Two of a Kind Ch. 04byCia81©
He pushed a bowl of stew in front of Bashta who sat looking at it blankly.
"I'll help you." Cavel picked up the spoon, feeling a surge of worry. His mate was very distant, so distant it was almost as if their bond were shut down but he could feel it wide open. Bashta had told him some of how he was feeling, as if all the memories of his clan dying were pressing Bashta down, his fear growing that it would happen again.
Only this time he would lose his mate as well as the clan he called his own. The fear was all Cavel could feel but he knew that it wasn't the only thing Bashta felt. He just had to break through to him. But first... food.
"Take a bite, Bashta." Cavel slid the spoon into Bashta's mouth, watching him chew mechanically. He held up another bite, carrots and celery as well as beef on this spoonful. Bashta tried to eat it but began to choke and cough as soon as he swallowed. His stomach rebelled and he wasn't able to hold the food down, throwing it up into the sink.
Bashta opened his mouth to apologize but Cavel shushed him. "No. It is my fault. I know things must be very hard for you now."
He didn't want to push Bashta into eating if it was going to make him sick but he needed the nutrients. He thought for a moment and then picked up the bowl. In a cupboard over the sink was a strainer and he placed that over a wide mouthed mug. Pouring the stew into the strainer, the meat and vegetables were left inside while the broth went into the mug.
Cavel took the mug and wrapped Bashta's hands around it. "Feel the warmth?" Bashta sighed but his hands tightened around the mug.
Cavel urged him to drink. "Try this; it shouldn't hurt your stomach and the warmth should help your throat."
Bashta took a cautious sip. He sighed a bit and drank some more. Cavel knew he was thirstier than he thought, soon finishing the broth. Cavel refilled the mug with some water and urged him to drink that as well, stroking Bashta's back as he drank. When he put the mug down empty on the table Cavel reached for his hands.
"Let's go lay down. You need to rest."
"But the kitlings..." Bashta began to protest.
"I've set the alarm on my phone. Just three hours of sleep, Bashta. Then we'll get up and make more tea, okay? You can't help the kitlings if you don't rest a little." He drew Bashta to his feet and led him down the hall to a small dark room, the window shades drawn so that the only light came from a small lamp on the bedside table. The double bed was small but they squeezed on it together, cuddling as much for comfort as space.
"I'm sorry," Cavel whispered as he stroked Bashta's hair. "When I thought about finding my mate I always thought that welcoming you to your new home, your new clan, would be a joyous occasion. All we have done is tend the sick. Not an auspicious start to a mating," he said sadly.
"We have our whole lives to enjoy each other and the wonders of your home," Bashta assured him as he rubbed the tips of his fingers over Cavel's face. "Our clan is more important. If easing their pain and suffering is something I can do, then I must give up whatever is demanded of me. Even our time as new mates if that is what price we must pay."
Cavel nodded. "I understand. It is hard being an alpha but someone must lead and make the necessary sacrifices. But when this is all over I want to take you away. I have a place in the mountains, very little in way of comforts, but we will be able to be alone there." He desperately needed that with his mate, their bond pushing him to bring them closer physically but he fought it for Bashta's sake. He needed rest more than he needed anything else and Cavel would give that to him.
Bashta snuggled his face into Cavel's neck. "I'd like that," he sighed.
"Good." Cavel rubbed his cheek on Bashta's head and held him close. "Now go to sleep. I will wake you in a few hours."
The next two days followed the same pattern. Each day Cavel called Dr. Waddel and each day he had to face the hopeful faces of parents watching over their sick kitlings with the same message of 'not yet'. The teas Bashta made helped bring down the kitling's fevers but the lesions on the sickest continued to spread. He frantically tried other herb mixes, creating salves and trying each one, muttering to himself as he went over the impressive array of herbs in his bag. Each evening Cavel had to force him to choke some food down and get some sleep but the stress was beginning to take its toll on both of them.
"Bashta, come eat," Cavel said on late in the evening of the second day. "Raselie made some sandwiches."
Bashta refused to stir from his spot on the floor next to a very small kitling, only three or four years in age. The little girl had blond curls that lay lank on her makeshift pillow. Tears trickled out of her eyes as she fought against the soft bands that held her hands down. She had the lesions and was unable to understand that she couldn't touch them or the oozing fluid that wept from of them.
Bashta was chanting over her in desperation. He had already spread the strongest batch of salve he could think of over the many black marks that were beginning to spread up her neck and across her beautiful face.
"Bashta, you need to eat."
"I will eat when I am done!" Bashta said, his temper flaring. As he turned, his ears lay against his skull and he glared at Cavel, using his anger to fight the sadness and fear swamping him. "Tell Merilyn that her hurts will be soothed after I have stuffed my stomach if you feel it is so necessary that I eat."
"I am only trying to help, Bashta," Cavel said quietly.
"I do not need help, this kitling does. She is... I can't..." Bashta broke down and turned his face away, looking at a spot on the wall as he bit his lip until blood dripped onto his chin. Cavel reached down and picked him up, his face alarmed at how light Bashta had grown after just a few days. The little girl's father stood to one side, tears streaming down his face.
Cavel could feel his fear. They all waited on the phone call from the doctors saying they were sending the antiserum they hoped would cure the kitlings but even that hope was fading fast for Merilyn's parents. She was the worst of all the kitlings, her small body overwhelmed with the sickness. Her immune system had already been weakened by a condition she developed at birth that hurt her lungs and her ability to heal.
"I'm sorry," Cavel murmured. He had tears in his eyes.
"No, My Lord. I understand. Your mate has done all that he can do for our Merilyn." He knelt down, his mate on the other side of the small pallet, their hands gently touching her, trying to soothe her as best they were able.
Cavel carried his distraught mate out a back door, the evening air beginning to grow chilly as the light faded into twilight. He sat under a tree, cradling Bashta in his arms. He stroked his back as Bashta's hot tears wet the shoulder of his shirt as they cried together. After a while, Bashta struggled to sit up.
"Why?" he cried, "Why did the Jaguar send me here to watch this clan die just as mine did? Why can't I save them? I was sent here to save them and I am doing nothing! They're just babies, kitlings. They don't deserve this!" he sobbed.
"Stop this." Cavel grabbed Bashta's face between his hands. "You are not doing nothing. You have been working tirelessly, doing the best you can. Many of them would be much worse off if you hadn't been here. I know the antiserum will work; we just have to give the doctors time. The Jaguar would not have sent us back with false hopes."
"They don't have time! Merilyn is dying now!" Bashta collapsed back against Cavel's chest, shaking as he sobbed. Cavel could feel his despair and anguish through their bond as he broke down and cried his pain for the suffering he watched that didn't spare his clan and for the kitlings dying again. Tears fell onto Bashta's dark head as Cavel cried with him.
"Cavel!" Saulle came running out of the back door of the community center. "Dr. Waddel is on the phone." He was panting with his mouth open, looking at Bashta and Cavel anxiously.
"Did he say anything?" Bashta scrambled off Cavel's lap and they both began hurrying toward the community center.
"No, I uh... I didn't wait to find out." Saulle flushed. "I just dropped the phone and ran to find you."
Cavel snorted and shook his head; Bashta smacked his arm. "Stop it. He's under a lot of strain too."
Saulle's wife was one of the pregnant women who were sick and their kitling Ariella lay beside her, coughing and running a fever. Cavel had sat with Saulle a lot over the last few days when his parents went back home to rest. He refused to leave his mate and daughter, afraid they would slip away if he did. He only slept when his body forced him to. Even then he would lie down between them with a hand on each of them, reassured by their breathing, waking every time they coughed or moaned.
The strain was showing on his face and the rumpled clothes he'd yet to change from since they'd been back. Rubbing his arm, Cavel frowned but looked over at Saulle. "Sorry," he muttered.
They were all trying desperately not to jump to conclusions about why the doctor was calling. They could have the antiserum ready or it could have been a complete failure. Almost as disastrous would be the need for more time.
They were just about out of time.
"Yes Doctor." Cavel stood by the phone, his back rigid. His hand clenched spasmodically as he listened intently. "We'll be back with what you need as soon as possible. Have the clinic ready." Cavel hung up the phone and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Is it... Did they?" Saulle couldn't finish his question. Many of the adult clan members had gathered by the door, the whispered message that the doctor called had made its way quickly through the center.
"They have an anti-serum they think will work. But they need someone to test it on. They don't know if it will help or hurt, or just do nothing at all." Hearing the clan members instantly begin talking to each other, Cavel turned and saw the crowd at the door. "It's a risk. This cure could end up killing the kitling we take."
"They are already dying! All we can do right now is make them more comfortable as they waste away," one of the fathers said in a broken voice.
"Even with the medicine your mate gives them they grow weaker and weaker." Shawnel looked down at his mate, holding her as she cried. "Merilyn will die, maybe within hours, if we do nothing. Take her, see if this serum can help her."
Turning her head to look at them, Arenna added her pleas to her mate's. "This is the only chance she has. Don't let Merilyn die for your fear of what might happen. Watching her die without being able to at least try to save her is the worst thing we have ever faced. You can do something; you can take her to the clinic." Her hands were clenched into fists. "Take her. Please."
Bashta's own feelings surged through their bond. He wanted to help them, needed to help them. Cavel was shaking. "I can't take you, either of you. If she dies--"
Merilyn's mother interrupted him, "Then she dies with those who care for her just as much as we do. Your mate has enough love in him for all our kitlings. We have seen it. I trust you, and him, with her life."
Cavel couldn't speak, he could only nod. He turned into Bashta's arms and buried his head in his neck. He was overwhelmed by the needs of his people, by their fierce hope and loyalty despite their almost overwhelming fear. That they would trust him meant more than any show of submission ever had.
Bashta held him, just as Cavel had supported him earlier. Cavel had vowed to do whatever it would take to save his clan. Together, they would find out if their journey and trials had been in vain. He took a deep breath and then lifted his head.
"We will leave as soon as she is ready."
Saulle waited until Bashta had his harness on before he handed the pathetically small bundle of blankets over. Cradling her body close to his chest Bashta nodded at Saulle. Cavel was already flicking the numerous switches and pushing the buttons necessary to get the helicopter started. Once he composed himself he had sped their journey as fast as possible. It was a good thing Katrelen had brought the helicopter back that afternoon.
Cavel wasn't being unsafe but he was wasting no time. Saulle had barely backed away after closing Bashta's door before Cavel began to pull the controls and send the helicopter into the air. Bashta felt a bit nervous but most of his attention was focused on the very sick little girl he held tenderly in his lap. It helped that Cavel's iron determination flooded their bond.
Bashta could almost hear his thoughts, his determination to save the little girl and their whole clan by the flood of fierce concentration on Cavel's face. If there was any way that Cavel could will the antiserum to cure Merilyn, he would. Bashta held the hot, listless body closer. Merilyn's fever had risen dangerously high and she was wracked with chills. Her face was now covered in the black lesions but she was too weak to scratch at them anymore.
Every breath she took was a struggle through the congestion in her lungs. Bashta prayed that she would make it long enough for them to reach the doctors and their medicine. Even with it she might not survive, not unless they got a miracle. Some of the machines he had seen in the clinic when they drew his blood had to be able to help her. This science Cavel was so excited about had to have more uses than boiling water very quickly.
As soon as they began to descend Bashta could see a car at the end of the runway. The white coat beside the car surprised him. When they got closer he could see that it was Dr. Pennelst standing in a pool of light from the hanger floodlight. When Cavel turned off the engine he rushed over to them, opening Bashta's door and holding out his arms for the small kitling. Bashta's arms tightened on her protectively.
"Bashta, let the doctor have her. He can help her." Cavel reached over and caressed his shoulder. Without the anti-serum... It was hard to let the little girl go, he understood that but there was nothing more Bashta could do for her. "You kept her alive until they could finish their work. He brought a dose of the antiserum with him. He can give it to her right now and then monitor her while we drive to the clinic. She's almost gone, Bashta. We have to let him do his job."
Bashta bowed his head and then reached down, gently passing Merilyn's small body into the doctor's arms. His large dark eyes were shiny.
"Please save her," he whispered.
Dr. Pennelst nodded gravely. "I'll do my very best." He hurried back to his car, carefully using one arm to open one of the back doors. Bending down he placed Merilyn gently onto the wide back seat. Using the stethoscope around his neck he checked her heart and then watched her breathe, small wheezes each time her small chest rose.
Putting the stethoscope back around his neck he reached through the front seats and picked up a small black case. Unzipping it, he pulled out a small vial and a syringe. He looked at the little girl and hesitated, biting his lip as he slid on a pair of blue gloves.
"What's wrong?" Bashta asked anxiously.
Dr. Pennelst shook his head. "Nothing is wrong. I'm just trying to determine how much to give her. We need to give her a large enough dose to provide immunity but not hurt her. Too much is just as dangerous as not enough."
Cavel put his hand on the doctor's arm, stopping him from inserting the syringe into the vial. "What do you mean too much can hurt her? You don't know how much to use?" His voice was rising in his agitation.
"No. This is a brand new medication to treat a disease we've never seen before. Normally this would be researched and tested for months, years even, before it was ever used on a person. Your clan can not afford that. This is the only way we can save them." Dr. Pennelst looked up at Cavel.
"I understand your fear for her, we worry that the cure might be worse than the disease but this is her only chance, a slim one that is the only option left for her. I can't take the time to test for reactions; I have to give her a full dose now. Let me try to cure her. I am very good at what I do, and what I do is understand the puzzles of the human body better than anyone else. It helps me make medicines that no one else can make."
Bashta watched in silence as Cavel stepped back, letting go of the doctor. He leaned over and put his arms around Cavel's chest, both of them watching silently as the doctor carefully extracted half a syringe full of the clear fluid and then removed the air. Putting it down he picked up a sterile kit and pulled out an IV needle. He carefully pulled back the blanket and exposed one thin arm. As he swabbed the area Cavel looked away but Bashta watched intently as the slender silver needle dimpled the skin and then broke through. Dr. Pennelst quickly tore off a strip of tape and secured the IV to the wasted hand.
"She is going to need fluids and other medications that would be most effective if delivered through an IV so we are going to leave this one in." He hooked up the thin tube coming out of a clear bag hanging on the garment hook. He carefully picked up the prepared needle with the antiserum and opened the second port on the IV tube. The doctor paused, briefly closing his eyes before he pushed down the plunger, making Merilyn whimper as the cold fluid was forced through the IV.
He quickly tossed the needle into a portable sharp container and removed his gloves. "That's it," he said, zipping up the case. "One of you needs to stay back here with her. We need to get to the clinic as soon as possible. I'll drive."
Without saying a word Bashta slid in the open door, quickly re-wrapping the blanket around the shivering kitling and pulling her into his arms. He looked up, his eyes showing his need for Cavel's support as he watched over her. Cavel just nodded before he slid in beside them; they would both stay with her. Wasting no time, Dr. Pennelst drove them to the clinic, running as many yellow lights as he safely could.
Bashta held in his sneezes, not wanting to jostle Merilyn where she lay cradled in his arms as they hurried through the clinic corridors. Going down a different hall than before, Dr. Waddel ushered them into a colorful room with jungle scenes painted on the walls. There was a small bed made up with a purple blanket in the center of the far wall. Bashta headed toward it as the doctors moved around and got various equipment ready.
Bashta carefully laid Merilyn down in the bed, easing her head on to the pillow and smoothing her hair away from her face. Her forehead was hot and her face was flushed under the black sores.
"It doesn't look like she is getting any better," Cavel said in a worried voice. His teeth came down to gnaw on his bottom lip.
"The medicine will take time to work. Actually the lack of response is a good thing. Her body hasn't had an adverse reaction so far which is what we were far more concerned with." Dr. Waddel looked very serious. "I'm a little surprised she's still alive as sick as she is, to tell you the truth. We'll get her on the monitors and start running a few tests in an hour. I'm hoping we will have some preliminary results within two hours or so after that. If she starts getting better you will still have to leave her here. Her body was on the verge of completely shutting down and her recovery could still be touch and go.
"If you agree, Dr. Pennelst can stay here with her and create more antiserum while I go with you back to your clan. We have enough to treat the sickest of your kitlings and can have enough ready for the rest in a few days. Once the kitlings are safe we can work on inoculating the adults before they get sick too." Dr. Waddel waited for Cavel's nod before he joined Dr. Pennelst in hooking up monitors and tubes to the small child lying deathly still on the white sheets under the purple blanket.