening watching TV with the sound on low. She had checked to make sure Tobin couldn’t hear it by sneaking into the bedroom and listening for it.

“I think this week wore me out,” Tobin admits, “you know, trying to remember everything Megan said about answering questions and keeping things as boring as possible. Then with the everything happening with Megan’s show and the reporters and stuff afterwards,” she shrugs, “I haven’t been doing a good job of shaking it all off,” she gives her a crooked grin.

Christen nods with understanding. “Well, the big stuff is past us now,” she states, “and hopefully things will settle down.”

“Yeah,” Tobin nods with agreement, “I hope you’re right,” she says and extends her arm across the table and makes grabby fingers at her and Christen slides her hand in hers. “Thanks for tonight,” she says genuinely, “I think you just being here helped so much,” she shares with her, “it was the first time in a long time I wasn’t alone and I really relaxed and just let it run it’s course. I think many times I try to fight it and then it gets super bad and this time I just let it go, you know?”

Christen gives her a shy smile, feeling her heart swell that Tobin thinks her being here helped her so much, “Well,” she says slowly, “we’re going to commit in sickness and in health,” she says, seeing Tobin give her a smile.

“And I can’t wait for that,” Tobin nods, her eyes growing larger with excitement. “Is there anything else we need to do?” she asks as she releases hand and stands from the table and takes her empty bowl and spoon to the sink.

“I don’t think so,” Christen replies, tapping her chin with her index finger as she thinks.

Tobin brings her spiral notebook back with her to the table, sitting down next to her and flipping it open as she twirls her pen. “Let’s see…” she hums, turning pages over to her list of wedding tasks. Christen leans in close, their shoulders touching. “I think we have it covered,” she nudges Tobin’s shoulder, "Friday is going to be very busy though,”

Tobin holds up an index finger, “I had an idea about that,” she says, looking at her, “Do you think you cold get someone to watch the puppies Wednesday until Friday?”

“Not take them with us to my parents?” Christen scrunches her forehead.

Tobin nods, “What if we just flew down?” she asks, “I know tickets would be higher now, but we could check flights and then we’d be back for a few hours longer before my family comes in,” she explains.

Christen sucks in air through her teeth, “I don’t know,” she says, quirking her mouth, “it’s kind of a lot to ask for someone to have them for a holiday and with late notice,”

“Ah,” Tobin throws her hand up, “I didn’t even think of that,” she admits, “yeah, that wouldn’t be cool to do.”

“Well,” Christen considers, “we know we have everything done for the wedding, that’s finished,” she states, “let’s look at Thanksgiving and see what we need to do there,” she suggests and Tobin flips back a two pages, “besides,” she gives her a smile, “what’s a holiday if we aren’t completely ready?”

Tobin chuckles, “Yeah,” she lets out a breath, “I know I want it perfect,” she confesses, “but I know me, so it’s not gonna happen,” she chuckles again.

“Your brother and sisters will help set up everything,” Christen reminds her, “and so will my family,”

Tobin nods as she thinks, “If they can help out with setting up tables and chairs,” she puts a dot next to the entry on the page, “and maybe the veggies?”

Christen looks over the list, “The tent and flooring will be set up on Tuesday and you’ve already got the ramps up, sweetie,” she assures her, “I think we’ll be fine,”

“Okay,” Tobin smiles and shuts the notebook and leans over and gives her a kiss, “you’re right,” she says, “I’m just overthinking it,”

“Can you sleep?” Christen asks, her hand brushing some hair back from Tobin’s face as she searches her eyes.

“Yeah, I think so,” Tobin nods, “wanna sit outside for a bit with the pups and then go to bed?”

“Okay,” Christen smiles and kisses her.

 

XXXX

 

November 25th

“Stacy, everything was so delicious,” Tobin says as she rolls up the sleeves of her button down shirt to prepare to wash dishes. “What made the potatoes so good? I mean, there was something sweet about them?”

Stacy puts her arm around Tobin’s shoulders, “The girls don’t even know this,” she whispers conspiratorially, looking to her left and right before continuing, “but it’s Yukon gold potatoes, butter and a little honey,”

“Woah,” Tobin looks at her, tilting her head, “huh. I’ve done that with carrots but never thought to try it with mashed potatoes.”

Stacy straightens up, “Ooh, on carrots?” she smiles, “now I haven’t used the honey them, just butter,” she chuckles.

“Well,” Tobin shakes her head a little, grinning at her, “you’ll get a chance on Saturday.”

Stacy smiles brightly as Christen and her sister Channing enter the kitchen with empty plates and silverware.

“Sweetie,” Christen sets a stack of plates on the counter, “I can wash those, you go relax,”

“Nah,” Tobin smiles at her, “you go visit, I got this,”

“Yeah,” Channing joins in, bumping Tobin’s side, “me and Tobin got this,” she says.

Christen eyes her sister before looking at Tobin who winks at her, “Alright, then,” then points to Channing, “be nice,” she warns and Channing laughs.

As Christen follows her Mother out of the kitchen, she hears Tobin speak.

“Okay, Chan, so, Christen said I shouldn’t touch the dishwasher,” and Channing laughs and tells her she’ll put in the detergent. Then she asks Tobin when her and Christen are going to get married.

Tobin had told Christen to call the shots about if they wanted to tell their families about getting married and they did discuss it fully on three separate occasions before deciding to surprise them on Thanksgiving. The did announce the engagement and felt that would take some of the pressure off them right now, they could blame the media thing for not giving them time to talk about possible dates. On the drive up Christen confessed she felt her family wouldn’t believe her if she said she hadn’t thought it so they agreed they’d reply that they thought sometime next summer if anyone asked. Channing had already asked Christen if she had a date in mind and she chuckles hearing her try to pry it out of Tobin as well.

Overall it’s been a very nice day and half at the Press family home since they arrived Wednesday afternoon. They would depart a little after breakfast to get back home to Tobin’s house and prepare for Saturday. It tickled Christen how Tobin wanted everything to be perfect while she was the one calming her down. It was sweet. They’d be fine, they have it all under control. Tobin thought that tomorrow, if her siblings flights weren’t delayed, they would probably come over for a while that evening.

“Today was so nice, babe,” Tobin sighs as she twists onto her side. The two are in bed after the long day of cooking, eating and hanging out. It was relaxed and fun and got competitive when they broke out some board games after dinner. Christen showed her ruthless competitive side and Tobin could only laugh at her antics and then begin to do her best to beat her.

They had a serious discussion with Christen’s family about being soulmates and the media surrounding the discovery of her being Hatshepsut. Christen’s family had all agreed it was clever of the two to take charge and do the interview with Megan and be forward with their own story. Tobin talked about how relieved she was that there weren’t any reporters hanging her by her work anymore and that they seem to be more interested in the movie stars again. What helped to take the spotlight off them was the death of Eddie Van Halen that made headlines for days. As unfortunate it was for the rock star to pass away from cancer, it really benefitted Tobin and Christen and redirected the media away from them.

Christen explained to them about the documentary they had been filming while in Egypt and how Ari has asked her and Tobin to film a follow up to discuss the finds and how they felt about learning their past identities and handling their items from that era. Christen would have one of the students do the filming for them and they would be in the lab, looking over artifacts and discussing them. Ari would send over a list of questions and they would answer them. It would probably take two evenings to film and they would do it at the end of next week.

Christen yawns, “I can’t wait for Saturday,” she says sleepily, moving to hold Tobin.

“Me either,” Tobin nods, “love you,”

“Love you, too, sweetheart,”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

November 26th

 

“What’s with all the chairs under the tent?” Tobin’s sister Perry asks as she looks out of the patio doors to the yard.

“Ah, I thought we’d play this cool game before we start cooking,” Tobin replies easily, “I played it at a conference and it’s a super cool ice breaker,”

“Huh,” Perry nods, satisfied with her answer. It’s not at all out of character for Tobin to do something like that.

People are mingling in the house and outside on the deck with drinks in hand and nibbling on the few appetizers Christen and Tobin had put together last night. The Press and Heath families met with ease, making jokes about if they were royalty in their past lives too and it didn’t take long at all for Christen and Tobin’s siblings to gather around and start telling embarrassing stories from childhood. Becky arrived with Zola and a tray of cupcakes she had offered to make, Ali and Ashlyn brought a few bottles of champagne, claiming that champagne after eating was calorie free. Syd and Dom brought some chocolate covered strawberries for a dessert. Megan and Sue arrived with some appetizers and more champagne. The only person missing was Alyssa, who was busy getting to know her soulmate and politely explained it was too soon for meeting friends just yet. Jrue and Lauren arrive with little Jrue and homemade cookies to share. Amy, Adam and the boys enter with a veggie tray and dip. Everyone had offered to bring something and wanted to help cook and Tobin graciously asked them to bring either appetizers, booze, or desserts to keep it easy.

The kids are enamored with the dogs who behave wonderfully with the excited children, patiently greeting them and then bolting outside to play fetch with them. Their parents minded them outside, laughing and taking photos.

Christen slides the last tray in the oven and catches Tobin’s eye and smiles at her, giving her a knowing look and slight nod. She’s proud of Tobin, for all of her worrying, she’s been completely calm today. Once she calls the dogs inside, she hears Tobin whistle loudly and the group quiets down.

“Okay guys,” Tobin says, “Chris and I want to thank you all for coming here today,” she begins, “we’re going to play a little game today, outside under the tent. If you could please head out that way, that would be awesome. Mom, Dad, Cody and Stacy, if you hang back here, Chris wants to go over the game with you guys. Oh, leave the seats open in front for the parents, okay?” The two catch their sisters and Tobin’s brother on their out and have them go into the living room as well.

The group shuffles out, grabbing drinks and appetizers, completely unaware of the events about to unfold. Megan and Sue pop outside, claiming they want to film this game for the documentary, Megan using some flimsy, but believable, excuse of humanizing the Tobin and Christen for the dorks they are for an episode of her podcast and promising to blur out anyone who didn’t want to be in it. Sue gets a tripod set up and swiftly gets a camera mounted to it while Magen roams around and takes photos of everyone, easily joking around them all.

“Are you checking to see if there are topics that are off limits?” Stacy chuckles, putting an arm around her daughter, “Cause we’ve got no secrets honey,” she squeezes her.

Tobin enters the living room from the hallway carrying a cardboard box. “Is that doughnuts?” her Dad asks, reaching for it and Tobin taps his hand away.

“No,” she replies with a smile, “they’re flowers,” she opens it and sets it on the coffee table.

“For you guys to wear when you walk us down the aisle,” Christen beams at them.

They erupt with surprise, hugging the two and asking if they’re serious. When they assure them are, they all grow emotional, so incredibly happy for their daughters.

“So,” Tobin looks at her sisters, “you guys wanna be my bridesmaids?”

The squeals erupt when Christen asks her sisters the same question as they agree and retrieve their small bouquets.

Tobin approaches her brother, “Hey bud,” she smiles at him, “would you uh, want to do a short reading?”

Jeffrey smiles and hugs her, “It would be an honor, sis,” he squeezes her tight, “I’m so happy for you,”

She pins a boutonniere on his sweater and slaps a piece of paper in his hand. “Ali will give you the heads up,” He nods and starts reading the verse.

Tobin asks them to hang out for a couple of minutes and her and Christen duck into their bedroom, slipping on their outfits. They had already done their hair and make up so they were quick.

“Ready for this?” Tobin asks as she zippers up the back of Christen’s dress.

“You know it,” she smiles at her, giving her kiss when she turns to face her. Tobin takes her hand, “Let’s do this,”

Ali was lingering by the patio doors and Tobin pokes her head around the corner and gives her a thumbs up. Ali nods and gives a thumbs up to Ashlyn who is situated at the front of the chairs with a low table next to her. She pulls out her phone and soon music is flowing from the speaker on the table.

Jeffreys walks Perry and Katie down the aisle and the three smile as the reactions of everyone when they figure out what is going on. He escorts them to stand by Ashlyn who is up at the head of the tent facing the crowd and then he sits down in the front row.

When everyone sees Tobin at the patio door with her parents on each side, a gasp is heard.

“No way!” Syd yells out, realizing what is about to occur.

“Will you please rise,” Ashlyn issues, giving everyone a knowing smirk.

“I can’t believe you pulled this off,” Cindy says to Tobin, linking her arm around her daughter’s elbow, “I’m so excited!”

They walk onto the patio and down the ramp, smiling as the they pass their friends and family to the front where Tobin hugs and kisses her parents, and they stand by their seats. She gives Ashlyn a knuckle punch as she stands to her side, beaming when Christen approaches with her parents.

Cody and Stacy hug and kiss their daughter and then exchange hugs with the Heath’s before standing near their seats.

Ashlyn fades out the music. “You may all join me and be seated,” she snickers and chuckles. “Tobin and Christen,” she begins, “first, I’d like to thank you for giving me and Ali the honor of officiating these proceedings. I’ll have you know, we went online and got ordained that night after you asked us when you got engaged.”

“Second,” she says, smirking at them both, “I feel I speak for us all with much gratitude for how neither of you insist on being address as your royal highness or doctor,” The group assembled snickers and chuckles.

“Seriously though,” Ashlyn continues, “we are gathered here today to not just celebrate your union in marriage, but to witness a soul bonded couple find one another again. You both have had incredible journeys in this present life to get us to this point and it’s a privilege to be here today and see you profess your love for another, once again.”

Tobin beams at Christen, giving her hands a squeeze.

“Tobin and Christen have a profession of their love to say to each other.” Ashlyn states and she nods at Tobin.

Tobin swallows, suddenly aware that this it and her eyes widen. Christen smiles and squeezes her hands, giving her an encouraging smile. Tobin nods and takes a deep breath to calm herself.

“We’ve been blessed,” she states, “by our families and friends, surrounding us with so much love and support that we know what it’s like to give and feel love. I promise to always love you, be there for you and support you in all of your goals and dreams. I promise to listen always, speak my mind and communicate my thoughts and feelings, and to make you feel loved every single day with my words, actions, and my heart. You’ll never have a day without knowing how much I love you, even if we are separated by miles because you’re off somewhere, digging up old bones or something,” she smiles and the crowd chuckles. “I promise to be yours and yours alone, for today, tomorrow and eternity.” She lets out a breath and smiles at her.

“Tobin,” Christen smiles lovingly at her, “we’re so blessed with our love, for we occasionally get glimpses of our past to show how truly we were meant for each other. I promise to love you fiercely, be vulnerable and authentic with you and respect you every day. I promise to listen, be patient, and always communicate my feelings to you. I promise to support you, to follow your hopes and dreams and stand by you always. I promise to be yours and yours alone, for today, tomorrow and eternity.”

Ali steps forward and looks at them excitedly,

“Do you, Tobin Powell Heath, take Christen Annemarie Press to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish all the days of your life?”

Tobin smiles broadly, “I do,” Ali smiles and looks at Christen.

“Do you, Christen Annemarie Press, take Tobin Powell Heath to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish all the days of your life?”

Christen is nodding her head as she smiles, “I do.”

Ashlyn holds up a ring and Tobin takes it. “Today I say ‘I do’ but to me that means ‘I will’. I will dedicate myself to your happiness, I will cheer you on with your successes, I will support you through the hard times and I will always remain by your side.” Tobin says as she slides the ring on Christen’s finger. “I will love you forever,” she says, breathing in deeply and exhaling with a huge smile. Christen lets her fingers wiggle before accepting the ring from Ashlyn.

She turns to face Tobin. “I promise to be your navigator, best friend and wife. I promise to honor, love and cherish you through all of life’s adventures.” She slides the ring on Tobin’s finger. “Wherever we go, we’ll go together.”

Tobin beams at her as they join hands together once again.

Ali steps forward and gestures to Jeffrey. “Jeffrey will do a reading for us,”

Jeffrey stands up and moves next to Ali and gives everyone a smile before speaking. “Let us pray: Dear God, thank you for this joyous day. Thank you for Your Light that has entered Tobin and Christen’s life. Thank you for all the miracles and blessings you’ve bestowed upon them. God, bless them with the inner gifts of trust, compassion, forgiveness and truth that they may live and grow together in love and peace. Amen.”

He gives Tobin and Christen a wink and sits back down.

“As the married couples here can attest,” Ali smiles at the two, “not every day will be easy. There will be tests of patience, times of disagreements, times of disappointments and sadness.”

“Taking a moment in those times and remembering the vows you’ve pledged to another,” Ashlyn states, “that helps get through those rough times. Plus, being soul bonded means you can’t escape one another,” she smirks at them while the group chuckles.

Ali rolls her eyes at her wife and then shakes her head, smiling at Tobin and Christen. “May this home keep you grounded and always be filled with laughter and love. From this day you are officially committed to one another. You’re souls are joined as one, forever entwined and burning brightly within each other. May every blessing rain down on you both.”

“It gives me great joy to be able to say these next words,” Ashlyn grins at them, “By the power invested in me by the great state of California, I now pronounce you married. You may kiss,”

The group applauds as Tobin wraps her arms around Christen and dips her, holding her tightly as she looks down at her, “I love you so much,” she says, her eyes blazing with heat and love.

Christen looks up at her, her hands on Tobin’s shoulders to hang on even though she knows Tobin wouldn’t ever let her fall, she smiles at her, “Don’t you drop me,” she smirks and Tobin dips down and kisses her passionately. It’s a pretty short but hot kiss and Tobin hauls her up, kissing her softly before taking hold of her hand and then raising them over their heads. “We did it!” she yells to everyone that’s now on their feet.

After accepting hugs and kisses from everyone, Tobin and Christen posed for photos standing in front of the grassy sand dune. Then they took photos with their parents, siblings and friends. Sue gathered everyone together and set the camera on a timer and raced to join them for a series of group photos, complete with Morena and Khalessi.

Tobin and Christen profusely thanked Megan and Sue for taking photos and shooting video during the ceremony. They thanked Ali and Ashlyn heartfully for making it such a special ceremony. The whole group shared a long hug that was broken up by Perry shouting that they need to do a toast with everyone.

They pop open the champagne to cheers and fill up glasses and pretend they don’t notice that Syd isn’t drinking alcohol. When everyone has something drink, Tobin stands on a chair and helps Christen up next to her. They hold hands and the two beam at everyone.

“We just want to thank each of you for being here,” Christen begins, “you’ve all played a major role in our lives and help shape who we are today. Mom, Dad, thank you for always encouraging me to follow my dreams, to support me when I needed to understand my soul mark and for always supporting me, even when I was traveling to far off places. Channing and Tyler, thank you for loving me and always giving me the best sister ever. To my friends, I’m so happy you’re here today. You’ve talked me down when I thought I was going crazy, you’ve encouraged me when I was insecure. To Ali and Ashlyn, we can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done, the ceremony was beautiful. Megan and Sue, thank you for taking photos. You’ve all made our day so much more special and we’re grateful to have photos to look back on.”

Tobin nods and licks her lips before speaking. “Thank you,” she says heartfully. “I’m so grateful for you all, for how you helped me throughout my life and got me to a place where I’m happy and content. It wasn’t always easy, it wasn’t always fun, but I’m so lucky to have you all here witness the absolute best day of my life. Family comes to us in many different ways: through birth,” she smiles at her parents and siblings, “through marriage,” she smiles and nods at the Press family, “and through those you’ve chosen as family,” she smiles at their friends. “We planned on doing this as a surprise because we wanted to keep it low key and have the people important to us here. You mean the world to us and we love you very much. Your attendance here is the best gift we could ever have. Chris and I want to serve you dinner as an act of our love and gratefulness to you being here. So, don’t ask to help,” she smirks and they chuckle.

“All we ask is for four things,” Christen says, “the first one is if you could bring the tables out and move the chairs around them, that would be great. The second is that you eat up the rest of the appetizers while we cook for you,” she smiles at them, “the third is for you to feel welcome in our home,” she smiles at the group and then at Tobin, “and the fourth is to enjoy yourselves.”

Tobin lifts her glass, “This toast is to you,” she smiles, “to our parents who modeled what a successful marriage is supposed to be, our families who are the best ever and to our friends who we love very much. This is to you,” she nods and takes a drink and the group joins her and Christen.

There are toasts from their parents, their siblings and from Ashlyn, Syd and Lauren. By the time they get ready to begin cooking, Christen and Tobin are both feeling a little tipsy from the champagne and the glow of the day.

Tobin removes her off white sweater, rolls up the sleeves of her white cardigan and pulls her hair back into a pony tail. She puts on an apron and gathers the kindling to start the fire in the grill. Christen also dons an apron and twists her hair into a loose bun, preparing the tray of the water glasses for the tables. Once the fire catches, Tobin and Christen chat with everyone while they deliver the place settings to each of the four tables, pleased that their parents as all sitting together and left two spots for them. Ashlyn has some dinner music playing from the speaker and she has their table roaring with laughter about a story of one of her and Tobin’s mishaps in college.

By the time Tobin has enough embers to begin cooking, the tables are ready with the centerpieces and dinnerware and pitchers of water. Tobin gets the steaks on the grill, while Christen is inside checking the trays in the oven. Since there are only four tables, Christen and Tobin had decided on serving dinner family style to make it easier and get everything out to their guests hot. Tobin signaled Christen when it was time to put on the seafood and that’s when Christen began bringing out the bowls of sides for each table.

 

----

 

“That was delicious, Tobin!” Stacy beams at her, “My dear, if you ever decide to stop being a physical therapist, you should consider going into catering,”

Tobin smiles, “Aw, thanks,” she blushes a little, “it’s fun to cook for crowds,” then she looks over at Christen who is sitting next to her, “besides, Chris help me lay it out and make the timeline of what to cook so it’d be all hot,”

“That’s the trickiest thing,” Tobin’s Dad Jeffrey nods as he reaches for the tongs to grab another lobster tail and put it on his plate.

“Especially if you’re making seafood along with steaks,” Cody grins as he helps himself to more as well.

“Christen,” Cindy gets her attention, “what seasonings did you put in the potatoes? It’s so good!” Christen had decided to make a cheesy au gratin that would easily heat up I the oven.

“Oh, I used some garlic and onion powder with some paprika,” she informs her. Cindy smiles, “The paprika,” she nods happily, “I always forget to use it,”

“Are you girls going on a honeymoon?” Stacy inquires, looking at the two expectantly.

Christen nods, “We’re going to Hawaii for a week in January,” she smiles and takes Tobin’s hand in hers.

“That’s a great place for a honeymoon, huh Stace?” Cody smiles broadly, “we went to Oahu,”

Both sets of parents had gone to Hawaii for their honeymoons and Tobin and Christen listened raptly to their stories about the touristy things they did while there. They spoke freely of the romantic spots they visited and how magical the place was. Both Tobin and Christen heard their parents speak of their honeymoons before, but not with these adult details. They exchanged shy glances, both feeling a little embarrassed hearing their parents speak of these things even now as adults.

 

----

“Whew!” Tobin slides her forearm across her sweaty forehead, giving Christen a smile as she catches her breath, “You having fun?” she asks as she accepts the water bottle from her wife and chugs it.

“Yes! You?” Christen asks, her eyes beaming, her hips moving to the music. She looks at Tobin, the sleeves still rolled up on her shirt, her shirttails are pulled from her pants, unbuttoned to expose her glistening skin and a touch of cleavage. She looks down, yep, still barefoot. Her feet are going to be so dirty and sore, Christen thinks to herself.

“You look so pretty,” Tobin smiles at her, she’s a little drunk and just so happy right now.

Christen gives her a smile and does a twirl, letting her dress billow, “Thank you,” she says, taking a drink of water from the bottle Tobin passed to her. They’ve been dancing with everyone for a couple of hours now. Right now they’re taking a short break to catch their breath and drink something that isn’t alcohol.

“I love how much our parents get along,” Tobin confesses to her, nodding in the direction of the table that was pushed to the side where the four adults sit talking animatedly and laughing. They truly look as if they’ve having a great time. Everyone does Christen thinks as she looks around, her sisters dancing in a circle with Tobin’s brother and Ashlyn, Syd and Becky. Zola and Dom are trying to follow dance moves Ali is teaching them. Megan and Sue are talking with Lauren and Amy and their husbands, while watching the kids dance nearby. She sees how her Mom occasionally pans her phone around, capturing the fun.

“It was meant to be,” Christen smiles at her, watching as Tobin runs a hand over hair, pulling a few loose strands from her face. Tobin takes the bottle from Christen’s hand and sets it on a chair and then she wraps her arms around her. Christen rubs her hands up Tobin’s back, feeling the dampness and interlocks her fingers behind her neck. The two sway together as the new song has a slower beat.

“You know what?” Tobin asks, giving her such a loving smile, her eyes exuding love.

“What’s that, sweetie?” Christen asks, feeling so happy, so loved, so complete in this moment.

”My love,”Tobin says, speaking in Coptic,”I will cherish every day with you in this lifetime,”

Christen kisses her softly, tilting her head to look at her, ”Me too,” she replies in Coptic, kissing her again and then arching an eyebrow and giving her a look, ”and the lifetimes after that too,”

Tobin nods solemnly and dips her, just like she did when they kissed at the end of their ceremony, hovering over her and gazing lovingly into her eyes, ”Yes, my Queen,” she says and kisses her.

Fini