Two of a Kind Ch. 05byCia81©
"I was able to treat about twenty of the sickest kitlings and pregnant women." Dr. Waddel was washing his hands at the sink in the kitchen. He dried them and turned to Bashta and Cavel who stood silently watching him, waiting for his next words.
"I think we got here in time," he said.
Cavel's eyes closed as he slumped against Bashta. Holding his mate, Bashta said a quiet prayer of thanks to the Jaguar, for his wisdom and his kindness in guiding them to a cure in time. They had done all they could do, now they just had to let the antiserum work.
"How long until they are well?" Bashta asked.
"That will depend on each patient. The sickest should actually get better the fastest. Their bodies won't fight the antiserum so it will disperse through their bodies the fastest." Dr. Waddel pulled a chair out from the table and sat down, resting his elbows on the scarred surface. "That doesn't mean that they won't still need careful care. Their immune systems are weak--"
Cavel interrupted him in protest, "Our immune systems are very strong!"
"Normally yes, they are. These patients, however, have been ill for weeks. Their bodies were slowly shutting down and while we can halt the progress and spread of this disease they will have to recover their strength. That will take time, rest, and plenty of good food.
"I know your kind is hardy. If humans could get this plague it would spread like wildfire through the towns and cities until there was no one left. It is peculiar that it affects only your clan of Jaguars," The doctor spoke slowly, musing aloud as he considered the strange course of the disease. Bashta urged the doctor to take a cup of tea before he and Cavel sat down at the table with him. He wrapped his hands around the mug and focused on Cavel.
"We don't understand this plague at all, we were very lucky you found Bashta here and we were able to make a working antiserum in time."
Cavel looked over at Bashta, tightening the grip he had on his hand under the table. "Yes, we were. My clan has gained an invaluable treasure in my mate."
Dr. Waddel beamed at him. "In all that has been going on I didn't congratulate you," he said. "I know your father would be very happy you found your mate. He would be proud of the way you have led your clan as well."
Cavel bowed his head a little to the older man, a pleased smile on his face. "That means a lot to me. I know you and he were good friends when he led our clan."
Dr. Waddel laughed. "Since before that actually. Your father was one of the first Carthera to integrate into my school. He was always getting into trouble, starting fights and stuff."
Cavel's eyes widened. "He didn't!"
"Oh yes he did." The doctor smirked, sitting back in his chair. "One day he was in the bathroom trying to reach a large splinter of wood in his back after a tussle in the bleachers with the school phobics. I was in there washing my hands and offered to help. I pulled it out and helped him clean up. It became a habit; he got into fights when he refused to back down or avoid the phobics and I took care of the damage before his mother saw him."
"Is that why you went into medicine and specialized in treating Carthera?" Bashta asked. He was curious about the doctor, his medicine, and machines that worked so much better than Bashta's own knowledge of herbal medicine.
"Yes. I was fascinated by your culture and the way you guys heal. The school nurse wouldn't even touch the non-human students. My dad was a doctor; I think I always wanted to be one. He used to sometimes secretly treat the Carthera who came to him that couldn't be healed by their own medics. He always told me that pain hurts everyone the same. I wanted to help like he did, but openly."
"Those are the attitudes that helped the integration continue. But I bet my dad gave you more than enough opportunities to fix him up after fights before he left high school to get a good idea of our physiology," Cavel joked, making the doctor smile.
"That he did, that he did."
"Is it still like that?" Bashta asked. His eyes were wide and he was looking between Cavel and Dr. Waddel.
"Not really," Cavel assured him. "There will always be some people who are bigots, who think they are better than the Carthera because we are different. Carthera have been integrated into the human population for about fifty years now. Some things are still rocky but for the most part the humans treat the clans pretty much equal."
Dr. Waddel nodded. "The hospitals and medical profession in general are both a little behind still. Most doctors who treat Carthera patients aren't officially trained. It's more an... apprenticeship. Your bodies are similar enough to human and yet with enough animal traits that most doctors the clans will trust become a cross between a traditional doctor and, well..." he ducked his head a little, "a vet."
Cavel's eyes narrowed.
"I'm not saying you guys are animals. But your clan traits are very animal like. For instance, the bones of the Falcon clans are lighter and thinner than a human's which make treating breaks trickier. Some of the snake clans have fangs with actual poison sacks which produce venom. Imagine one of those guys with a toothache."
Bashta's eyes were wide. Cavel looked intrigued. "I didn't know that."
"I treat more than the Jaguar clan. Sometimes traveling clan members come through and need help. I've seen a lot in my days as a doctor."
"Have you ever seen anything like this plague before?" Bashta asked.
"No, fortunately I haven't." The doctor sighed, "Though, because no one had seen it before I was useless. I couldn't do anything to help the kitlings until you came." Dr. Waddel looked at Bashta's obviously healthy body then looked at his eyes, seeing more sorrow and experience than the youthful countenance suggested. "Your entire clan died from this?"
Bashta face took on a haunted look, and he slowly nodded. "They did."
"Were the symptoms the same?"
Bashta rubbed his hands together nervously, his claws peeking out of his fingertips. "I think so. I was young and wasn't really paying attention. I remember Pamca and Lesner, my two best friends, were sick a few days before my mother took me to the Temple. Their mother kept bathing them in the river and they sounded funny when they breathed; like they had water in their chests, just like the kitlings in there." Bashta looked down the hall toward the main room.
"But we didn't see the lesions until we got back. My father knew we would be returning from the Temple. As he carved the plague warnings around the village he made sure that he was visible from a good distance away on that path. He ordered us to leave them and my mother took me in her arms to keep me from going to him. I fought her to get to my litter mates and friends who had already died from this horrible curse but it wouldn't have done any good. My father died before our eyes and he was the last of our clan left alive."
"What happened to your mother?"
Tears filled Bashta's eyes but he blinked over and over, refusing to let them fall. "She left."
He didn't say anything more, he couldn't. He wasn't angry at her anymore, he understood now. He couldn't imagine going on if something were to happen to Cavel. She had made sure he would be safe and then followed the instincts of their kind. If anything he was mad at himself, at the way he had thought about her for so long.
"I hate to ask you these questions, I'm sure it's not easy to go back to that time in your mind but it could help us figure out what happened to the kitlings here."
"She didn't get sick either. She just... couldn't take being without her mate any longer. She went feral." He lost the battle and a few tears trickled down his cheeks. Cavel pushed his chair back from the table and offered his open arms to Bashta. He quickly moved over into Cavel's warm embrace, rubbing his cheek on Cavel's soft t-shirt as he was soothed by the gentle vibration of his rumbling murmurs of comfort.
"I would guess that she was in the pool with Bashta when she did the ceremonies to purify him and heal him from the fever and infection in his wound. If she had it, she probably was healed at the same time and never even knew she was sick. Curing the plague was just... a side effect." Cavel ran his fingers through Bashta's thick hair, comforting him.
The doctor considered that. "I would guess the plague acted much faster in the jungle than it did here. The environment down there would be ideal for the production of a sickness like this; they always spread faster in hot, moist climates."
Bashta turned to look at him but stayed in the comfort of Cavel's arms. "It did. From what I've figured the sickness took many weeks to spread here when it took maybe one, at the most, in my village. I'm not sure why but I was young, there were a lot of details I missed about what was going around me."
"Do you know how it started?" The doctor leaned forward, very interested in the answer to this question. If they knew how it started and how it spread they could have some idea of how to fight it.
"No." Bashta's eyes widened. "I never thought of that! Our clans are half a world apart and the plague hit my village many years ago. How did it get here?" Bashta turned to look up at Cavel in confusion.
"We don't know that either. Most sicknesses are spread by contact with the germs from an infected person or by touching something a sick person came in contact with a lot. We can't figure out how it happened here or where it started. Several kitlings seemed to come down with the sickness around the same time and it quickly spread to the rest of them."
"The kitlings were already sick before we met and I'm the only one left from my clan. They couldn't have gotten it that way," Bashta mused. "Have you heard reports of anyone else getting sick?"
Cavel and the doctor shook their heads. "I alerted all the hospitals and clinics that treat Carthera to the symptoms and asked them to contact me if they had seen anything like it. Dr. Pennelst also contacted them when we got the antiserum model working. Still no reports of anyone else suffering from this but if they do, we have spread the word that there is a cure."
Cavel brushed his hand up and down Bashta's back. He leaned into the caress as he pursed his lips, thinking hard. "You said they could have gotten it from something a sick person touched?"
Bashta's face paled. "What if," he paused, "what if that happened?"
"How? No one in my clan has ever been to the jungle before the wise woman sent us to find you."
"No," he whispered, "but what if someone brought something here?"
They began questioning all the kitling's parents right away. The first one Cavel called was Saulle. He had no answers for the alpha but he added his assistance to the investigation once he knew what Cavel was asking for. After the first few parents knew nothing the doctor shook his head.
"I'm no help here, really. I'll do better to return to the clinic and help Dr. Pennelst make more antiserum while you continue to question the rest of the kitling's parents."
Cavel nodded. The three of them were enough and word was already spreading through the clan. If there was something spreading the sickness, they would find it.
"You can ask Merilyn's parents the same things we are asking the others here and then call us," Bashta suggested.
"I will." Dr. Waddel gathered up his bag and headed back to the plane.
The feelings of relief that came with the antiserum, that the worst was over, soon wore off. The mood of the clan was strained as they gathered in their family groups. The alpha's questions reminded them that they still had no idea how or why this happened. Even if their kitlings got better who was to say something else couldn't happen later? What if a new sickness struck? Everyone began discussing the situation, desperately trying to find how the sickness started in hopes that would provide some answers.
Cavel sank onto the couch later that night with a frustrated sigh, his hand running through his hair and tangling it. Merilyn's parents had no insights for them either. Bashta sat down on his lap facing him and pulled his hands down. He held them to his hips and then ran his hands up Cavel's arms to cradle his face.
"You have to stay calm. I can feel your stress and so can our clan. They take their cues from you, from us, and if we don't hold it together it will be much harder for them to remain in control. We need to know where the plague came from, yes, but do not take away the hope they finally feel that this will soon be over."
"But it won't be! Don't you see? How can I keep them safe if I don't know how?" Cavel almost wailed. He was tense, his shoulders beneath Bashta's hands knotted as his hands clenched into fists.
"You need to take a break." Bashta's strong hands began kneading the tight muscles. They didn't soften at all. "Take me to your home?" he asked quietly.
Cavel blinked. With everything going on they hadn't left the community center since they'd returned from the jungle. Bashta was right; there wasn't anything else they could do that night. Instead he could begin to show his mate what life was going to be like together. His hands unclenched and began to knead Bashta's hips in return. He took a deep breath.
"I'd love to show you our home."
The drive to the house from the community center took almost half an hour. Cavel didn't live in town like Bashta thought he would.
"Why don't you live closer to the clan?" Bashta asked as they turned down a gravel road. Trees lined the sides of the single lane and hid the moon from sight.
"I have an office downtown; sometimes I stay there on the pull-out couch. But mostly... I just need a place to be me, Cavel, without having to be alpha. If I was always surrounded by the clan I would never get that."
"Do you resent it? Being the alpha of such a large clan at your age?"
Cavel considered how to reply to that, he didn't want Bashta to think that he wasn't happy with his role in life or that he resented taking care of the clan, as if they were just a burden. "No. Not like that."
His hands rubbed the steering wheel as he spoke quietly. "I love our people; the clan is a source of pride and comfort. But being the leader, the one who makes the final decisions, is a hard job sometimes. You can't make everyone happy all the time and you get pulled in a lot of directions. Having a space to myself, room to just relax without any of that pressure makes me a better alpha."
Bashta thought about that for a minute and then nodded. "My clan was much smaller and all of our ways were rooted in tradition and duty. Without all the technology and choices you have here it was a much slower, simpler way to live."
"Harder in a lot of ways, I'm sure." Cavel grimaced. "I mean, no microwaves? I'd have starved!"
"Yes, I do find those much better than cooking over the fire. But I think I see what you mean about needing space to just be yourself without having to live up to someone else's expectations all the time."
"Not to mention now I get to be there with you," Cavel said with a smile. He reached over and laced the fingers of his free hand with Bashta's. He lifted their joined hands and pointed out the windshield. "There it is."
Bashta sucked in a breath as the house came into sight. It was two stories with a sharply peaked roof and a large front porch with a swing. The colors were washed out in the darkness but the landscape was dotted with flowers and shrubs including some vines with night blooming flowers climbing a trellis to one side. Behind the house was the real reason that Cavel had built there. Beyond the tall trees that stood behind the house was the mountain peak bathed in cool moonlight. Clouds hovered over the summit, hiding the tip from them but the beauty of the sight filled him with a sense of serenity.
Bashta just sat drinking in the view, not moving as Cavel brought the car to a stop in the driveway and turned off the jeep. It wasn't until Cavel opened his door for him that Bashta managed to pull his eyes away. The expression on his face was dazed and Cavel chuckled.
"Like it?" he asked, waving his hand toward the house and the view.
"I love it," Bashta said. "It's so beautiful. I've never really seen mountains before, not like this."
"You'll love the bedroom then." Cavel smiled in anticipation.
"Oh I will, will I?"
"Mmhmm," Cavel murmured as Bashta pulled his head closer for a kiss. It was slow and sensual and when Bashta pulled away it made him groan. "What was that for?"
"For being you. For loving me. For being my mate."
They moved together this time, Cavel's arms around Bashta's slim waist pulling him into his body. They kissed again, this one harder and full of a promise of the passion that had been put aside for days.
"Hmm." Cavel pulled back this time. "I think we need to stop or I won't show you anything of your new home but the bedroom."
"I've the rest of my life to see the rest of the house. Show me the bedroom," Bashta said heatedly.
"But..." Cavel moaned and his head fell back as Bashta began to gently nip and suck at his sensitive neck while he caressed his sides and moved up to tweak his taut nipples. "Oh gods, do that again."
"Inside," Bashta murmured against his neck, "bedroom."
Cavel didn't argue anymore, grabbing Bashta's hand and towing him toward the house. He opened the unlocked front door and pounded up the stairs. Bashta was towed helplessly behind him, laughing a little at his mate's eagerness. The stairs ended at a landing with a hallway leading to the left and right. Cavel turned to the left and went for the far door.
The room he led Bashta into was big, large enough that the king size bed along one wall didn't dominate the room. In the back wall were two large french doors that led out to a balcony. Cavel dropped Bashta's hand and walked over to the doors to open them. Bashta followed him. Looking out, he was again speechless, the mountain seemed just a little closer, a little bigger, and more majestic from the balcony. As far as Bashta could see were trees and hills spreading from the base toward the house.
"I promised you plenty of room to roam around, didn't I?" Cavel pulled Bashta back against his chest, cradling him and rubbing his stomach through his shirt. Bashta leaned into him, tilting his head to kiss Cavel on the cheek.
"You did. Is this all yours?" He gestured toward the mountain with one hand.
"No, not just mine. It's the clan's land really and we only own halfway to the mountain. The rest is state land, protected forest and mountain habitats. It's really wild; the visitor center and most of the human trails are on the other side, it has an easier slope. When the clan hunts we rarely encounter anyone else."
"Not as amazing as you," Cavel said, nuzzling Bashta's cheek. His tongue flicked out to get Bashta's scent, sliding upward in a slow taste from his neck to his sensitive ear. Cavel latched on and sucked gently. His arms tightened when Bashta went limp at the pleasure. That small caress brought back all the simmering tension they had at the jeep and doubled it. Bashta tried to turn around and Cavel's arms tightened further.
"I want to touch you," Bashta complained. His hands plucked at the iron bands Cavel's arms had become.
"Hmm, but I'm having fun touching you," Cavel said throatily. His actions clearly said he was turning the tables on his bossy mate.
Bashta gasped when he felt Cavel's hands move under his shirt and touch bare skin. He held his breath as the tickling fingers moved over the muscles of his stomach that bunched and rippled. They inched toward his chest; anticipation building as Cavel moved to return the caress that had made him so crazy earlier. Bashta's breath exploded from him when Cavel firmly tweaked both nipples.