AN. Well hello there! It's been a while, hasn't it? I've been very, very busy with stuff and life, but I suppose you don't really care. As such, on to the story! This was originally part of those 100 challenges fics, which I've been working on steadily over the past year, but it suits with the theme of this month's DBZ-Friendshippy club's January contest 'Rainy Days'. I own this club on DA and am very sad that I haven't been able to compete in any of their contests for ages due to just plain busy-ness. So here we have it! My first entry in a long time. Of course it's Tien and Chiaotzu friendshippy, because they're still very squeeness... Enjoy!!
Rain poured from the sky, splattering in huge puddles on the ground, pelting the two figures who sprinted through the wide open fields, their arms held protectively over their heads. It was the taller of these two who had sworn, his voice a furious roar. The smaller ignored these infrequent outbursts, focusing on keeping his head down and his clothes as clean of mud as he could. He could fly, he knew that, but he didn't want to waste his energy. Neither of them did. They needed to conserve it as best they could, because they had no idea how long it would take them to find somewhere to live.
The smaller, who looked only about five years old, his clothes splattered with mud despite his best efforts, his white skin speckled with mud, rolled his eyes. The taller was the man of the pair, but his outbursts were childish and he was wasting energy. He didn't point this out, but he felt that the young man beside him knew it anyway.
They ran through the fields, possibly trampling a whole trail of saplings (in this rain it was impossible to tell), sometimes splashing through puddles that rose to the taller of the pair's mid-shin. The shorter would wade through, grimacing internally at the cold, clammy mud that was coating his clothes. He didn't have any spare, and there were no rivers nearby which would be clean enough to wash them for at least three days.
He lifted his head, then called in a high, clear voice, brimming with relief, "Look, a forest!"
"Finally," the taller growled. He glanced down, saw how the boy was struggling through the puddles, and scooped him up in a fluid movement, not missing a single step. The boy gasped in surprise, his eyes widening as he grabbed onto the young man's arms.
"What? Any more of that and you'd be slowing us down." Tien ducked his head a little as a particularly violent burst of rain splattered over them. "Don't argue, just cope with it, Chiaotzu."
Chiaotzu thought about struggling, of pulling free and running on his own two feet again, then rejected the idea. He was cold, he was soaked to the bone, his flesh was beginning to tremble and his teeth were beginning to chatter. Tien was right; if he ran for much longer he would just slow both of them down. So he settled into Tien's arms, clinging tight to the soaked material of Tien's shirt, clenching his eyes shut and focusing on subduing the shivering that threatened him.
There was a brief moment of sharp pine-needles scratching against his skin, slipping through the water coating it before catching and ripping. Then Tien whirled around and the sharp spines crossing his skin were gone, Tien's broad back sheltering him from them.
The command in that deep voice was obvious and Chiaotzu fell silent obediently. He was too tired and cold to put up much of a fight. He didn't need his eyes open to know that small, almost invisible winces were tugging at Tien's features, that while Chiaotzu was safe from the sharp pine-needles, Tien's neck, back and head were probably being cut to ribbons as he hadn't slowed his stride at all. There were thick branches above and around them, but none of them provided enough shelter from the rain.
His meditation wasn't working as well as it could have been. The slight trembling that touched his muscles was steadily intensifying to shivering, the very ends of his extremities turning numb. He could barely feel his feet anymore, his fingers were completely numb, and the tips of his ears were slowly losing their feeling.
They had been wondering around this endless stretch of farms and fields for three days now, accepting meals from wary farmer's wives, none of whom had been willing to allow a small pale telepath and a tall, broad triclops to stay the night in their warm, cosy home.
"I'm cold," he whispered.
Tien let out a soft laugh, though it was devoid of any humour. He sounded exhausted and more than a little exasperated.
"You don't need to tell me, Chiaotzu. If you were shivering any harder I'd probably drop you."
Chiaotzu flushed, the warmth of the blood flowing into his cheeks surprisingly pleasant, and buried his face close to Tien's chest.
There was a rustling sound, Tien let out a soft noise of effort, then stumbled back a few steps. Chiaotzu swung his head up, surprised, and saw a thick, spiny branch beside him. Tien was cursing silently, his eyes closed, his head bowed, blood trickling over his shoulders to spread crimson fingers through his soaked shirt.
"I'm okay," Tien said, but his voice was strained and when he opened his eyes they were glazed with pain. "Don't worry about it." He lifted his head, winced a little, then turned and glanced around. They were in a clearing, the rain pattering softly off the hard-packed ground. Then his eyes filled with triumph, a warm spark that seemed to banish the cold rain surrounding them, and he started forward.
Chiaotzu turned just as Tien entered the cave, both of them gasping a little at the feeling of not being pelted with rain. The air in the cave was musty, it smelt vaguely and anciently wild, like a bear had lived here many years before. Chiaotzu didn't stop shivering, but he no longer noticed it.
Tien gently put him down, then straightened and touched the back of his neck. A grimace twisted his features, but he simply drew his hand back, wiped the blood off his fingers, and smiled at Chiaotzu.
"Now, we won't get warm again," he said simply, matter-of-factly. That was Tien for you; no matter what situation they were in he always got straight to business. Why waste time when there was work to be done? "We're both soaked through and our clothes won't dry again. Damn, I knew we should have brought spares." He didn't sound too angry, and there was even a hint of amusement in his voice. He probably viewed this as a training exercise to build up his stamina and endurance. "Ah well, too late now. So, do you think you'll be able to sleep?"
Chiaotzu beckoned one finger and Tien leant down so he was closer to eye level. Chiaotzu put both hands on his shoulders and, very seriously, said, "I want to take care of your back. Sit down."
Tien paused, then laughed. It didn't last long, Tien quickly reined it back in, but it was an honest and delighted sound that made Chiaotzu smile. The triclops complied, turning his back and sitting cross-legged, his hands on his knees and his head bowed. Chiaotzu flinched as he looked at the lattice of red, bleeding lines across Tien's back, neck, head and arms. He hitched his sleeve up so it covered his hand, then gently started to clean the blood away, dabbing rather than wiping to prevent aggravating the cuts.
Tien hissed in breath a couple of times, but was a good patient and sat silently until Chiaotzu said, "You're an idiot, you know that? Why do you always do this to yourself when we have no resources to look after it?"
Tien chuckled. "Because better my back than my face." He swivelled so he was facing Chiaotzu, grinning. "Now, bed time I think."
"I don't know if I can get to sleep," Chiaotzu said uncertainly. "I mean...it's still light out..."
"Yes, but it's summer so the sun won't go down until eleven at least, not this far north." Tien smiled, then held out his arms. "It's almost nine now, and it's time to sleep. Come on, we'll share body heat."
This idea was laughable. Chiaotzu didn't feel he had any body heat. But he moved forward and settled into Tien's arms again, resting his head on the blood-stained cloth of his shirt, not minding as it left red smears on his white skin.
"I don't think I can sleep," he said softly. Tien shrugged (Chiaotzu could feel the muscles shifting) and cradled Chiaotzu close as he lay down on his side.
"You can try. That's all that I want you to do."
Chiaotzu honestly didn't think he could, but he was surprised to find that once he was actually lying down, regardless of his soaking wet clothes, the heat generated from Tien was actually making him very comfortable, and he felt his eyelids begin to droop.
"Nii-chan?" His voice was soft, slurred a little.
"Yes, Chiaotzu?" Tien sounded tired, but not near sleep. His voice was gentle, soothing, and almost as good as any lullaby.
"How long're we gonna have to live outside for?"
Tien laughed a little. "I'm not sure. Not for long now. In the Northern Wastes, where we're heading, there's an abandoned cabin. We'll settle in there."
"How'd you know?" Chiaotzu's eyelids were almost fused shut and his mind was starting to drift away, tethered to his body by only a thin thread of thought.
"I read something about it in Shen's files before we left." Tien's lips gently touched the top of Chiaotzu's head for a moment. "Go to sleep, little brother. Tomorrow we move on."
Chiaotzu wanted to say something else (goodnight or sleep well or something little like that), but his mouth wouldn't open. Quickly, painlessly, the thread connecting his mind and his body snapped and he drifted into a deep, comfortable sleep.
AN. And there you have it... A challenge fic I wrote absolutely ages ago, and now just happens to fit into the theme for DBZ-friendshippy's contest this month O.o Coincidence? I think not XD Anyways, I'm going to have to rewrite the 'Outsides' fic since this one is no longer part of the series... Still, I hope you enjoyed :D Reviews make me very happy.