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A Season Of Dragons

by P L Nunn


Chapter Fifteen


Rowan possessed the supremely irritating belief that he knew everything there was to know about everyone and that his assumptions were gospel. The irritation was multiplied by the fact that he didn't hesitate to voice his opinions. Loudly and often.

If they hadn't this once rang so soundly of the truth, Seiji would have abandoned the conversation two minutes in, after telling Rowan exactly what he could do with his assumptions. As it turned out, Rowan walked away from him, thumbs tucked in the belt of his gift robe as if he were well pleased with himself, heading back to the gathering of hun'ra, no doubt to rescue Sai from the suspicions of the hun'ra towards perceived foreigners.

At the moment, Seiji had no one to rescue him from similar stares, Rowan, Sai and Kento having formed their own little cliché around the fire and Seiji reluctant to wade into the hun'ra to join them. They were all talking very animatedly with the female archeologist, hopefully deducing the clues that might lead them home. Home would be a very nice thing. Not his familial one, which had never at the best of times held much warmness for him, but back at the house he had shared with Ryo and Rowan, Sai and Kento for the last two years at the edge of the forest, miles and miles away from the confusion of the city. That place held fond memories, but most of all it held Ryo and all the things Ryo offered, even if Ryo were hardly aware of the things he represented.

Ryo. . .

There was really nowhere to go, with the exception of wondering up into the rocky slopes by himself, save the tent where Ryo was. It wasn't a terrible option, all things considered and Ryo's spirit was at rest, his body recuperating from over exertion and most likely would not rouse for some time. He was safe then. Safe and alluring.

Seiji walked the outskirts of the camp, letting resolve build until it was strong enough to take him back through the flaps of the small tent. Ryo was lax and still, half covered by a thin native blanket. He was on his side, back to the tent opening, head resting on one folded arm, hair a dark webwork of disarray across his shoulders and the tan of the sleeping mat. He did not rouse at Seiji's entrance, but then Ryo deep in the thrall of rem sleep did not waken easily. Seiji sighed, relieved at avoiding another confrontation. There was another rolled mat, but then one or more of the others would eventually come here in search of sleep and Seiji's easy allowance of invasion of his personal space did not extend to Kento or Sai or Rowan and he had no wish to wake up with Kento pressed against his back.

It was as good an excuse as any to settle down next to Ryo. He was careful in his movements, not wanting to disturb Ryo's slumber. The mat was hardly wide enough to allow space between bodies, but that was acceptable, Ryo's warmth a welcoming thing as the temperature rapidly dropped with the onset of night. The relief that washed over him as he allowed himself to settle, shoulder against Ryo's back, face a whisper away from Ryo's hair, was palpable. Like a first breath of fresh, sweet air after fighting to the surface of endless, suffocating water. The second breath brought peace with it and he let his body relax, suddenly aware of just how tired he was, of just how much the stress and trauma of the last days had taken their toll. Sleep had not necessarily been his goal in coming here, but it seeped over him, like a contagion caught from Ryo and in short order his eyes drifted shut and it overcame him.

He dreamed . . . terrible things. Dreams of helplessness and frustration. Dreams of pain and shame and guilt. Familiar nightscares. There wasn't a night that went by that some demon didn't haunt him of late. It had simply been a very long time since he'd slept skin to skin next to someone else while they plagued him.

"Seiji. Seiji!" Hands on his shoulder, shaking him to wakefulness. Breath came hard and fast, as if his lungs had been starved of it for far too long. He lay blinking into darkness, heart thumping like a wild thing in his chest, bile threatening to rise in his throat. He couldn't recall what the dream had been about, the dregs of it fleeing, taunting and elusive.

"Are you all right?" Ryo was propped on an elbow, a dark shadow leaning over him, the tickle of his hair a whisper against Seiji's cheek.

"Yes." He gasped, a shallow, hoarse-voiced lie.

Ryo absorbed that, silently, withdrawing his hand. It was not his habit to call Seiji on his prevarication's, even when he saw them for what they were. Ryo, of all the people Seiji had ever known accepted his need for them. Or he had used to. Maybe he had simply had his fill. Maybe Seiji had reached his limit of blind good will along the way somewhere and the ground he trod with Ryo now was fragile and uneven.

"No." Seiji amended, as hard an admittance as he'd ever made.

Ryo sighed and in the dark tentative fingers touched Seiji's cheek. "Don't freak out on me, but I think you were crying . . . in your sleep."

God. Seiji lifted his own hand, and felt dampness at his temple. How utterly humiliating. The desire to shift away, to walk out of that tent and away from Ryo's quiet concern was overwhelming.

"What were you dreaming?" Ryo ventured, wary of treading on Seiji's cherished privacy, but plunging ahead regardless. Rebuffing him might be unwise, all things considered.

"I . . . don't know." Seiji admitted softly. "I can't recall most of the time. I can guess."

"Oh. You're having nightmares a lot?"


"You never used to."

". . . . not like this." Seiji said and listened to Ryo's silence for a heartbeat or two as Ryo turned that over in his head, thinking about the demons that might haunt Seiji's subconscious.

"I'm sorry." Ryo finally said, voice low and serious.

Seiji furrowed his brow, uncertainly and queried. "For what?"

"For not being there to help chase them away." Absolute earnestness. Absolute belief that he could have made a difference in relieving Seiji's nightscares. Seiji felt a hard lump growing in his throat, an uncontrollable tremor that made his teeth want to chatter as it occurred to him that maybe Ryo was right. He couldn't say it. Couldn't come back with anything that was suitably blithe or smooth, and even if he had, he might not have been able to control the tremor in his voice, so it was just as well.

"S'okay." Ryo murmured, more perceptive by far that Seiji sometimes gave him credit for, and brushed his hand across Seiji's shoulder, the warmth of his fingers permeating through the thin fabric of Seiji's robe.

God. The tremor persisted, spreading through Seiji's body like a sickness, precipitated by Ryo's touch. Precipitated by Ryo's presence maybe. He wanted it to stop. Wanted self control and self assurance back so bad that his nails bit into his palms in efforts to stop his hands from betraying him.

"Seiji?" Ryo's leaned closer, the nearness of his body a palpable thing, his concern as warm a thing as his breath. Seiji drew a shuddering breath and released it with an insurgent sob.

Ryo's fingers gripped his arm and that was it, that was all it took and Seiji felt something inside crumble and he pressed his face against Ryo's neck and let the misery wash over him. Ryo curled around him, arms, legs, body embracing him, bracing him against the beast that wanted to overwhelm him. Fear. Shame. Loss. Regret. Longing. Relief . . .

"I need . . . Ryo . . . I need . . . you to help me. I need . . ." words came hard, interfering with the fight for air and the clog in his throat.

"S'okay. Everything's okay." Ryo murmured in that same gentle voice he used with frightened children or spooked tigers. "I'm here. Whenever. Wherever. Always. Don't doubt it."

He stroked Seiji's hair, stroked his back and Seiji buried his face in the welcoming warmth of Ryo's skin and Ryo's hair, glad that the darkness hid the wetness on his face, even though the tremor in his limbs and the occasional sobbing catch in his breath had to have been evidence enough that he was not experiencing his most shining moment. Ryo didn't call him on it. Ryo just held him like he was afraid he might fade away and that was a good thing, for it gave Seiji the time and the support to get ahold of frayed nerves and shattered defenses.

One last body encompassing shudder before he was able to relax, breathing a great sigh of relief at the passing of the fit. He lay for a long time, in the circle of Ryo's arms, lax and unaccountably grateful that Ryo wasn't talking, wasn't asking questions about the state of his sanity.

When Ryo finally shifted it was only to lift a hand to brush Seiji's hair aside and press his lips softly against Seiji's forehead. Chaste. Sweet. Comforting. Not necessarily what he wanted from Ryo.

He curled the fingers of one hand in Ryo's hair, pulling him down for a proper kiss, lips against lips, exploitative and just a little desperate, tasting of salt from all too recent, all too embarrassing tears. Ryo was tentative about it, in that way he had with things he thought he was too clumsy to handle, like Sai's grandmother's tea set that Sai occasionally brought out for use when he was feeling nostalgic or Seiji's little collection of antique ivory charms that he'd started collecting even before his mother had died all those years ago. Ryo was remembering the last time they'd been intimate and the violence he'd rendered, that was clear enough. Ryo felt shame and guilt for hurting Seiji even though Seiji had wanted very badly to be hurt.

But Seiji had a way of convincing Ryo's body of things that Ryo's head did not necessarily consent to and Seiji had reason enough to go to the effort, very desperately needing Ryo's closeness of a sudden. He deepened the kiss, tangling tongues and tastes and those scents that were best explored through the marvel of tactile impression. He got a hand between them and fumbled with the tie to Ryo's robe. Fine material fell open and finer flesh was laid bare to his touch beneath. Smooth skin, firm flesh, the rippling twitch of muscle as he skimmed fingers down Ryo's abdomen to the coarse thatch of hair between his legs and the half erect flesh that rooted from it. Ryo moaned, muttering Seiji's name into the kiss, even as his hands slid down Seiji's back. Seiji abandoned Ryo for a moment, fumbling with the tie to his own robe, wanting flesh against flesh, wanting nothing so substantial as a thin layer of cloth between them. Ryo gasped as Seiji pressed against him, fingers biting into Seiji's hip with bruising force, but bruises from Ryo were much preferred over bruising for less savory, unwanted bedmates.

Seiji's hands slid down to Ryo's cock, cool fingers encircling the center of Ryo's heat. Ryo growled almost, giving up his uncertainties and delving into this wholeheartedly, hands slipping under Seiji's robe and clutching at his buttocks, pressing him close enough that he could hardly keep a decent grip on Ryo's now very much erect penis.

Ryo rolled onto his back, pulling Seiji with him, rearing up somewhat inaccurately in his fervor, to place a kiss on Seiji's mouth, instead getting the side of his lips and jaw. But he seemed content enough with that, feathering hot kisses along Seiji's chin, along his throat, upon the sensitive skin of his collar bone. There was always something a little naive and desperate about Ryo's kisses that made Seiji's heart race a little faster and his breath catch. That made his own control waver and crumble, infected by Ryo's utter spontaneity.

Seiji was between Ryo's legs, where he had not been for a very long time, at least of his own accord and a moment of hesitation washed over him, of uncertainty that this was a place he deserved to be after all was said and done, but Ryo battered it away, his palm firmly pressing the length of Seiji's cock against his stomach, his fingers tickling his balls.

"We . . . don't have anything . . . for lube . . ." he gasped, not generally the one to gasp excuses, but knowing very well from recent personal experience that it hurt like hell without.

"Yes we do." Ryo stretched out an arm, blinding feeling for a little leather bound hun'ra pack and spilling its few contents onto the ground beside the mat. "Ointment. For sore muscles. They gave it to me. It warms up with friction." He grinned up at Seiji through the shadows, pleased with himself and Seiji's mouth quirked a little in return.

"So I'm going to get burned then." He quipped, Ryo's own internal heat higher than most without the benefit of self-heating lube.

Ryo furrowed his brows, taking that prediction seriously and Seiji bent down to kiss him before he could voice a worry. He forgot it soon enough though, when Seiji slid a hand between his legs, curling a finger liberally coated with native ointment, to the crevice behind his scrotum. Ryo spread his legs to give him better access, panting and shuddering a little in anticipation, blue eyes fever bright in the shadow of the tent. Seiji was going too slow for him, for he reached up and pulled at the lapels of Seiji's open robe, urging him to get on with it. Ryo's patience in such matters had never been as stalwart a thing as Seiji's. It made him easy to tease, but teasing was not high on Seiji's agenda at the moment, not nearly so high as a consummation that would, if not purge the sins of the past, at least color them in less vibrant hues.

Oh, but Ryo was right. The warmth started almost immediately, or perhaps that was simply Ryo's body, clenching around him with painful strength, flooding him with the heat that radiated from the core of Wildfire's being. Had Ryo always been so tight and hot, or was it simple abstinence that made it seem that way? Seiji gasped, breath shuddering on his lips, poised halfway to where he wanted to be, hesitating too long for Ryo's fragile forbearance, for Ryo wrapped his legs around him and drew him in the rest of the way, until Seiji's pubic hair was pressed against the soft heat of Ryo's balls. Incased, submerged in confining liquid heat, it was as intense a sensation as a body could feel without loosing the laughably fragile grasp on sanity. He could feel the frantic throb of Ryo's pulse through the flesh that surrounded him, could hear the rhythmic pumping of his heart . . . or maybe that was Seiji's own heartbeat that echoed in his head.

Ryo lay under him, shuddering, black lashes trembling on his cheeks, whistling little gasps of breath escaping parted lips. He was incredibly erotic with his flushed skin and tousled hair, with a burning need he was too inarticulate to voice. It came across crystal clear regardless in the simply way his body moved and his face contorted. God, but it really had been a long time since Seiji had been in this position as anything but a distant observer. He hadn't realized just how badly he'd missed Ryo and everything Ryo represented until he he'd returned to the heat of Ryo's body. He found himself starting to shudder, emotion having snuck up on him again when he wasn't paying attention.

Ryo's fingers curled in his hair, tilting his face down, snapping his attention back to Ryo's face and Ryo's dark, liquid eyes.

"Move, Seiji." Ryo suggested very softly and that was all it took to gather the frayed ends of his emotions and regain control. He braced his hands on the mat on either side of Ryo's head and lifted his hips, sliding out slowly, watching the way Ryo's lower lip trembled, listening to the little sounds the breath made as it caught in his throat, pushing back in at the same leisurely pace and evicting a louder gasp. He knew the dance very, very well, regardless of having had little enough practice these last months. He knew what made Ryo moan and what made him scream and all the keys to the little reactions in-between.

Unless Ryo was very, very mortified or very, very drunk, he was not generally a quiescent partner. Sometimes he had to be discouraged from being too active when emotion got the better of him, or they might find themselves on the floor instead of the bed or bruised and battered in the aftermath. Well, Seiji would be bruised and battered, fair skin tending to mark far easier than Ryo's golden brown flesh.

Ryo met his thrusts, hips lunging up at each of Seiji's downward jabs, one hand desperately clutched around his engorged cock at the juncture of their bodies, one hand fisted in the lapel of Seiji's loose robe. He was gasping Seiji's name at intervals, or frantic little commands. Seiji . . . Seiji . . . oh, God . . . faster . . . Seiji . . . harder . . .

It was not an uninspiring rhetoric at the best of times, much less when Seiji had thought he might not ever hear it uttered again. He did his best to comply, vision starting to tunnel just a bit, sensory perception starting to narrow to his current center most point of awareness. His cock. Ryo's restricting heat. The building pressure that was as much pain as pleasure in his balls . . . Ryo cried out and clenched around him, body spasming under him and that was all it took. He shuddered and surged forward, driving through internal muscles that seemed to have a tighter grip on him than any fist might manage, that seemed to squeeze the orgasm right out of him, sucking up whatever he had to offer. He gave it willingly enough when it was not being demanded of him, or ripped away from him, even if it opened a well of vulnerability at his feet, Ryo being the one being in all the world that he trusted with that vulnerability.

One last shuddering breath and he was spent. He stayed for a few labored breaths, poised over Ryo, bodies still interlocked, letting the dancing lights fade in the darkness. Ryo's fingers skimming over his ribs prompted him to move. To push himself to the side and collapse next to Ryo on the mat. The ceiling of the tent was a bland enough point to fix his swimming vision.

"That was . . . quick." Ryo gasped and Seiji flinched a little, realizing that for nothing but simple truth. His stamina was usually a more respectable thing. Ryo's bluntness could be amusing, even charming at times. At the moment it was simply embarrassing.

"How kind of you to point that out."

"No, dude, I didn't mean it in a bad way . . . it was great. Awesome. Sometimes a quick fix is like, you know, better than drawing it out."

Seiji sniffed, not quite mollified, but he rested his chin on Ryo's shoulder regardless,

"And it was a long time coming, right?" Ryo was feeling talkative after the fact. "And I missed it. You, I mean. Missed you doing it." He paused, tumbling that statement over in his head, probably blushing in the shadows.

Seiji curled an arm around Ryo's ribs and Ryo sighed. "Can we not fight anymore, Seiji?" he sounded tired again and vaguely hopeful, in the wary sort of way of someone burned one to many times, but still optimistic.

"Okay." Seiji said simply, relieved to have it stated so clearly.

"Good." Ryo exhaled, shutting his eyes and drifting very rapidly back to sleep. Seiji lay against him for a while, listening to the even rhythm of his breath, amused that Ryo could so easily return to slumber. Figuring that it must have been the dregs of libido fed adrenaline alone that had lent him the energy to participate in impromptu sex, all things considered. He was usually worn thin for days after extended use of the white armor.

Seiji's sense of propriety did not allow him to immediately follow suit. The thought of Rowan or Sai or Kento coming in and finding them sprawled with robes open was appalling. He groped for the blanket which had been kicked down to the end of the mat and used an outside edge to wipe Ryo's leavings from both their bellies, before pulling Ryo's robe closed and tying the sash. He did the same for himself before arranging the blanket over their legs, then pulling it up to their shoulders as he settled back down next to Ryo.

His timing could not have been better, for he'd only began to relax when there were the rustle of feet close outside the tent and the murmur of low voices. The tent flap was shifted aside and Seiji stiffened a little, what little there had been of his trusting nature to begin with, truly stomped to bits this past year. But a whispered 'be quiet, they're sleeping', in Sai's voice soothed his fears and he let himself melt back against Ryo.

"Bet not." Came Rowan's soft reply. "Seiji sleeps like a frickin' cat."

Seiji sniffed softly, wondering if he ignored them if they would simply settle down and go to sleep.

"God, my head is spinning I'm so tired." Rowan complained softly.

"You drank too much." Sai whispered back. "Hush."

"I had like, two mugs . . . maybe three tops."

Of course, Seiji had been deluding himself ever thinking that Rowan and Sai, with an emphasis on the 'Rowan' could ever simply settle down and do anything quietly. Ryo didn't move, sleeping the sleep of the righteously exhausted and Seiji had the feeling that it would have taken a great deal more than Rowan bumbling around in the dark to wake him.

"Told you he'd come back here." Rowan cackled none to softly.

"Rowan, he'll hear. Be quiet. Oh . . . oh!" Sai's little gasp of surprise was accompanied by the rustle of clothing and Rowan's 'I'm being bad' chuckle.

"You like that, don't you, baby?" Rowan was murmuring and Sai made an appropriate moan in response.

Seiji ground his teeth in irritation. If they were going to make out, then the least they could do was do was not talk while they were about it. The last thing he needed to hear was Rowan's litany of sex-chatter.

There was a thump as bodies hit the mat next to the one Seiji shared with Ryo and a huff of escaping breath and a few moments of wet smacking sounds as mouths were joined, then Sai, nervously reminding Rowan.

"Maybe we shouldn't . . . you said Seiji was a light sleeper."

"Fuck Seiji." Rowan muttered back close to inarticulate, mouth obviously busy at something other than talking. Then a pause and Rowan asked more clearly. "You awake over there?"

"What are the chances that I'm not?" Seiji muttered dryly.

Sai made an embarrassed sound and very likely elbowed or kicked something of Rowan's as he escaped intimate contact.

"Ouch. Damnit, Sai . . . so you were just gonna lay there and listen . . . nasty little voyeur."

Responding with the required 'fuck off' seemed like too much of a waste of energy. He made the effort to turn his head the minimal degree needed to see their silhouettes in the darkness.

"Where's Kento?"

"On watch." Sai whispered. "He'll be back here in a couple of hours and Rowan will take his place, then me, then you. Just in case some of those reptile things have a change of heart and follow us through the pass."

That sounded like a reasonable plan.

"Tomorrow, we're going to go and check out a lead to what might be another gateway." Rowan said. "Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and find a way home."

"Stranger things have happened." Seiji murmured. He rested his cheek back against Ryo's warmth, trying to ignore to the sounds of Sai and Rowan settling. They were inordinately noisy clad in nothing but guest robes, considering how stealthy the two of them could be when encumbered with heavy, rattling armor and weaponry. Seiji ground his teeth and swallowed the urge to leap up and smash the both of their heads together.

Eventually they quieted down, close enough to Seiji's back that he could feel the weight of their bodies without even seeing.

"So can we still . . ." Rowan murmured.

"No." Sai whispered adamantly. Thank God for Sai's prudishness.

Rowan sighed heavily, mumbling something foul under his breath that Seiji couldn't properly discern. If Sai were right and he were drunk, he'd be asleep soon enough anyway. Rowan had the tendency to bounce off the walls when he was in the throes of an alcohol high, as long as he was upright, but as soon as he got horizontal, that was it, he was dead to the world, soon to wake pissed off and hungover.

Seiji shut his eyes and drifted off.


Rowan woke up hungover and pissed off about it. Goddamned native booze. He should have learned his lesson the last time in Sarag'sa's digs. His turn at watch had not been pleasant. There had been barfing involved and barfing in frickin' mystical armor was not an easy or graceful thing. Fucking native booze.

He lay for a while sulking over his bad fortune, before he realized that there was no warm body cuddling next to his, which meant Sai had abandoned him to his misery. Which was just a cruel, cold thing to do.

Rowan called Sai a nasty name involving fornication, his country of origin and the legitimacy of his birth. The use of his vocal chords made his head pound even more. He moaned in abject misery and turned on his side away from the light seeping in through the tent flaps. Ryo was still asleep. Sprawled inelegantly with blanket twisted and tangled around him and guest robe all askew, revealing a goodly portion of smooth golden brown chest and stomach. He was snoring very, very softly.

Rowan listened to the soft wheezing for as long as his watery nerves and pounding head could tolerate before he reached out a hand and jabbed at Ryo's shoulder.

"Roll over, man. Roll the hell over, or I'm gonna put a pillow over your face."

Ryo snuffled and grunted and a blue eye peeked bleerily through black lashes. There were vague little half moons of purple under his eyes, giving false indication that he hadn't slept the evening and night away, but only just reeled in from the binge that Rowan's head kept telling him he'd experienced. Well, maybe Ryo hadn't slept the entire night through, what with how close Seiji had been sleeping next to him when Rowan and Sai had stumbled in. Come to think of it, and Rowan couldn't be entirely sure, considering the state he'd come back in, but he thought maybe, just maybe he'd smelled the scent of sex in the air. He was usually pretty adept at picking up on things like that. A blood hound for the indecent as Sai liked to quip.

"Dude . . . what are you moaning about?" Ryo croaked, then swallowed and cleared his throat, bringing his hands up and grinding his palms into his eyes.

"You were snoring. You fuck Seiji last night?"

Ryo stopped grinding, turned his head and gave Rowan a narrow eyed glare. Ryo didn't generally give out the details of his sex life. Not without a great deal of urging and perhaps a bit of booze.

"I'm just inquiring because it'd be nice to know if you and Seiji have made up. You know, for the good of the team."

The good of the team crap always got Ryo. He lived for the good of the team.

"Yeah. We made up."

"Well that's just great. That means you can stop acting like a chick on the rag and Seiji can go back to looking down his nose at the rest of the world."

"Don't talk about him like that. He's had a bad time, Rowan. A really, really bad time."

There was something so dead serious and somber in Ryo's tone that Rowan had to stop and blink and rethink the retort that trembled on his tongue. "Yeah. Yeah, I know. But sometimes if you don't joke at the miserable shit . . . then there's nothing left but to cry over it like a little girl and that's just embarrassing."

Ryo sighed, shutting his eyes. "Yeah, tell me."

Then he cracked an eye open again, taking in the relative emptiness of the tent and more importantly to Ryo, the absence of all things Seiji. Before he could inquire, a cheerful voice outside the tent called Rowan's name, followed shortly by Sai, far to alert and chipper considering the state of Rowan's head.

Rowan scowled. Sai beamed and announced that the hun'ra had prepared a hearty breakfast.

"Food. Bleaachhh." Rowan made a sound appropriate to how his stomach felt about the notion of food.

"How about some good strong coffee?" Sai inquired, then amended. "Well, not exactly coffee, but a very close approximate it seems, from the smell and the flavor. It has a lovely hint of mint. Its really not bad at all."

"Sai . . . leave me the fuck alone." Rowan groused.

Sai waved a hand at him, dismissing his foul mood. "Come get your coffee, Rowan. You'll need it if you want to come with us to investigate what we hope is another gateway home. Ryo, do you feel up to breakfast?" Sai asked in a much gentler, much more concerned tone of voice.

Rowan grumbled darkly and kicked his blanket off. "I've gotta pee." He announced to any interested party. Sai lifted a brow and moved aside to let him stumble to his feet, and then outside into a woefully bright morning.

"Oh, fuck." He moaned, narrowing his eyes to mere puffy slits. He found a place behind the tent to piss and stood there with his eyes closed, blissfully relieving the strain on his bladder. He'd just given himself a good shake and closed his robe when Sai marched around to intrude upon his privacy.

"Ryo needs to get up and move or he'll get stiff, but he really ought not be doing a lot today, even if he thinks that he can. You know how he gets after he's pushed himself too far. And the white armor . . . he'd already over extended himself, he really shouldn't have called that up."

"Yeah, and you'd both probably be dragon kibble if he hadn't."

"That's beside the point. He needs to rest and I've already told him that he doesn't need to come with us to look at what might be nothing at all."

"And your word is gospel, huh, doctor?"

"Oh, shut up, Rowan."

"Would you two stop fighting." Ryo slouched out of the tent, looking like Rowan felt, hair a tousled mess, robe haphazardly tied and small purple circles hanging out under his eyes.

"Damn, you look like hell." Rowan observed, at which Ryo flipped him off, though the byrd lacked the amount of enthusiasm Rowan would have put into the delivery.

Sai rolled his eyes and told Ryo to straighten his robe, which Ryo did half heartedly and staggered off towards the revolting smell of food between Sai and Rowan.

The coffee substitute did have a hint of minty flavor, though Sai's estimate of 'not bad' seemed a bit of an exaggeration. It was like a triple shot of over brewed expresso and Rowan had the feeling he'd soon be bouncing off walls, hangover or not. The food was beyond him, other than a few pieces of plain, pan fried flat bread that seemed innocuous enough not to come back up once swallowed.

Ryo had something of an appetite though, once he'd spotted Seiji talking with Kento and Karen Dreskel. Though he tried not to make it obvious, once Seiji saw Ryo, he casually extricated himself from whatever conversation he'd been listening to between Kento and Karen Dreskel and sauntered over. Rowan gave him a look, which he ignored, instead folding himself into a cross legged sitting position a hands length from Ryo and quietly observing the hun'ra offer up their breakfast fare. They were quite obviously infatuated with Ryo - - or more accurately with the feat Ryo had accomplished. 90% of the conversation last night had been about the end of the big, bad fire drake and the subsequent backing down of the ne'gal.

It had annoyed Sai to no ends. "I was there, you know." He kept muttering to Rowan.

"Yeah, but you're a pasty-faced foreigner. You don't count."

"Ryo's a foreigner."

"But Ryo looks like them. Well, besides the blue eyes, but they just think that makes him special."

The Hun'ra might have been all over him now, save for the looks Seiji was freely giving out. Shak'nor or not, sitting there in sub-armor he hadn't taken off since he'd come back from his early morning sentry duty, he was damned threatening.

It was decided eventually, that Seiji and Ryo would stay with the hun'ra as they prepared to uproot their camp and move further away from the mountains and the threat of ne'gal retaliation, while Rowan, Sai and Kento would accompany Karen and the hun'ra elder who knew of the strange stone carvings back into the mountains in hopes of finding clues to another gate if not a gate itself. Ryo didn't like the notion of staying behind. Not one bit, his overdeveloped sense of duty chaffing him raw, but between Sai and Seiji bitching at him in their own unique manners, he caved.

He wasn't the only one pouting at the exclusion.

"He's not coming, Seiji, I mean?' Karen was visibly disappointed at the news. Her reproductive instincts had been working at overtime since the moment she'd come face to face with Seiji and she hadn't been particularly mindful of hiding it. Seiji had taken it in the same stride that he generally took the attentions of wide eyed admirers. Which was to say he ignored her as much as humanly possible. It was pissing Kento off to no ends, his usual good nature stretched to its breaking point as his last optimistic hopes of something with the redheaded archeologist where fast being tossed to the ground and trod upon.

"Its the peacock effect, man." Rowan said consolingly, clapping Kento on the shoulder as they made their leave of the packing hun'ra, leading him away from Karen, who was giving an oblivious Seiji one last longing stare. "You know, the hens all flocking towards the cocks with the prettiest feathers."

"That's a really fucking, great analogy there, Rowan." Kento said grumpily, not consoled in the least.

"Yeah, I always liked the caveman effect better myself." Rowan grinned, hooking an arm around Sai's neck as they reached him and hauling him away from the group of wary hun'ra kids he was trying to talk to. "You know, knock 'em over the head and drag off to your cave and to hell with all that advancing of the species crap. So why don't you go and drag her ass away from drooling over Seiji so we can get this over with."

"What are you babbling about?" Sai wanted to know. "Your head must be feeling better."

"You know, it sort of is. That crappy hun'ra coffee musta done the trick. What were you talking to the hun'ra kids about?"

"they weren't all hun'ra. Some of them are from our world, kidnapped from the island when the ne'gal raided. I was trying to tell them we'd get them home soon, but they're harder to understand than the natives here."

"Hope you weren't feeding them bull. About the going home thing." Rowan said, sighing, watching Kento walk down the slope towards Karen and hoping against hope that if they did find some clue that between the irritating redhead and the hun'ra elder they could decipher it and find a way home. He had a sneaking suspicion that Ryo's little threat to the Ne'gal would only buy them so much time before retaliation was due and being a human in this world seemed a dour and losing proposition.




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