Title: Lightning Bolts
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Word Count: 2,160
Summary/Description: Thunder follows lighting. (Or, how Jet and Longshot take care of Smellerbee.)
A/N: Longshot POV, fack yeah. Takes place after "Jet", but before Ba Sing Se. Inspired in part by this picture ( http:// i40 . photobucket . com / albums / e214 / SaharaStorm / Avatar % 20Fanart / 0003yh0z . jpg -- copy and paste, remove spaces ). Artist, sadly, unknown.
Dedication: For Ingrid. Happy belated birthday, sweetheart, my dear! :)
Disclaimer: Insert witty denial of ownership here.
Longshot awoke to Jet's shadow stretching over him. His eyes, brown slits in his face, opened up inch by inch, slowing adjusting to the burning orange light of the rising sun. He glanced around. The campsite was already cleared away; their small fire smothered by a metal shield that trapped the smoke, and their bags packed up and leaning against a tree.
Jet faced away from him, his back rippling as he pulled on his shirt. Longshot looked down just in time to see the latest scar disappear beneath the fall of the material. It was still red, distorted with scar tissue around the edges, and dug deep into the small of Jet's back. Longshot had cleaned the wound; Smellerbee had wrapped it.
He sat up, and looked around again, this time looking for his other friend. Smellerbee had had the last watch the night before; he'd only seen her briefly before he touched her shoulder and collapsed on a patch of grass. She should've been awake, but she wasn't. Longshot spotted her curled up under a blanket near their supplies. He'd previously mistaken her for an extra bag.
A movement from Jet drew his eyes away from her. His leader turned, flashed him a quick grin, and tugged on his hair by way of greeting as he walked past. Longshot glanced up, feeling the beginnings of a smile on his lips.
"Look alive, Longshot. I wanna be out of here in fifteen minutes," Jet said as he strapped on his shoulder guards. The omnipresent twig in his mouth moved up and down as he spoke. Longshot eased to his feet, and began pulling his hair into a ponytail. He nodded towards Smellerbee, then flicked his eyes back at Jet.
"I'm not sure," Jet replied, strapping up his shoes. "I expected her to wake me up; no go. She's been asleep since I got up." Jet frowned, and Longshot knew why. It wasn't like Smellerbee at all to lapse on a watch. It was even less like her to oversleep. Something had to be wrong. Longshot's brows drew together in automatic worry.
It seemed that Jet was following the same train of thought. Longshot dressed quickly, but not quick enough to match their leader's pace. Jet was kneeling at her side as he strapped his swords on. Longshot tied the string to his hat under his chin, and followed.
She had turned so that she now lay on her back; the blanket fell to her waist. The hair that brushed against her forehead was damp and sticky; Longshot could see the moisture as Jet trailed his fingers over the skin of her face. Smellerbee didn't move, except to make a little grimace of discomfort. She took short, gasping little breaths that whistled feebly on the exhale, and her lips were cracked and dry. Longshot kneeled on her other side, and clasped one of her small brown hands between both of his. It was fiery to the touch.
Jet's teeth sank into his bottom lip for a brief second; his palm made a cup around Smellerbee's cheek. The vague sense of alarm that was beginning to take root in Longshot's mind was mirrored on his features. Longshot looked at his leader, who sensed it, and looked back.
"She say anything about this to you last night?" Jet asked. Longshot shook his head, and looked back down at their friend. None of them got sick often, and when it did happen, it was nothing serious. Little coughs, signs of the flu. He'd never seen any of them get this sick before, even back at the hideout, when there were more of them, and illnesses of all kinds were so much more transmittable. Right now... Smellerbee was a furnace, and her face suggested pain. Longshot's frown deepened as he brushed her hair back from her forehead.
"Damn it," Jet was murmuring under his breath. He cuffed Smellerbee gently on the chin, then moved his hands down to undo the first few buttons of her shirt. Sweat dotted her sternum and collarbone. "What'd you catch, Bee, and how'd you get it?"
Automatically, Longshot's mind went on recall, and he flipped through everything that they had done and everywhere they'd been for the past few days. It had been straight, easy travel for the most part, moving like rabbitroos through the dense forest. They'd made few stops, only to get a drink of water from a stream and wash their faces when the opportunity presented itself. He couldn't think of anything that Smellerbee had done that would induce a fever this high.
"I feel fine," Jet said, inspecting Bee's eyes. They looked fine, except when he pulled on the skin beneath them, revealing redness on the inner flesh. "You?"
Longshot quickly indicated that he felt okay. Whatever had come upon Smellerbee, it had been sudden. Yesterday she'd been fine; a little restless with pent up energy, but Jet had promised a raid on a sleeping Fire Nation encampment as soon as they came across one. It didn't look like Smellerbee would be going on any of those any time soon, however; there was a kind of weakness that emanated from her limp limbs.
Her hand shifted in his own, and he squeezed it again. She felt warm enough to cook a flatbread on. Jet had gone and come back during Longshot's rumination, and now there was a damp cloth on Bee's forehead. Longshot was relieved to see her look better, if not much, for it. Jet reached under Longshot's chin; his head tilted automatically to facilitate him. Within seconds, the string was untied, his hat was off of his head, and Jet was using it to fan Smellerbee. His dark eyes were concentrated on her face. He was thinking, and Longshot quietly accommodated it. It was clear that they had to get her out of here soon, though. Longshot communicated this with a touch, and Jet nodded sharply in acknowledgement.
The archer massaged Smellerbee's hand gently, watched her face contort and wince. Curled up like this, she looked tiny and fragile; a far cry from her usual, fierce self. His fingers pressed into her palm, working towards her own fingers. Their tips, he noticed, were stained a faint purple.
Jet was unfolding his long legs to get to his feet; Longshot tugged on his pant leg to stop him. He held up Smellerbee's hand, showing the discoloured fingers, and held his question in his eyes.
Jet's brows furrowed in understanding, and he looked around.
"I don't think so, but it's possible that I missed them," he replied. "You're probably right, though." He took one of Smellerbee's fingers and sniffed, gently. "Nah... nothing familiar to me. She must have found a bush during the night while securing the perimeters." A breath. "Damn."
Longshot looked down at his friend with pity. But relief as well. At least now, they knew what was wrong. Gently, he tilted her chin, and slid a finger between her lips to carefully prise her mouth open wider. Sweet, thick breath rushed out; her purple tinged tongue sagged. From the looks of it, she hadn't eaten a lot, but it had been enough to make her ill.
"Alright." Jet got to his feet; he had that authoritative glint in his eyes. He took the stalk out of his mouth, holding it between his forefinger and thumb as he spoke. "Change of plans; this is beyond us. We're heading west; we passed a free town a little while back. We can get help for her there."
Following orders came naturally to Longshot; when his body moved as Jet told it to, it felt like that was what he was always meant to be doing. He shot to his feet, gathering all their packs together, and then moved back to Smellerbee's side. Her lips were moving, making soft sounds. He took a second to exchange the damp cloth on her head, and touch her shoulder comfortingly, before turning back to the packs, reaching first for his quiver of arrows. Jet, however, made an abortive hand gesture.
"Don't worry about these; I'll carry them. You get Bee." There were three bags in total; Jet shouldered the first two, and Longshot's quiver with ease.
"Wouldn't have said so if I wasn't sure," he replied when Longshot looked at him questioningly. "Come on, let's get going."
Smellerbee moaned. Longshot gave Jet a last look before crouching next to her once again. The town that Jet spoke of was an hour or so away; he hoped that she didn't worsen in that time.
With her appendages limp and listless, it wasn't easy to slide her unto his back, but he managed to do it in one smooth movement. Her lids fluttered, but she didn't awaken; just nestled her face into his neck. Longshot hooked his arms under her knees, and Jet came over to arrange her arms around Longshot's neck. They both heard, rather than saw, something fall out of her pocket.
Jet bent over and picked up a handkerchief full of round, deep purple berries. They looked like blackberries, save for their stems and leaves. He smirked wryly.
"Heh. She saved some for us." He locked eyes with Longshot, and they both smiled.
Jet pocketed a few of the berries to show the healer when they got to the town, and hoisted the last bag into his arms.
"I'm sure I don't need help, Long," Jet said before Longshot could ask, turning back to cut a grin at him. "And hey. Look who's finally decided to open her eyes."
Longshot had noticed a split second before, when her mouth opened on his neck and that sickly sweet scent rushed out again. He couldn't see her face, but could imagine it well enough. It would be sleep wrinkled and tired; flushed from her sickness. An arm tightened around his neck briefly as she brought up a hand to rub at her eyes, and she groaned.
"Ugh... I feel... uhn, I feel awful."
Longshot threw a wry look over his shoulder. Jet stepped over, and flicked her on her chin.
"He said it first; not me."
Longshot was ready for the punch that jabbed into his arm, considerably weaker than usual. He smiled again.
"I'll show you who looks awful..." She cut herself off to groan again. Her hair, shaggy and damp, brushed again his neck and cheek. Scratchier and more hollow sounding than ever, her voice seemed to catch and snag on her words. "Uhn... Sorry guys... I, ugh, thought they were blackbe—"
"Try apologising when you've actually done something wrong," Jet interrupted, adjusting the bags on his back, and stepping away. "Now come on, close your eyes, and stop talking. We're gonna get you some help, okay?"
The answer was another moan; it came right from her stomach and seemed to echo. They'd started walking, but Longshot slowed, looking back in concern. Smellerbee waved a hand droopily at him.
"I'm fine," she rasped. "Fifty percent sure I won't puke on you, either."
"Hear that, Longshot?" Jet called back. Longshot took longer paces to catch up. "A whole fifty percent. Smellerbee, your eyes are closed, but I can still hear you."
"Shutting up, shutting up," she promised on a wheeze. "But I gotta make this up to you guys somehow."
Longshot craned his neck at an angle so that he could throw a look at her. Jet caught it, and laughed out loud, while Smellerbee made a long, low noise of disgust in her throat. Longshot collected another punch for his trouble, which only made him chuckle.
"I hate you," she whined, head lolling on his shoulder.
"What, Bee?" Jet laughed. "Can't go for some blackberry pie?"
She made a swipe to punch him too, but even laden down with the three bags, he managed to step swiftly out of the way. It wouldn't have connected anyway; her fist fell short, the swing interrupted by a spell of dry retching. Longshot's smile faded, and Jet stepped back over to them with one stride, brows drawn together. Her heaving lasted a full minute; she rode it out with Longshot's thumbs pressing into her knees and Jet's hand tunnelled in her hair. Longshot caught Jet's eyes. His leader's lips were pressed together, but when he spoke, his voice was light.
"Easy, easy. We're gonna get you help, and you're going to get better."
Longshot had always noticed this: Jet barely ever spoke in the conditional tense. Misleading to some, maybe, but heartening to many. It was part of what made him a leader. And Longshot believed.
"Come on, Long," Jet said quietly, ruffling Smellerbee's hair one last time. She seemed to be slipping into sleep once more. "Let's get going."
Longshot nodded. Jet, adjusting his burden, struck a path out of the clearing and into the thickness of the forest. Longshot tightened his hold on their sleeping friend, and followed.