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So I sort of stopped writing fic like a year ago, but a few weeks ago The Language of Bees came out and jump started my old passion for the Russell/Holmes books by Laurie R. King, and the next thing you know lizbee wanted a story, and I wrote it.

A Thousand Times
by Branwyn

fandom: Mary Russell
pairing: Russell/Mahmoud
spoilers: BEEK and OJER. AU that takes place in the Palestine adventure in 1919.
warnings: character death and torture
notes: lizbee made me do it.

Come, come, whoever you are.
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.



They bury Holmes at night and travel all the next day until they reach safe country. Ali is their guide, while Mahmoud holds the camel's reins and counts each breath that Amir breathes in and out until the hour before sunset, when they make camp.

Amir is younger than his son, Mahmoud realizes, when they stop and the camel kneels. He eases her gently over the saddle and onto a blanket, mindful not to lay her on her back. These last two days, whenever Mahmoud looks at the girl, he thinks of Gabe. Not that Holmes' protege has anything in common with Beauville's heir apart from a self-sacrificing nature, but it is enough to turn his thoughts bitter in the long silence of a day's travels.

When he has arranged her in her bedroll, he helps Ali draw the fire up. He makes tea instead of coffee and carries a small cup to a flat rock near where Amir lies. She is still langorous from the opium he gave her the night before, but not unconscious. Mahmoud holds the tea to her lips until she stirs and drinks. When the cup is drained, she lifts her eyes to meet his.

"Tell me," she says. Her speech is slurred, but he doesn't mistake the request for a sign of failing memory. He had hoped the opium would bring her relief for awhile, but she lacks only strength, not awareness.

"Holmes was not willing to wait, after you were taken," Mahmoud tells her. "There were too many guards. He was shot in the retreat. Ali killed the one who shot him."

There is a flash of something in her eye, Mahmoud thinks, like the light of stars reflected. "How?" she says.

"With his knife."

Amir closes her eyes, then opens them again. Together, they watch the sun set in silence. The fire, and the rustle of Ali's clothes as he tends the fire, are the only noises.

"I suppose you think I've never killed anyone before," says Amir in a voice so low Mahmoud almost fails to hear it. "But I have. And now---him."

"No," says Mahmoud immediately. "The guard killed him. And those who ordered the attack. We will hunt them too, when you are stronger."

At this, she manages something like a smile. "Brother," she whispers. "Thank you."

"Rest," Mahmoud tells her. She closes her eyes, and when her breathing slows and deepens he is still beside her, listening.


"So you will return to England?"

Two weeks later finds them at another campfire, Ali asleep on his bedroll, his snores filling the night around them like crickets chirping on an English summer evening. The hem of Mahmoud's robes are still dark with the blood of a Turkish soldier, but his weariness is shot through with satisfaction.

"Yes." Amir has acquired a new stillness in the days that have passed, an Arab relationship with time that will not serve her in a nation of trains and automobiles. "We---I left a case unsolved behind me."

"What is the case?"

Amir looks up at him, as though the question has taken her by surprise. "Someone was trying to kill us," she says.

"There will be danger for you there?" says Mahmoud.

"I suppose so."

"Then Ali and I shall come with you."

The shock on Amir's face forces a laugh from deep inside Mahmoud's body.

"We are brothers," he says in Arabic. Then, in English, "in a manner of speaking."

And he will not fail her as he had failed his son.





( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 28th, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)
you have quite a talent for coming up with alternative histories. :)

also! i forgot to mention that i was able to get my hands on a copy of "the language of bees" shortly after you reminded me of its existence, and that i am anxiously awaiting the next book in the series (i won't say why, for fear of unintentionally providing spoilers for anyone else reading your post).
Jun. 4th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! I definitely think that LANG is the best Russell book in awhile. Since Justice Hall, probably, or maybe since MREG.
May. 28th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
Yay Russell fic! :)
Jun. 4th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
BTW, have you seen recent pics of Stephen? He's positively svelte.
Jun. 4th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
I know! And still tan from his time abroad filming 'Last Chance to See'
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 4th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
Why, thank you.
May. 28th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
oh so very awesome. :D
Jun. 4th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
Mar. 22nd, 2017 08:49 am (UTC)
This is beautiful and painful all at once. Please consider posting it to AO3 so I can kudos and comment properly there (and download for re-reading on my e-reader). :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )