Art: SpaceSmilodon (http://www.furaffinity.net/user/spacesmilodon/) and Vexxblack (http://vexxblack.deviantart.com/)
Characters (c) of Space and Vexx
Story: BRNQuil (https://brnquil.sofurry.com/) and myself. (https://arcane-reno.sofurry.com/)
Make sure to check out other work done by Space and Vexx, at http://pmdbtad.deviantart.com/
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Chapter Notes:
“Hold his legs, dammit,” Tom growled, ducking a wild kick from Dusty’s forehoof. “It’s hard enough to pour the stuff into his mouth without getting Stomped at the same time!”
“I’m trying, but-” Stuart crouched suddenly, the zebstrika’s flailing limbs catching his head-leaf. “It’s not easy!”
Despite the gravity of the moment, Angie watched with an odd, fatigued detachment. She’d barely slept in days; instead tending her ailing friend, trying to give him what comfort and nourishment she could in each dark and passing hour. But, how could she complain? Both Tom and Stuart sported their exhaustion in bruises, scrapes and tousled, bloodied fur; the three of them were in this together, and for Dusty’s sake, they had to give it their all.
She’d missed mail deliveries, burnt cookies, and even neglected grooming to look after him. Last night, as the fever had burned its savagery all the fiercer inside Dusty, denying all of her attempts to cool it, her heart had fluttered with worry. Now, the cure to his ravaging illness was safely home… and solely in the paws of the most discrepant pair of boys she’d ever known. Yet, through the tired haze over her mind, she knew the worry was buried. Pride blossomed in its place.
For the first time she had ever seen, the two were working together --a fluid team and unit, even with the constant snipes and jibes. She was curious to know what had passed between them on their journey, to overcome the silent resentment and dislike that had festered between them, quietly eating away at the bonds of the Moonlighters…
But, Dusty came first, and a seed of fear still remained.
“He’s been like this for the past two hours,” Angie said, glancing at the shards of pottery in the corner, where one of the equine’s spasms had flung a water bowl from her grasp. “I couldn’t get close. I thought…” she trailed off, the words sticking to the fear in her throat. According to what Boris had said, this was the final phase of the fever. After this, Dusty would sleep, and not wake up.
They made it back.
A flailing kick struck Stuart square in the side of his body, knocking Dusty’s forelimbs from his grasp. Angie winced, stepping forward… but reconsidered, as the Leafeon leapt into the fray once more, diving under the freely-flying hooves.
“Gah --Thomas, I have a better idea,” Stuart said, his head-leaf whipping low to cover his snout. “Both of you, cover your ears!”
“Oh no; not again.” Tom groaned, backing a pace away from Dusty. Angie followed suit, pinning her long lobes down into her mane, stifling the sound of Dusty’s ragged panting. Stuart’s muzzle contorted.
Through the barrier fluff of her bent ears, a low, quiet whistle seeped into her head. The flareon’s eyelids drooped, her body attempting to surrender to the call of sleep. She was tired enough already…
Dusty’s body was far away… and unmoving.
Suddenly, the draining noise ceased, snapping her back to reality.
The slender zebstrika sprawled, his tongue lolling like a pink snake in his hay bed. Angie gulped. Lying there like that, so still save for the odd, nervous twitch, he almost looked... But, no. His wide chest still rose, breath wheezing into his lungs.
Thomas’ muzzle shook from side to side. “Still a pansy move,” he muttered.
“Shush, it works,” Stuart shot back. He nodded at Dusty. “You going to do it, or what?”
“Relax. I’ve got it.”
The persian padded close to their slumbering teammate, pulling a small glass bottle from his bag. Angie blinked; where had they gotten glass?
Its neck was corked tightly, and a deep purple liquid swilled about inside, unnaturally viscous and shiny. Thomas grimaced, then bit into the cork and ripped it free with a muted pop. Immediately, he sneezed; once, twice, before delicately pinching his nose and holding in a third explosion. Thankfully, his grip on the bottle didn’t falter.
It didn’t smell so bad --sort of floral, and sweet! Almost like a certain poffin recipe she knew.
“Are you okay, Tom?” she asked.
“Uck… I’m fine,” he muttered, though his eyes watered. Sniffling, he took Dusty’s chin in his paw, tilting the equine’s head back. He prised Dusty’s mouth open, balanced the zebstrika’s head at an angle, and, with a final, deft flick, poured half the liquid straight down his throat.
Stuart stepped in, working Dusty’s jaw and tickling his throat to make him swallow. An audible gulp rolled through the hut. Like some shared signal, all three of the conscious Moonlighters slumped backwards, resting on hinds and haunches. It was over. They had done all they could.
But, was it enough? Angie swallowed. Her best friend had been so… so dreadfully ill.
Nothing happened. Dusty remained still, his drying, now purple-stained tongue stark flesh against hay. Minutes oozed by. Stuart and Thomas repeated the process, draining the bottle of its contents. A few drops splashed free, dyeing the golden hay violet, but the majority disappeared into Dusty’s mouth. Angie tensed, aching to spring in and help; but Tom and Stuart were stepping back, a similar tension in their stiff postures.
Dusty’s tail twitched. He coughed. Then, one red-rimmed eye rolled open, blinked, regarded them with startled clarity.
“Stuart, Tom, you’re back,” Dusty croaked, his voice barely above a whisper. “You want me to come..?” his eyes fluttered closed again on the trailing question. Angie’s heart thudded in her chest. Then, she saw the steady rise and fall of Dusty’s chest, heard the absence of rattle in those breaths.
“Is… is that it?” she asked.
“I think so,” Stuart said, sounding a touch apprehensive. “Saint did say it would take some time for the fever to go down and his body to heal.”
“It worked though, right?” Angie already knew the answer, but she wanted to hear someone else say it. It wouldn’t be real until they did.
“Yeah,” Tom said, “It worked. He’ll be back to his old ditzy self... in a couple of days I suppose. I hope.” He wiped his paws clean on the hay with a grimace of disgust.
Some things wouldn’t change, perhaps. And yet, Angie found herself smiling. The sun in the sky through the windows seemed suddenly beautiful. The Taillow twittering on the breeze...
She stumbled forward, nuzzling first an extremely startled Stuart, then a marginally less surprised Tom. “Thank you,” she breathed, all her pent up emotion pouring forth in a rush. “I was so worried when you didn’t come back that second day, or that night, and he was getting so bad. I-!” Her vision blurred, and she swiped away the moisture. No need for that nonsense! They were back, and soon their entire team would be healthy and whole once more!
“Here, let me take a look at those bruises of yours. Tom, that ear looks nasty.”
“Ang,” Stuart said, smiling, “take a rest. We’ve all been through a lot. Tom and I will be fine, I promise.”
Indignant, she glared furiously at the leafeon. “Excuse me, mister, I think I know what ‘fine’ looks like, and you aren’t it!”
Tom burst out with a cackle that whipped both Angie and Stuart’s heads to face him. He met their twin gazes and shrugged. “Sorry.”
“Hmm. Well, if you’re going to be stubborn, at least have some of the oran cakes I made,” Angie said, nodding towards their food chest. “They’re a day old, and… slightly burnt, but they still should help.”
“Thanks, Ang,” Stuart said. “I’ll do that.”
“What about the herd? Did they get enough of the medicine?”
“Yeah,” Thomas said. “We delivered it to Boris on the way here. I expect the sick ones will be on the mend by now, and up on their feet when he is.” He nodded towards Dusty. “Or, knowing him, a day after.”
“Good, I’m glad. You should take me to meet this ‘Saint’ character later too,” she mused. “You didn’t say much about him, and I’d really like to get the recipe for that concoction. It could be useful, and it smells so-”
Tom let loose a ripping sneeze, and Stuart and he shared a glance, before they both suddenly stared at her, aghast.
“No!” they chorused in unison.
Now what was that all about? She frowned.
She’d get it out of them later.