Title: Journey to Tarvos: Day 3
Series: Another Life
Joel startled awake at a loud crash of thunder. The rain softly fell on his face. Sharp rocks stabbed his back. He didn't know how long he'd been there. The sliver of light behind the clouds indicated that he'd been there all night and it was now morning.
Sitting up, he looked frantically about. Where was Teegan? Jumping to his feet, he swayed slightly. The tumble over the falls, had left him disoriented. He could see bits of wood that had once been their small boat. The satchels with their supplies were nowhere to be found. Most importantly though, he couldn't see Teegan.
"Teegan," he shouted in a hoarse voice. Then he doubled over coughing. The water he'd swallowed rushed from his gut. After retching all of the river water, Joel stood up and shouted for his submissive again.
He quickly walked down the riverbank, shouting for his mate. Stopping occasionally to peer across the rushing river to see if Teegan had washed up on the opposite side, Joel continued his frantic search. He refused to believe that he'd lost his life force so soon after finding it.
Coming to the last of the three waterfalls, Joel thought he saw a bit of color on the beige rocky bed below. Carefully, climbing down the small cliff, he prayed to any and all gods he'd ever heard of in his life that he'd find Teegan alive.
As soon as he was down from the small cliff, Joel could see the bit of color was Teegan's blue tunic. Fear for his new found mate gave Joel speed and soon he was kneeling by the still form.
"Teegan! Teegan! Wake up!" Joel flipped the body over. He almost wept with relief when Teegan's eyes fluttered open. He quickly turned Teegan to his side when the smaller man started to retch up his own share of river water.
"It's ok. You're ok. We're alive." Joel couldn't stop the words of reassurances that flowed from his mouth. He didn't want to. The words were soothing to himself as well as meant to soothe the man in his arms.
"I'm done. There's no more," Teegan coughed out.
Joel looked around and saw a small copse of trees. They could sit there and get their breath back. They could gather their strength and decide what to do next. Half pulling, half carrying the smaller man, Joel got them to the inadequate shelter of the trees.
Both men huddled together for a few moments. Then Joel said, "None of our supplies made it. They either sunk to the bottom or were swept further down river."
"The current was stronger than I knew," Teegan confessed.
Kissing the man on his head, Joel comforted him. "It's alright. You couldn't have known. We can walk the rest of the way. We'll be alright."
"I'm sorry. So sorry," Teegan's voice was a weary cry. "On the river we would have reached Tarvos by nightfall last night. But on foot it will take us days. I can't. I don't have the strength."
Joel wrapped his arms around the exhausted young man. "It's ok, Tee," he murmured. "I have the strength to carry you." Joel knew that he did have the strength to get them both through this journey. He had faced much worse on Earth.
"No," Teegan weakly argued.
With Teegan wrapped in his arms, it was easy for Joel to loosen one arm and swat the submissive's thigh. "Do not argue with me. I can help you. Together we will get there."
Joel tightened his hold when the other man started to struggle against him. But Teegan was completely exhausted and finally stopped his struggles to be free.
"You misunderstand," Teegan said. "I can't link us right now. I don't have the strength."
Joel pushed Teegan back to look in his eyes, "I do have the strength, Teegan. Trust in me."
Teegan's eyes filled with tears. "I trust in you, Joel. You are my Arkhe. But I've not taught you how to use the link."
"The link?" Joel asked in confusion. He wondered if Teegan had sustained a head injury.
"There's a link between warrior mates. The link creates the universal chain of life," Teegan explained. "We are linked together to continue life and keep each other safe."
"Chain? Link?" Joel shook his head. He envisioned a metal chain with many links keeping it together.
"When two warriors are destined to be together a link is formed. The link comes from ancient times. A way for the alpha warrior to know that his submissive was safe in battle. And for the submissive to know his alpha was safe. To give each other strength and reassurance."
Joel stared at Teegan in stunned silence. The prickly sensation he'd felt on the river and then his muted senses. Was this what his warrior was talking about? "Have you used this link on me?"
Teegan gave a weary nod. "The sights and sounds were too much for you. I could take them in and leave less for you."
Astonished, Joel shook his head. "That was you? You, what? Dimmed the sun and the noise of the river?"
"No, I took in your senses so they wouldn't overwhelm you. The link allows us to see and hear and feel what the other sees, hears, and feels. In ancient times, the alpha could know the location of his submissive. Battles are chaos," Teegan explained. "An alpha warrior or a submissive warrior would be in more danger if they were worried about their mate. Over the ages of time and of the desperate need, the link developed so that each could know where the other was and what they were feeling."
"They could manipulate how someone felt?" Joel couldn't quite understand.
"No. Yes," Teegan shook his head. "Not feelings such as love, but feelings of pain. A warrior could take some of the pain of his mate so that they could both get to safety. Then the wound could get medical care."
"You can link with anyone?"
Teegan shook his head. "No, it has to be your mate. The link can take years to develop. Or it can happen in one moment of time. I felt the pull of the link when we first met. When I fell out of the tree. I didn't fully close the link until we were on the river. But it's supposed to be a shared link. A flow between two. But you didn't know about it. So you couldn't give back. There's nothing left in me."
The defeat in Teegan's voice was like a knife in Joel's heart. No! He refused to hear defeat in his strong submissive's voice. Joel was still confused. He didn't quite understand what this link was but he felt deep inside him that it was an essential part of their relationship. The same as honesty was essential. As Joel's thoughts became more coherent in his mind, his dominance started to flow through his blood, his spirit, his entire being. He wanted to protect his warrior. He wanted to punish his warrior for exhausting himself and for keeping this link thing from him. He also felt a burning desire to open this link and give some of his own strength to this man he'd come to love. But he didn't know how. And as the rain started to fall harder, he knew they needed to find shelter.
Joel dropped a hard kiss on the top of Teegan's head, and then stood up. This part of the river was nestled in high mountains. He squinted through the rain, searching for something, anything that might give him hope. Finally he saw something that might give them shelter. A dark smudge a little ways up from the riverbank. Joel knew it was a cave and just hoped it was empty of any large animals. Letting his arms drop, he grabbed onto Teegan's hand and pulled him to his feet. He wasn't going to take any chances that they'd be separated again. With a tight squeeze to the slightly smaller man's hand, his words came out in a gentle growl. "Come. Do not let go. I will lead us."
Even though Joel knew they weren't linked together, he could still feel the acceptance radiate off of Teegan. Acceptance and a gratitude. Almost a physical force that enveloped the men. As he fought his way up the small, rocky incline, Joel held tight to Teegan's hand and pulled him along. He was tired, both physically and mentally, but having someone to care for gave him a feeling of strength. Their feet slipped on the wet rocks, but Joel kept them upright through sheer will. He pulled along his precious bundle until they finally reached the mouth of the cave.
Gently he pushed Teegan down. "Sit here. I will make sure there are no predators in here."
With an even more exhausted voice, Teegan said, "I doubt there will be any. Most prefer the safety of the more dense forest further up the mountains."
"Teegan. You have a spanking in your future. Your very near future. Do you really wish to argue with me now?" Joel didn't know where the steel in his voice came from, but he wasn't displeased by the look on his warrior's face. The look held a hint of fear, but more it held the look of willing submission.
"No, my Arkhe. I will not argue."
With a quick nod of acknowledgement, Joel peered in the cave. The small bit of light from the cloud filled sky didn't allow him to see to far. Looking around, he found a long, sturdy branch. It wasn't the best weapon but it would do in an emergency. Entering the cave, Joel saw that it wasn't very deep. Maybe twelve feet long and fifteen feet high. Even with a fire circle, both men could lie down.
Stepping back outside, Joel leaned down and helped Teegan to his feet. "Come. We'll get you settled and then I'll go find dry wood for a fire."
"I would help you!" Teegan cried out. Then cried out again when Joel's hand swatted his butt several times.
"You will rest. You will gain your strength! You've lost all of your reserves keeping this link thing open," Joel ordered. He knew they'd have to work together, but Teegan was dangerously out of energy. "Gather some rocks quickly and while I'm looking for fuel, you make a fire circle."
Both men took off their tunics and used them to carry the rocks into the cave. Once inside, Joel let his rocks fall in the middle of the small cave. Slipping the tunic back on, he started outside. "I'll be right back with fuel for the fire. We'll be warm soon."
Joel climbed up a few feet to where the forest become more dense. Under fallen branches and large bushes, he was able to bundle up enough kindling and wood for the night. Entering in the cave again, he saw that Teegan had built a small fire circle and was now leaning against a wall of the cave with his eyes closed.
Soon, he had a fire burning bright and hot. Joel settled down next to Teegan and hugged him tightly. "We'll rest here for the day and night. Once I am warm, I'll find what nuts and berries the forest holds for our dinner. You'll tell me more of this link thing and then we'll start fresh in the morning and reach Tarvos in a few days time."