[14] Cave

It’s been three hours now. The rain showed no signs of letting up. If anything, it poured harder than ever before. And it poured. It was less droplets of water falling gently on the hillside than a sky-sized fire hose, pointing at whatever unfortunate creature that found itself without shelter. Fortunately, he was warm and dry. Now, anyway. He’d pulled off his waterlogged weave as soon as he entered the cave. The thing was good for hard vacuum, but the water that had accumulated in the collar made him feel like a walking fish tank.

It was getting uncomfortably cool in the cave, though; a thin thermal could only last so long. Leaning against the rough, damp stone wall didn’t help.

Saren, as usual, had left his armour on. He’d have thought Saren masochistic if he hadn’t know that he was paranoid to the point of–well, to the point of flying halfway across the galaxy to deliver hardcopies. Absentmindedly, he stroked Saren’s fringe with the back of his hand. Saren’s visible mandible twitched; his eyes blinked and shut. Nihlus smiled a hidden smile. A few years ago, he’d have shat bricks at that reaction.

“Sleep. I promise, no rude awakening this time. And no burnt breakfast.” One mandible lifted in a sideways smirk. “Just ration packs. Delicious.”

“Not the same.”

“So you pulled a mental muscle by lifting a huge boulder instead of a few mercs. Same. Same difference.”

“This position isn’t secure.”

Nihlus eyed the said huge boulder, now blocking the entire entrance to the cave save for a two-turian gap. “I’m here. Spirits, stop trying to get yourself brain-dead.” He sighed. “Reminds me of old times.”

“…As well. Brother took me once.”

And that’s when bricks were shat. Damn it–and he thought he’d never get something completely out of the blue again. Saren talked about his past about as frequently as he talked about the merits of fine hanar liqueur. He continued to stroke, sneaking in a few scratches on the skin beneath. Wait for it…

“We trapped ourselves in a cave. Even you wouldn’t have done something so idiotic.”

Actually, Nihlus had once used someone’s pet varren as target practice with his father’s old shotgun, with predictable-in-retrospect results. He kept his mouth shut on this one. Saren seemed to be drifting off; his voice was very quiet, and Nihlus had to lean in to hear over the pounding of the rain. He wished Saren would just take the damn armour off. The metallic sections were cold and pressed uncomfortably against his torso, the mud making imprints on his thermal.

“Didn’t realise the tide was coming in until we were ankle-deep. The path up the cliff was a kilometre away. And the water kept… it kept rising…” Saren yawned. Nihlus gave in to the urge and lied down beside him, propping himself up on an elbow.

“Then what happened?”

“Wanted to lift him up using biotics. Didn’t even have implants back then.” His mandibles relaxed into a possible smile. “He told me to hold on and we’ll make a run for it. If we die, we die together.”

“I see.” Nihlus’ elbow was beginning to complain, but he ignored it. He brushed mud off of the back of Saren’s head instead.

“If we… we should have…”

Saren opened his eyes briefly. The expression was as inscrutable as always, but if Nihlus only relied on expressions, he’d have been out of luck a long time ago. He kissed Saren’s forehead. Spirits, Saren better not remember this. He was hard on others and harder on himself and this episode would go down like so much barbed wire and broken glass.

“I know.”

He kissed him again.

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