21 – Water and Heat
Warnings: Potty-mouth, pillow fights and ailing Hikari….
Night had become early morning by the time the small group had finally reached the entrance of the underground compound. Two of the young men stood in the chill air of night's final embrace, searching for any evidence of another's passage. The one with hair as pale as moonlight pointed out a few scuff marks in the dust as he spoke. "He's well on his way then. Ra, I hope he doesn't fuck this up."
The other, his ebon spikes streaked with blonde, stood with his eyes closed, listening to the subtle night noises coming from the desert. He sighed, and then spoke softly. "Malik will be fine. Have faith in Marik at least, if you can't bring yourself to trust in his other."
"Pharaoh, I don't like the way my Ryou sounds. I don't want him here any longer than fucking necessary." Ryo stood, dusting his hands off on his clothing before pacing across the wide entrance. He forced himself to keep a steady pace, but with every strident-wet cough that came from his Light, there was a hesitation that betrayed Ryo's concern.
"Let's move them away from this cold air. Then I'll see if there's anything around for a fire." He would welcome the warmth as well, but it would be essential for their unconscious avatars.
Harsh spasmodic coughs woke him, pulling the air from his burning lungs. He gasped at the pain of pulling the cold air through his raw throat, triggering another round, and another and another, until a cool hand smoothed across his back, rubbing and soothing until his breathing evened. "I-itai….a-atsui…"
He felt someone shift beneath him, causing him to realize that he was sitting curled in someone's lap, their arms around him and shielding him from some of the frigid air. He coughed again, forced his tired eyes to open briefly. "Ah-teh?"
"Shh, little one. You're safe now. Do you remember what happened?" A tired sigh escaped as the feverish head barely managed to sway a negative. "It's all right. Rest now, and heal. I am here."
The too-hot form snuggled closer, seeking to elude the infrequent puffs of chill air. The former Pharaoh looked over at Ryo, whose Light was nestled between the others. Ryou had yet to regain consciousness, his breaths wheezed and gurgled in between the sharp coughs that both Yuugi and he produced.
Bright spots of feverish colour marred all the Lights' pale faces now, deepening the two remaining Darks' concern. Atemu had managed to find enough materials for a small fire, but would have to search further for more fuel once the surrounding air had warmed. Another worry was realized when Malik awoke asking for water.
"Fuck. I'll go, why don't you try and reach Marik while I drag my sorry ass around this fucking place." But despite the harsh language and grousing, Ryo was exceedingly gentle as he snuggled Ryou in closer to Malik and wordlessly asked Atemu for help.
Silently, Atemu slid over, Yuugi still in his lap, praying that their Lights would survive.
Ryo wandered through the abandoned base once again. He remembered smelling water earlier – water not from those tubes that had imprisoned his Light and the other avatars. But first things first, he might find the water, but how was he to carry it back?
The scent grew stronger as he walked deeper into the complex, and into an area he had not been in previously. The dust was just as thick here as everywhere else, and a wry grin crossed his face at the thought of how easy he would be to track. He was slipping. 'Well, at least it'll be easy to find my way back.'
And he wanted to get back to his Ryou quickly.
"Marik, did you reach Malik?" Atemu looked over at the tired Light who had wrapped himself around Ryou.
"No, I – I'm not…" Marik licked his dry lips and cleared his throat. "I'm not strong enough."
"Keep trying, he could be on his way back already." Atemu encouraged, giving Marik a hopeful grin.
"Yeah…" Marik sighed, a slight smile on his face as his eyes drifted closed and his arms held Ryou just a little bit tighter. Atemu rubbed his cheek over Yuugi's feverish forehead just as his young avatar began another round of coughing.
It took a while, but eventually Ryo stumbled across an abandoned camp. Dusty bones in rotting bedding lay in one corner, but the corpse's old clay pot would still serve nicely. Ryo snatched it as he followed the now strong scent of water. Down the hall and several turns later, he stood, mouth agape at what he had found. Water, bubbling up through a small crack in the wall, flowed into a large natural basin. Small plants scrabbled for purchase along the wall and in the dust around the small pond. It was clear, all the way to its sandy bottom, and small three-legged insects skated across the surface. Ryo quickly rinsed out his pot, noting that the silt and grime were pulled down into the sand beneath. 'Must be a crack under the sand too…'
He carefully filled the pot and hurried back to the others.
By sunset of the day Malik had awoken in a strange tent with none other than O'Neilu-san and some strange woman tending him, the encampment was in full-swing party mode. Jack watched some of the commotion from their open tent flap for a while before turning to face a sleepy Malik. "Sure doesn't take much to get them to throw a party. Wonder what's up?"
"I'm sure I wouldn't know." Malik's surly answer made Jack straighten to his full height.
"Now look here, Son. I'm doing this for you! You head back into that desert now, and you're as good as dead!"
The murderous look on Malik's face told Jack he'd struck a nerve. "How are you going to help your friend if you're dead?"
At Malik's wordless cry, Jack ducked, the thrown pillow sailing out through the door as the commotion outside reached its peak. And then all was silent as they heard a very familiar voice. "Look, Brother. You did not remove all his temper after all."
There were several chuckles, including a lighter one that caught Jack's attention. "Samantha?!" Smiling, he leaned around the open flap, disappearing outside. "Sam! Daniel! Teal'c! It's about time! You won't guess who just strolled into camp yesterday."
Hu, Sia, and the Corpsman stood to one side while SG-1 happily greeted one another, Daniel finally remembering their additional, temporary, member after a couple of minutes. "I'm sorry we dragged you out here for nothing."
"Sir, in all due respect, I'd rather be here and you not need me; than need me while I'm not here." He smiled at Daniel, glad to see that the missing member of the SG-1 team was found in good health. He had just turned to visually check Jack once again when Jack noticed his insignia and strode over. He saluted the Colonel, who waved it off.
"Yes, Sir!" The young man straightened to attention as if someone had pulled on a string coming from the top of his head.
"Your patient's inside."
"I'll give you a hand." Sia leaned over and interrupted Jack's conversation, then strode into the tent and cheerfully greeted Malik. At the hostile response received, Sia popped his head out long enough to warn the Corpsman. "Oooh, he's feisty!"
Lord Sia's form shook slightly as he was hit with another thrown cushion, then he smiled brightly at the medic. The Corpsman gave Daniel a cheeky grin as he moved to enter the tent. "Well, the patient can't be too bad off if he's got that good of an aim!"
"I don't need a babysitter! I need to get back to Marik-sama!" Malik's outraged bellow caused Jack to wince slightly at the petulant tone.
"I don't envy that young man at all. Nope, not one bit."
"My Brother will assist the healer, and as it may take some time, are you ready for that drink, O'Neilu-san?"
"Ah, maybe later, Hu." Lord Hu chuckled as he left Jack to become reacquainted with his friends.
"Hu-dono, this way. Onegai." The Y'moi chief led the Goa'uld Lord deeper into the temporary camp just as the screams began from the tent.
"NO! Get that thing away from me! You're not sticking me with AAAAAAHHHHHH! That hurt Dammit! Get it out! I don't want it!" Sounds of a small struggle were heard, and then the soft unmistakable whine of a Goa'uld healing hand-device began. "No! I don't wanna… Get 'way…. Lemmie 'lone…. Ma… Marik…."
The women in camp had switched into high gear as soon as Lord Hu's presence was known. No one was able to enter the central clearing due to their numbers, and their sheer force of activity. Soon, roasting pits had been dug, filled, lit, and a freshly killed beast or two set to turn upon spits. Manning each spit was either a rather sullen young boy, or a slightly older one with a slight smirk and a sparkle of mischief in his eyes. Those were watched quite closely by the younger women who were seasoning the various carcasses.
Small clay jugs were set by a large pile of cushions, with enough around the elongated fire-pit for everyone to sit. Large trays filled with small ceremonial uisukii cups were brought out and set next to the fire lit as soon as the setting sun touched the ground. Torches and braziers were lit as the tribe began to gather. Even a very grouchy Malik was dragged, er, carried out in state in a makeshift litter, the Corpsman holding the young man's IV bag up. "I only agreed to this because you said it would get me back to Marik-sama faster."
"And it will, but your body will only take it in so fast." The Corpsman smiled.
"I don't need you."
"Of course." The Corpsman turned as he heard several chuckles. Lords Hu and Sia stood there with the entire SG-1 team. Col. O'Neil rocked back on his heels as he glanced over at Sia.
"He's still full of vinegar, I see." At Jack's dry comment, Teal'c and Daniel grinned, Sam smothered an escaping giggle, and the Goa'uld chuckled outright.
Everyone burst into laughter as Teal'c and Sia simultaneously said "Indeed."
Ryo found his way back to the others fairly quickly; the beginnings of a mental map of the place firmly in his mind and this enabled him to take several shortcuts. "Ryou, baby, wake up. I've got something for you to drink."
"Don' wan'" Ryou stirred weakly, alerting the others to the pale thief's return. He took in a deep wheezy breath and choked, rolling onto his side with some help from Atemu to ease the triggered coughing spell. Atemu frowned as he felt the heat radiating from the slim form.
"How are they?"
"Warmer. Yuugi doesn't wake anymore. Ask Ryou if he remembers anything." Atemu licked his lips as the smell of water filled the area. "Ryo, I – I'm not feeling well either."
They feasted late into the night. The smaller moon had set, allowing the larger one's light to drench the planet unimpeded. Everyone had been tempted and cajoled until they had partaken in at least one small cup of uisuikii. Malik had fallen asleep nearly as soon as his dinner plate had been cleared, and only a quick motion by the Corpsman rescued Malik's cup from an untimely demise on the sands below.
Now he stared into the embers of the main fire, glancing up as the Colonel stood to stretch. There were very few others still awake around the fires. Lord Sia was using Hu's lap as a pillow; Major Carter had, in her sleep, snuggled closer to the Colonel's position; and Doctor Jackson lay prone, stretched out on the sand and staring blearily into the dying flames, his mind light-years away. He didn't even stir when O'Neill sat back down, or when Malik began muttering in his sleep. "…atsui…."
The quiet of the camp was comfortable, filled with soft snores and the gentle pops and crackles from the fires. It reminded those awake of the SG-1 team of long summer nights spent camping, or at the shore, pulling them into memories of happier, easier times. The Corpsman sighed as one by one, the rest nodded off. The last thing he remembered before he too drifted off was Lord Hu's dark eyes glittering with reflected flames.
Cold air woke the tribe before dawn; those up first fed and stirred the fires back to life before waking the ones in charge of feeding the large group breakfast. Soon, baskets of flatbread, bowls of hot grain cereal, and jars of a thick honey-like substance were being passed around along with pots of hot tea. Sleepers were awakened, given cups of the astringent brew, then left to their own devices. Lord Hu was still awake, one arm protectively over Sia who stubbornly remained asleep. He was in deep discussion with Jack, Malik and the Chieftain of the Y'Moi; their tones low as others brought them food and drink. When the Corpsman awoke, he immediately went to check on Malik due to the young man's feverish appearance.
"Of course we go!" The Chieftain clapped his hands gaining the attention of those Y'Moi close enough to hear him. "It is time to go!"
Word spread, and within an hour, herdbeasts were being readied, and women were frantically packing while the men fussed over the tents. It was a frantic, bedlam scene of tightly controlled chaos. "It will take time, but we will go before the sun is overhead."
Jack and Hu nodded, the Goa'uld standing to stretch as Sia had finally awoken. "It will be easier to travel once we find your young men O'Neilu-san. Maliku-kun is still wea-"
"I'm fine! Let's go already!" Malik groused from his recliner. Hu cleared his throat before he finished.
"As I said, Maliku-kun is still in need of care, and I believe the others will need aid soon."
"I told you, I'm fine! It'll take all day to get all these people packed! Add at least a week to haul their butts out to where my Marik-sama is!" Malik suddenly broke out into a sweat and sat back with a frustrated sigh. "Could someone please get me a blanket?"
"Let's get you back to your tent for a little bit." The Corpsman laid the back of his hand gently on Malik's forehead, frowning at the amount of heat he felt.
"I will join you shortly." Sia said, taking another large sip of his tea. Hu signaled to a pair of young men who came and carried Malik, litter and all, back to his tent, the Corpsman trailing along behind.
"Ryou, Hikari, stay awake for me." Ryo pleaded through their link while pulling the barely conscious form into his arms. He held his Light upright and tried to get him to drink.
"…'sui…" Ryou shivered.
"I know. I know….here, drink a little, just a sip. Drink for me." To give Ryou credit, he did try, but the effort brought on such rough spasms of coughing that he spilt the little water his Dark had managed to get into his mouth. "Easy, baby. Easy… Do you remember what happened?"
"…but-ton…." Ryou's mental voice was a soft sigh.
"Yes, yes, anything else?" Ryo shook him gently, trying to keep him awake.
"…drem…wha-dah…." Ryo felt his Light's consciousness slide away towards deeper sleep once more.
"Ryou! No, Baby! Stay awake! Stay with me!"
"Fuck. Pharaoh, he's out like a Light." Ryo and Atemu shared a wry grin at the thief's bad pun, but it didn't last for very long. "I sensed he'd been dreaming about water, but he doesn't remember anything else."
Atemu sighed, scrubbing his hot face briefly. "It's okay Ryo, I really didn't expect them to remember Ptah."
They sipped the water sparingly, saving some for when Marik awoke. Ryo noticed the Pharaoh's flushed appearance, and caught him when he had stumbled trying to stand. He grabbed Atemu's chin and looked into the dazed, slightly glassy eyes while Atemu swayed under the slightly rough handling. "Sit. I'll take care of the fucking fire for now."
He held onto Atemu's arm as the former Pharaoh sagged to the ground next to his Light. He had no choice now but to scavenge as much fuel for the fire as possible before he too became too ill to move.
Malik's condition was rapidly worsening, and he fluctuated between blistering fevers and uncontrollable shivers. The tent was disassembled around them, and when everyone else was ready to leave, Lord Hu scooped Malik up in his arms and began carrying him to a waiting herdbeast that had been saddled for riding. He only waited long enough for the Corpsman to pull the I.V. before mounting. The seasick-inducing rock of the animal rising from its knees shook Malik awake. Hu held the young man tighter to prevent him from falling.
"Be at ease, young Ba. We are ready to reunite you with your beloved Ka. We need only your direction. Concentrate, and tell us which way to travel." Hu wrapped a blanket tighter around Malik as he began to shiver.
He was too disoriented to struggle, and being up on the herdbeast made the sensation worse. But they would go to see Marik-sama! Mentally, he reached out towards his other, unaware that his arm had also shakily risen to point the way.
A.N. Moushi wake gozaimasen. I have only life to blame, and my own ineptitude… I have too many things on my plate, too much that I would like to do, and too little time to do them. And with the economy the way it is... and my health... let's just say I'm thankful I still have a job.
Please feel free to review, as constructive criticism is craved. Thank you for reading.